Islamic Studies

The Learning Imperative: Imam Malik and Priorities

by Muhammad ibn Rushd | Translated by

“Mālik was asked about sitting and listening to story tellers. He responded, ‘I don’t like this.’

It is well known in the Mālikī rite [madhab] that listening to stories is a repugnant act.

It is related that Yaḥya bin Yaḥya said,

“A young man from Tripoli set out with me towards Medina. Whenever we stopped to take rest, he would speak to us (with stories) with heavy words until we reached the city of the Prophet [SA]. Every time he finished, we were left astonished at what he said.

When we arrived to Medina, he decided to do what he had done with us during our travels. Latter on I noticed him in an area of the city telling his stories to the people. The men ignored him and the children of the city began to throw pebbles at him saying, ‘Be quiet you foolish man!’ At that moment, I stopped in my tracts astonished at what I saw.

Later, we visited Mālik [ra] and the first thing we asked about was what had happened. He responded:

‘Those men who ignored him were correct, and those children who refuted his evil were correct.’

It was said to Malik, ‘What did those people gather around before this?’

He replied, “They gathered to gain Fiqh [understanding of Islam] and to invite to the good and forbid the evil.’”

Al-Bayyān wa Tahsīl vol. 18, pg. 201-202

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  • aren't stories essential for us to get a better understanding of our own history? I understand stories for the sake of stories are a waste of time. But the ones that we can derive lessons from, what about them, what is your opinion?

  • Subhanallah, what a great way of refuting someone's evil. I fail to see how those children were correct in throwing pebbles at him.

  • {He replied, “They gathered to gain Fiqh [understanding of Islam] and to invite to the good and forbid the evil.’”}

    I'm not sure what type of story-telling is being referred to; obviously stories from the Qur'an or in ahadith are encouraged! But whatever the story-telling, as long as they are not un-Islamic, they must be mubah. Imam Malik's stance above is based on at least this one condition: when story-telling detracts from gaining understanding, inviting to good, and discouraging evil. Indeed if Imam Malik were amongst us, he may very well be encouraging what he was discouraging if he knew it would detract people from going to bars, clubs, watching TV, or sitting in the streets up to no good.

    Allah knows best.

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