The Heart of Wilayah

The concept of Wilayah in light of Islamic traditions.

Bismil-Lah, ar-rahman,ar-rahim. Some of the points I will be talking about have been touched on a little bit earlier, so I'll just be inshaAllah expanding on that Bismil-Lah, ar-rahman,ar-rahim. All praise is due to the Pure existence which brought us into existence and salutations and blessings to the manifestation of his sublime attributes. Our noble prophet and his purified progeny, made that light shatter the darkness of ignorance prevailing on the earth.

As salaam aleikum, ya Amir Al-Mu'mineen, we've come together to remember you after all these centuries you'll still remembered. Ibn Muljim could not put out your light. The massacre of your family could not put out your light. The imprisonment of your descendants could not put out your light. Your followers have been bricked up alive inside the walls of your oppressors, but still, the oppressors could not put out your light. Now people from far away countries have invaded the land where you are buried, trampling on the ground that still trembles with the blood of your sons. Others have tried to destroy their shrines. Your followers have been scattered across the world, but none of that has diminished your light. Indeed, your light has been scattered across the world.

The terms "wilayah" and "walayah" come from the same root but have different meanings, "wilayah" refers more to authority, while "walayah" means friendship and assistance. It could be said that wilayah contains walayah. It is through wilayah that walayah is attained. Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir, alayhi assalam, said you can benefit from our friendship only if you obey Allah. It could be said then, that we can only benefit from the walayah of the Imam if we also accept his wilayah, for in accepting his wilayah.Accepting his wilayah is one of Allah's commandments. Submission to the Imam is submission to the Prophet, which is submission to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

Why Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, narrates that Jibrail, alayhi assalam, brought down to Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa aali wa sallam, two pomegranates from paradise. Ali met him and said, What are those two pomegranates in your hand? The messenger said, This one is prophethood and there is no part in it for you, but this one is knowledge. Then the messenger split the second pomegranate in two and gave Ali one half saying, You are my partner in this, I am your partner in it. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa aali wa sallam, and the Imam are not just brothers symbolically, but brothers in knowledge. The first thing that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala created was the intellect, which is otherwise called the pen, the qalam, and which is otherwise known as Al Noor Al-Muhammadi, the Muhammadan light. It is from this light that the universe was created and it is this light which the Holy Prophet manifests and embodies, and it is this light from which Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, also came into being.

This is confirmed by the words of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa aali wa sallam, in which he said: "I and Ali are of one light" Imam Musa Al-Kadhim, alayhi assalam, said Imama is a light, and that is the meaning of Allah saying so have faith in Allah and his apostle and the light which we have sent down the Muhammadan light was transmitted through all of the Imams. They all carry it. It is carried by Imam Al-Zaman, ajalallahu farajahun ash-sharif, and by means of that it continues to pervade the universe. The Muhammadan Light , Al-noor Al-Muhammadi is also called Al-Hakeqa al-Muhammadiyyah, the Muhammadan Truth. Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, embodied the Muhammadan truth, and he transmitted it. Those who submitted to Imam Ali's wilayah were his Shias. And among them were, as we know, Salman, Miqdad, Ammar Ibn Yasir and Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari. They were known as the Sabiqun. And as Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, says: "the sabiq is the one who annihilates his will in Allah's will."

A Shia, then, is the one who annihilates his own desire, and that means that he annihilates his own self in annihilating himself, he assimilates to the Imam and assimilating to the Imam, he assimilates to the Prophet. And in assimilating to the Prophet, he assimilates to the attributes of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, and in assimilating to the attributes of Allah, he assimilates to the Muhammadan truth and the Muhammadan light. The Shia attains walayah without wilayah. The Shia becomes a friend of Allah, a wali; this is a Shia.

Of the awliya' or awli Allah, as they were called in the early days of Islam, Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, says in Nahj al-Balaghah: " the awli Allah are those who look at the inward side of the world, while others look at his outward side". The Shia of the Imam, the one who is annihilated, sees beyond the exoteric dimensions of existence. The exoteric outward manifestation of existence is only a sign of his inner dimensions and its inner meaning. The exoteric is finite. The esoteric is the door to the infinite. It is in journeying beyond the exoteric that one may witness the esoteric in journeying beyond the finite, one may begin to witness the infinite. In witnessing the infinite, one realizes Tawhid. Realising Tawhid, which entails seeing beyond the outward side of the world, is not something to be taken lightly. As Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, himself said: "it would be better for you to be blind than to lose your insight". The Shia is the one who has insight.

It has been said by one of the scholars that the Imam is the witness of the people, the gate to Allah, Bab Allah, and the road, sabil, and the proof, dalil, that leads to Him. We can remember the famous event when Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, was in the battle of a camel and one of the Mujahideen came to him and asked him to explain What are we fighting for? Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, stopped in the middle of battle to explain Tawhid to the Mujahid. It can be seen from this then that one can only truly obey the Imam and accept his wilayah, if one knows Tawhid. But at the same time one can only know Tawhid if one accepts the wilayah of the Imam.

This is confirmed by the famous hadith, narrated by Imam Al-Ridha, alayhi assalam, through Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, in which the Messenger of Allah, Sallalahu alayhi wa aali wa sallam, conveyed from Jibril that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala said, La ilaha illa Allah is my fortress and whoever enters it, sorry, whoever utters it enters my fortress and whoever enters my fortress becomes safe from my chastisement. And it's known that Imam Al-Ridha, alayhi assalam, told the people it depends upon its conditions and I am one of its conditions. Thus, one of the conditions upon which our profession of unity is accepted is our acceptance of the Imams' wilayah, but accepting the Imams' wilayah requires understanding and may Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala increase us in that. What does the acceptance of the Imams' wilayah entail? The exoteric aspect of Wilayah is the universal authority of the Imams. The esoteric aspect of Wilayah is Tawhid, and the path to that Tawhid is love muhabba for the Imam.

Just as the Masters teach that you cannot attain haqiqah without passing through Shari'a and Tariqa, so you cannot attain it without passing through Wilayah and Muhabba. The love for the Imam is the Tariqa. But what does that love mean? Many Muslims around the world claim that they love the Imam, but what do they mean by love? Love for the Imam is not merely a sentiment or a feeling. Anyone can claim to have some kind of sentiment or feeling for the Imam, especially if they've been told that loving him is one of the obligatory parts of Islam.

Love for the Imam entails perceiving the reality of the Imam with the eye of the heart. Love for the Imam entails cleansing away the darkness of egoism and lower desires so that his light shines within the soul. The Imam is light and that light is knowledge. And this knowledge is what has been transmitted to the Imam from the divine source of all knowledge. And this is what the Imam embodies. Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir, alayhi assalam, said: "the light of the Imam in the hearts of the faithful is more brilliant than that of the luminous sun".

Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, said: "the position of the heart within the body is the same as the position of the Imam among those who owe their obedience to him". When asked one day by a companion called Ilhab if he saw Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, replied in the ascending stairways, the wave of His power casts a wave which blinds the eye of the spirit. And he advised Ilhab to become the companion of that reliable one who is the beloved of his master and surrounded by the favors of his protector. Smiling, he became in the earth the proof of guidance, Al-Dalil Al-Huda, and in heaven, the adorned and acknowledged. Other Imams have said: "our teaching is difficult, very difficult. The only ones who can take it are a prophet sent from God, an angel of proximity, or a faithful believer whose heart has been tested by God for faith".

Love for the Imam is not a sentiment, but it is a state attained through the pursuit of self perfection and through trial. Accepting the Wilayah of the Imam means being prepared for these trials and being prepared for a knowledge that can obliterate the soul. Imam Ali, this knowledge is a light and that light is muhabba for the divine. As Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, said, love of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is a fire which does not pass by anything without burning it up. The light of Allah, the light of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala does not overcome something without illuminating it.

Assimilation to the Imam means assimilation to his state, and his state is one of burning up with love for the divine. In loving the Imam, the Shia cannot but burn up with this love. But it is not a love of passion as can be seen from Imam Ali's, alayhi assalam, words. It is a love that is illumination, and it is a love that follows from knowing the reality of the one absolute reality. Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, said: the faith of a man accepted knowingly, remains steadfast and is a prophet for him. Whoever enters the House of Faith without knowledge makes his exit from that house in the same way in which he entered it. True Iman is based upon knowledge, and that knowledge is received through the Aql.

Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, said: the Aql is that by which God is worshipped and a place in paradise. And it could be said that in Islamic thought that Aql is the eye of the heart. It is the Aql that perceives the reality of what is apparent. It is not merely the intellect. Rather, it is intelligence, apprehension, the faculty of perception and discernment. Thus it is through the light of the intelligence that the reality of the reality is known. This is why it is said that the first thing that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala created was the Aql. And this is why it could be said that the Imam is the embodiment of the Aql. The authority of Wilayah is the authority of the intelligence. This means that the Ummah is enlightened by the lamp of intelligence. This means that the only enlightened by the lamp of intelligence of the that is the Imam and also that the Shia perceives the reality of the Imam through his own intelligence.

In perceiving the reality of the Imam, the Shia perceives the reality of the Imam's light, which is the knowledge of Allah Subhana wa Ta'alaAllah. Could we ever have known the real meaning of Tawhid if it had not been for Imam Ali's teaching in which he says, eyes do not see him through the site's observation, but harts see him through the verities of faith, al-haqaiq al-iman, and Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, said: "If you speak truly oh you, who tries to describe the Lord? Then describe Jibrail, Mikail, and the hosts of angels brought near, bowing in secret chambers, hujurat al-quds, their intellects in adoring perplexity to the limit, the fairest of creators. Surely only those who are perceived through attributes who possess form and who end in annihilation when they reach the limit of their term".

So what he is saying is here we are trying to describe Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, we can't even describe the angels who are lost in perplexity for trying to understand Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. How can we delimit Allah? In other words, if we cannot even describe the angels that worship the One Absolute Reality, we cannot describe that One Absolute Reality itself. And the Imam to this said: "there is no God, but He. He illumined with His light every darkness, and He darkens with His darkness, every light". And here we see that even the intellects of the angels through which they worship Allah Subhana wa Ta'alaa, they were lost in adoration.

Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, has taught that it is through the Aql that we attain freedom. But what kind of freedom? It is freedom from everything other than Allah. We attain freedom from the limitations and the constrictions of finite reality, freedom from the desires of the self, freedom from attachment to all that is base and corrupt.

It has been said that the Imam is Bab Allah, the door to Allah. The Imam is the door to the realm of a reality that has no limitation or constriction. In fact, the realm where we witness that reality before we came here relayer is the door to an ocean that has no shore.

Allahumma sally ala sayyidina Muhammad wa aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]