Rabiyahr Ra’i was the first teacher of Imam Malik, from whom he learned extreme love and respect for the Holy Prophet (saw). Once another teacher of Imam Malik asked Rabiyahr Ra’i a question and Rabiyahr Ra’i gave the wrong answer.
That teacher then asked Imam Malik (who knew the correct answer) Imam Malik told him “My teacher has given the answer”. Such was the respect and love that Imam Malik held for his teachers that he never spoke ill of them to their face or behind their back.
Ibn Hurmaz was the second teacher of Imam Malik. He was a non Arab, a freed slave and also blind, yet held an extremely high statutes in Medina because of his knowledge. Imam Malik studied with his teacher Ibn Hurmaz for seven consecutive years with no break in his time table.
He used to do his housework, take him to the market and the mosque and used to study daily with him from Fajr to Isha. Ibn Hurmaz was the teacher who Imam Malik was referring to when he said “I learnt absolutely everything from”.
When Imam Malik was asked what was the most valuable thing he learnt from his teacher, during seven consecutive years of studying. Imam Malik replied “the phrase ‘I don’t know’ was the most valuable thing I learnt from my teacher”.
Once a man came to visit Imam Malik from Morocco just to ask him a question, after the Moroccan had asked his question, Imam Malik informed him that he did not know the answer to that question.
The Moroccan became worried and asked Imam Malik what he should tell his people back home in Morroco, Imam Malik told him to inform his people that Imam Malik did not know the answer to this particular question.
Such was the integrity of Imam Malik who (at that time) had seven consecutive years of learning behind him. If he wasn’t 100% sure about something, he wouldn’t assume, guess or hesitate from informing the questioner that he did not know the answer.
After studying for seven consecutive years with Ibn Hurmaz, Imam Malik spent the following 30 years learning from him as well, but not consecutively.
Nafi’ Ibn Umar
Nafi’ Ibn Umar was the third teacher of Imam Malik. He was an African freed slave, from Africa who spoke poor Arabic. He was the freed slave of Abdullah Ibn Umar, and possessed the shortest chain of transmission to the Holy Prophet (saw).
He was extremely knowledgeable; however his weakness was his short temper. He was also a busy individual, which is why he could only hold one study circle in a day in the mosque. In his study circle he would only allow grey haired people to ask questions, this is because he believed that youngster should listen and learn and not talk.
This however did not deter Imam Malik who was 24 year old at that time and would try to catch Nafi’ Ibn Umar in a good mood and ask a question whenever he could. Imam Malik managed to ask three questions a week and compiled a book based on these answers.
Ibn Shihab Zuhri
Ibn Shihab Zuhri was the fourth teacher of Imam Malik. He was well read and very intelligent. His wife had said that if her husband had taken on three other wives it would not have hurt her as much as the pain that she derives from his obsession with books. Scholars have said that he passed away as a result of a large collection of books falling on him.
Imam Malik used to tie a knot on his thread whenever he heard his teacher narrate a hadith. Once his teacher taught 30 hadiths, however Imam Malik had only tied 29 knots on his thread. He went to clarify this matter with his teacher who became angry and pointed out that he had never forgotten a hadith once he had heard it.
He was very particular about such matter and pointed out that students should not have such short memories. In another incident Imam Malik went to visit Ibn Shihab Zuhri straight after his Eid prayer, he refused any offer of food and told his teacher that he was here to study.
Ibn Shihab Zuhri taught him 40 hadiths including the chains of transmissions and told him to go away and learn them. Imam Malik informed his teacher that he had learnt them and narrated all the 40 hadiths including the chain of transmission from memory. Ibn Shihab Zuhri praised his extraordinary knowledge and called him a “Container of Knowledge”.
Jafar Al Sadiq
Jafar Al Sadiq was the fifth teacher of Imam Malik. He was the great grandson of Imam Hussein and taught Imam Malik the spiritual dimensions of worship. Whenever Imam Malik went to visit his teacher, he always found him either reciting the Qur’an, fasting or offering prayer.
Muhammad Ibn Al Munkadir
Muhammad Ibn Al Munkadir was sixth teacher of Imam Malik, who also taught him extreme love for the Holy Prophet (saw). Whenever the name of the Holy Prophet (saw) was mentioned in the presence of Muhammad Ibn Al Munkadir, tears would begin to flow in his eyes.
Abdur Rahmaan Ibn Al Qasim
Abdur Rahmaan Ibn Al Qasim was one of the students of Imam Malik. He spent most of his life with Imam Malik and preserved the Fiqh of Imam Malik in writing for the coming generations. His lifestyle greatly differed from Imam Malik’s.
He was not well dressed, did not have good relations with the rulers, nor did he ever accept a gift from them. However neither the teacher nor the student ever condemned one another.Our mentality however is more narrow minded, we seem to be convinced that we are right whilst those who do not do as we do are wrong.
Abdur Rahmaan Ibn Al Qasim has said “Don’t be free yet a slave”. He was referring to emotional attachments with others which control our actions. When we are emotionally attached to someone, technically we are not “free”, but slaves of our emotions.
Abdullah Ibn Wahab
Abdullah Ibn Wahab was another student of Imam Malik. He travelled from Egypt and spread the Fiqh of Imam Malik. He spent 19 years learning Manners from Imam Malik and spent only one year learning Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from him.
He claimed that his only regret in life was that he had spent one year learning Fiqh which he should have spent learning Manners. Knowledge is only part of Islam. Whereas Islam IS good manner, it’s about incorporating the mannerism of our Holy Prophet (saw) into our personas. Love and respect from others is not gained via knowledge. It is gained through gentle dispositions, approachable characters, easy going natures, and Loving/compassionate/patient and tolerant personalities.
Today however, there is more emphasis on knowledge and little or no emphasis on good manners. One should also know that it’s easy to acquire knowledge yet incredibly difficult to morally perfect our characters.
Prepared by Shaykh Muhammad Ramadhan al Qadri (Minhaj Youth Training Co-ordinator).
Summarised by Alveena Salim