The founder of a sect of Sunni Muslims.
The Imam Abu ‘Abdi ‘llah Malik ibn Anns, the founder of one of the four orthodox sects of Sunnis, was born at al-Madinah, A.H. 94 (A.D. 716). He lived in the same place and received his earliest impression of Islam form Sahl ibn Sa’d, the almost sole survivor of the Companions of the Prophet. He was considered to be the most learned man of his time, and his self-denial and abstinence were such that he usually fasted four days in the week. He enjoyed the advantages of a personal acquaintance and familiar intercourse with the Imam Abu Hamifah, although differing from him on many important question regarding the authority of the Traditions. His pride, however, was at least, equal to his literary endowments. In proof of this, it is related of him that when the great Khalifah Harunu ‘r-Rashid came to al—Madinah to visit the tomb of the Prophet, Malik having gone forth to meet him, the Khalifah addressed him “O Malik! I entreat as a favour that you will come every day to me and my two sons, Amin and Ma’mun, and instruct us in traditional knowledge.” To which the sage haughtily replied. “O Khalifah, science is of a dignified nature, and instead of going to any person requires that all should come to it.’ The story further says that the sovereign with much humility, asked his pardon, acknowledged the truth of his remark, and sent both his sons to Malik who seated them among his other scholars without. any distinction.
With regard to the Traditions, his authority is generally quoted as decisive; in fact, he considered them as altogether superseding the judgment of a man, and on his death-bed severely condemned himself for the many decisions he had presumed to give on the mere suggestion of his own reason. The Qur’an and the Sunnah excepted, the only study to which he applied himself in this latter days, was, the contemplation of the Deity : and his mind was at length so much absorbed in the immensity of the Divine attributes and perfections, as to lose sight of all insignificant objects! Hence he gradually withdrew himself from the world, became indifferent to it concerns, and after some years of complete retirement, he died at al-Madinah, A.H. 179 (A.D. 795). His authority is at present chiefly received in Barbary and the other northern states of Africa. Of his works the only one upon record is one of tradition, known as the Muwatta’. His principal pupil was ash-Shafi’i, who afterwards himself gave the name to a sect.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam