This is a very wide scope, and if we mention the due rights of those Imams, it will become lengthy and we shall miss the purpose. However, we shall mention only part of that so that we would know by the few information we mention how much information we left. Those people were grand imams, the source of virtue, and people may describe them with beautiful characteristics as they wish. We started with Imam Malik (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) because he was the former in time, status, knowledge, and smartness. He was the master of this knowledge as well as the master of Imams, however when we mention the books of Hadiths, we mention Al Bukhari and Muslim first because of the high conditions of their books. So, we cannot advance anyone to Imam Malik because he was more worthy, but as for the books, their books are given priority to his.
He is Abu ‘Abdullah: Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abu ‘Amir ibn ‘Amr ibn Al Harith ibn Ghayman ibn Khathil ibn ‘Amr ibn Al Harith - who was Asbah ibn Suwayd- from Banu Himyar ibn Saba', then from Banu Yashjub ibn Qahtan, however his origin is controversial.
He was born in 95 AH and died in Medina in 179 AH while he was 84 years old.
Al Waqidy said: He died while he was 90 years old and had a son whose name was Yahya and we do not know that he had another son.
He was the Imam of Hejaz (The region of western Arabia where Makkah and Madinah are located. In the pre-Islamic era, trade flourished between the Hejaz and Syria,) moreover he was the Imam of Fiqh and Hadith, and it is enough honor for him that Al Shafi’y was one of his Companions.
He took knowledge from Muhammad ibn Shihab Az-Zuhry, Yahya ibn Sa’id Al Ansary, and Nafi’, the freed slave of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), Muhammad ibn Al Munkadir, and Hisham ibn ‘Urwah ibn Az-Zubayr, Ishma’il ibn Abu Hakim, Zayd ibn Aslam, Sa’id ibn Abu Sa’id Al Maqbury, Makhramah ibn Sulayman, Rabi’ah ibn Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman who shared him the fatwa, ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Al Qasim, Sharik ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Abu Namir, not the famous judge, besides many other people.
There were many people received knowledge from him and later on they became the grand Imams of Hejaz such as: Al Shafi’y, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Dinar, Abu Hashim Al Mughirah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman Al Makhzumy, Abu ‘Abdullah ‘Abdul-’Aziz ibn Abu Hazim, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Isa ibn Kinanah - who were his peers- Ma’n ibn ‘Isa Al Qazzaz, Abu Marwan ‘Abdul-Malik ibn ‘Abdul-’Aziz Al Majishun, Yahya ibn Yahya Al Andalusy from his way we reported Al Muwatta', ‘Abdullah ibn Maslamah Al Qa’naby, ‘Abdullah ibn Wahb, Asbagh ibn Al Faraj, and others.
The people mentioned were the sheikhs of Al Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhy, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Ma’in, and others from the scholars of Hadith.
Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: All the people from whom I received knowledge came to ask for my fatwa.
Bakr ibn ‘Abdullah As-San’any said: We went to Malik ibn Anas who kept on reporting Hadiths from Rabi’ah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman and we were asking for more. Once he said to us: Do you know Rabi’ah whom I was reporting to you from his Hadith? He is sleeping in that place. We came to Rabi’ah, awakened him, and asked him: Are you Rabi’ah from whom Imam Malik reported Hadith? He said: Yes. We said: How did you become a student of Malik while you were his sheikh? He said: Did not you know that gaining part of the world is better than delivering knowledge? Imam Malik was so loving and revering to knowledge and religion to the extent that whenever he wanted to narrate Hadiths, he performed ablution, sat on his bed, combed his beard, applied perfume, then sat in reverence and narrated. It was said to him: Why do you do so? He said: I love to glorify the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him). One day he passed by Abu Hazim while he was sitting in his session teaching people without sitting in his session. He was asked about that: He replied: I did not find a room to sit and I hated to receive the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) while standing. Yahya ibn Sa’id Al Qattan said: There is no one has more authentic Hadiths than Malik. Al Shafi’y (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: When scholars are mentioned, Malik is the star, and no one has a favor over me but Malik (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul).
It was reported that Al Mansur prevented him from narrating the Hadith about the divorce of the forced, then he sent someone to ask him about that but Malik reported in public the following Hadith: "There is no divorce for the forced," so Al Mansur lashed him but he never left the narration of the Hadith.
It was reported that Ar-Rashid asked Malik: Do you have a house? He said: No. Then Ar-Rashid gave him three thousand dinars (gold coin) and said: buy a house. However, Malik took them without spending them. When Ar-Rashid wanted to take Malik with him, he said to him: You have to come out with me because I made up my mind to make the people have Al Muwatta' and act only according its Hadiths as ‘Uthman made the people recite the Qur'an from his copy. Malik said: As for forcing the people to abide by the Hadiths reported in Al Muwatta', there is no way to do so because the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) scattered in cities and narrated Hadiths and each city has a scholar to follow and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "The difference of my nation [in regard to controversial matters] is a kind of mercy." As for going out with you, there is no way to do so because the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Medina is better for them if they only know" and said: "Medina expels its evil ones" and these are your dinars I did not spend any of it, if you like to take them or leave them.
The meaning is: You gave me money to do whatever you want, but I shall not leave Medina and prefer any other city to it.
Al Shafi’y (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: I saw a group of Khurasan horses and mules from Egypt at the door of Imam Malik which I had never seen something better. So, I said to Malik: How beautiful are they. He said: It is a gift for you, O Abu ‘Abdullah. I said: Keep a mount to ride. He said: I feel shy from Allah (Glory be to Him) to walk on the ground which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was walking with a hoof of an animal. There are many merits for that great scholar and that generous sea.