Review: Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik: Riwayat al-Shafi’i ‘an Malik

Book Review: ‘Muwatta’  al-Imam Malik: Riwayat al-Shafi’i ‘an Malik’, al-Banjari, Muhammad Lutfi, Karachi: Majlis al-Da’wah wa al-Tahqiq al-Islami, 357 pages

By Maulana Zeeshan Chaudri

The Muwatta’ of Imam Malik (d.179) requires no introduction as 100s of books have been written over the centuries studying various aspects of the goldmine. This collection of Malik demonstrates the juristic acumen and expertise of the mujtahid of Medina. Interest in the book has transcended madhhab affiliations with even one of the famous transmission of the book coming via the student of Imam Abu Hanifah (d.150), Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (d.182). Malik’s Muwatta’ had many transmitters[1] and it became a debate amongst later Hadith experts as whose transmission from Malik was the most superior?

Al-Suyuti (d.911) gathers the opinions of the scholars on this topic in Tadrib al-Rawi[2] (his commentary on the Taqrib of al-Nawawi (d.676) which was an abridgment of Ibn al-Salah’s (d.643) Muqaddimah). What follows is a summary with some points from Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah. ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Tamimi states that the best sanad is al-Shafi’i from Malik from Nafi’ from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar. This is because al-Shafi’i, by consensus of the Ahl al-Hadith, is the most illustrious (ajall) scholar. Based on this, some later scholars, for example al-‘Alla’i, states that the most illustrious student of al-Shafi’i was Imam Ahmad. There appears to be only one Hadith with this sanad in the Musnad Ahmad (which is in fact four Hadith brought together as one) (2/215-217).

al-Mughlata’i (d.762) objected to al-Tamimi’s argument in stating that al-Shafi’i was the most superior of narrators from Malik. As if one is merely looking at the greatness (jalalah) of a narrator from Malik, then Abu Hanifah is of equal standing. And if one is looking at precision (itqan) in narrating from Malik, then Ibn Wahb (d.197) and al-Qa’nabi (d.221) should be considered.

Various responses were given. al-Daraqutni (d.385) and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d.463) have mentioned that Abu Hanifah did narrate from Malik. Ibn Hajar (d.852) disputes this and states that the sanad of these reports from al-Khatib and al-Daraqutni are not established. And even if they are verified, then they were done during discussions (mudhakarah), not narrating (riwayah). Ibn Hajar also argues that in terms of itqan, the al-Shafi’i was still superior than Ibn Wahb and al-Qa’nabi[3].

There is no doubt though that al-Shafi’i’s transmission from Malik are of great significance as the former spent a lot of time with Malik. Al-Shafi’i’s transmission of the Muwatta’ has not been transmitted down to us but many of these reports are scattered throughout the works of al-Shafi’i and those who recorded his transmissions from the later scholars. The current work under review attempts to do just that. Under the supervision of the renowned ‘Abd al-Halim Nu’mani, al-Banjari attempts to collect the transmissions of al-Shafi’i from Malik.

This work was written as a dissertation over a decade ago in Jami’at al-‘Ulum al-Islamiyyah Bannori Town Karachi. ‘Abd al-Halim Nu’mani mentions that he consulted the famed ‘Abd al-Rashid Nu’mani (d.1420), whom ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (d.1417) said regarding ‘al-‘Allamah al-Muhaddith al-Naqid al-Muhaqqiq al-Bari’ al-Faqih’.  ‘Abd al-Rashid al-Nu’mani gave the idea to gather the scattered narration of al-Shaf’i from Malik, this task was then delegated to our current author (p.10).

The following 12 texts were utilized by al-Banjari to collect al-Shafi’is narrations; 1) Kitab al-Umm, 2) al-Risalah, 3) ‘Ahkam al-Qur’an, 4) Musnad al-Imam al-Shafi’i, 5) al-Sunan al-Ma’thurah ‘an al-Imam al-Shafi’i riwayat al-Imam al-Tahawi ‘an Khalihi al-Imam al-Muzuni[4], 6) al-Sunan al-Kubra of al-Bayhaqi, 7) Hilyat al-Awliya’ of Abi al-Nu’aym, 8) Silsilat al-Dhahab of Ibn al-Hajar, 9) al-Maqasid al-Saniyyah of Ibn Balban (the author only found one Hadith from this book), 10) Ikhtilaf al-Hadith of al-Shafi’i, 11) Ma’rifat al-Sunan wa al-Athar ‘an al-Shafi’i of al-Bayhaqi and 12) Mushkil al-Athar of al-Tahawi (p.14).

These Hadith are placed under their relevant fiqh chapters and does Takhrij. First the Hadith is compared to the transmission of the Muwatta’ of Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi and then the other books of Hadithwhich report it. The author manages to gather 709 reports of al-Shafi’i from Malik.

There is no doubt that this is a useful and beneficial work, although even the author accepts that the study was not exhaustive. Many books can still be consulted to find further narrations. Also the study includes a biography of al-Shafi’i and Malik, but it appears to miss a background to the Muwatta’ and it’s various transmissions. This would allow the reader to appreciate this effort much more and also understand the impact the Muwatta’ had in the field of Hadith and fiqh.

[1] See al-Kawthari, Zahid (intro) al-Daraqutni, Abu al-Hasan, Ahadith al-Muwatta’ wa ittifaq al-Ruwat ‘an Malik wa Ikhtilafuhum fiha Ziyadatan wa Naqsan, Cairo: al-Maktabat al-Azhariyyah, p.3-7

[2] al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din (2016) Tadrib al-Rawi fi Sharh Taqrib al-Nawawi, Jedda: Dar al-Minhaj, Ed. Muhammad ‘Awwamah

[3] Tadrib, 2/230, Ibn Hajar casts doubt on Ibn Wahb as a transmitter to which Muhammad ‘Awwamah responds convincingly.

[4] This is a transmission of the narrations of al-Shafi’i by al-Tahawi through his uncle al-Muzani in the year 252h. The birthdate of al-Tahawi is differed upon with some like Ibn ‘Asakir stating 239h while Badr al-Din al-‘Aini was arguing for 229h. Depending on which position is taken, he was either 13 or 23 years at the time of hearing this work. See Kawthari, Zahid (1999) al-Hawi fi Sirat al-Imam Abi Ja’far al-Tahawi, Cairo: al-Maktabat al-Azhariyyah li al-Turath, p.4-5, al-Sunan al-Ma’thurah ‘an al-Imam al-Shafi’i riwayat al-Imam al-Tahawi ‘an Khalihi al-Imam al-Muzuni (1985) Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah, p.110

Available to purchase here.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik: Riwayat al-Shafi’i ‘an Malik

  1. So what is the conclusion – if any – in regard the best transmission when it comes to dabt or itqan according to the author?

  2. ALLAH Bless Mawlana Zeeshan. A great scholar and researcher. His character is not typical of academics. He is willing to share his knowledge and has a fantastic personality. Initiates the greeting (salam) etc. It is a result of the duas of his father who is Masha ALLAH a very pious man. ALLAH increase them in good amin.

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