Rafed English

Master and Mastership

Master and Mastership

The words, Wala, Walayat, Wilayat, Waly, Mawla, Awlaand the like have been derived from the same root, viz. Waly. The various forms of this root-word and its derivatives are the most oft-recurring words in the Holy Qur'an. It is said that they have been used 124 times in the form of a noun and 112 times in the form of a verb.

The original meaning of this root-word as mentioned by Raghib in his lexicon "Mufradatul Qur'an" is one thing taking place by the side of another in such a way that there is no distance between them i.e. if two things are placed side by side in such a manner that there is no other thing between them the root-word 'Waly' is used. For example, if some persons are sitting side by side with one another and we wish to mention the manner and order in which they have taken their seats we say that Zayd is the head of the assembly and i.e. Amr is sitting by Zayd without there being any distance between them and similarly Bakr is sitting by Amr without there being any distance between them.

That is why this root-word is naturally used for nearness and proximity also, both physical and figurative. And again for this very reason it has been used in the sense of friendship, love, patronage, guardianship, control etc., because all these conceptions involve some sort of contact and proximity.

A number of meanings have been given for this root word and its derivatives. For example, some 27 meanings of the word Mawla have been given. It is obvious that originally it was not coined for all of them and could not have more than one original meaning. Other meanings are to be obtained from contextual indications.

This word has been used in the case of material and corporeal matters as well as in the case of spiritual and abstract matters, but in the beginning it has admittedly been used in connection with material matters and has also been used in spiritual matters by way of likening contemplative with perceptible or by way of abstraction of the meaning of perceptible from its material and palpable characteristic. This is so because whether it be from the point of view of an individual during his lifetime or from the point of view of human society during its history the attention of man has always been directed towards perceptible things before he has reflected rationally. After perceiving palpable meanings and concepts man has gradually moved towards spiritual meanings and concepts. And naturally he has used and employed the same words which he first utilized in connection with material matters. It is just as the scientists do not coin new terminology for their sciences and do not make use of the words which are in use in common parlance, but give them particular meanings which are different from those which they carry in common terminology.

In regard to the use of the words Wilayat and Walayat, Raghib says that the former means "help" and the latter denotes to be "in charge". It may be said that in reality both the words have the same sense i.e. in charge.

In regard to the words, Waly and Mawla, Raghib says that both of them have the same meaning. The only thing is that they are used sometimes in the active and sometimes in the passive sense.

Then he mentions the occasions on which these words are used.

The Holy Qur'an has talked much of Wala, Muwalat and Tawalla (friendship and cooperation). This Celestial Book has discussed a number of questions under these headings. A thorough study of the Holy Qur'an indicates that from the Islamic point of view there are two kinds of Wala; negative and positive i.e. on the one hand the Muslims have been asked not to accept one kind of Wala and to refrain from it, and on the other hand they have been asked to observe another kind of Wala. The positive Wala enjoined by Islam has two forms; general and special. Again the special form of Wala is further subdivided into several categories; Wala of Love, Wala of Imamate, Wala of Leadership and Wala of Control. Now we take up each of them briefly.

Negative Wala

The Holy Qur'an has strictly warned the Muslims against accepting the friendship or tutelage of the non Muslims. This does not mean that Islam is in any way against the Muslims having good relations with the fellow human beings or it exhorts them to be always hostile to the non-Muslims and not to do any good to them. The Holy Qur'an expressly says "Allah does not forbid you to show kindness or to deal justly with those who did not fight against you on account of your religion and did not drive you out from your homes. Surely Allah does not love the unjust people" (Mumtahina, 60: 8)

Islam does not say that good fellowship should be exclusively confined to the Muslims or that a Muslim should not be philanthropic to others. How could a religion, which, in the words of the Qur'an, has described its Prophet as a blessing to all the worlds, say that?

Actually the idea is that the Muslims must never be unmindful of the designs of the enemy despite his claim of friendship. They should always be vigilant and should not take the pretensions of the enemy on their face value.

A Muslim must regard himself as a member of the Muslim body politic and a part of the whole. To be a member of a particular society automatically imposes certain conditions and limits. The non-Muslims being members of a different society, the relations of the Muslims with them must be such as may not be incompatible with their being members of their own society. They should in no way jeopardize their own independence and integrity. Hence the relations of a Muslim with the non-Muslims cannot be similar to those which he has with the fellow Muslims.

The Muslims should have as close and cordial relations with one another as the members of the same body politic should normally have. According to Islam the negative aspect of this friendship demands that a Muslim, while dealing with a non-Muslim, should always be alive to the fact that he is facing a member of an alien body; and the relations of a Muslim with a non-Muslim should not be similar to those with a Muslim, in the sense that Muslim should not practically become a member of the non- Muslim society or assume such a shape that his membership of the Muslim society should in no way be unrecognizable. He should at no time ignore that he is a member of the Muslim body politic.

A Muslim may be nice and friendly to a non-Muslim but at the same time he should not take him as a member of the same body to which he himself belongs. There is no contradiction between these two attitudes.

Thus there is no contradiction between negative Wala and the principles of fellow-feeling and philanthropy. Fellow-feeling requires a man to be concerned with the destiny, welfare and happiness of all human beings. As such a Muslim is naturally concerned with the salvation of all other human beings and is interested in their becoming Muslims. But so long as this target is not achieved those who have embraced Islam cannot be sacrificed for the sake of those who have not come under the fold of Islam.

Suppose certain people are afflicted with a certain disease. The fellow-feeling requires us to do everything possible to see that they are cured and to treat them with tenderness and sympathy so long as they are ill. But that does not mean that those who are suffering from a contagious disease should not be segregated from those who are sound in health. That is why Islam allows a Muslim to be benevolent to the non-Muslims but it does not permit him to undertake allegiance to them.

Islam is a religion of love towards mankind. It loves even a polytheist, not because of his polytheism, but because of his being a creation of Allah. At the same time it feels concerned because he has gone astray. Had it not loved him, it would have been indifferent to his bad- luck. In Islam there exists love and hatred both. But both are logical and reasonable, not emotional and haphazard. The friendship and enmity produced by pure emotions are blind feelings and have no logical basis. On the other hand, rational friendship and enmity produced by a sort of consciousness, stem from a concern in the destiny of a fellow being.

Let us take an example. The parents have two kinds of attachment to their child, one logical and the other sentimental. Logical attachment sometimes may impel them to take an action, which may apparently cause pain and distress to their child. For instance they may submit him to a surgeon. In such a case they may weep and shed tears, but they ask the surgeon to perform the operation as early as possible and amputate the festering limb, if necessary. They shed tears out of their emotional attachment, and ask for surgical operation and amputation out of their logical attachment.

In case they give preference to their emotional attachment and do not agree to amputation, they virtually acquiesce in giving their child in the pale of death. But because of their intellectual logic and keen interest in his welfare, they ignore their emotions and agree to the pain and inconvenience to their child.

To get himself cured any sensible person may occasionally submit himself to the surgeon and ask him, for example, to amputate one of his fingers. He does not like to suffer the pain of amputation. He knows that the loss of a finger will cause him much inconvenience. Still his reason and logic require him to bear the pain and agree to this organic defect. In such cases it is reason and logic, and not emotions, which induce a person to ask for a surgical operation.

In order to eliminate corruption from a society in which infidelity and ignorance prevail, Islam gives instruction for armed struggle, "Fight them until revolt is rooted out" (al-Baqarah, 2:193).

At the same time for the security of the society it warns the Muslims against opening their heart to the infidels. There is no contradiction between this policy and the principle of entertaining goodwill towards all.

Imitating is human nature. Man-often unconsciously adopts the ideas and notions of others. The Qur'an says

O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies for friends. Would you offer them strong love while they have rejected the Truth which has come to you" (al-Mumtahina, 60: 1).

It continues to say

If they have the upper hand of you, they will be your enemies and will stretch out their hands and tongues towards you with evil intent. They love to see you turn away from your faith". (al-Mumtahina, 60: 2)

Here the Holy Qur'an gives the reason why the Muslims should be cautious and vigilant while dealing with the non-Muslims. It says that they like to persuade others to adopt their customs, their way of thinking and religion. Had it been merely a question of their wish and liking, there was not much danger in it. The Holy Qur'an points out that they earnestly strive for misleading the Muslims.

This position makes it essential that the Muslims should be prudent about their relations with the non-Muslims. They should always remember that they belong to a Unitarian society totally different from that of the non-Muslims. Anyhow, that does not mean that the Muslims should have no social, economic or political contact with them. The point to be kept in mind is that all such relations must be in keeping with the overall interests of the Muslim society.

General Form of Positive Wala

Islam wants the Muslims to live an independent life as a militarily coordinated and socially homogeneous unit. To enable the Muslim society to grow strong and vigorous every Muslim is expected to consider himself to be a member of it. The Holy Qur'an wants the Muslim society to be superior to all others. It says

Don't be discouraged or grieved. You alone will have true dignity if you are true believers". (Ale Imran, 3:139)

Faith is the criterion of the superiority of the Muslim society. It is its motivating force, the sanction for its independence, the mainstay of its personality and the essential pre-requisite of its unity. The Holy Qur'an says

Don't dispute with one another lest you falter and your strength departs from you: But be steadfast! "(al-Anfal, 8: 46)

Internal discord and dissension pull down the structure and personality of the society. Faith is the basis of mutual friendship, love and loyalty among the Muslims.

The Holy Qur'an says:

The believers, men and women are the Waly (guide) of each other; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. They keep up prayers and pay zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger". (al-Tauba,9:71)

The Muslims are closely linked together and as such they support one another. They are interested in one another's fate, in reality in their own fate, for they, all together form one compact unit. That is why they exhort one another to do the good and abstain from doing the evil.

This exhortation and this restraint stem from mutual Wala. That is why in the Holy Qur'an the sentence "They enjoin the right and forbid the wrong", has been placed immediately after the statement that the Muslims are Waly of one another.

Interest in the fate of another person originates from the interest in that person himself. A father who is interested in his children automatically feels himself concerned with their future. But he may not feel interested in the children of others, and because of his not being interested in them, he is not likely to be concerned about their fate. Hence their good or bad behavior is not likely to produce positive or negative feelings in him.

The exhortation to do the right and to restrain others from doing the wrong are the outcome of these very positive and negative feelings. Such feelings do not arise without the existence of love and attachment.

If a man is disinterested in a particular person, he will be indifferent to his behavior and conduct. But if he is interested, his attachment will not allow him to remain unconcerned. That is why the Holy Qur'an has connected the exhortation for the good and the restraint from the wrong under the head of Wala.

The Holy Qur'an has mentioned two other things which follow this exhortation and restraint. It says: "They offer prayers and pay zakat". Prayer represents the relation between the Creator and man and zakat represents the goodwill among the Muslims who support one another because of their mutual affection and sympathy. Then the Qur'an says "As for these, Allah will have mercy on them; and they will have lasting happiness ". Later we will elucidate this passage further and will show that not only this but many other verses of the Holy Qur'an which mention general Wala, imply a sort of responsibility of the Muslims in respect of the mutual goodwill among them.

The Holy Prophet has said "The Muslims in their mutual affection and sympathy are like the human body. If one part of it suffers, all other parts feel uneasy".

In respect of the Holy Prophet and those who received training under him the Holy Qur'an says

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and those with him are hard to the disbelievers yet kind among themselves". (al-Fath 48: 29).

This verse refers both to the special form of positive Wala and the negative Wala. As we have said above many verses of the Holy Qur'an point out that the enemies of Islam have always been trying to turn the negative Wala into a positive one and the positive Wala into a negative one. In other words they do their utmost to make the relations between the Muslims and the non-Muslims cordial and between the Muslims themselves hostile on one pretext or another. For this purpose they fan the sectarian differences. In our own time these aliens have become more active in this respect. 1 They have been spending huge sums of money to sow the seeds of discord among the Muslims. Unfortunately they have been able to produce certain elements among the Muslims whose only concern is to convert the positive Islamic Wala into a negative one and the negative Islamic Wala into a positive one and this is the most severe blow which these wicked persons deal to the Holy Prophet.

This is the most deplorable tragedy with which Islam is faced today. Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib has said "It is really disturbing and most surprising that the enemies, despite their being in the wrong, are united, and you despite your being in the right, are divided".

We pray to Allah to protect the Muslims from the machinations of these wicked people.
1. "Muslims should be awake, Muslims should be alert that if a dispute takes place among Sunni and Shi'ah brothers, it is harmful to Muslim ummah . Those who want to sow discord are neither Sunni nor Shi'ah; they are agents of the superpowers and work for them. Those who attempt to cause discord among Muslims are people who conspire for the enemies of Islam and want them to triumph over Muslims. They are the supporters of America and Russia." (Imam Khumayni).

