Ghadir Khum (Part 2 of 3)

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The Meaning Wali, Mawla, and Wilayah


No Muslim scholar could ever cast any doubt in the documentation of the

tradition of Ghadir Khum, for it has been narrated with as much as 150

authentic chains of transmitters by the Sunnis alone. (Please see Part III

for the evidences in this regard). A Mutawatir report is a report which has

been narrated unbrokenly and independently by so many people so that no

doubt can be entertained about their authenticity. Even the students of Ibn

Taymiyyah such as al-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir who have proven their enmity

toward the Shia, emphasized that the tradition of Ghadir Khum is Mutawatir

and Sahih (authentic) (See al-Bidayah wan Nihayah). However some people did

try to interpret the tradition in a different way. They particularly tried

to translate the words WALI (master/guardian), MAWLA (master/leader), and

WILAYAH (mastery/leadership/guardianship) as friend and friendship.

Dictionaries give a minimum of 20 meanings for the Arabic word WALI,

depending on context, most have to do with the position of leadership and

guardianship. Only in one instance it could mean a friend.

Arabic References:

- Elias' Modern Dictionary, by Elias A. Elias, Arabic-English, p815-816,


- al-Munjid fi al-Lughah, v1.

Some suggested that what really the Prophet (PBUH&HF) wanted to say was:

"Whoever I am his friend, Ali is his friend."

There was no doubt that Imam Ali (AS) had a very high status in comparison

with all other people. He was the first male who embraced Islam (Sahih

Tirmidhi, v5, p642; Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal v4, p317; Mustadrak by al-

Hakim, v3, pp 111,136; Sirah Ibn Hisham, p345; Tabaqat by Ibn Sa'd, v3,

p71,72; al-Istiab by Ibn Abd al-Bar, v3, p30). He received the title of

the "brother" of Prophet (Sahih Tirmidhi v5, p363; Sirah Ibn Hisham, p504;

Tahdhib v4, p251). He was the one for whom Prophet said: "Loving Ali is

believing, hating Ali is hypocrisy." (Sahih Muslim, v1, p48; Sahih

Tirmidhi, v5, p643; Sunan Ibn Majah, v1, p142; Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal v1,

pp 84,95,128). Thus it does not seem to be logical for the Prophet

(PBUH&HF) to keep more than a hundred thousand people in such unbeatable

heat, and keep them waiting in such condition until those who have left

behind reach the place, and then all to tell them was that "Ali is the

friend of believers!"

Moreover how can we justify the revelation of Verse 5:67 which was revealed

before the speech of the Prophet in which Allah said:

"O Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and

if you don't do it, you have not delivered His message (at all); and

Allah will protect you from the people ..." (Quran 5:67).

Is it logical to say that Allah warned his Prophet that if he does not

convey the message of "friendship of Ali", he has spoiled all he has done?!

Also what danger can be imagined for Prophet if he states "Ali is the

friend of believers"? Then what danger from the side of people is the above

verse referring to?

Furthermore, how can the phrase "Ali is the friend of believers" complete

the religion? Is the verse of completeness of religion (5:3) which was

revealed after the speech of Prophet suggesting that without saying "Ali is

the friend of believers" the religion is not complete?

Also, as we quoted in the first part, Umar and Abu Bakr congratulated Ali

by saying: "Congratulations O son of Abu Talib! Today you became the MAWLA

of all believing men and women." If, here, the word MAWLA means friend

then why the congratulations? Was Ali the enemy of all believers before

that time, so that Umar said that this day you BECAME the friend of them?!

In fact, every WALI is a friend, but the reverse is not always true. This

is why the Arabs use "Wali al-Amr" for the rulers, meaning the master of

the affairs. Thus, logically speaking, the word MAWLA can not be

interpreted as friend, and we should rather use its other more-frequently-

used meanings which are Leader and Guardian.

