Malik on Knowledge: When to say I do not know

Abdur Rahman ibn Mahdi reported: I was with Malik ibn Anas, may Allah have mercy on him, as a man came and he said, “O Abu Abdullah, I have come from a distance of six months travel. The people of my land have an issue to ask you about.” Malik said, “Then ask.” The man asked him about the issue and Malik said, “I do not know it.” The man was speechless, as if he had thought he came to someone who knew everything. The man said, “So what do I say to my people when I return to them?” Malik said, “Say to them that Malik said: I do not know.”

Ibn Wahb said, “I heard him many times saying: I do not know.”

Source: Jāmi’ Bayān al-‘Ilm 2/838

عن عَبْد الرَّحْمَنِ بْن مَهْدِيٍّ قَالَ كُنَّا عِنْدَ مَالِكِ بْنِ أَنَسٍ رحمه الله فَجَاءَهُ رَجُلٌ فَقَالَ يَا أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ جِئْتُكَ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ سِتَّةِ أَشْهُرٍ حَمَّلَنِي أَهْلُ بَلَدِي مَسْأَلَةً أَسْأَلُكَ عَنْهَا قَالَ فَسَلْ فَسَأَلَهُ الرَّجُلُ عَنْ مَسْأَلَةٍ فَقَالَ لَا أُحْسِنُهَا فَبُهِتَ الرَّجُلُ كَأَنَّهُ قَدْ جَاءَ إِلَى مَنْ يَعْلَمُ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَالَ فَأَيُّ شَيْءٍ أَقُولُ لِأَهْلِ بَلَدِتِي إِذَا رَجَعْتُ لَهُمْ قَالَ تَقُولُ لَهُمْ قَالَ مَالِكٌ لَا أُحْسِنُ

قَالَ ابْنُ وَهْبٍ وَكُنْتُ أَسْمَعُهُ كَثِيرًا مَا يَقُولُ لَا أَدْرِي

2/838 جامع بيان العلم وفضله