Definition of the words stemming from the arabic root wala, types of wala, wala of Imamate, leadership and control.
The words, Wala’, Wilayat, 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 Wilayat, 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.
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.
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.
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''2of 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 Wilayat 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.
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 Wilayat 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 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 ". 1
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".2
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".3
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 Wilayat 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.
"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 wilayat 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.
"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 Wilayat. This does not mean that this verse does not imply some other kinds of Wilayat 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.
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-ul 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:
"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 'Wilayat" is correct, but, in fact, we do not find it being used as a judicial term.
Thirdly he held political and social Wilayat. 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
1. Devotion to the cause of Allah (i.e. whatever one does should be only to seek Divine pleasure).
2. 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).
3. 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: an unjust Imam, an ignorant pietist and an 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)
It is the highest stage of Wilayat. All the other kinds of Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat. Otherwise all great Prophets, especially the last one of them, were holders of Divine Wilayat in full measure.
When we say that the non-identity of Wilayat 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 Wilayat. 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat as well.
Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat.
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 Wilayat 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 Wilayat. 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.
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 paradisiacal 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, mercy, 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).
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 life in every field. Islam does not look down upon the problems of life. From the Islamic point of view no esoterism bereft of life does exist. As soul once separated from body has no longer anything to do with this world; similarly, exoterism without life is not a thing of this world. It is absurd to talk of esoterism minus life in this world.
But that should not be construed to mean that the philosophy of the Islamic teachings is confined to the solution of the problems of life only. The teachings of Islam are a means of traversing the path of submission to Allah, marching forward towards attaining proximity to Him, and thus acquiring completion of existence.
Man can make an evolutionary march beyond the limits of body, matter, and individual and social life. Such a march emanates from a series of spiritual stations. Man treads on this path practically by means of his earnestness and occasionally in this world or in the other world when the curtains are lifted he witnesses the stages of proximity ultimately leading to Wilayat which he has crossed.
The renowned philosopher and exegete of our age Allamah Tabatabai says "A part of the teachings of Islam constitutes social regulations which apparently are the product of social thinking. Their relation to the felicity and distress of the next world, or in religious terms, to the rewards of Paradise and the punishments of Hell, is due to certain phenomena which come into being and grow imperceptibly as one acts upon or contravenes these regulations.
After a person is shifted to the life of the next world and the curtain of ego is torn asunder, this relationship is unveiled and becomes manifest to him. Hidden under the wrappings of social life, passed strictly in accordance with the religious teachings, there exists a living reality—an esoteric life from which the eternal blessings of the next world originate and they are, in other words, its manifestation.
This is a reality which is called Wilayat. Prophethood is a reality which receives Divine commands and injunctions in regard to life and conveys them to the people, and Wilayat is a reality, which comes into being as a result of acting upon the Divine commands received through Prophethood".
Dealing with the proof of Wilayat and its holder, the Imam, and the fact that the world has never been without a holder of Wilayat, i.e. a perfect man, Allamah Tabatabai says "'There is no doubt about the existence of a path of Wilayat by treading on which man traverses the stages of esoteric perfection and reaches the stage of proximity to Allah. The existence of the outer religious trappings, without an inner reality, is unimaginable. The creative ability or source which has provided for religious teachings of practical, ethical and social nature and has preached them, must have provided for the inner reality also, which is the soul of the outer religious phenomena.
The arguments, which prove the existence of Prophethood and the continuity of the religious laws, also prove the existence and continuity of the system of Wilayat. How can it be imagined that the tenets and laws should have a real existence, but the inner reality should not exist or the contact of the human world with it should be severed? The chief holder of Wilayat, who maintains this contact, has been called Imam by the Qur'an, as is borne out by this verse.
"When his Lord tested Ibrahim with certain commands and he fulplled them. He said: Surely I am appointing you an Imam of man" (al-Baqarah, 2: 124)
The Imam is a person who is selected by Allah to be the leader of the path of Wilayat. It is he who holds the reins of esoteric Wilayat in his hands. He is the centre of the rays of Wilayat which reflect on the hearts of the people".
In the Usul al-Kafi there is a report by Abu Khalid Kabuli, who narrates that he asked Imam al-Baqir about the Qur'anic verse,
"So believe in Allah, His Messenger and the light which We have sent". (al-Taghabun, 64:8).
The Imam explaining the verse said: "O Abu Khalid! I swear by Allah that the light of the Imam shines more brilliantly in the hearts of the believers than the sun at day".
What he meant was that it was wrong to confine the aim of the religious teachings to the good results which might be obtained in the worldly life, and to interpret proximity to Allah, which is the direct result of good deeds, allegorically to mean attaining favour of Allah in the same sense as the favour of those in power and authority is gained in this world.
Such an interpretation ignores the effective role which proximity to Allah plays in spiritual life. Proximity to Allah raises man up on a higher plane of existence. Those who traverse the highest stages of proximity to Allah and really get closer to the centre of existence, naturally dominate the world. It is they who control the souls and the conscience of others and are witnesses to their deeds.
Basically every existing thing that advances on the way to its perfection, traverses some stages towards proximity to Allah. Man is also one of the existing things. His perfection is not confined merely to what is called nowadays civilization i.e. the development of a series of sciences, arts and rules of personal and social behaviour useful in the present life. Man has another dimension also, for which he has to purify his soul and secure contact with Allah.
There is a hadith which says that submission to Allah is a jewel, the essence of which is mastership, i.e. power. Man has always been looking for a way to control himself and the universe.
At present we are not concerned with the methods he chose for this purpose and whether he succeeded in his efforts or not. We know there is a wonderful way to achieve this object. When man chooses that, he does not aim at gaining power and dominating the world. In this case his aim is just the opposite. He aims at humility and self-annihilation. This wonderful way is that of subservience to Allah. He who submits to Allah, gets everything, though attaches no importance to anything.
Mastership or in other words the power man gains as a result of his earnestness, total submission and complete subservience to Allah has several stages:
The first stage is very inspiring. It gives him control over himself. In other words the minimum effect of the acceptance of good deeds by Allah is that they produce a penetrating and clear insight into self.
The Holy Qur'an says:
"Believers, if you fear Allah, He will make for you a differentiator (between right and wrong)" (al-Anfal, 8: 29).
Again it says:
"Those who struggle for Our cause, We will show them Our ways" (al-Ankabut 29:69)
Secondly man gains control over his passions and animal propensities and becomes master of himself. The Qur'an says regarding prayer:
"Surely, prayer restrains one away from indecency and evil ". (al-Ankabut, 29: 45)
It says about fasting
"Believers! fasting has been enjoined on you as it was enjoined on those who were before you, so that you may become pious" (al-Baqarah, 2:183)
Regarding both of them it says:
"Believers! Help yourselves (in your affairs) through patience (fast) and prayer". (al-Baqarah, 2:153)
At this stage of submission to Allah what man gets is a special insight and power to control his passions. In other words the first outcome of submission is self-discipline and control of evil desires.
The second stage is that of the control of the faculty of imagination. It is through this faculty that our mind conceives ideas and every moment shifts our attention from one subject to another.
This faculty is not under our control. In contrast it dominates us. that is why however hard we try, we cannot keep our attention concentrated on any one particular subject for example, even with our best efforts we cannot keep our thoughts concentrated during prayers. The Holy Prophet illustrated this fact with a charming example. He compared heart which is influenced by the faculty of imagination to a feather hung to a tree in the desert and being turned every moment topsy-turvy by the wind.1
In the course of another hadith the Prophet has said that the heart of man is subject to more commotion than a boiling kettle.2
Now the question is, Has man no option but to be a subject to his thoughts willy-nilly and to be swayed away by this mysterious power which turns him into a bird ever flying from one branch of a tree to another; or is the inability to resist this power a sign of immaturity and underdevelopment, and are those whose spiritual power is adequately developed, capable of rolling over this faculty of theirs?
The second alternative is correct. It is a duty of man to keep his thoughts under control. Otherwise the diabolic power of this faculty will nullify his capabilities and will impede his advancement on the path of proximity to Allah.
The celebrated mystic poet, Mowlawi points out: "If man is all the time engrossed in the ideas of his personal comforts and discomforts and profit and loss, he is prone to lose the serenity of his soul and is not likely to soar to the higher regions of heaven".
The Holy Prophet has said: "My eyes sleep, but my heart keeps awake". Commenting on this saying of the Prophet, Mowlawi says that the heart of the Prophet was always awake because he was the master of his thoughts. He was able to control them and was never over-powered by them.
At this second stage those who choose the path of submission to Allah feel that by keeping their faculty of imagination under control their soul is free to soar higher and higher without any check or hindrance.