The affection toward the Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet's progeny) is the special form of the positive Wala. It is an incontrovertible fact that the Holy Prophet himself has urged the Muslims to have special affection toward his progeny. Even the Sunni scholars do not deny that. It is this affection which has been mentioned in the verse about the Ahl al-Bayt.

Say: I ask you no reward for my preaching save love and affection toward my progeny". (al-Shura;42 23).

The well-known and authentic hadith of Ghadir, according to which the Prophet said "Whoever regards me as his master and guardian, must regard Ali, too, as his master and guardian" 1 also implies a sort of affection which will be explained later. It is agreed by both the Shi'ah and the Sunni that the verse:

Your Waly can be only Allah, His Messenger and those who believe and establish prayers, and pay zakat while they kneel down in prayer". (al-Ma'idah, 5:55);

was revealed in respect of Imam Ali. Tabari, in his ''Exegesis'' 2 of the Holy Qur'an quotes a number of reports in this connection. Zamakhshari, who is one of the most eminent Sunni scholars, is definite when he says: "This verse was revealed in respect of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Though it refers to a single person, plural form has been used with the intention of exhorting the Muslims to follow the good example set by him, and to emphasize that even prayers may be delayed for doing good to the poor and the needy". 3

In other words if an occasion arises to pay zakat while one is offering prayers, the payment should not be postponed for that reason alone.

Fakhruddin al-Razi is another important scholar. He also says that this verse is related to Ali ibn Abi Talib for no other person except him paid zakat while offering prayers . 4

At the most there may be some difference of opinion as regards the meaning of Waly. We will discuss this point while explaining the purport of the verse.

Ali ibn Hammad Baghdadi, who was one of the most outstanding Shi'ah poets of the fourth century of the Hijri era, referring to this verse says that because Imam Ali paid zakat while offering prayers Allah has associated the Wala toward the Imam with the Wala towards himself. On the occasion of Mubahilah.5 He called Imam Ali the self of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. This is a fact which cannot be denied. 6

As we pointed out earlier Islam has enjoined a sort of general form of the positive Wala towards all Muslims. The verse "The believers, men and women, are waly of one another", refers to it.

But the verse which says: "Your Waly can be only Allah, His Messenger and those who believe .." is not general in its import. It cannot be said that it refers to general Wala for in this case the Qur'an does not intend to lay down a general rule. It does not want to say that as a rule it is obligatory or even desirable to pay zakat while offering prayers. It only mentions a particular action characteristic of the person who did it and alludes to his being entitled to special affection.

This style of using the plural form of a word while describing an event which related to a single person is not unparalleled in the Holy Qur'an. For example it says

They say: When we return to Medina, the honourable ones will certainly drive out the mean ones". (al-Munafiqun, 63: 8).

In this case also the verse refers to an incident relating to a single person. It says "They say". In fact only one person, viz. Abdullah ibn Ubayy had said that.

According to modern idiom also we sometimes say that "they say so" while we know well that only one single person has made the statement in question.

To pay zakat while bowing in prayers is not a common event. Hence it cannot be presumed that Allah extols all those who do such an action and affirms Walayat for all of them, in whatever sense it may be.

This shows that the verse in question has a particular and personal application. It means to say that there is a person, who while engaged in the worship of Allah, was not unmindful of his fellow being and performed this act. Now the Holy Qur'an says that like Allah and His Messenger he is also the Waly of the believers (is entitled to their affection) and they should accept this Wala.

As to what the nature of this affection is, and whether it is something higher than the special love and esteem, which the people should have for Imam Ali, we will shortly take up that question. At present we only want to emphasize that this verse has a particular application and not a general one.
1. Sahih Tirmizi Vol. 5, p. 297. Sahih Muslim Vol. 2, p. 362 printed in Egypt. Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahihayn—Hakim Vol.3 p.109 Al-Bidayah wa'l Nihayah—Ibn Kathir Vol.4, p.211 printed in Egypt. Sawaiq al-Mohriqa — Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani Shafi'i p. 25. Tarikh-i Ya'qubi—Mus'udi Vol.2, p.93. Al-Fusul al-Muhimmah—Ibn Asbagh Maliki p. 23 printed in Egypt. Yanabi al-Mawaddah—Sulayman al-Qandozy al-Hanafi p. 29 — 38. Shawahid al-Tanzil —Hakim al-Haskani Vol. 1 p. 190 printed in Beirut. Usud al-Ghaba—Ibn Athir Shafi'i Vol. 1 p.367 printedin Egypt. Khasais Amirul Mo'minin Nisai Shafi'i p. 96 printed in Egypt. Tarjuma al-lmam Ali bin Abi Talib min Tarikh Damshiq—Ibn Asakir Shafi'i Vol. 1 p.211Abaqat al-Anwar—Sayyid Hamid Husayn. Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah —Ibn Abi'l Hadid Mo'tazili Vol. 4 p. 388 First print (Egypt). Al-Ghadir Allama Amini Vol.1, p.14.

2. Tafsir al-Tabari Vol. 6, pp. 288—289.

3. Al-Kashshaf Vol.1 p.505 printed in Egypt in 1373 A.D.

4. Al-Tafsir al-Kabir Vol .12 p . 30 printed in Egypt in 1 3 7 5 A.D.

5. The Christians of Najran (a town in Arabia Felix) were inimical to Islam. When the Holy Prophet of Islam invited them to his faith and according to the Divine command they were challenged to come forward for a contest. At first they agreed to contest. But when the Holy Prophet brought with him his grandsons Hasan and Husayn for his sons, Fatima her daughter, for his women, and Ali his vicegerant for his 'self', the christians seeing the awe-inspiring faces of the Prophet's family members began trembling. Fearing a terrible disaster for them they acquiesced in the terms imposed by the Holy Prophet. This historical event is one of the most glaring examples of the superior merits of the Holy Five.

6. Raihanatul Adab Vol. 5, p. 311.

So far we have observed that the question of having affection towards Imam Ali and other members of the Ahl al-Bayt is incontrovertible. The only point which requires some further consideration is the exact sense of the affection which has been enjoined in this and other verses and in the hadith of the Holy Prophet. To make the point clear we have to see in what context the words Wala and Walayat translated by us as affection, have been used in the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah with reference to the Ahl al-Bayt. Generally speaking these words have been used in four different senses.

Wala of Love or Kinship

Wala of love or kinship means that the Ahl al-Bayt are the kinsfolk of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims have been asked to hold them in love and esteem to a greater degree than what general Wala demands. A number of the verses of the Holy Qur'an and many sayings of the Holy Prophet which have come down to us both through the Shi'ah and the Sunni sources, show that the love of the Ahl al-Bayt including Imam Ali is one of the basic tenets of Islam. In this connection two questions arise.

The first question is why after all the people have been called upon to hold the Ahl al-Bayt in love and esteem and why this love has been declared to be a means of gaining proximity to Allah? Suppose everybody recognizes the Ahl al-Bayt and loves them; what will be the practical advantage of that? We know that all the Islamic teachings are based on reason and philosophy. If affection towards the Ahl al-Bayt is one of the basic instructions of Islam, there must be a philosophy behind it.

The answer to this question is that exhortation to love the Ahl al-Bayt does really have a philosophy. It is neither a superfluous demand nor a recompense to the Prophet or the Ahl al-Bayt themselves. The Holy Qur'an has said "Say: I ask you no reward for my preaching save love and affection toward my progeny" The Holy Prophet explains that the advantage of having love for the Ahl al-Bayt or the Prophet's Family accrues to the believers themselves.

This love is a prelude to all kinds of Wala prescribed by Islam. It binds the people to the Holy Family and gives them an opportunity to be benefited by its teachings, practice and precepts.

The second question is whether the love of the Ahl al-Bayt is a feature peculiar to the Shi'ah or all the Muslim sects believe in it. To answer this question it may be said that it is not a feature peculiar to the Shi'ah. All the Muslim sects attach importance to it. Imam Shafi'i, one of the four Imams of the Sunni, in his famous verses says "Let everybody know that if the love of Muhammad's descendants means to be a Rafizi, I am a Rafizi ".

Imam Shafi'i also says "O Ahl al-Bayt! Allah has made it obligatory in the Qur'an to love you. It is a matter of pride for you that without invoking blessing on you, prayer is not valid,". Again he says in his verses "After having seen that the people have chosen different ways which have led them to the Ocean of deviation and ignorance. I have, in the name of Allah, embarked the ship which may lead me to safety. The Ahl al-Bayt of the Holy Prophet are that very ship We have been ordered to hold fast the rope of Allah, and that rope is their love". 1

Zamakhshari and Fakhruddin al-Razi, who bitterly oppose the Sh'iah on the question of succession to the Holy Prophet, quote him in their commentaries on the Qur'an as having said "He who dies adhering to the progeny of Muhammad dies the death of a martyr; his sins will be forgiven he dies the death of a repentant and his faith will be regarded as perfect". 2

Imam Ali also says in Nahj al-Balaghah, in the end of sermon 232 "He who dies in his bed, but acknowledges the rights of Allah, His messenger and tbe Ahl al-Bayt is as good as one who dies a martyr in the battlefield He will be rewarded for his good intentions, which will be regarded as a substitute for his fighting with his sword".

Ibn al-Fariz, the well-known Egyptian mystic and lyric poet, who is compared to the Persian poet, Hafiz, says addressing Allah "If I do not earn Your pleasure, my life will be wasted and will go in vain. But I have no means to please You except the bond of my affection towards the progeny of Muhammad, a descendant of Qusayy''. 4

In this case it is possible that by using the word Wala he might have meant a higher feeling, but there is no doubt that the word signifies love.

Mulla Abd al-Rahman Jami is a man about whom Qazi Nurullah Shustari has said that the two Abd al-Rahman(s) — Abd al-Rahman Jami and Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljim Muradi, have hurt Imam Ali. Still he has rendered into Persian verse the ode composed by Farazdaq in praise of Imam Ali ibn Husayn al-Sajjad.

He has narrated a story that after the death of Farazdaq somebody saw him in a dream and asked him what treatment was meted out to him by Allah. Farazdaq said that he was delivered from sins and sent to Paradise on account of the ode he had written in praise of Ali ibn al-Husayn. Jami himself adds that it would not be surprising if all people were delivered because of this ode. Jami has also written some lines about Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, who imprisoned and tortured Farazdaq. He says "Had Hisham been sagacious and virtuous, he would not have done wrong to Farazdaq, and, instead of imprisoning him, would have awarded him a robe of honour". 5

Thus the Shi'ah and the Sunni do not differ on the question of Wala of love. Only the Nasibis are inimical towards the Prophet's House. They are denounced by the whole Muslim society and regarded to be as dirty as the infidels. Fortunately in modern times they have become almost extinct. These days a few persons are seen here and there who sporadically write books with the sole purpose of widening the gulf between the various sects of the Muslims. Persons of similar character exist in our own ranks also. All those persons, who work to create discord among the Muslims, whether they call themselves Shi'ah or Sunni, are the lackeys of imperialist powers.

Zamakhshari and Fakhruddin al-Razi, immediately after quoting the above saying of the Holy Prophet, quote one more of his sayings according to which he said "He who dies disliking the progeny of Muhammad will die as an infidel and will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise".

Imam al-Sadiq has said "The filthiest thing that the Almighty has created, is the dog, and he, who is hostile to us, is even filthier than that''. 6

This kind of Wala, if it is ascribed to the Ahl al-Bayt and it is said that they are entitled to it, may be called the Wala of Kinship and if it is ascribed to the Muslims as their duty, it may be called the Wala of Love.

There is no doubt about the fact that the root of the word "Wala" and its derivatives give the sense of love. We come across the word, Muwal especially in Ziarats in the sense of friend. For example, we say "We are friends of those who are your friends and we are enemies of those who are your enemies".

There are two other points which deserve consideration. Firstly, is the word "Waly" used in the sense of friend and secondly in what sense has it been used particularly in the verse "Surely Allah is your Waly .." which proves the Walayat of Imam Ali?

Some people believe that the word "Wala" used in the Holy Qur'an, invariably means friend. But if you look at its use minutely, you can observe that it means something different. For example, take the verse

Allah is the Waly of the believers and it is He who takes them out of the darkness into light". (al-Baqarah, 2 258)

It does not mean that Allah is the friend of the believers. It means that Allah in His kindness takes special care of the believers, and they enjoy His special protection. Similarly take the verse "The Waly (s) of Allah have nothing to fear, nor will they be grieved ". It does not mean that the friends of Allah have nothing to fear. Here the word, Waly has been used as a past participle. Hence that verse means that those who are looked after by Allah have nothing to fear. The same is the case with the verse "The believers, men and women, are the Waly of one another". It does not mean that the believers are friends of one another. On the other hand it means that they take care of one another and influence the destiny of one another. That is why the next verse says "They enjoin the right and forbid the wrong". This makes the answer to the second question clear. In the verse in question the intention is not that Allah, the Prophet, and Imam Ali are the friends of the believers. The intention, in fact, is to say that they have an authority to deal with the affairs of the Muslims.

Even if it is presumed that the word "Waly" has the meaning of friend also, this meaning is not appropriate in the context of this verse, for it does not make sense to say that Allah, Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali are the only friends of the believers. This shows that those Sunni exegetes of the Holy Qur'an who hold that this verse does not say anything more than that Ali is a friend of the believers and as such should be an object of their love, are misunderstood.

As a matter of fact, in this verse Wala does not signify mere love. It indicates something higher. The explanation we propose to give later will make the point clear.
1. Al-Kuna wa al-Alqab by Muhaddith al-Qummi and Nur al-Absar by Shiblanji.

2. Al-Kuna wa al-AIqab by Muhaddith al-Qummi.

3. Al-Tafsir al-Kabir by Fakhruddin al-Razi Vol. 27, p. 166 and Al-Kashshaf by Zaamakhshari Vol. 4 commentary on verse 32nd of Surah al-Shura.

4. Qusayy was the fourth ancestor of the Holy Prophet.

5. Silsilatul Zahab.

6. Wasail al-Shi'ah, Vol. 1, p. 159, New Edition.

Wala of Imamate" signifies religious authority, i.e. a position which makes the Imam a model for others who have to follow him and take instructions from him. Such a position automatically implies the infallibility of the Imam. It is the same position about which the Holy Qur'an, while referring to the Holy Prophet, says

The Messenger of Allah is certainly a good example for those of you who have hope in Allah and believe in the Last Day and remember Allah very often". (al-Ahzab, 33: 21)

Say: If you love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins". (Ale Imran, 3: 31)

These verses of the Holy Qur'an put forward the Holy Prophet as a model for others who are required to mould their conduct according to his and to follow in his footsteps. This in itself is a proof of his infallibility, because if he were liable to commit mistakes and sins Allah would not have introduced him as the leader and the guide.

After the Holy Prophet the Ahl al-Bayt succeeded to this position. There is a hadith quoted on the authority of about 30 companions of the Holy Prophet by most of the Sunni scholars in their books of hadith, history and biography of the Prophet. According to it the Holy Prophet has said "I am leaving behind among you two authorities, the Book of Allah and my Ahl al-Bayt. They shall not be separated from each other till they arrive at the Fountain of Kauthar. If you go ahead of them or fall short of expectations, you shall be misled. Do not try to teach them, for they know better than you''. 1

Here the Holy Prophet has associated the Ahl al-Bayt with the Book of Allah as its co-equal. In respect of His Book, Allah says

Falsehood cannot come at it from any direction". (Ham-mim, 41: 42)

If falsehood could come at the Ahl al-Bayt, how could they be its co-equal? Similarly if they had not been infallible like the Holy Prophet, they could not succeed him as the leaders of the ummah. The contents of the hadith show that it could apply only to certain infallible persons. As Nasiruddin Tusi has pointed out, no one except the Ahl al-Bayt is infallible, nor does anybody claim infallibility for anyone else. Hence the hadith can apply only to the Holy Imams (of the Shi'ah).

Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani says: "The Holy Prophet has told the people that they would be misled if they go ahead of the Ahl al-Bayt or fail to follow them. He has also said that they know better than others. This saying of the Holy Prophet proves that the Ahl al-Bayt, who reached the highest level of knowledge and were worthy of religious leadership, were superior to others. 2

Hafiz Abu Na'im reports on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Holy Prophet said "Whoever desires to live like me and to die like me should select Ali after me as his Waly and should follow the Imams of my family who have been endowed with knowledge and intelligence. Unlucky are those who deny their excellence and disregard my kinship to them. Such people shall be deprived of my intercession on their behalf". 3

That kind of religious leadership which makes every word and action of the leader authoritative is called Imamate. It is a sort of walayat in the sense that it implies a sort of control over the affairs of the people.

Every teacher and every guardian, as a rule, exercises some control over those who are under his tutelage. Naturally the teacher appointed by Allah should have a greater control.

The verse

Your Waly can be only Allah, His Messenger and those who believe, tbose who are steadfast in prayers and pay zakat while they are bowing". (al-Mai'dah, 5 55)

envisages this kind of Walayat. This does not mean that this verse does not imply some other kinds of Walayat which we propose to mention later. What we intend to point out is that this verse speaks of Imamate and religious leadership and authority. In a number of the sayings of the Holy Prophet also the word "Waly" has been used for an Imam.

This kind of Wala when used with reference to an Imam means religious authority and the right of leadership, and when used with reference to the Muslims means the acknowledgement of this right.
1. Al-Sawaiq al-Mohriqah by Ibn Hajar al-Shafi'i pp. 148 and 226 printed at Al-Muhammadiah Press, pp. 89 and 126 printed at Al-Maimaniah Press, Majma al-Zawa'id Vol. 9 p. 163 printed in Beirut. Yanabi al-Mawaddah by Qandozy al-Hanafi pp. 41 and 335 printed at Al-Hayderiah Press, pp. 37 and 296 printed in Istanbul. Al-Dur al-Manthur by Suyuti Vol. 2 p. 60 printed in Egypt, Al-Ghadir by Allama Amini Vol.1 p.34, Vol.3 p.80 printed in Beirut. Kanz al-Ummal by Alauddin Hindi Vol. 1 p. 168 hadith serial No.958 second edition, printed in Hyderabad.

2. Al-Sawaiq al-Mohriqah.

3. Hulyatul 'Ulya, Vol. 1, p. 86.

It means the right of social and political leadership. Indeed a society must have a leader. The person qualified to take charge of the social affairs of the Muslims and to control their destinies is called Walyy-u Amr al-Muslimin (Administrator of the affairs of the Muslims). During his lifetime Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, held this position which was granted to him by Allah. Following his death, it was attained by the Ahl al-Bayt. There exists undeniable evidence to prove this fact. Besides the Hadith of Ghadir, several verses of the Holy Qur'an point out this kind of Wala. "

Obey Allah, the Messenger and those of you who are in charge of your affairs''. 1 (al-Nisa, 4 59).

The Prophet has more authority over the believers than that which they have over their selves". (al-Ahzab, 33:6)

There is no dispute about the fact that the Prophet held this position which was a right given to him by Allah and not by the people. Our Sunni brethren also agree with us on this point. The only debatable question is regarding the person, who holds this position after him. To avoid chaos and confusion there must be somebody who may administer the affairs of the Muslims and whom they must obey. Did Islam devise any procedure in this respect? If it has, what is that? Has it allowed the Muslims to choose somebody as a successor to the Prophet or did the Prophet before his demise designate a particular person to succeed him?

In this connection we should see what duties, according to the Holy Qur'an, the Prophet performed with regard to the social affairs of Muslim community.

It is inferred from the Holy Qur'an and the life of the Prophet that he simultaneously held three positions.

Firstly he was the Imam, religious leader and the law-giver. Whatever he said or did was authoritative. The Qur'an says

If the Messenger orders you to do something, obey it, and if he forbids somethings abstain from it". (al-Hashr, 59:7)

Secondly his decisions with regard to any internal disputes and any lawsuits were binding and valid.

Allah says in the Holy Qur'an (Muhammad)

I swear by your Lord, they will not be true believers until they make you judge of what is in dispute between them and find in themselves no dislike of that which you decide, and submit with full submission ". (al-Nisa, 4: 65)

In this sense the use of the word 'Walayat" is correct, but, in fact, we do not find it being used as a judicial term.

Thirdly he held political and social Walayat. Besides preaching and explaining the commands of Allah and adjudicating the disputes among the Muslims, he administered their social and political affairs. He was Walyy-u Amr al-Muslimin. The following verses envisage this aspect

Obey Allah, His Messenger and those of you who are in charge of your affairs". (al-Nisa, 4: 59)

The Prophet has more authority over the believers than that which they have over their selves". (al-Ahzab, 33: 6)

The Prophet had a fourth position also. We will mention it later.

The Holy Prophet ruled over the people formally and led them politically. He collected taxes from them and administered their financial and economic affairs according to the command of the Holy Qur'an. (Vide al-Tauba 9 103)

This position of the Holy Prophet out of the three preceding positions, constitutes the basis of the question of Caliphate.

It may be mentioned that the word "imam" is also used for the religious leaders and guides from whom the outlines of religion are to be acquired. In this sense the Sunni Muslims apply it to Abu Hanifah, Shafi'i, Malik and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. 2 It is also often applied to the political and social leaders.

The Holy Prophet has said: "The heart of a Muslim cannot put up with treachery in respect of three things

Devotion to the cause of Allah (i.e. whatever one does should be only to seek Divine pleasure).

Benevolence for the leaders in the matter of the guidance of the Muslims (i.e. to render them sincere advice, whether they like it or not, and to guide them to the right path as and when there is a danger of their deviating from it).

Unwavering support to the community (i.e. to prefer the interests of the society to one's own interests).

Imam Ali in one of his letters recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah says "The betrayal of the community is the worst treachery and the deceiving of the Muslim leaders is the most abominable fraud".

It is evident that deceiving the Imam amounts to deceiving all the Muslims. If a person by deceiving his captain, endangers the ship, he in reality betrays all the passengers aboard it.

It is evident that in the above saying of Imam Ali the word "Imam" has been applied to the social and political leader.

We have read in Islamic history that the Muslims including the Holy Imams often addressed their contemporary Caliphs as Imams. In this connection it may be borne in mind that the Imam in this sense may either be just or unjust. In either case the Muslims have certain duties.

According to a well-known hadith, which is considered to be authentic by both the Shi'ah and the Sunni, the Holy Prophet said: "The best jihad is to say what is true before an unjust Imam". Similarly the Holy Prophet is reported to have said "Three persons cause damage to religion Unjust Imam, ignorant pietist and immoral scholar".

On the top of all these the Qur'an itself mentions the Imams who invite the people to Hell. "We have made them Imams inviting to Hell". (al-Qasas, 28 41)

Anyhow, there is no doubt that the word "Imam" is applied mostly to the just and virtuous leaders. According to the Shi'ah terminology it is applied exclusively to the twelve infallibles whose names are

Imam Ali b. Abi Talib—al-Murtaza

Imam Hasan b. Ali—al-Mujtaba

Imam Husayn b. Ali—al-Shaheed

Imam Ali b. Husayn—al-Sajjad

Imam Muhammad b. Ali—al-Baqir

Imam Ja'far b. Muhammad—al-Sadiq

Imam Musa b. Ja'far—al-Kazim

Imam Ali b. Musa—al-Riza

Imam Muhammad b. Ali - al-Taqi

Imam Ali b. Muhammad—al-Naqi

Imam Hasan b. Ali—al-Askari

Imam Muhammad b. Hasan—al-Mahdi, (May peace be upon Muhammad and his vicegerents)
1. From the Shi'ah point of view, since the Major Occultation of Mahdi, the Imam of the Age in 329 A.H. no particular person has been appointed to be the head and leader of the Muslim ummah. That is why in the hadiths related to leadership during this period only the general qualities and characteristics required to be possessed by a leader have been mentioned. This shows that it is upto the people themselves to choose a person as their leader, having those qualities and characteristics. The main qualifications of a ruler during Occultation are: (a) Faith in Allah, His revelations and the teachings of His Prophet. The Holy Qur'an says: "Allah will never let the disbelievers triumph over the believers". (al-Nisa, 4 141). (b) Integrity, adherence to the laws of Islam, and earnestness about dheir enforcement. When Allah told Prophet Ibrahim that he had been appointed the Imam, the latter asked whether anyone of his family would also attain that position. In reply Allah said "My covenant does not include the wrong-doers". (al-Baqarah, 2:124). Prophet Daud was told by Allah "O Daud! We have made you our representative on the earth. Therefore judge rightly between people ". (Sad, 38 26). (c) Adequate knowledge of Islam, appropriate to his prominent position. The Holy Qur'an says: "Is he who guides the people to the truth more worthy to be followed or he who does not guide unless he himself is guided?"(Yunus, 10:35). (d) Enough competence for holding such a position and freedom from every defect not in keeping with Islamic leadership. (e) His standard of living being equal to that of the low-income people . In this connection there is enough material in the sermons of Imam Ali and in the epistles he sent to his officials. In a number of episdes it has been emphasized that an administrative officer should be free from love of money, ignorance, inefficiency, outrage, timidness, bribery, and violation of Islamic injunctions and conventions and should not be guilty of shedding blood.

