Complete Tafseer from Agha Mahdi Pooya regarding Surah Al-Ma’idah – Ayat 55 (5:55)
All the commentators unanimously hold, as Qushaji admits in the Sharh al Tajrid on the subject of imamat, that this verse refers to Ali when he gave his ring to a beggar while bowing down in the course of his prayers. Nasa-i has also recorded this tradition in his Sahihah al Nasa-i, and so has the author of Al Jama Bayn al Sihah al Sittah (corroboration of the six authentic books) in discussion of the commentary on al Ma’idah, and so does Tha’labi in his Tafseer Kabir, and al Balakhi in his Yanabi has copied it from Ahmad bin Hanbal's Musnad, vol. 5, margin of p. 38. Please refer to the commentary on this verse in Wahidi's book Asbab al Nuzul (the circumstances of descent) which contains the tradition related by Ibn Abbas. Al Khatib has recorded the tradition in Al Muttafiq, and Ibn Marduwayh and Abu Shaykh in their Musnads. It is mentioned in Kanz al Ummal, vol. 6, p. 391, tradition no. 5991. In Ghayah al Maram, chapter 18, there are twenty four traditions from sources other than the Ahl ul-Bayt, all supporting the above statement about the descent of this verse.
When Abi Ishaq Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Naysaburi al Tha’labi reached this verse he recorded the following in his Tafseer al Kabir on the authority of Abu Dharrr al Ghifari, who said "Both of my ears may turn deaf and both my eyes may become blind if I speak a lie. I heard the Holy Prophet saying, 'Ali is the guide of the righteous and the slayer of the infidels. He who has helped him is victorious and he who has abandoned him is forsaken'. One day I said my prayers in the company of the Holy Prophet; a beggar came to the masjid and begged for alms, but nobody gave him anything. Ali was in a state of ruku in the prayer. He pointed out his ring to the beggar, who approached him and removed the ring from his finger.
Thereupon the Holy Prophet implored Allah, saying: 'O Allah! My brother Musa begged You saying: My Lord, delight my heart and make my task easy and undo the knot in my tongue so that they may understand me, and appoint from among my kinsmen, Harun, my brother, as my vizier, and strengthen my back with him and make him participate in my mission so that we may glorify You and remember You more frequently. Certainly You see us-and You inspired him: O Musa! All your requests have been granted. (The Holy Prophet continued) Delight my heart and make my task easy and appoint from among my kinsmen Ali as my vizier and strengthen my back with him'. (Abu Dharr proceeds) By Allah, the Holy Prophet had not yet finished his supplication when the trustworthy Jibril descended to him with this verse". (Ibn Khallikan says that Al Tha’labi was unique as a commentator of the Qur’an and his Tafseer al Kabir is superior to all other Tafseers).
In this verse the word wali has been used in the meaning of guardian or master or who holds authority superior to others. Please refer to the origin of the word wali in Sihah or Mukhtar al Sihah or any other good dictionary. The lexicographers have explained that he who manages the affairs of and exercises authority for another person is the wali of that person. This verse, therefore, means that those who manage the affairs of the people (mankind) are superior to all men, and certainly they are Allah, His messenger, the Holy Prophet, and Ali, who possesses all the qualifications enumerated in this verse. Allah has simultaneously confirmed His wilayah (superior authority), that of His prophet and his wali (Ali) in unbroken succession.
Allah's wilayah is universal, so likewise, the wilayah of the Holy Prophet and his wali (Ali) must be so. It is not possible to assign to the word wali in this verse the meaning of a helper or a friend, etcetera, for help and friendship are not confined to these three only. All the faithful men and women, according to the holy book, are friends and helpers of one another. It is as obvious as can be that the word wali in this verse means, guardian, ruler, possessor of superior authority. It is in this sense that the word wali has been used by the Holy Prophet in the above noted tradition related by Al Tha’labi in his Tafseer al Kabir on the authority of Abu Dharrr al Ghifari whom the Holy Prophet had given the title of siddiq (the truthful). There are other authentic traditions, given below, in which the word wali indicates its true meaning:
(i) Abu Dawud al Tayalisi has recorded in Isti-ab on the authority of Ibn Abbas, who said: "The Holy Prophet said to Ali, 'You are the master (wali) of the faithful after me'."
(ii) After an expedition, under the command of Ali, some of the men, who went with him, complained to the Holy Prophet about Ali's refusal to oblige them favourably. The Holy Prophet turned to them with signs of displeasure on his face and said: "What do you want to do to Ali? Surely Ali is from me and I am from him, and after me he is the master (wali) of all the faithful."
Nasa-i has recorded it in his Khasa-is al Alawiyyah, p. 17, Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, vol. 4, p. 438; Hakim in Mustadrak, vol. 11, p. 11; Al Dhahabi in his Talkhis al Mustadrak; Ibn Shaybah and Jarir both have recorded it from whom Muttaqi of India has copied it in his Kanz al Ummal, vol. 6, p. 400; Tirmidhi has recorded it from Asqalani, mentioned in his account of Ali in his Isabah; Ibn Hadid has copied it from Tirmidhi in his Sharh al Nahj al Balagha, vol. 2, p. 450.
(iii) The Holy Prophet said to Buraydah:
"Am I not a more privileged master (mawla or wali) of the lives of the faithful than the faithful themselves? Ali is the master (wali or mawla) of those who believe me to be their master."
Ahmad ibn Hanbal has recorded it in his Musnad, vol. 5, p. 356, Hakim has recorded it in his Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 110, besides many other traditionists.
(iv) The Holy Prophet said:
"O Ali! After me you are the master of all the faithful."
Hakim has recorded this tradition as reported by Ibn Abbas in his Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 134; and Dhahabi in his Talkhis; Nasa-i in Khasa-is al Alawiyyah p. 6; Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Musnad vol. 1, p. 331.
"Ali is your wali after me", means that Ali and none else will be the master of the faithful after the Holy Prophet. It confines in Ali the authority to manage the affairs of the ummah after him. It is, therefore, necessary to attach the same meaning to the word wali and to understand it in the same sense as has been pointed out above. Help, affection, love, friendship are not confined to any one person. All faithful men and women love and are friends of one another. If the meaning of wali is taken as helper or friend, then why the Holy Prophet took so much interest in, and attached so much importance to, clarifying emphatically what was obvious and evident, so as to repeat the declaration off and on?
His perfect wisdom, his thorough impeccability and termination with him of the prophethood make him far above the indulgence of explaining the self-evident, emphasising the obvious and making unnecessary repetitions. Besides, the traditions lay down clearly that Ali is or will be master of the nation after the Holy Prophet, and this makes it all the more necessary to understand the word wali in the same sense and fix for it the same meaning as has been stated above. The abovenoted traditionists, commentators and historians also deal with the word wali or mawla as the "more privileged master of the lives of the faithful than the faithful themselves."
"Those who believe" is in the plural form. How can it be applicable to an individual?
All the annotators, traditionists and historians agree that it was Na-im ibn Mas-ud al Ashja-i, whom Abu Sufyan gave ten camels for discouraging the Muslim, said to them: "Fear your enemies who have united against you and gathered in large numbers to attack you" (Ali Imran, 3:173), but in this verse "people said to them" (a plural form) has been used.
It was Ghawrath from the tribe of Banu Maharib, some scholars say, while others say that it was Umar ibn Jahash of the tribe of Banu Nadir, (a single man) single man) who drew out his sword to strike the Holy Prophet, but verse 11 of al Ma’idah describes it as "when a group of persons became so bold as to stretch their hands to you"(5:11) -in plural form. Verse 120 of al-Nahl says: "Ibrahim was certainly a people obedient to Allah".(16:120)
There are plenty of other examples of using the plural form for an individual.
Tabrasi, while commenting on this verse in his Majma al Bayan, says: "The plural form has been used for Ali in order to express his glory and eminence."
Zamakhshari, in his Tafseer al Kashshaf, says:
"If you inquire how this plural word is applicable to Ali, who is an individual, I shall say that though this verse is about Ali, an individual, the plural form is used in order to persuade others to act similarly and give alms as readily as Ali did."
The Imams among the Ahl ul-Bayt have frequently referred to this verse as a proof of their rightful imamat and have assigned the same meaning to the word wali as we have stated.
The word innama makes the decision of Allah (that He, the Holy Prophet and Ali alone are the masters of the believers) final and decisive. The construction of the sentence and the word wali, used in singular for all the three, means that wilayah of all the three is essentially one in nature as well as in effect. Therefore, obedience to the Holy Prophet must be as it should be to Allah, and obedience to Ali and his successors (the Imams among the Ahl ul-Bayt) must be as it should be to the Holy Prophet.
Wa hum raki-un is an adverbial clause qualifying the manner in which the alms were given. If it is taken as a conjunctive clause, then yuqimunas salat or this clause becomes an unnecessary repetition.
In fact this verse points out the highest state of spiritual attainment-fully absorbed in witnessing the glory of the absolute Lord and at the same time alive to the needs of His servants so as to solve them at once to their full satisfaction- which alone entitles a man to be a master like the eternal master, the almighty Allah. The Qur’an asserts this possibility for such a man, not for all the followers because they have been addressed in second person (kum). The plural term "those who believe" is used to include the Imams among the Ahl ul-Bayt in the same way as has been done in verse 61 of Ali Imran (3:61) (Mubahilah).
Please also refer to verse 67 of this surah for the event of Ghadir Khumm where the Holy Prophet openly declared Ali as the wali or mawla of the faithfuls just as the Holy Prophet himself is. The entire Muslim nation is unanimous that when the verses of the Qur’an were collected they were not arranged in the same order in which they descended. There is many a verse occurring in an irrelevant context, for instance, the verse of purification, which occurs in the account of the wives of the Holy Prophet, but actually is in praise of the five persons of al kisa, as has been universally admitted. All Muslims are agreed that arguments are to be preferred to the context, and whenever the implication of the context was opposed to the implication of arguments they ignored the context and yielded to the arguments, because they were doubtful about the context in which a certain verse occurs.