Perhaps one would ask why Prophet didn't use other words to further explain

his intention. In fact, people asked him the same question, and the

following Sunni documentations are the answers of the Prophet (PBUH&HF):

1. When the Messenger of Allah (s) was asked about the meaning

of "whomever I am his MAWLA then Ali is his MAWLA". He said:

"Allah is my MAWLA more deserving of me (my obedience) than

myself, I do not dispute him. I am the MAWLA of the believers,

more deserving in them than themselves, they do not dispute me.

Therefore, whomever I was his MAWLA, more deserving in him

than himself (and) does not dispute me, then Ali is MAWLA,

more deserving in him than himself, he does not dispute him."

Sunni references:

- Shamsul Akhbar, by al-Qurashi, Ali Ibn Hamid, p38

- Salwat al-'Arifin, by al-Muwaffaq billah, al-Husain Ibn Isma'il al


2. During the reign of Uthman, Ali protested by reminding people the

following tradition. Also, he reminded it again during the war of


When the Messenger of Allah spoke of (Tradition of Ghadir)...,

Salman stood up and said: "O' Messenger of Allah! What does WALAA

mean? and how?" Prophet replied: "The same way that I am your WALI

(Wala-un ka wala'i). Whomever (considered me) I was more deserving in

him than himself, then Ali is more deserving in him than himself."

Sunni reference: Fara'id al-Samtain, by Hamawaini (Abu Is'haq Ibrahim Ibn

Sa'd al-Din Ibn al-Hamawiyia), section 58.

3. Ali Ibn Abi Talib was asked about the saying of the Messenger

of Allah "Whomever I am his MAWLA then Ali is his MAWLA". He said:

"He erected me chief ['alaman]. To the time I am up there, whomever

contradicts me then he is lost (misguided in religion)."

Sunni reference: Zain al-Fata, by al-Hafiz al-'Asimi

4. On the commentary of Verse: "And stop them, they are to be asked

(Quran 37:24)", al-Daylami narrated that Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said: The

Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: "And stop them, they will be asked

of WILAYAH of Ali."

Also, al-Hafiz al-Wahidi commented on the above verse saying:

"This WILAYAH that the Prophet (PBUH) affirmed to Ali, will be asked

about on the Day of Judgment. It is said that WILAYAH is what Allah

meant in the verse 37:24 of Quran where He said: "And stop them, they

are to be asked [37:24]". This means that they will be asked about the

WILAYAH of Ali (RA). The meaning is: They will be asked if they truly

accepted him as their WALI as they were instructed by the Prophet

(PBUH)? or did they loose and ignore it?"

Sunni references:

- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 11, subheading 1,

p229 quoted from al-Wahidi; also quoted from al-Daylami on the authority

of Abi Sa'id al-Khudri.

- Fara'id al-Samtain, by Hamawaini (Abu Is'haq Ibrahim Ibn Sa'd al-Din Ibn

al-Hamawiyia), section 14

- Nudhum Durar al-Samtain, by Jaml al-Din al-Zarandi

- al-Rashfah, by al-Hadhrami, p24

Countless scholars of Quran, Arabic grammar, and literature have

interpreted the word MAWLA as Awla which means "having more authority."

The following Sunni specialists all confirmed the above meaning:

1. al-Wahidi (d. 468), in "al-Wasit"

2. al-Akhfash Nahwi (d. 215), in "Nihayat al-Uqul"

3. al-Tha'labi (d. 427), in "al-Kashf wal Bayan"

4. Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276), in "al-Qurtayan", v2, p164

5. al-Kalbi (d. 146, quoted in "Tafsir al-Kabir", by al-Razi, v29, p227)

6. al-Farra' (as quoted in "Ruhul Ma'ani", by al-Alusi, v27, p178)

7. al-Nasafi (d. 701), in his "Tafsir", v4, p229

8. al-Tabari (d. 310), in "Tafsir al-Tabari", v9, p117

9. al-Bukhari (d. 215), in "Sahih al-Bukhari", v7, p271

10. al-Zamakhshari (d. 538), in "Tafsir al-Kashshaf", v2, p435

11. Qazi Nasiruddin al-Baydawi (d. 692), in "tafsir al-Baydawi", v2, p497

12. al-Khazin al-Baghdadi (d. 741), in his "Tafsir", v4, p229

13. Muhib al-Din al-Afandi, in "Tanzil al-Ayat"

14. Mu'ammar Ibn Muthanna al-Basri (as quoted in "Sharh al-Mawaqif", by

al-Sharif al-Jurjani, v3, p271)

15. Abul Abbas Tha'lab (as quoted in "Sharh al-Sab'ah al-Mu'allaqah", by


16. Ibn Abbas, in his "Tafsir" written on the margin of Durr al-Manthur,

v5, p355

17. Abu al-Saud al-Hanafi (d. 972), in his "Tafsir"

18. and many more such as Yahya Ibn Zaid Kufi (d. 207), Abu Ubaida Basri

(d. 210), Abu Zaid Ibn Aus Basri (d. 125), Abu Bakr Anbari (d. 328),

Abul Hasan Rummani (d. 384), Sa'd al-Din Taftazani (d. 791), Shaba

Uddin Khafaji (d. 1069), Hamzawi Maliki (d. 1303), Husain Ibn Mas'd

(d. 510), Abu Baqa Ukbari (d. 616), Ibn Hajar al-Haythmai (d. 974),

Sharif Jurjani (d. 618), Abdul Abbas Mubarrad (d. 285), Abu Nasr Farabi

(d. 393) and, Abu Zakariya Khateeb Tarizi (d. 502),...

Thus the word WALI or MAWLA in the tradition of Ghadir Khum does not mean a

simple friend, rather it means master and guardian who has more authority

over believers than what they have over themselves as Prophet himself

mentioned by saying "Don't I have more authority (Awla) on believers than

what they have over themselves?". At least 64 Sunni traditionists have

quoted this preceding question of the Prophet, among them are al-Tirmidhi,

al- Nisa'i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad In Hanbal. Therefore, the opinion of the above

Sunni scholars accords with what Prophet (PBUH&HF) said by using the word

Awla before the word MAWLA. In fact, when a word has more than one meaning,

the best way to find out its true connotation is to look at the association

(qarinah) and the context. The word Awla (having more authority) used by

the Prophet gives a good association for the word MAWLA.

Also the prayer of Prophet after his declaration in which he said:

"O' God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are

hostile to him. Help those who help him, and forsake those who

forsake him",

shows that Ali (AS) on that day was entrusted with a responsibility

(rulership) which, by its nature, would make some people his enemy, and in

carrying out that responsibility he would need some helpers and supporters.

Are helpers ever needed to carry on a "friendship"?

Moreover, The declaration of Prophet (PBUH&HF) that "It seems the time is

approached when I will be called away (by Allah) and I will answer that

call" clearly shows that he was making arrangements for the leadership of

Muslims after his death.

Also when at the end of his speech, the Prophet (PBUH&HF) said twice:

"Behold! Haven't I conveyed the message of Allah?" or "It is incumbent upon

every one who is present to inform the absent for they may understand it

better than those who are present" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Arabic-English,

traditions 5.688, 7.458, and 9.539) shows that the Prophet was conveying

a very important message which was going to be transferred to all coming

generations. This matter could not have been a simple friendship.

It is worth mentioning that Prophet did use the word Caliph in his speech

in Ghadir Khum, but it does not appear in the majority of Sunni documents

since there is no way to tamper the meaning of that word. However the

Prophet (PBUH&HF) also used the word MAWLA in his speech to survive this

event from being wiped up from the historical records with no trace.

It is interesting to note that the words WALI and MAWLA are also used in

Quran frequently with the meaning of master and guardian. For instance, the

Holy Quran states:

"Allah is the WALI of those who believe; He brings them out of

darkness (and takes them) into light." (Quran 2:257)

The above verse does not mean that Allah is just a friend of believers,

because a simple friend who has no authority can not move anybody into

light. Rather it means Allah is the Master of believers and that is why He

moves them from darkness to light. In another verse Allah said:

"Surely the AWLIYAA of Allah have no fear nor do they grieve."

(Quran 10:62)

The word AWLIYAA is the plural form of WALI. The above verse does not mean

that whoever is the friend of Allah does not have any fear. Many good

Muslims may have experienced fear for some events in their lifetime while

they are NOT the enemies of Allah. Thus the above verse suggests something

else than a simple friend. Here the word WALI is in the form of FAEEL with

the meaning of MAF'OOL. So the above verse means: "Those whose guardian and

the master of their affairs is Allah are not subject to fear and

apprehension." So if a believer TOTALLY submits to Allah, he then will not

have any fear. But ordinary believers whose submission are not perfect,

will probably be subject to fear of this and that, while we are still

friends of Allah. Thus "WALI of Allah" is a person who has totally

submitted his affairs to Allah and therefore he is totally protected by

Allah from any kind of flaw and sin. This status is much higher than

position of being just a "Friend of Allah".

Nevertheless Allah uses the word AWLIYAA in its general meaning that is

"protectors". The Holy Quran states:

"The believers, men and women, are AWLIYAA of one to the other:

they command to what is just and forbid what is evil" (Quran 9:71).

Looking at different translations, one can find that they have used the

word "protectors" for the meaning of AWLIYAA. The above verse does not want

to say that believers are just friends of each other. Rather the believers

are under a mutual obligation to one another, and are occupied with each

other's affair. As a result of these obligations, they "command each other

what is good and forbid each other what is evil" as the rest of above verse

suggests. Thus here the meaning of AWLIYAA, though is still higher than

"friends", but it is clearly lower than "master" and "leader". Here AWLIYAA

has been used in its general meaning. But for a special meaning of WALI,

see the following verse:

"ONLY Allah is your WALI, and His Messenger and those among

believers who keep alive prayer AND pay Zakat while they are in the

state of bowing." (Quran 5:55)

The above verse clearly suggests that NOT all the believers are our WALI

with the special meaning of WALI in this verse which is "master" and

"leader". Again, here it is clear that WALI does not mean just friend,

because all the

believers are friends of each other. The above verse mentions that only

three things are your special WALI: Allah, Prophet Muhammad, and Imam Ali

for he was the only one at the time of Prophet who paid Zakat while he was

in the state bowing (ruku'). Muslim scholars are unanimous in reporting

this event. Here are just some of the Sunni references which mentioned the

revelation of the above verse of Quran in the honor of Imam Ali:

(1) Tafsir al-Kabir, by Ahmad Ibn Muhammad al-Tha'labi, under Verse 5:55

(2) Tafsir al-Kabir, by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, v6, pp 186,288-289

(3) Tafsir Jamiul Hukam al-Quran, by Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Qurtubi, v6, p219

(4) Tafsir al-Khazin, v2, p68

(5) Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur, by al-Suyuti, v2, pp 293-294

(6) Tafsir al-Kashshaf, by al-Zamakhshari, Egypt 1373, v1, pp 505,649

(7) Asbab al-Nuzool, by Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, Egypt 1382, v1, p73 on the

authority of Ibn Abbas

(8) Asbab al-Nuzool, by al-Wahidi

(9) Sharh al-Tjrid, by Allama Qushji

(10) Ahkam al-Quran, al-Jassas, v2, pp 542-543

(11) Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p38

(12) Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v6, p391

(13) al-Awsat, by Tabarani, narrated from Ammar Yasir

(14) Ibn Mardawayh, on the authority of Ibn Abbas

... and more.

Paying Zakat during bowing (ruku') is not a Sunnah. This is accepted by ALL

Muslim scholars. Thus the above verse does not seek to set down the

desirability or the necessity of paying Zakat during bowing (ruku'), nor

does it want to lay it down as duty or something recommended legally in the

Islamic sense as a kind of Divine Law (Shari'ah). Rather it is a

reference to an action which took place when someone did something in the

external world, and now Quran is pointing that action to indicate that

person. In an indirect way, the verse wants to say that this WALI is a

special WALI whose authority has been put beside the authority of Prophet

Muhammad (PBUH&HF) since they are jointly mentioned.

One may object that even though Ali did this action, a plural form has been

used in the above verse, thus it might encompass some other people as well.

First, the history tells us that there was no other individual who did this

at the time of Prophet. Second, this way of approach in Quran which uses

plural form but actually referring to just one person who did that

particular act, is NOT uncommon in Quran. For instance Allah mentioned:

"They say: If we return to Medina the mightier (element) will soon

drive out the weaker." (63:8)

Here also Quran is referring to a story which took place, and uses the

phrase "They say" while the speaker of the above sentence was not any more

than one person. According to Shia and Sunni commentators he was Abdullah

Ibn Ubayy Ibn Salul.

Quran tries to avoid using names of people as much as possible. This is

done for many reasons such as generality to make it a universal book, and

also to make Quran safer from any possible alteration by those who hate a

special individual who has been praised in Quran, or by those who love a

person who has been denounced in Quran.

Using plural while referring to single, has another application too.

Sometimes the act of a single person is worthier than the deeds of a whole

nation. This was the case for Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali, as well as the

case for Prophet Abraham. Quran mentions that Abraham (AS) was a nation

(Ummah), meaning that his deeds was more valuable than all other people.

Allah stated:

"Lo! Abraham was a nation (Ummah) who was obedient to Allah,

by nature upright, and he was not of the idolaters" (Quran 16:120)

The famous and respected companion of Prophet, Ibn Abbas (RA) said:

"There is no verse in Quran in which the term `Believers', unless Ali

is at the top of them and the chief of them and the more virtuous one

among them. Surely Allah has admonished the companions of Muhammad

(PBUH) in Quran, but He did not refer to Ali except with honor."

Sunni references:

- Fadha'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p654, tradition #1114

- al-Riyadh al-Nadhirah, by Muhibbuddin al-Tabari, v3, p229

- Tarikh al-Khulafaa, by al-Hafidh Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, p171

- Dhakha'ir al-Uqba, by Muhibbuddin al-Tabari, p89

- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haythami, Ch. 9, section 3, p196

- Others such as Tabarani and Ibn Abi Hatam

And further, Ibn Abbas said:

"There hath not been revealed in the Book of God regarding any one

what hath been revealed concerning Ali," and that "three hundred

verses have been revealed concerning Ali."

Sunni references:

- Ibn Asakir, as quoted in:

- Tarikh al-Khulafaa, by al-Hafidh Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, p171

- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haythami, Ch. 9, section 3, p196

Thus the verse (5:55) is actually saying that ONLY Allah is your WALI,

and then Prophet Muhammad, and Imam Ali. Thus we can conclude that the

WILAYAH (mastership/leadership) of Imam Ali is the same as that of Prophet

Muhammad (PBUH&HF) since Allah put them beside each other. The authority

of Prophet Muhammad is explained by the following verses of Quran:

"The Prophet has a greater priority/authority (Awla) over the

believers than what they have over themselves" (Quran 33:6)


"O' you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those from

among you who are given authority (by Allah)." (Quran 4:59)

One may look at other verses with regard to the authority of Prophet such

as 4:65, 59:7, 9:103, 33:21. Putting all these verses beside the verse

5:55, one can derive that this priority and authority will also be for Imam

Ali after the demise of the Messenger of Allah.

al-Nisa'i and al-Hakim have also recorded other versions of the tradition

of Ghadir Khum with different wordings which provide more insight to the

meaning of the tradition. They narrated on the authority of Zaid Ibn Arqam


Prophet added: "Certainly Allah is my MAWLA and I am WALI (master/

guardian) of all the faithful." Then he grasped the hand of Ali and

said: "He (Ali) is the WALI of all those of whom I am WALI. O Allah!

Love those who love him and hate those who hate him."