2. The four Imams of the Sunnis are Abu Hanifah No'man bin Thabit who was a slave of Banu Taymullah. He died in 150 A.H. Abu Abdillah Malik bin Anas died in 179 A.H., Abu Abdillah Muhammad bin Idris Shafi'i Muttalibi died in 204 A.H. and Abu Abdillah Ahmad bin Hanbal Zahli Sheybani, died in 241 A.H.

It is the highest stage of Walayat. All the other kinds of Walayat besides being due to the personal purity and sanctity of the Ahl al-Bayt are either related to their kinship to the Holy Prophet or to their own intellectual and social capability. Anyhow, in both these cases, it is not more than a legal arrangement. But the Walayat of Control implies a sort of extraordinary and God-given power and authority. Let us first see what its meaning and significance are according to those who believe in it.

The idea of innate Walayat is related on the one hand to the hidden human capacity to attain perfection, and on the other to the bond which exists between man and Allah. The God-given supernatural Walayat means that man by marching on the path of submission and worship gets closer and closer to Allah and can even reach a position, where his spirituality, which is a reality, gets concentrated in him. He becomes the head of the caravan of spirituality, the master of the conscience of the people, the witness to their deeds and the competent authority of his age. The world has never been without such a spiritual leader. In other words it has never been without a perfect man.

In this sense Walayat is different from Prophethood (Risalat), Caliphate (Khilafat), Executorship (Wisayat) and Imamate (Imamat) in the sense of authority in religious matters. Its non-identity with Prophethood, Caliphate and

The factual non-identity of Walayat with Prophethood, Caliphate and Executorship does not mean that a Prophet, his executor or successor is not a Waly. It means only that the nature of Prophethood and similarly that of Caliphate and Executorship is different from that of Walayat. Otherwise all great Prophets, especially the last one of them, were holders of Divine Walayat in full measure.

When we say that the non-identity of Walayat with Imamate is only conceptual, we mean that both the terms signify the same position, though from different points of view. In Islamic terminology the word "Imamate" has also been used frequently in the sense of this spiritual Walayat. In its wider sense Imamate means leadership. A religious authority, a political or social leader and a spiritual guide are all called Imams.

From the Shi'ah point of view there are three aspects of Walayat and in respect of each of them the word "Imamate" has been used.

Its first aspect is political. The question is as to who was the most competent and eligible person to succeed the Prophet and to be the political and social leader of the Muslim ummah. The Shi'ah believe that Imam Ali was designated by Allah to this position. This question at present has only doctrinal and historical value, and not practical.

The second point is as to who are the authorities to whom the questions of religious law may be referred after the Holy Prophet; through what source do those authorities acquire their knowledge; and whether they are liable to err in giving their verdicts. As we know, the Shi'ah believe that all their Imams are infallible and this belief has a doctrinal as well as a practical value.

The third aspect is ideological. According to the Shi'ah belief in every age there has been a perfect man having a supernatural influence over the world and a sort of control on the hearts and the souls of men and on this account he is called Hujjat. The Qur'anic verse "The Prophet has more authority over the believers than that which they have over their selves", is supposed to be referring to this sense of Walayat as well.

Walayat of Control or supernatural power does not mean, as some ignorant persons believe, that any human being can acquire the power of running the affairs of the universe and carrying out the functions of creating, sustaining, giving life and causing death on behalf of Allah.

Allah has organized the order of the universe on the basis of a system of cause and effect. Though the beings called angels have been described as "governors of the events" (al-Nazi'at, 79:5) and "distributors of the affairs" (al-Zariyat, 51:4), this aspect is not in any way inconsistent with the principle of the Unity of Allah and His having no associate or partner as Creator and true Owner. No one is Allah's Waly in the sense of being His helper, assistant or even His tool. The Qur'an says: "He has no partner in the Sovereignty nor has He any protecting friend because of weakness. Magnify Him with all magnifcence". (Surah Bani Israel, 17:111).

The relationship of the Creator and the created is only that of creation, sustenance and non-entity. The Holy Qur'an describes Allah as fully Independent. But while it says, for example;

Allah takes the souls (of men) at the time of their death". (al-Zumar 39:42),

it also says:

Say: The angel of death is given charge of causing you to die; then to your Lord you will be returned". (al-Sajdah 41: 11).

Similarly while it says:

Surely my Lord is the Protector of all things". (Surah Hud, 11: 57);

it also says:

He sends protectors to watch over you until death approaches you. Then Our angelic messengers will, without fail, take away your souls". (al-An'am 6:61).

In this verse the angels have been described both as protectors and the extractors of souls.

Hence from the monotheistic point of view the existence of any medium is not objectionable, nor is there any harm in ascribing an arrangement to someone who carries out the Will of Allah with His permission.

Anyhow, firstly Islamic decorum requires us not to ascribe creation, sustenance, giving life and causing death, to anyone else but to concentrate our attention on the real source running the universe. The mediums or angels are only Allah's creation and a manifestation of His supreme power and wisdom. And secondly to run the affairs of the universe, Allah has devised a unique system in which angels are employed as mediums. Man occasionally can attain a position higher than that of the angels as a result of his evolutionary advancement but he cannot replace any of them as a medium. Revelation always comes through an angel, and it is an angel who is always detailed to extract the soul of everybody.

We cannot determine exactly the limits of the Walayat of Control and supernatural power of a perfect or virtually perfect man. On the whole the Qur'anic and other religious texts indicate that man can definitely reach a position where he dominates the world. But what is the exact nature of this domination and whether it has any limits or not is besides our scope.

Another point worth mentioning is that the Walayat of Control is attained only by him who is absolutely free from the control of his passions and evil desires. It is not bestowed on any arrogant self-seeker. A man who is swayed by his personal whims and desires is not fit for such a miraculous position. The person who holds this Walayat is so pure that, his will, unlike our will, emanates from an inner motivation and a Divine signal. What the nature of this signal is and how he receives it is not known to us. Such persons are sometimes guided by Divine light but occasionally they appear to be unaware of the most ordinary things .

As for the Qur'anic verse,

Muhammad, say, I have no control over my benefits or sufferings without the Will of Allah". (al-A'raf, 7: 188)

it is evident that it wants the Prophet to say that all favourable and unfavourable circumstances are in reality controlled by Allah. Otherwise it cannot be imagined that while other people are masters of their gains and losses within certain limits, the Prophet is not.

We may mention here three points as a prelude to the fuller discussion of the Walayat of supernatural power. It is to be remembered that it is a subject which is rarely discussed, but as a number of people have shown interest in it, we propose to dwell on it at some length.