Imam Ali used to be so engrossed in his prayers that once an arrow which had struck him was extracted from his foot while he was offering his prayer and he did not feel it. During this operation his attention could not be diverted in the least.
Similarly a young child of Imam Zayn al-Abidin fell down from a height and had a fracture in his hand. The hue and cry that followed the accident could not disturb the Imam who was offering his prayers. A bone-setter was called. He set the bone. When after the prayers the Imam saw the bandaged hand of the child, he was surprised and inquired about the matter. All the hustle and bustle and the hue and cry had not distracted the attention of the Imam who was absorbed in his prayers.
Leaving aside the personalities of this stature, even among their followers we have seen with our own eyes persons who get so absorbed while offering their prayers that they totally become inattentive to everything around them. Their attention is only towards Allah. The late Ali Agha Shirazi, an eminent scholar, was one of such persons.
To achieve this success nothing is more useful than incessant worship, the basis of which is attention to Allah. The ascetics adopt their own methods. They renounce life, retire in solitude and subject their body to torture. But Islam ensures the desired result without resorting to such unhealthy acts. Full attention to Allah and remembering that one is standing before the Lord of lords, the Creator, paves the way for mental concentration.
It will not be out of place to quote here Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna), the most outstanding philosopher of Islam. This great scholar after dealing with popular worship which is practised in expectation of reward only which has little value, takes up in his book, Isharat, the worship accompanied by cognition. He says: "To the gnostics worship is an exercise of the faculties of thinking and imagination with a view to divert them from material things to Divine conceptions. With constant practice these faculties get in harmony with the real human instinct of devotion to Allah, and they do not resist when the inner soul of man wants to attain illumination".
At the third stage the soul becomes so vigorous and strong that it can do a number of things without the help of body, though body needs soul in all cases.
Normally soul and body are inter-dependent. Body depends on soul for its life and very existence, and without soul it is soon disintegrated. Similarly soul depends on body for all its activities and can do nothing without it. Only in very exceptional cases soul can dispense with body. Sometimes it can do so just for a few moments and sometimes recurrently or even permanently. This phenomenon is known as "disembodiment".
The famous illuminant sufi-theosophist Suhrawardi has said "We do not consider a person to be a theosophist unless he can disembody himself". Mir Damad says "We do not regard a person as a theosophist unless he has such a practice that he can disembody himself at will.
Anyhow, the experts say that the 'disembodiment' is not a proof of attaining perfection.
At the fourth stage one's body becomes absolutely at his beck and call and can perform marvellous things as and when desired by him. Anyhow, this is a point which requires lengthy discussion. Imam al-Sadiq said "Body does not show inability to do what will wants".
The fifth is the highest stage. At this stage even external nature becomes subject to the will of man and obeys him. The miracles wrought by the Prophets and saints come under this category.
Though the issue of miracles requires extensive discussion, briefly it may be said that no Muslim who believes in the Holy Qur'an can deny them. From the Islamic point of view they present no problem. At present we propose to look at the issue of miracles from the viewpoint of Wilayat of Control only. Of course our discussion is directed to those who believe in the Holy Qur'an and admit the occurrence of the miracles.
What we want to stress upon is that a miracle is nothing but a manifestation of the Wilayat of Control and supernatural power. Apart from considering the Holy Qur'an, which, besides being a miracle, is the word of Allah, not of the Prophet; and as such has an exceptional position. A miracle is wrought by a Prophet or a saint because he is granted a sort of special power. He can do with the universe what he likes, but only with the permission and consent of Allah. He can convert a rod into a serpent, can cure those who are born blind and can even bring a dead person to life. This extraordinary power he gets by treading in the path of proximity to Allah and getting closer to the centre of existence and it is nothing else than the Wilayat of Control.
Some people are under the impression that a miracle is effected direct by Allah, and the Prophets and the saints have no hand in its performance, for it is beyond human power to change the laws of nature. The Prophets and the saints work only as showmen. According to this view, miracles are wrought direct by Allah without any human participation.
Anyhow, this view is not correct. Not only that Allah would not allow a natural phenomenon to take place direct outside the order set up by Him, but this conception is also contrary to the Qur'anic text. The Qur'an has expressly ascribed the working of miracles to the Prophets though, of course with the permission of Allah.
It may be remembered that permission of Allah does not mean lifting any moral or social ban by means of words or signs. In this case His permission is the bestowal of that perfection which produces a Supernatural power. He can take away that power if He does not want the miracle to be effected. The Holy Qur'an says;
"A prophet is not supposed to show a miracle without the permission of Allah". (al-Mo'min, 40:78).
In this verse the Prophets have been described as the actual workers of the miracles. The phrase, "Without the permission of Allah" has been added to obviate any misunderstanding that the Prophets can take any miraculous action independently. Everyone should know that, ''There is no might or power save with Allah ".
Anyhow, we admit that Allah is the ultimate source of every kind of power big or small, and every existing thing is a manifestation of His Will. The Prophets depend on Allah in all what they do; and always seek help from Him.
In the Surah al-Naml, the Holy Qur'an narrates the story of Prophet Sulayman and the Queen of Saba. At the invitation of Sulayman, the Queen sets out to call on him. Sulayman, wishes that her throne is brought to him before she arrives. Some of his courtiers volunteer, but Sulayman does not accept their offer. At last the one having knowledge of the Book said, "I can bring it in the twinkling of an eye".
Thus he ascribed the power and ability to himself. At the same time the Holy Qur'an describes him as having knowledge of the Book. This means that he performed the supernatural task with the help of the knowledge till then unknown to the human beings which he had acquired direct from the ''Protected Tablet" (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz)because of his proximity to Allah.
Again the Holy Qur'an says in respect of the same Prophet
"We made the winds subservient to him. They moved softly at his command in whichever direction he intended. We made the devils obey him. They included builders, divers and others bound in chains. (We said): This is Our gift. (Therefore you may bestow or withhold it without reckoning". (Sad, 38: 36—39).
The verses describing the miracles of Prophet Isa also support this stand, but we avoid to quote them for lack of space.
What we intend to emphasize is that nobody who believes in the Holy Qur'an, can deny the Wilayat of Control. But if somebody wants to judge this issue purely on scientific or philosophical standard, it would be off the point. At present we want to look at the issue from the Qur'anic angle only.
In the end we would like to further stress upon a point to which we referred in the beginning. All the stages of mastership mentioned above are the outcome of proximity to Allah, which is a factual reality and not a figurative or allegorical expression. A well-known hadith, Hadith al-Qudsi (a saying of the Prophet reproducing what Allah said) which is reported both by the Shi'ah and the Sunni sources, has expressed this fact beautifully.
Imam al-Sadiq reports that the Holy Prophet said: "Allah says The best means of seeking proximity to Me is the performance of what I have enjoined on My slaves. If somebody performs the super-numeraries also, I love him. When I love a person I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears, his tongue with which he speaks and his hands with which he holds. If he calls Me, I respond to him. If he asks Me for a thing I give it to him'' 3
This hadith clearly shows that devotion brings man close to Allah. As he gets closer to Him, he is loved and favoured by Him. Then he begins to see, hear and speak with Divine power. His prayer is responded to and his wishes are granted.
The fact is that the distinctive feature of Shi'aism is its special outlook on man. It believes, as we have stated earlier, that man has marvellous capabilities and that the world has never been without a perfect man whose capabilities are fully developed. It also believes that man can secure his rightful position only by treading in the path of submission and subservience to Allah under the leadership of a perfect man, a Waly and leader appointed by Him. That is why the leaders (awliya) of Shi'aism say:
The tenets which constitute the basis of Islam are five Salat (prayer), Saum (fast), Zakat (religious tax), Hajj (pilgrimage), and Wilayat and Islam has laid the greatest stress on Wilayat.4
The life and behaviour of the Holy Prophet represent the true teachings of Islam. He was both the political leader and the social head of the Muslim ummah, and in that capacity enforced in the territory of the Islamic government the laws and the rules he received from Allah through revelation. What he said or did was the law (Shari'ah). His behaviour constituted the ethical principles. His instructions formed wise and true guidance. He not only advised the people and gave counsel to them, but also formed a model society based on justice.
To ensure the prosperity of society, Islam has prescribed executive action in this world also. It does not leave the case of those who deliver a blow to the happiness of society to be dealt with in the next world only. It punishes the culprits in this world as well. Hence leadership and governing were both an integral part of the duties of the Holy Prophet.
Anyhow, as compared with other systems of government in the world, Islam has the distinction of having an eye on the other side of man's existence also. That is why side by side with its other teachings, it exhorts the people to acquire spiritual qualities and human virtues
It is humanity, spirituality and future life which have in modern human culture been consigned to oblivion, and the evil consequences of forgetting are being seen everyday. But Islam has paid special attention to these very things, and the Muslim leadership has based its philosophy on the spiritual training of mankind.
Most people are aware of the reality of their sublime human essence, because it is so fine and subtle that it can be observed by the clear-sighted only. That is why as far as the ordinary people are concerned, this verdant land of man's existence is situated so far away from their ideas that they can neither notice it nor pay attention to it, so how can they be the leaders in that field?
When man, despite the passage of so many centuries, has not yet known even 50 per cent of the physical actions and reactions of his body, how can he be expected to understand its metaphysical aspects or to lay down a program to secure that remote objective?
Hence there can be no denying the fact that there should be a leader the essence of whose existence may have a link with the metaphysical world, and who may be conversant enough with its intricate ways to be able to lead mankind, for he, who himself does not know the way, cannot be a guide.
Nevertheless, will it be proper to make no effort to know the destiny of man or to overlook his spiritual genius and his sublime essence?
Can we take him to be a beast living in the world of appetite, sleep, passion and sex, and leave him to wriggle like a worm to meet his animal desires only?
Obviously that will not be in conformity with the high status of man.
Man has his special spiritual and celestial needs. Allah has put a special genius in his nature. He is the master-piece of creation and the bright star of the creative world. It is his duty to reach the inaccessible heights and from there shed light and energy everywhere like the sun.
Man is not a forlorn being in the creative system. Though he is a small speck, he is illuminated with Divine Light. Allah has chosen him out of all His creatures for His special favour.
We see the signs of this favour throughout the long history of mankind. It is because of Allah's Grace and Favour to man that He sent His Prophets to guide him and lead his turbulent soul to salvation and eminence.
The Qur'an in numerous verses has referred to this truth. For instance, Prophet Ibrahim praying to Allah says
"Our Lord! Raise up in their midst a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Your revelations, shall instruct them in the Book and in the wisdom and purify them. Indeed You are the Mighty, the Wise". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 129)
This verse shows that apart from knowledge, wisdom and guidance, the purification of soul, viz. spiritual training, is an essential part of the prophetic mission.
In the School of the Holy Prophet a number of people acquired this special training and made a marvellous and dazzling progress. Salman Farsi, Abuzar Ghifari, Miqdad bin al-Aswad, Ammar bin al-Yasir, Maytham al-Tammar, Uwais al-Qarani and many more were among this distinguished group.
Their very existence was a source of purity and uprightness. They were purged of all that was evil. They wanted nothing but Allah and saw nothing but Him. Allah alone ruled their soul, their heart and their body. Their entire existence was dominated by Him alone (i.e. they bowed down before none but Allah).
For this reason each of them was an example of a spiritually developed man and each of them rendered a great service to the cause of human dignity and the elevation of his society.
Hence moral virtue and spiritual purification are not a superfluous thing nor a matter of mere formality so that we may attend to them at our leisure and when we have settled all other affairs of our life. In fact, virtue is the builder of life, a part of it, and even much more important than life itself. By the testimony of reason and consciousness the high qualities of moral virtue and spiritual purity are so great that under their patronage man can pass from mere appearance to the reality of his human truth and, so to say, can see what is invisible.
The Holy Qur'an says:
"We will grant a blessed happy life to a believer, whether male or female who is virtuous, and will repay such people according to their deeds" (Surah al-Nahl, 16:97) "O you who believe! Respond to Allah and the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you (virtuous) life". (Surah al-Anfal, 8 24)
Evidently the life mentioned in the above verses is different from the ordinary life. It can be no life other than the spiritual life which is true human life and which can be obtained only through good conduct and spiritual purification.1
Like all other phenomena, the emergence of spiritual life also requires the fulfilment of certain conditions. It is the outcome of man's own behaviour and actions, but naturally his behaviour and action must be in conformity with the true Divine teachings. There exist complete concord and harmony between the commands of Allah, terminologically known as Shari'ah and the realities of the world of creation and the realm of existence.
Since because of the inadequacy of our intellectual faculties we are unaware of the realities of the world and the advantages and disadvantages of all that happens, we do not know what is conducive to a spiritual life. But the Imam, like a wise and affectionate teacher, reveals these sublime realities to us and tells us what is to our advantage so that we may succeed in attaining a spiritual life.
The Islamic teachings and instructions consist of the realities which may not be ordinarily grasped by us. In order to infuse spiritual life into us and to ensure our everlasting happiness, Allah has made an arrangement to explain them through the Holy Prophet and his rightful and infallible successors.
Now if we obey the Divine commands, we shall attain salvation; otherwise we shall suffer a great loss. In this respect we are just like a child given under the tutelage of a tutor. The child receives his orders and does what he is required to do without any argument even if he does not understand the advantage of doing that. Anyhow, after completing his education, he will pass a happy life as a result of the moral virtues and good habits inculcated in him. But if he disobeyed the orders of his tutor, he would realize later how much loss he had incurred.
There is no doubt that a guide is needed for the attainment and the development of spiritual life. Now let us see who is fit to undertake the task of such a guidance.
Naturally this task cannot be performed by an ordinary man. The guide must be a person whose speech is dependable, who is infallible, and who himself stands on the pinnacle of spiritual life.
As we know, Allah does not entrust the duty of guiding others to anyone unless He Himself has guided him fully.
The Qur'an says:
"Is He who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who does not guide unless he himself is guided" (Surah Yunus, 10:35 )
A guide to spiritual life or the Imam must possess special qualities, because the function of Imamate is not ordinary guidance, which is the duty of every Muslim and is not confined to the Imam.
In the case of the Imam guidance means 'guidance by behest'. Those who have not attained spiritual life and to whom the realities of the world have not been revealed, cannot undertake such guidance.
A study of those verses of the Qur'an in which there is a mention of Imamate will show that in most cases the mention of Imamate has been followed by that of 'guidance by behest' as an explanation of the meaning of Imamate.
The Imam besides giving instructions in Islamic law and guiding the people on the exoteric side of Islam, holds the responsibility of esoteric guidance also and has been given a special power and authority for the purpose.
In an esoteric way he leads to perfection those who have the required capacity and qualifications.
As this guidance is carried out on the basis of spiritual blessing and esoteric status, it is called 'guidance by behest'.
To be the esoteric guide is such a superior status that the great Prophets reached it after they had been appointed a Prophet. Accordingly Prophet Ibrahim was raised by Allah to the status of esoteric guidance after he had been appointed a Prophet.
"Surely I appoint you an Imam for mankind". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 124).
As the Imam reaches the status of Wilayat (special authority) and guidance by behest, he can apply himself to the tasks which from the viewpoint of ordinary people appear to be astonishing and even impossible.
As the Holy Qur'an tells us, Asif bin Barkhia, a courtier of Prophet Sulayman could bring in the twinking of an eye the throne of the Queen of Saba to Sulayman before her own arrival, for he had a supernatural power and some knowledge of the hidden realities of this world.
The infallible Imams of Prophet Muhammad's Family occupied a position far above that of Asif bin Barkhia.
This fact is proved by the authentic history and the documented narratives where we find many stories of the spiritual and esoteric Wilayat of the Imams of the Shi'ah.
As the Imam himself is endowed with the highest degree of spiritual life, he has a sort of power of guidance and a spiritual attraction by means of which he can influence the hearts of the people. He can mould their character and can lead them to perfection.
In history we can read the account of a number of the disciples of the Imams and see how they illuminated the pages of history with their brilliance.
Ali ibn Khalid was a Zaydite, and as such he did not acknowledge the Imams who came after Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin, the fourth Imam. (37—95 A.H.) He lived in the time of Imam Muhammad Taqi al-Jawad, the ninth Imam. (195—220 A.H.)He says "I was in the city of Samarrah, when I was told that a man from Damascus who claimed to be a prophet had been brought there and put in prison. Ali ibn Khalid went to see him and asked him what the matter with him was".
He said "I was in Syria where I was busy in worship at the site supposed to be the resting place of the Holy head of Imam Husayn, the Doyen of the Martyrs. One night I found all of a sudden a man standing before me. He asked me to get up. I rose unconsciously and went a short distance with him when I found myself in the Masjid of Kufah. He asked me if I knew that masjid.
I said that I did and that it was the Masjid of Kufah. He offered his prayers. I too offered my prayers along with him. Then we set out again. We had not gone far, when I noticed that we were in the Masjid al-Nabi. There he invoked blessings on the Holy Prophet, and then we both offered our prayers.
Thereafter, we left that place too and set out again. A moment later I found myself in Mecca. There we circumambulated the Ka'bah, and then left the Masjid al-Haram.
