Hadith 38: The Concept Of Wilayah
(The Closer Servants of Allāh)
By Imam Nawawi
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger
Abu Hurayrah, (radiyallāhu’anhu), reported that the Messenger of Allāh, (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), said:
“Allāh the Almighty has said: 'Whosoever acts with enmity towards a closer servant of Mine (wali), I will indeed declare war against him. Nothing endears My servant to Me than doing of what I have made obligatory upon him to do. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with supererogatory (nawafil) solah so that I shall love him. When I love him, I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk. And if he asks (something) of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he takes refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant him it.'”
The translation of the term wali that is mentioned in the hadith is a closer servant (awliya') of Allāh or a believer rather than a closer friend. There are many verses in the Qur'an that talk about the concept of wilayah. These verses talk about the qualities or attributes of awliya' and their status in the sight of Allāh. In this hadith Allāh mentions the status of the wali even before He talks about His attributes. This status is mentioned in the beginning (i.e. Allāh will declare war against whoever acts with enmity towards one of His closer servants) and in the end (i.e. Allāh will answer their du’a and will give them refuge). This shows the status of awliya’ in the sight of Allāh. In the middle of the hadith, Allāh tells us the qualities of His closer servants.
The hadith also tells us that Allāh loves those who are the closer servants to Allāh. This is a natural result of what they do. Allāh tells us about their actions upon which they deserved to be loved by Allāh. We will see that there are two levels of servants of Allāh: The first level is those who fulfill the obligations and avoid the prohibitions (muharramat). The second level is those who not only do this but also perform the preferable acts (nawafil).
The concept of wilayah (awliya' Allāh) is based on the verses of the Qur’an and this hadith. In the Qur'an there are three verses in Surah Yunus - Ayah 62, 63 and 64.
No doubt verily the awliya' of Allāh (the closer servants of Allāh) no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve. Those who believed and used to fear Allāh much, for them are the glad tidings in this life and the Hereafter.
Based on these three verses and this Hadith Qudsi, we can say that the concept of wilayah comprises of the following:
1. The love of Allāh
2. Fearing of Allāh
3. Belief or faith in Allāh and his Messengers
4. Devotion, honesty, and sincerity
5. Obedience to Allāh and following His instructions - this include performing good deeds. This motif of this obedience is based on fear of Allāh, repenting to Allāh and submission to His will.
The origin of wilayah is closeness to Allāh and the enmity is being far away from the path of Allāh. Based on this, the awliya' of Allāh are those who are obedient and perform the good deeds which make them closer to Allāh. The enemies of Allāh, on the other hand, are those who are evil doers. Their ill deeds distance themselves away from Allāh and this will make them far from Allāh's blessing, support, and love.
In to the first portion of the hadith it states, “Nothing endears My servant to Me than doing of what I have made obligatory upon him to do. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with supererogatory (nawafil) prayers so that I shall love him.”. In relation to this, Allāh classifies His servants into two categories:
1. The first category are those who get closer to Allāh by fulfilling the obligations and avoiding the prohibitions. This is a moderate level that has been described in the Qur’an as “ashab alyameen”. This is the minimum level of wilayah. In other words, wilayah is achieved just by fulfilling the obligations and avoiding the prohibitions. This level of wilayah is expected from all believers.
2. The second category of people are those who are closer to Allāh by being “competent (al-sabiqeen)” in their worship and effort and strive to be close to Allāh. This category of people are not satisfied only of performing the obligations and avoiding the prohibitions but they go further by performing the preferable acts. They also avoid the non-preferable acts. Consequently, they will reach “the degree of wara' and wilayah” that will make Allāh love them. Allāh mentions this explicitly and that His love will be granted for these competent people.
Some of the early people (salaf) used to say that it is not a big matter whether you love; the biggest matter is to be loved by Allāh. If you are loved by Allāh, then you are granted with His mercy and blessings. You are going to be granted with His support and guidance.
The Prophet, (sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), used to say the following in his du’a: "O Allāh I ask You that You love me and the love of those who love You and to enable me also to love every act and deed that may bring me closer to You". That is the reason why some of the early scholars say that the actions and the worship that are based on the love of Allāh will continue and never be depressed or frustrated. Some others say that the one who loves Allāh will not get fed up or bored of getting closer to Allāh. He never feels that he is bored of doing good deeds and acts that will get him closer to Allāh. Other scholars say that for the one who loves Allāh, his heart is purified and he always remembers Allāh. He always seeks and strives to do good deeds and acts that will get him closer to Allāh. He does all of this with pleasure.
The early scholars also say that the one who loves Allāh should obey Him, otherwise he is only claiming to love Allāh. Scholars say that among the preferable acts (nawafil) that make a person become closer to Allāh, is the nawafil al-salawat (the preferable prayers that the Prophet,(sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), used to pray every day). Another thing is the recitation of the Qur'an and listening to it with full attention and understanding. Also part of the preferable acts is the remembrance of Allāh where what the tongue says matches with what the heart believes, and the love of other good Muslims who are closer to Allāh.
The second portion of this hadith “When I love him, I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk." implies that, as Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) says, whoever strives, struggles and makes the effort to get closer to Allāh by doing the obligations and performing the preferable acts, Allāh will get him closer to him, support him, and take him from one level into another until this servant of Allāh reaches the degree of Ihsan where this believer will be able to practice muraqabeh. That is he worships Allāh as if he sees Him, and his heart will be full with love of Allāh.
Not only will Allāh grant him love of Allāh but he will also be helped to glorify Allāh and granted with satisfaction. This will be strengthened by performing the preferable acts until the heart is full of these acts where nothing else will enslave or capture the heart. The heart is fully devoted to Allāh. When that status is reached by the believer, the limbs of that servant will act only in accordance to what Allāh loves. Then he will be seeing, hearing, and doing what Allāh sees, hears and does. He will be walking towards what Allāh wants and likes. The early salaf say that he cannot even commit a sin. Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) quotes Ali who said that they used to believe that Omar's Satan was so frustrated to do any sin or disobedience. This is one of the secrets or the real fruits of tawhid. This is because "La ilaha illa Allāh" means that we should only worship, glorify, obey, and love Allāh and fear Him the most. When this realisation of tawhid is achieved, then he says the heart will have no place for anything that may displease Allāh. What will be in the heart is only what Allāh loves. In this case, that person will never commit a sin or any kind of disobedience. Committing sins takes place only if the person loves what Allāh hates or that person hates what Allāh loves. It also takes place when self interest is given a priority and dominance over the love of Allāh. The result will be that the obligations of the tawhid will not be complete. The person will be led to delay obligations or to commit sins.
The third portion of this hadith “And if he asks (something) of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he takes refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant him it.” Implies that the closer servant of Allāh has a special status in the sight of Allāh. This special status will lead to that whatever he asks of Allāh, Allāh will give him and his du'a will be attended to. If he seeks refuge from anything, he will be given that.
In Sunan Al-Imam Al-Nisa'ei, there is one chapter on iste'azeh. There are many hadiths in this chapter that tell us the sayings that the Prophet,(sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), used to say to seek refuge of Allāh to be saved from things such as poverty, ignorance, the turmoil of the grave, sadness and depression of this life, and various diseases. The closer servant of Allāh is granted to be saved from the above mentioned things and many others. As Muslims we have to realise the importance of this portion of the hadith especially for those who are hearing the hadith for the first time. It is better that we learn from the Prophet, (sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam), what to seek refuge of Allāh from. We should try to memorise some hadiths which are in the form of du'a. In that way we will be granted the love of Allāh and we will be given the status of awliya'. Consequently, we will be granted with the bounty that whatever we ask for, Allāh will give us. Moreover, we will be saved from the harms that are mentioned above.
The last thing that we need to point out is the misconception of wilayah. After the early centuries of Islam, this concept has been misunderstood to the extent that there came a time when the attributes of the wali is not what is mentioned in the Qur'an and hadith. It is actually by claims. We look at the person and his attitude and worship of Allāh and we are shocked to see a big difference. We are surprised to see that the actions do not match with the Islamic teachings. How, then, can this person be a wali? He is not a closer servant of Allāh. The real closer servant of Allāh will not abuse wilayah and use it for promotion because it is not what he claims but it is in the heart and love of Allāh. This should be corrected because until today some Muslims are still confused about wilayah. Imam Shatibi sets a number of criteria for wilayah or karamah because they are granted only if the person is close to Allāh. Awliya'u Allāh are shy to claim that they are closer to Allāh because this contradicts with the idea of ikhlas (sincerity).
We notice that Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) brings this hadith which states the main fundamental concepts or principles of Islam in a clear way. By studying this hadith, one comes to know what the concept of wilayah or closeness to Allāh means and what he should do. We also know the status of awliya'.
This hadith is a warning to those who may harm believers in general or the closer servants of Allāh in particular. Allāh declares war against the one who acts with enmity towards His awliya' (closer servants). This is a message to all Muslims and people not to harm others or to be enemies with Allāh by harming the believers. That is how the situation will be, if not in this life, it will be in the Hereafter. Moreover, Allāh knows better what is in our favour and what is not in our favour. That's why sometimes the closer servants of Allāh may ask for something and Allāh does not attend to their du'a because the things they may ask for may cause them some harm . But still because of their du’a, there will be the blessings and mercy from Allāh in similar situations. The blessings of du’a will be also granted in the Hereafter.
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted from a Commentary of Hadith 38: “ The Concept of Wilayah (The Closer Servants Of Allāh)”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]