Imam Malik was born the son of Anas ibn Malik and Atika bint Shurayk al-Azdiyya in Medina circa 715. His family was originally from the al-Asbahi tribe of Yemen, but his great grandfather Abu 'Amir relocated the family to Medina after converting to Islam in the second year after hijra (623). Living in Medina gave Malik access to some of the most learned minds of early Islam. He memorized the Quran in his youth, learning recitation from Imam Abu Suhail an-Nafi' ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman, from whom he also received his Sanad, or certification and permission to teach others. He studied under Imam Jafar al Sadiq.
He practiced extreme care in regard to narrating Hadith, saying, “I do not accept knowledge from four types of people: (1) a person known to be foolish, even though others may narrate from him, (2) a person involved in committing heresy and calling others towards the innovation, (3) a person who lies in regular conversation, even though I do not accuse him as liar in regards to Hadith, (4) and a person who is pious worshipper or scholar, but does not properly and correctly memorize what he narrates.” Imam Malik's chain of narrators was considered the most authentic and called Silsilat ul-Zhahab or “The Golden Chain of Narrators". The Golden Chain consists of Malik, who narrated from Nafi', who narrated from ibn Umar, who, of course, narrated from the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad.