Wali: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

for the town and commune of Mauritania see Wali, Mauritania

Walī (Arabic ولي, plural Awliyā' أولياء), is an Arabic word meaning Friend," "client," "kinsman," "patron"; it generally denotes "friend of God" in the phrase ولي الله walīyu 'llāh[1]. In English, wali most often means a Muslim saint or holy person. It should not be confused with the word Wāli (Arabic: والي) which is an [2] administrative title that was used in the Muslim Caliphate, and still today in some Muslim countries as in Wali of Swat (princely state).


Sunni Islam

In religious uses, it is generally short for Waliullah (Arabic ولي الله) or friend of God. Belief in the Awliya is an agreed upon article of faith in Sunni Islam having been mentioned in the earliest creeds to the most recent. Imam Tahawi mentions them in his creed:[3]

We do not prefer any of the saintly men among the Ummah over any of the Prophets but rather we say that any one of the Prophets is better than all the awliya' put together. We believe in what we know of Karamat, the marvels of the awliya' and in authentic stories about them from trustworthy sources.

Islamic books of Aqeedah are not meant to be exhaustive of every branch of faith but rather to clarify points deviated from by non-Sunni sects. Thus Imam Tahawi clarifies some Sufis mistaken belief that the Awliya could become greater than Prophets and confirmed the majority of Sunni Muslim's belief that the Awliya can perform miracles.

Use in Tasawuf/Sufism

A hierarchy of Awliya and their functions are outlined in the books of Sufi Masters. There is disagreement as to the terms used for each rank but there is a general agreement about the numbers and functions of each level. Starting from the top downwards:[4]

  • One Ghawth (Helper)/Qutb (Pole)
  • Three Nuqaba (Watchmen)
  • Four Awtaad (Pegs)/Aqtab (Poles)
  • Seven Abraar (Pious)
  • Forty Abdal(Substitutes)
  • Three Hundred Akhyaar (Chosen)

Al Hakim al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Arabi amongst others also contended that there was a Seal of the Awliya much in the same way that Muhammad is considered the Seal of the Prophets.[4][5]

A useful reference appears on p154 of "The People of the Secret" --- Octagon Press ISBN 0 863040 38 1 --- quoting Al Hujwiri, the Afghan Sufi who died in 1063. Spellings differ, notably Abraar is rendered Akbar in Octagon's authoritative "Oriental Magic" from which the full passage is extracted. It places the above hierarchy into a valuable context.

Shi'a term

It is short for Waliullah as well. Again it means friend. However the word Waliullah refers to Ali, son-in-law of Muhammad; Fatima, his daughter. Shi'as corroborate this incident widely narrated in both Sunni and Shia narrations (ahadith) where Ali while in prostration gave his ring in charity to a beggar without raising his head from his prayer.[6]


Salafis quote the following verse to denounce any meaning of the word Wali other than Master/Owner/Guardian:

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ [Qur'an Sūra 5: Māida, or The Table Spread:55]

"Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.[Shakir 5:55]."

Legal (Fiqh) Uses of the Term



In the Islamic law of marriage, the wali is a woman's closest adult male relative, who has authority and responsibility with respect to her marrying; in this context, wali can be translated "marriage guardian".

Guardian of Orphans

Executor of Wills

See also


  1. ^ "Walī (a., pl. awliyā;)", Encyclopaedia of Islam
  2. ^ http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=http://www.yourdictionary.com/library/islam.html&ei=iLQKS_PSMZ2UjAetsrD3AQ&sa=X&oi=define&ct=&cd=1&ved=0CBsQpAMoBg&usg=AFQjCNGLE9g2d1_vo6flOxJAa_UdjxaVsQ
  3. ^ Aqidah Tahawiyya
  4. ^ a b Ibn al-Arabi - Fons Vitae books - The Seal of the Saints : Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn 'Arabi ; Michel Chodkiewicz ; trans. Liadain Sherrard ( Islamic Texts Society )
  5. ^ Amazon.co.uk: The Concept of Sainthood in Early Islamic Mysticism: Two Works by Al-Hakim Al-Tirmidhi (RoutledgeCurzon Sufi): Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi: Books
  6. ^ Qur'an - 5:55.

Sources and External Links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address