The scholar of Madina, he was known for his intense piety and love of the Prophet, whom he held in such awe and respect that he would not mount his horse within the confines of Madina out of reverence for the ground that enclosed the Prophet's body, nor would he relate a hadith without first performing ablution. Ibn al-Jawzi relates in the chapter entitled "Layer 6 of the People of Madina" of his book Sifat al-safwa:
Just as Abu Hanifa and Sufyan al-Thawri implicitly asserted the necessity to follow the Sufi path for acquiring perfection, Imam Malik explicitly enjoined tasawwuf as a duty of scholars in his statement:
It is related by the muhaddith Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899), the hafiz `Ali al-Qari al-Harawi (d. 1014), the muhaddiths `Ali ibn Ahmad al `Adawi (d. 1190) and Ibn `Ajiba (d. 1224), and others.2
Ibn `Ajiba explains:
Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq said: "Tasawwuf has over two thousand definitions, all of which go back to the sincerity of one's self-application to Allah... Each one's definition corresponds to his state and the extent of his experience, knowledge, and taste, upon which he will ground his saying: "Tasawwuf is such-and-such."
It follows that every one of the saints quoted (in Abu Nu`aym's Hilyat al-awliya') who has a part of sincere self-application (sidq tawajjuh) has a part in tasawwuf, and each one's tasawwuf consists in his sincere self-application. As a rule, sincere self-application is a requirement of religion since it forms both the manner and the content of the acts which Allah accepts. Manner and content are not sound unless sincerity of self-application is sound. "He approves not unthankfulness in His servants, but if you are thankful, he will approve it in you" (39:7).
Therefore Islam necessitates deeds, and there is no self-purification (tasawwuf) without knowledge of the Law (fiqh), as Allah's external rulings are not known except by knowledge of the Law; and there is no knowledge of the Law without self-purification, as there is no deed without sincerity in self-application, and there is neither without belief. Hence the Law requires all of them by definition, just as the body and the soul necessitate each other, as one cannot exist or be complete in the world except in conjunction with the other. That is the meaning of Imam Malik's saying: "He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law..."3
1 Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa 1(2):120.
2 Ali al-Qari, Sharh `ayn al-`ilm wa-zayn al-hilm (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqafa al-Diniyya, 1989) 1:33; Ahmad Zarruq, Qawa`id al-tasawwuf (Cairo, 1310); `Ali al `Adawi, Hashiyat al `Adawi `ala sharh Abi al Hasan li risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al musammat kifayat al talib al rabbani li risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al Qayrawani fi madhhab Maalik (Beirut?: Dar Ihya' al Kutub al `Arabiyah, <n.d.>) 2:195; Ibn `Ajiba, Iqaz al himam fi sharh al hikam (Cairo: Halabi, 1392/1972) p. 5 6.
3 Ibn `Ajiba, Iqaz al-himam 5-6.
Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani's
The Repudiation of "Salafi" Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 277-279.
Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions