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The Final Counsel of Imam Malik to Students of Knowledge

This is the final counsel of Imam Mālik to the students of knowledge, before his death, as heard and

narrated by Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā al-Laythī (d. 234 AH).

In the name of Allāh the Most Gracious and Most Merciful

Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā [reports]: “Whilst Mālik was suffering from the illness which ultimately ended his life, there gathered around him in Madīnah the people of knowledge who had once been his students, as well others, from the surrounding cities. I was amongst them when we all entered upon him. We were [about] one hundred and thirty men. We proceeded to greet him (salamnā alayhi), each of us

taking a step toward him and standing by him, showing ourselves to him and asking him about his state. Once we had finished with that, (Mālik) turned his face towards us and proceeded to say: “All praises are due to Allāh, the One who causes tears and laughter. All praises are due to Allāh, the One who causes death and (gives) life.”

Then he (added); “Verily, Allāh’s decree has come, and meeting Him is now incumbent [upon us].”

So we asked him: “O Abū ‘Abdallāh, how are you [feeling]!? (lit. how do you find yourself?)”

And he responded: “I have found myself rejoiceful in the company of the friends of Allāh—and they are the people of knowledge. There is nothing more noble with Allāh, after the Prophets, than them. I also rejoice in my having sought after this matter (i.e. knowledge). Allāh has given glad tidings of reward [for those who act upon them] to His Messenger ﷺ for every work which has been made incumbent by Allāh or which His Messenger enacted as part of his sunnah.”

[He added]: “Whosoever becomes inseparable from their prayers and guards them, then their reward with Allāh is such-and-such. Whosoever performs pilgrimage to the House of Allāh, and it is accepted, then his reward with Allāh is such-and-such. Whosever struggles in the way of Allāh, only desiring that which is with Allāh, then his reward is such-and-such. All of this is [easily] known to whomever Allāh Has inspired with [seeking knowledge]. Yet, no seeker nor teacher can ever know [from a book] the [immense] number of blessings and rewards that are reserved for the [earnest] seeker of knowledge.

And I swear by Allāh! I shall relate to you a hadīth which was related to me by Rabī‘ah, and which I have never narrated to you before this day. He said: “I swear by Allāh, the One whom there is no deity but He, that should a man come to me requesting help in (understanding) how to correct a mistake they’ve made in their prayer and I answer them with knowledge, and I bring them to what is correct, is better for me than possessing [all the riches] of the world. Thus, I [have] delayed [its pleasures] to the Afterlife.”

And I shall relate to you a hadīth, which was related to me by Yahyā b. Sa’īd al-Anṣārī, which I have never narrated to you before this day, and he said: “I swear by Allāh, the One whom there is no deity but He that whenever I would hear a piece of knowledge from a teacher and I became confused by some of it, I would say to myself, “He said this and this to me,” and I would review it. (I would be in

this state) even when I had retired to my bed. I would go to sleep thinking about what had confused me until I awoke the next morning. When I did, I would go and see him and ask him about it. [It is my belief] that my resolve (in understanding and clarifying such a thing) is better for me than a hundred pilgrimages which have been accepted.”

[Mālik continued]: I heard Ibn Shihāb (al-Zuhrī) say several times: “I swear by Allāh, the One whom there is no deity but He, that it is more beloved to me than a hundred military excursions I undertake for the sake of Allāh, that I should receive a question from someone seeking help in their religion yet I do not hasten to answer them. Rather I ask myself, “How shall I answer him with what is in the Sunnah?”

Then I asked each of them after they had finished narrating to me their hadīth: “That is for you, [i.e. the scholar], but what about the seeker?” And they each replied to me: “How preposterous [to ask such a question]! Knowledge has been cut off!”

We ask Allāh, for us and for you, Divinely ordained success.”

Yaḥyā then said: “This is the last of which I heard from Mālik, may Allāh have mercy upon him.”

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