Malik Saif-ur-Rahman (1914-1989)
As has been mentioned earlier, Hazrat Imam Malik’srh family was not particularly affluent and survived on a meagre income. He acquired education in very difficult circumstances. When he began teaching, even then his financial state was deficient. He had around 400 dinars, which he invested in a business. Whatever he earned from his business was what he would spend for domestic use.
He married a freed slave and lived a happy life with her. When he gained worldwide acclaim and people started to recognise him, statesmen and caliphs began visiting him. In this way, Allah strengthened his economic status. He would not accept gifts from ordinary leaders, however he happily accepted the gifts sent by caliphs. He was of the view that if a caliph sent a gift and it had no strings attached, there was no harm in accepting it because those who had dedicated their lives for the proliferation of knowledge had a share from the bait-ul-mal [central reserve].
Whatever monetary gifts were sent his way from Abbasid caliphs, he would spend most of it on students of his madrasah [school]. Most of the expenses of Imam Shafi‘i’srh education were covered by Imam Malikrh, as was the case with the rest of his students. As regards accepting monetary gifts from caliphs, Imam Shafi‘irh shared the same view, although because he belonged to the category of zawil-qurba, he personally preferred not to benefit from this.
In contrast however, Imam Abu Hanifarh and Imam Ahmadrh bin Hanbal held the view that any monetary gift sent by caliphs should not be accepted as such motives have strings attached. Imam Abu Hanifarh never needed such gifts as he had a well-established business from which he earned thousands, however Imam Ahmad’srh income was very basic. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbalrh would earn a small amount through property and would live off that. If times were desperate, he would perform manual labour to earn money. After crops had been harvested, he would go to collect fallen wheat spikes as this was considered acceptable and a basic right for the less privileged. Despite all this, he never accepted any gift sent by caliphs of the time.
Imam Malikrh and governance
Imam Malikrh saw the rise of both the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. Both were authoritarian rules. As he lived a long period under the Umayyad rule and had a special bond with Hazrat Umarrh bin Abdul Aziz and because he would openly express his grief at the rebellion and harsh treatment extended to Hazrat Usmanra, he was famously known for being a supporter of the Umayyads.
The fact is that he was against any form of rebellion. His view was that the bloodshed caused by rebellion saw no limit, and even if the rebellion was successful, those who gained dominance were usually as bad as the previous rulers, if not worse. In such circumstances, there could be no hope of improvement or any sort of benefit. With regard to the Abbasid Revolution, he held similar views and it was for this reason that initially, the Abbasids had negative views about him. In any case, history has not recorded any incident of the Umayyad period which relates to him, nor is it known how his ties were with the Umayyad caliphs.
This period is when he started to gain acclaim, hence why it does not seem plausible that he was the focus of attention for the government. When the Abbasids gained dominance, as has been mentioned in passing above, he had to endure certain difficulties. One was a result of the forceful oaths that were being taken by the new government from the public. From a Shariah perspective, the oaths had no bearing and whilst being questioned, he would openly express this opinion. The other famous imams were free from any want and wanted nothing to do with such authoritarian governments.
In contrast to this however, it was the policy and desire of governments at the time to attract the support of the well-accepted, influential figures and their help in strengthening the government. In such circumstances, those who were not prepared to submit to the will of the new government and extend their support were subjected to cruelties by the new regime. Abu Hanifarh faced similar conditions in Iraq, whilst Imam Malikrh experienced bitterness in Medina. Both had to deal with harsh consequences.
As has been mentioned above, the Abbasid caliphs, especially Abu Jafar Mansur, would try their utmost to prevent any uprising against the government. On the one hand were supporters of the Umayyads, who were opposed to the Abbasid rule and were searching for opportunities to revolt, while on the other hand were supporters of the progeny of Hazrat Alira who were not happy as schemes had been started in their name and they expected to absorb the caliphate after the Umayyads. Thus, when this did not happen, the various offshoots of the Ahl-e-Bait [family of the Prophetsa] began to oppose the Abbasids severely and considered them disloyal and usurpers.
In such a scenario, the methods adopted by the Abbasids to keep the masses in their control included the method of taking oaths from them. People would be forced to promise while performing bai‘at that if they broke their covenant, their wives would immediately be given divorces and any marriage thereafter for 60 years would be considered null and void. Furthermore, all their slaves would be freed and all their wealth, offered as Sadaqah. These were the strange oaths forced upon subjects by the Abbasids.
A person once asked Hazrat Imam Malikrh about the validity of such oaths in light of the Shariah, to which he replied, “In light of the Shariah, such oaths are considered vain.”
The Abbasid governor of Medina at the time was somewhat ignorant. Instead of using his wisdom to make decisions, he was malevolent and extended cruel measures towards Imam Malikrh. When Mansur learnt of the foolishness of this governor, he was extremely disappointed and tried his utmost to neutralise the effect of the governor’s stupidity.
The reason for this was that it was the caliph’s desire to gain the support of the scholars and cruelty towards them was counterproductive. Nonetheless, during the days of Hajj, Mansur found an apt moment to resolve the situation. Mansur sent a message to Imam Malikrh that he wanted to talk to him about some pressing matters and that he should meet him after Hajj. They met accordingly and during their discussion, Mansur expressed his remorse and reassured Imam Malikrh that neither did he instruct for such a harsh treatment, nor was he aware of it.
He said that when he found out, he became furious with the governor, who happened to be his relative. He then went on to say that he ordered him to travel back to Baghdad by camel and he intended to punish him for his cruelty. Hazrat Imam Malikrh replied, “Amirul Momineen, do not do this. He is your relative and is from the Ahl-e-Bait. I forgive him and so should you.” Imam Malik’srh kind-heartednesses had a lasting impression on Mansur and he apologised to Imam Malikrh by saying that he was an asset for the Haramain (Mecca and Medina).
“Here, people easily fall trap to evildoers, however people like you can explain to them. Therefore, I give you the authority to notify me of any wrongdoing or injustice you notice on the part of the governors of Medina or the Hejaz and they shall immediately be relieved of their duties.”
Imam Malikrh had a great, positive impact on Mansur. The Abbasid caliphs increased their level of friendship with him and would send various types of gifts for him and to benefit from his teaching methods, would bring their children to Medina. Sometimes, he would sit among the children to listen in on the lessons being given. On the other hand, the Umayyads of Spain also had a special bond with him and would send gifts to him as frequently as the rest. There were political motives behind this because the government of Spain was opposed to the Abbasid caliphate and the only place they could freely move around in the region was in Mecca and Medina. Students belonging to Spain and the surrounding areas had their eyes set on the city of the Prophetsa, Medina.
Imam Malikrh, being the Ustaz Medinatur-Rasul [teacher in the Prophet’ssa city], was the focus of attention of both governments. As regards promoting good and stopping that which is forbidden, Imam Malikrh would not spare an opportunity, nor did other imams. In their own ways, they all fulfilled this obligation. The Abbasid government did its utmost to gain the support of the imams of the time so that through their relationship, the masses could be inclined towards them. Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifarh and his students were influential in Iraq. The efforts made to establish a connection with him have been discussed previously. Imam Abu Hanifarh remained unmoved by such efforts, however his students would later play influential roles in governance.
Hazrat Imam Malikrh was mostly influential in Egypt, the Hejaz etc. Governments did their best to gain his support. First, Abu Jafar Mansur pursued this in that he tried to make the Muwatta a part of the legal constitution of the government, which Imam Malikrh was not in favour of as he thought the scholars of other cities would not accept it. He said that there should be no compulsion in matters of faith. Then, Harun al-Rashid also expressed this same desire, to which Imam Malikrh had the same response.
Status of Imam Malikrh
Imam Malikrh was a rather tall, large, fair, awe-inspiring, attractive and handsome person. His beard was somewhat long, and he had noticeable eyes. He had good manners and was a clean person. In terms of influence and theological command, he lived a very successful life. Allah gave him a long life and enabled him to make the best use of his time. In later years, he suffered from diabetes, due to which he was unable to visit Masjid al-Nabawi for a long period and would teach his lessons at home. He never mentioned his suffering to anyone.
People raised many accusations against him when he was unable to visit the mosque, however he would remain silent. As his final days approached, he mentioned the reason behind not visiting the mosque to some of his special students and said, “It is not necessary to be vocal about your illness in front of everyone. Everyone must return to their Lord eventually and everyone is answerable before Him.”
His final illness rendered him extremely weak and resulted in his final hour, causing this exemplary star of knowledge and great leader of his time to return to his Lord in 179 AH at the age of 86. َ
فَاِنَّا لِلہِ وَاِنَّا اِلَیْہِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
The whole of Medina gathered to participate in his funeral, a scene that was witnessed after a long time because after the demise of Hazrat Umarra, no such event of mourning took place. He was buried in Jannatul-Baqi.
کُلُّ مَنْ عَلَیْھَا فَانٍ وَّیَبْقٰی وَجْہُ رَبِّکَ ذُوالْجَلٰلِ وَالْاِکْرَامِ
[All that is on it (earth) will pass away. And there will remain (only) the Person of thy Lord, Master of Glory and Honour.]
(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu in Tarikh Afkar-e-Islami, which was authored by Malik Saif-ur-Rahman Sahib)