Sunni references:

- Khasa'is, by al-Nisa'i, p21

- al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p109

In another wording:

Prophet (PBUH) asked three times: "O' people! Who is your MAWLA? They

replied: Allah and His Messenger." Then he grasped the hand of Ali and

raised it and said: "Whoever his WALI is Allah and his Messenger, then

this man is his WALI also."

Sunni reference: Khasa'is, by al-Nisa'i, p6

If WALI means friend, then why people answered only Allah and His

Messenger are WALI? They should have answered all the believers are WALI.

This clearly shows that people got it right, but they later chose to act

otherwise. Now let us look at the following tradition:

Ali came to the plain of Rahbah, and some people told him "Peace on

you O' our MAWLA!" Ali replied: "How can I be your MAWLA while you are

Arabs (free men)?" They said: "We heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)

on the day of Ghadir Khum who said: `Whoever I was his MAWLA he (Ali)

is his MAWLA.'"

Sunni reference: Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p419

If MAWLA means friend, then why was Ali (AS) asking the above question?

Was friendship new to Arabs? In fact Imam Ali was asking this question

to reiterate the importance of the word MAWLA and showing that people

at that time did not mean it friend for him, and that what they meant is

master of the believers.

Concluding the above discussion, it is clear that any individual who tries

to trivialize the tradition of Ghadir Khum by saying that Prophet just

wanted to say "Ali is the friend of believers", is neglecting the above-

mentioned traditions of prophet in which he explained what he meant by

WALI, and also neglecting the above-mentioned verses of Quran (those which

were revealed in Ghadir Khum and those which explain the importance of

WALI). Finally, the following tradition from Sunni references further

illuminates the fact that WALI means Imam since the tradition uses the

phrase "follow them" and "Imam". Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that the

Messenger of Allah said:

"Whoever wishes to live and die like me, and to abide in the Garden of

Eden after death, should acknowledge Ali as WALI after me, and take

his WALI (i.e., Imams after him) as WALI, and should follow the Imams

after me for they are my Ahlul-Bayt and are created from my clay and

are gifted with the same knowledge and understanding as myself.

Woe unto those who deny their virtues and those who disregard their


relationship and affinity with me, for my intercession shall never

reach them."

Sunni references:

(1) Hilyatul Awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v1, pp 84,86

(2) al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p128

(3) al-Jamiul Kabir, by al-Tabarani

(4) al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani

(5) Kanzul Ummal, v6, p155

(6) al-Manaqib, by al-Khawarizmi, p34

(7) Yanabi' al-Mawaddah, by al-Qunduzi al-Hanafi, p149

(8) History of Ibn Asakir, v2, p95


Ali vs. truth (right path):


In some versions of the Tradition of Ghadir Khum there is an extra sentence

that is he Prophet (PBUH&HF) said:

"Wa dara al-haqq ma'ahu haithu dar", literally: "And the truth (the

right path) turns with him (i.e. Ali) wherever way he turns."

Sunni reference: Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, under the

commentary of "al-Bismilah"

Similarly in Sahih al-Tirmidhi, it is narrated that:

The Messenger of God said: "O God, have Thy Mercy on Ali. O God,

make the right and the truth with Ali in all situations."

Sunni reference: Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p297

In Arabic, linguistically, the wording (balagha) could play tricks on the

listener. Logically, truth is absolute and not variable. A person, relative

to the truth, could be variable in action.

In this case, the person (i.e. Imam Ali) is placed as the absolute fixed

axes around which the event is taking place; such that, if anything changes

in the person's decision, the event is the thing that will change its track

-- truth in this case!!! Since, such change is not logically reasonable

due to the absolute nature of truth, then one can conclude that the two are

married and are inseparable. Hence, Ali (AS) stands for truth at all


Thus the saying of the Prophet (PBUH&HF) is a metaphoric way to stress

Ali's importance and attachment to the truth (right path) such that

Ali (AS) and the "right path" are indistinguishable.

Whereas, if put in the reverse order (i.e. Ali turns with truth...) it

would leave room, theoretically, for Ali to make other possible turns, by

virtue of Ali being the moving object. This would sound weaker, and would

imply the nature of a non-infallible person.

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