After walking a few steps I found myself at my original place in Damascus. Then all of a sudden that man disappeared from my sight as if he was a slight draught of breeze which swept my face and vanished.
A year had passed since this incident when I met that man again. He took me on the same journey and we two visited once again all the Holy places which we had visited the first time.
When he wanted to leave me, I said to him: 'I beseech you in the name of Him who has given you such a wonderful power to be so kind as to let me know your name'. He said 'I am Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Musa ibn Ja'far'. He was the ninth Imam.
Now I proceeded to tell this extraordinary event to everyone whom I met, till the news reached Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik al-Zayyat. He ordered my arrest and accused me of posing as a prophet. Now, as you see, I am in prison".
Ali ibn Khalid says further: "I said to him would you like me to write to Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik about your case?"
"You may", he said: I wrote, but in my reply he wrote back: "Tell him to ask the person who took him in one night from Damascus to Kufah and then to Mecca and Medina and then brought him back to Damascus to get him released from this prison also".
I was distressed by this reply. Next morning I went to the prison to convey the reply to that man. There I saw a large number of soldiers and a big crowd of other people coming and going around the prison. I asked the people what had happened? They told me that the prisoner who claimed to be a prophet had escaped from the prison and it was not known how he had escaped whether he had gone into the ground or had flown to the sky like a bird.
Ali ibn Khalid says "After seeing this incident I gave up my Zaydite creed and became a Twelver Shi'ah, believing in the Imamate of Imam Jawad, the ninth Imam in the line of Ali ibn Abi Talib.2
Imam Ali bought Maytham as a slave and then freed him. He asked him what his name was; "Salim", he said: "But I heard the Prophet saying that your true name was Maytham". "He was correct and you are also correct. My true name is Maytham".
"Then stay with the name mentioned by the Holy Prophet and give up the other name".
Imam Ali bought and freed him, but he put a bond of love around his neck so that he remained with him up to the last moment of his life. Even death could not break this bond.
Maytham was a wonderful man. With his remarkable ability he gradually secured an honourable position among the companions of Imam Ali. He became aware of the realities and could understand their fine distinctions. He had great love for Imam Ali. He was as fond of him as a thirsty plant is of rain. He took his inspiration from Imam Ali. With him he lived and in him he remained fully absorbed. Imam Ali was the light of his heart and the rejoicing of his soul; and he was not willing to lose this rejoicing even to gain all the wealth of the whole world.
One day Imam Ali said to Maytham "After my death you will be hanged. A spear will be thrust into your body. On the third day your beard will be stained with the blood of your nose and mouth. You will be hanged beside the house of Amr ibn Hurayth along with nine others. The gallows on which you will be hanged will be the shortest. Come along I'll show you the date-palm from the branches of which you will be ultimately hanged". And then he showed Maytham the tree.
Years passed. Imam Ali was martyred. The Umayyads gained power over the people.
Maytham went out from time to time to look at the tree; offered his prayers and spoke to it thus "Tree, may Allah bless you! I have been created for you and you are growing for me".
In the year of his martyrdom Maytham had the honour of visiting Ka'bah, the House of Allah. There, he met Umme Salama, the Mother of the Faithful.
"I've often heard your name from the Holy Prophet", she said. "He recommended you to Ali", she added.
Maytham asked about Imam Husayn and learnt that he had left the city.
"Convey my regards to him", he said, "and tell him that it will not be long before he and I see each other in the presence of our Lord"
Umme Salama ordered perfume to be brought. She applied it to the beard of Maytham. Then she said to him. "Before long your beard will be painted with your own blood" (because of your love for the Prophet and his progeny).
Maytham then went to Kufah, where Ibn Ziyad's agents arrested him. When he was produced before Ibn Ziyad, the following dialogue took place between them.
Ibn Ziyad "Where is your Allah?"
Maytham "He is lying in wait for the oppressors, and you are one of them".
Ibn Ziyad 'What did your master Ali say about me and you? "
Maytham "He said that you will hang me along with nine others, and my gollows will be shorter than those of others".
Ibn Ziyad "I would like to go against what your master said and kill you in some other way".
Maytham "How can you? He learnt that from the Prophet and the Prophet learnt it from Allah. Can you go against Allah? I even know the place of my martyrdom. I also know that I am the first Muslim in whose mouth a bridlebit will be laid".
Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad was enraged. He ordered that for the time being Maytham might be taken back to prison. It was in this very prison that Maytham gave Mukhtar Thaqafi the good news of his release, and said "In revenging for the Doyen of the Martyrs you will kill Ibn Ziyad". And so it was.
Anyhow, at last Maytham was taken to the place where he was to make supreme sacrifice; to the place of his spiritual rise; the place from which he was to soar to the greatest heights of human spirituality. He was hanged beside the house of Amr ibn Hurayth from the tree that he already knew. The people gathered round him, and on the gallows he found a good opportunity to tell them of the virtues of Imam Ali.
He spoke and moved the hearts of the people. He made them acquainted with the truth.
Ibn Ziyad was informed that Maytham was defaming him whereupon he ordered him to be gagged so that he might not utter a word further.
As Imam Ali had foretold, a spear was thrust into Maytham's body.
"Allabu Akbar", he cried.
At the end of the third day the blood from his mouth and nose flowed down and coloured his beard. May peace of Allah be upon him!3
The Holy Prophet said "The sweet smell of Paradisc is coming from the direction of Qaran. Uwais al-Qarani, I am eager to see you! Let anyone who meets him, convey my regards to him''.4
While people were pledging their allegiance to him in the area of Zi-qar. Imam Ali announced: "From Kufah a thousand soldiers, neither more nor less, are about to come and pledge their allegiance to me".
When these soldiers arrived, Ibn Abbas counted them. He found that their number was 999 only. He was surprised why one man was short.
In a few moments a man appeared wearing woolen clothes and having a sword, a shield, and other war accoutrements. He went direct to Imam Ali and said "I want to pledge my allegiance to you up to death".
Imam Ali said: 'What is your name?" "Uwais" he said. The Imam asked "Are you Uwais al-Qarani?" "Yes" replied he.
"Allah o Akbar! My well-beloved Prophet, may Allah bless him, told me that I would meet one of his followers, named Uwais, al-Qarani, who was one of the favourites of Allah and His Messenger. He would lay down his life for the cause of Allah and would have the privilege of interceding on behalf of many'.5
So it was. He was martyred in the company of Imam Ali.6 Uwais is known for his high position from spiritual angle. He took pleasure in worship and had little interest in worldly riches.7
We can judge the depth of the spirituality of this man from his sayings. He says: "By Allah, the thought of death and the fear of the ultimate end leave no room for happiness in this world for a man of faith".
"People abuse us when we exhort them to do good and restrain them from evil, but we still rise for the cause of Allah".8
Qambar was also one of those brave men who secured a high position through the influence of the spiritual power of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali.
He was not afraid of telling the truth and following the right path. Though from the viewpoint of the worldly people he was apparently no more than a slave, he spiritually secured such a high position that he became a confidant of Imam Ali.
The powerful and piercing words with which this man of iron will replied to Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the bloodthirsty sadist, are well-known:
Once Hajjaj said "Qambar! What were your duties when you were in the service of Ali?" Qambar "I used to bring him water for ablution". Hajjaj "On finishing ablution, what did he use to say?" Qambar "He used to recite this verse of the Qur'an
"When they forgot Our admonition, We opened to them the gates of everything they desired; but just as they were rejoicing in what they were given, We seized them unawares with the result that they were left confused. Thus the last remnant of the people who did wrong was cut off. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds". (Surah al-An'am, 6:44—45)
Hajjaj "I think that he applied this verse to us".
"Yes", said Qambar boldly.
Hajjaj: "If I put you to death, what will you do?"
Qambar "I shall be lucky and you will be unlucky".
Hajjaj "Confess that you no longer acknowledge Ali to be your master".
Qambar "If I renounce his way, can you show me a better way? "
Hajjaj did not answer this question, and said "In any case I am going to put you to death. Now tell me how you would like to be killed".
Qambar "I leave that choice to you". Hajjaj "Why?"
Qambar "The way you will kill me, the same way I'll kill you in the next world. Ali, my master told me that I'd be beheaded unjustly".
So Hajjaj ordered him to be beheaded.
Indeed, if a man obeys Allah, the Holy Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt, he can have spiritual and esoteric guidance even today and can tread the path of perfection and proximity. For him then, there shall be no fear nor grief for because he will be a Muslim perfectly spiritual and divine.
The Holy Qur'an declares
"As for those who say that our Lord is Allah and then they remain firm in their faith, the angels will descend on them saying: Neither be afraid nor be grieved ". (Surah al-Fussilat, 41: 30)