It is a duty on the seeker of knowledge who wants to know what is correct and true that he should recognise who of them is most worthy of taqlīd so that he can act by his madhhab and travel his way in learning fiqh.
And here we will make clear that Mālik, may Allah be merciful to him, is that because of his gathering together the instruments of imamate and his attaining the degree of ijtihād and that the fact that he is the most knowledge of the people of his epoch and of the generations of his which is proven by their testimony on his behalf to that effect and their showing him preference,
He is the model and people are thus people and time is time. Moreover, because of the tradition that is narrated concerning the man of knowledge of Madīnah, which is his dwelling, and because of the usage of this description and its ascription on the tongues of the masses [to Mālik], and because of the concordance of his states with the state described in the hadith about him, and the interpretation that the right-acting first generations made that what was meant was him. The detail and full explanation of that will come in two sections, the first of which is the reliable transmission and tradition in which there are two reasons for considering him the weightiest. The second is on his use of reflection and theory, in which there are three causes for considering him the weightiest, so we come in considering his madhhab the weightiest and the tremendous nature of his rank in knowledge and his high standing to five arguments all of which we will bring fully in such a way as will severe deception, and one of which will almost reach the degree of being a categoric proof.
First section, on his being the weightiest by reason of transmission:
Know, may Allah grant you success, that the preponderance of the madhhab of Mālik over others and the loftiness of his rank and his exalted degree by way of transmission and tradition is only denied by the obstinate or the shortsighted whom knowledge of that did not reach even though it is famously widespread in the books both of opponents and friends. Here we will affirm that in two proofs, the first of which is the well known ṣaḥīḥ tradition transmitted about that from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by way of hadith from trustworthy narrators, of them Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah from Ibn Jurayj from Abū az-Zubayr from Abū Ṣāliḥ from Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “It is probable that people will strike the livers of camels in search of knowledge,” and in a narration, “seeking knowledge, but they will not find a knowledgeable man more knowledgeable,” and in a narration, “than the knowledgeable man of Madīnah,” and in some of them there is, “the armpits of camels,” which is the place of the camels’s livers. Other than Sufyān have narrated it from Ibn Jurayj with the same hadith as that of Sufyān, among them al-Muḥāribī who transmitted it as a mawqūf statement of Abū Hurayrah, in its isnād Muḥammad ibn ‘Abdullāh al-Anṣārī who is a trusted and trustworthy narrator.
And this route is the most famous of its routes, and the narrators of this route are famous trustworthy narrators from all of whom al-Bukhārī and Muslim narrated as did the people of the ṣaḥīḥ hadith. Al-Maqburī also narrated it from Abū Hurayrah with another wording which Qāḍī Abū al-Bukhtarī Wahb ibn Muntabih narrated from ‘Abd al-A‘lā ibn ‘Abdullāh from al-Maqburī from Abū Hurayrah from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who said, “The Hour will not come about until people strike the livers of camels from every region to [go to] the knowledgeable man of Madīnah seeking his knowledge,” except that Abū al-Bukhtarī is weak in their view. And an-Nasā’ī also narrated it and published it in his Muṣannaf from ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn Kathīr from Sufyān from Abū az-Zinād from Abū Ṣāliḥ from Abū Hurayrah who said: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “You will strike the livers of camels and you will seek knowledge and you will not find a knowledgeable man more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable man of Madīnah.”
An-Nasā’ī said, “This is mistaken, and the correct position is that it is from Abū az-Zubayr from Abū Ṣāliḥ.” And Abū Mūsā al-Ash‘arī also narrated it from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in another wording which Ma‘n ibn ‘ˆsā narrated from Abū al-Mundhir at-Tamīmī Zuhayr who said: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “People will go out from the east and the west seeking knowledge and they will not find a knowledgable man more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable man of Madīnah.”
Ibn Ḥabīb mentioned a hadith with its isnād from Abū Ṣāliḥ from Jābir ibn ‘Abdullāh who said: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The world will not come to an end until there will be a knowledgeable man in Madīnah for whose sake the camels’s livers will be beaten, more knowledgeable than whom there will not be on the surface of the world.”
Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah said in transmissions narrated in more than one route, “We think that what is meant by this hadith is Mālik ibn Anas,” and in a narration, “It is Mālik ibn Anas,” with the same being narrated of Ibn Jurayj and ‘Abd ar-Razzāq and it is narrated of Sufyān that he said, “I used to say that it was Ibn al-Musayyab until I said: At the time of Ibn al-Musayyab there were Sulaymān and Sālim and others; but today I have come to say that it is Mālik.”
And that is because he lived until he had no compeers in Madīnah, and this is the sound transmission from Sufyān which trustworthy narrators and Imāms narrated from him: Ibn Mahdī, Yaḥyā ibn Ma‘īn, ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī, az-Zubayr ibn Bakkār, Isḥāq ibn Abī Isrā’īl, Dhuwayb ibn Ghamāmah and others (all of them) had heard Sufyān saying in explanation of the hadith when he narrated it to them, “It is Malik,” or, “I think it or reckon it or see it to be,” or “they used to think it to be,” about which Ibn Mahdī said, “Sufyān meant by saying, ‘They used to think it to be,’ the Followers.”
Qāḍī Abū ‘Abdullāh at-Tustarī said, “It is transmitted from others of his peers or from those who were above him, and that his degree in people’s estimation was this degree because of what they witnessed of his condition which resembled what is informed about him in this hadith.” He said, “And these hadith have come in two wordings: first, ‘They will not find a knowledgeable man more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable man of Madīnah; and the other, ‘Than a knowledgeable man in Madīnah,’ and both of them have sound meanings.”
As for his words, ‘than a knowledgeable man in Madīnah,’ he indicated a specific man who would be in it and not somewhere else, and we know of no one to whom the knowledge of Madīnah reached who resided in it without leaving it or residing elsewhere at the time of Mālik about whom there is consensus except for Mālik.
Nor did any of its ‘ulamā’ deliver fatwā in Madīnah and narrate hadith for sixty or more years with the people of the east and the west taking from and striking the livers of camels to get to him other than him.
As for the narration, “The knowledgeable man of Madīnah,” or “of the people of Madīnah,” Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq al-Makhzūmī Abū al-Mughīrah narrated that the interpretation of that is that as long as the Muslims seek knowledge they will not find anyone more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable man of Madīnah whether he is there or elsewhere.
So on that basis it would be Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyab because he in his own time was the ultimate, and then after him the others who were like him among the Shaykhs of Mālik, and then after them Mālik, and then after him those who undertook his knowledge and became the most knowledgeable of his companions about his madhhab. Then in the same manner as long as there is a seeker of knowledge and the People of Madīnah have an imām.
It is thus interpretable on this basis to say that it was Ibn Shihāb in his time and al-‘Umarī in his time and Mālik in his time. Then if the two wordings are united, Mālik is singled out by his words, “than a knowledgeable man in Madīnah,” and he is comprised among the total number of knowledgeable people of Madīnah in the other wording. Some of the Mālikīs said: If you consider the great number of those who narrated from Mālik of the ‘ulamā’ of those who preceded him and were contemporary with him or came later than him, according to the different generations and regions, and the great number of journeys that were made to him, and the reliance that was placed upon him in his own time, it shows without doubt that he was the one intended by the hadith.
Since we have not found any other ‘ulamā’ of Madīnah of those who preceded him or came after him who narrated and who took knowledge except for a few of those we found, and more than have gathered together those who narrated from him and one of them reached in naming those who were known to have narrated from him, apart from those not known, to one thousand narrators, and he gathered of them more than 1,300. The great number of those who went to him shows the fact that he was the most knowledgeable of the people of his time, which is the state and the description about which he, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave notice, the right-acting first generations not doubting that he was the one intended by the hadith, and this tradition is counted as one of his miracles and one of his āyāt, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, among those things about which he informed of those things that were to be which came about just as he informed us about, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, . *