Maliki is one of the four main subdivisions within Sunni Islam. Maliki is a school of Islamic law, also known as Sharia. These schools are unified in allegiance to foundations such as the Qur’an and the hadith. However, Maliki differs from schools such as Hanafi, Shafi'i, and Hanbali in what other sources are acceptable for creating legal rulings. Maliki is distinct from other approaches to Sharia in its reverence for “consensus,” especially that of the Islamic city of Medina.
Some Islamic schools accept the broad opinion of a community or a revered group of Muslims as a valid anchor point for law. A major exception to this is the Hanbali school, which entirely rejects such arguments. Maliki Islam puts an unusually high emphasis on this, with a great emphasis on the traditions of the people of Medina. This was the city where Muhammad truly rose to power, prior to returning to Mecca as a conqueror. Maliki also invests more importance to the words of the earliest Islamic rulers—known as caliphs—with the second caliph, Umar, being the most authoritative.
Measuring the actual number of Muslims in each school is difficult. Depending on what methods are used, Maliki is either the second- or third-largest school within Sunni Islam. It is similar in scope to Shafi'i and notably larger than Hanbali. Maliki is most common in northern Africa.