Al-Muwatta' by Imam Mâlik Ibn Anas - French-Arabic - 2 Volumes - Al Bayyinah
Version of Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ al-Laythî
Presentation, translation and notes by Mohammed KARIMI
Etymology and meaning of the name muwatta'
The term muwatta' is a noun in the passive voice. This passive voice is determined by the mu prefix. The root of this name consists of the letters w, t and '. The name muwatta' derives from the verb watta'a which means "to facilitate", "to make accessible", "to prepare" and "to be the first". The name tawti'a means "preface", "introduction", "prologue".
Some exegetes and lexicographers say that the name muwatta' derives from the action name muwâta'a which means “agreement”. According to this etymology, the name muwatta' means "the object of an agreement".
Allah said in the Qur'an: (Verily, pious activity in the middle of the night has more wat') (S.73, 6). The exegetes (Mujâhid and Abû Najîh in particular) maintain that the term wat' in this verse means that the heart and the hearing are in full agreement during the recitation of the Koran in the middle of the night.
Al-muwatta', the first book of its kind
Al-muwatta' is an unprecedented book in terms of order, coordination, criticism, relevance and synthesis. It is also unprecedented in the sense that it is a book of hadith and fiqh that is based on a clear and well-designed methodology (manhaj).
Method followed by Mâlik in the composition of the muwatta'
Speaking of his muwatta', Mâlik said: “It contains hadiths of the Messenger of Allah, sayings of Companions and Followers and my opinions. Only any opinion that I express is based on an effort of reflection and on the teachings of the scholars of my city (Medina) that I have been able to meet without distinguishing myself from them to look elsewhere”.
The muwatta' is composed of books (kitâb) (sections) and the books are subdivided into chapters (bâb). Under each chapter there are hadiths and/or sayings of the Companions and Followers and/or what he has deduced as legal qualifications from Medinan practice, or analogical reasoning (qiyas), or other principles of his school. .
Mâlik's opinions in the muwatta'
Mâlik's opinions in the muwatta' In addition to hadiths and traditions, Mâlik cites his deductions. These are based on his interpretations of verses, hadiths or traditions, Medinan practice ('amal ahl al-madîna), analogical reasoning (qiyas), consideration of the general interest (maslaha), the principle of closure of harmful implications (sadd al-dharâ'i'), the purposes of religion (maqâsid al-sharî'a) and other principles of his school.
Mâlik and his respect for diversity
Ibn 'Abd al-Barr reports that Mâlik Ibn Anas said: "When [the Caliph] Abû Ja'far al-Mansûr made the pilgrimage, he sent me a summons to which I responded. After a session on the hadiths and after answering some questions he asked me, he said to me: “I have decided to give the order to transcribe the books that you composed — that is to say the muwatta' — and to send a copy to each of the metropolises of the Muslim territory, requiring them to apply the teachings without going beyond them and to abandon the other teachings drawn from this knowledge which has just been invented. I have indeed found that the foundation of knowledge lies in the traditions communicated by the people of Medina and their science”. I said to him: “Don't do it, Emir of the believers! Because people have already received words from the pious Predecessors, heard hadiths and transmitted traditions. Each people has indeed given its assent to the knowledge it received at the start, has acted according to its teachings and has acquired the conviction that this conformity is the way of submission to the religion of Allah. But this knowledge has differences since there are differences of opinion between the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, and it is difficult to bring these people to renounce the ideas in which they believed. Let people follow the path they have already taken and respect the choice of each people”. Abu Ja'far said: 'I swear that if you had given me your consent, I would have done so gladly'”.
Mâlik proceeded in the same way concerning the books of his work. He indeed concluded his muwatta' with a book which he called Book of synthesis (kitâb al-jâmi').
The versions of the muwatta' and the version we have chosen to translate
Imam Malik composed the muwatta' for several years—forty years according to some sources—and then taught it for the rest of his life. During this period, people came from all over to him to learn muwatta' and then returned to their homes to pass it on to their peoples. However, while teaching the muwatta', Mâlik did not stop revising it, making changes to it and pruning it as it evolved in fiqh and hadith. This is what also explains the existence of differences between the versions of the muwatta', depending on whether it is reported by this or that disciple.
The disciples of Mâlik who received the muwatta' from his mouth and transmitted it are very numerous. Ibn Nâsir al-Dîn (d.840H/1436 AD) listed seventy-nine of them. Dr. Ahmad Mustafâ al-A'zami has listed a hundred of them.
Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ's version of the muwatta' has been surrounded with particular interest by the scholars of Muslim Spain. Eminent exegetes have based themselves on this version in their explanation of the muwatta', notably Ibn 'Abd al-Barr in his books alistidhkâr and al-tamhîd, Abû al-Walîd al-Bâjî in his books al-isîfâ', al- muntaqâ and al-îmâ', Jâlâl al-Dîn al-Suyûtî in his book tanwîr al-hawâlik and al-Zurqânî in his book of exegesis. Later, this version spread so much throughout the world, to the point that when we talk about the muwatta', we automatically refer to the version of Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ al-Laythî.
One of the reasons for this notoriety is that Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ accompanied Mâlik for a long time. He was at her bedside until her death and was present at her funeral. This means that he witnessed the final development by Mâlik of his muwatta' and therefore his version can be considered to be the ultimate and definitive version of the muwatta'. Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ al-Laythî died in Cordoba in the month of Rajab (7th month of the lunar calendar) in 234 of the Hegira (849 AD). This is the version of Yahyâ Ibn Yahyâ that we have chosen to translate
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