We admit that it is somewhat difficult to acknowledge Walayat in this sense. Our liberal minded people are not happy with such questions. They often ask as to the necessity of discussing the question whether the Prophet and the Imams have or have not the supernatural power of domination and control when the Muslims have many other more urgent problems to face. Some of them give a religious colour to their rejection of such a power and say that to believe in this sort of domination amounts to giving the status of demi-gods to the human beings, and hence it is repugnant to the basic principle of the Unity of Allah, which is a cardinal tenet of Islam.

The fact is that we are no body to judge the question as to what is consistent and what is not consistent with the doctrine of Divine Unity. The common people have no idea of the elaborate standards which have been laid down by Islam and the Holy Qur'an in this respect. Similarly the sole criterion of the importance of a question is not its popularity at any particular time. It is wrong to assume that only that should be required the need of which is generally felt.

The importance which the Holy Qur'an attaches to this point should never be overlooked. The Walayat of supernatural power and control is related to the dignity and capability of man. The Qur'an gives much importance to human capability and the extraordinary aspect of man's creation.

For the present it is enough to dwell on this point briefly and to make clear the Qur'anic concept of Walayat.

Sometimes such questions appear to be difficult to comprehend, but it is better to admit our own inadequacy rather than deny the whole idea.

There is no doubt that Walayat in its fourth sense is a mystic subject, but that does not mean that we should reject it off-hand. From Shi'ah point of view it is an Islamic question also. Shiaiism is a doctrine, while mysticism, irrespective of all the myths attached to it, is a system. They both meet at the point of Walayat. If it is necessary to believe that either of them must have borrowed the idea from the other, all historical indications point out that it is mysticism which has acquired it from Shi'aism and not vice versa. Here we mention the basis of the idea briefly.

The most important question which should be considered in this connection is that of nearness or seeking nearness to Allah. As we know, the ultimate aim of all religious acts in Islam and all other heavenly religions is to secure this objective.

What Nearness to Allah Means

Our familiarity with the popular conception of the words as we use them in our social life often misleads us. We tend to strip the Islamic terms of their real connotation and take them as if they were conveying their primary or popular meaning.

We often use the words, "nearness" and "near" in their primary sense of physical proximity. For example we say: "There is a spring near that hill; or say, I went near that hill". In these cases we mean actual nearness in space and shortness of distance. But when we say that such and such person is near to the heart of such and such man, we mean that the former is the favourite of the latter. In this case the word "near" has been used figuratively, as obviously the question of physical distance is not involved. The bond of love and affection has been expressed as nearness.

Now what is the nature of nearness or proximity to Allah? Do the people, consequent upon their obedience, worship, and earnestness, actually ascend towards Allah and get closer to him? Does the distance between them and Allah continue to become shorter till it disappears, and in the words of the Holy Qur'an, "they meet their Lord?"

If these expressions are figurative, what does getting closer to Allah mean? Evidently distance has no meaning in relation to Allah. He is neither near nor far.

To get closer to Allah means to earn His pleasure. Allah is pleased with a person and favours him with His grace and kindness.

Here another question arises. What does pleasure of Allah mean? Allah is not subject to emotions and changes of temperament. It is not possible that He should be displeased with somebody and then should get pleased; or that He should be pleased with a person and then should get displeased. The answer is that the expression of pleasure is also figurative. What is meant by pleasure is Divine blessing and favour bestowed on those who obey Allah and worship Him.

Again what is the nature of Divine blessing and favour? On this point the views differ. According to some people blessing includes both material and physical bounties such as paradisaical gardens, palaces and houries, and conceptual and spiritual such as the knowledge and the pleasure which it gives. Some others deny the conceptual kind of blessings, and confine Divine favour to the physical pleasure of paradisaical gardens, palaces and houries. What they say amounts to the assertion that proximity to Allah means nothing more than that the person favoured by Him gets more physical pleasure in Paradise than theirs.

This means that according to those who deny the real proximity, obedience and worship change neither the relationship of Allah to man (this is admitted by the upholders of real proximity also) nor that of man to Allah. According to their view in this respect the foremost personality of the human world, viz. the Holy Prophet and the most wicked persons like the Pharaoh and Abu Jahl stand on the same footing.

In fact this erroneous notion is due to a particular material outlook about Allah and man, especially about man. Those who hold that man is a mere piece of clay, naturally do not acknowledge the principle

When I have made him and breathed in him of My Spirit". (al-Hijr, 15: 29)

As they interpret this verse allegorically, they have no alternative but to denty real proximity.

But is there any compelling reason to regard man so insignificant and interpret everything allegorically? Allah is absolute perfection. He is limitless. At the same time the essence of existence is perfection. Every kind of perfection such as knowledge, power, life, will, mercyy, goodness etc. returns to the existence which is a genuine reality.

Allah is pure existence and perfection and all existing things, in proportion to the intensity and strength of their existence and perfection, are close to Him. Naturally the angels are closer to him than the minerals and the plants. Among the angels some are closer than others, and for that reason they command other angels and have authority over them. This difference is related to divergence in their creation. Terminologically it may be called the difference of "descending arc".

All existing things, especially man, are returned to Allah . The Holy Qur'an says

Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall return". (al-Baqarah, 2:156)

As man occupies a high stage of existence, his return should be in the form of obeying the commands of Allah willingly and voluntarily. By marching on the path of virtue and obedience to Allah, he can advance forward from the animal stage to a position above that of angels. His ascension or promotion is neither honorary nor administrative, nor contractual, like the appointment of an ordinary member of the Assembly to the post of a minister or the upgrading of an ordinary member of a party to its leader— strengthening and intensification of existence and perfection. It means increase in knowledge, power, life, will and determination. It means the widening of the circle of influence and control. To get near to Allah means to traverse the stages of existence.

It is impossible that a man as a result of his obedience and submission should not reach the position of the angels. He may even go further. The Holy Qur'an affirming the position of man, says

We said to the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam. They all fell prostrate save Iblis". (al-Baqarah, 2: 34)

It may be said that he who denies this position of man is but Iblis (Satan).

Exoteric and Esoteric Life

Man inside his exoteric animal life has an esoteric life also. The esoteric life, the capability of which is hidden in every individual, emanates from the maturity and perfection of his deeds and aims. His well-being and distress are related to his esoteric life which depends on his intention and the goal to which he is advancing.

We are mostly familiar with those aspects of the Islamic teachings which are concerned with the individual and social life of this world. There is no doubt that the teachings of Islam are repleted with philosophy of l

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