Quranic Reflection No. 359 Āyat 5:55 – The True Walī

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ
Innamā waliyyukumu-llāhu warasūluhu walladhīna āmanū-lladhīnā yuqīmūnas-salāta wayu’tunaz-zakāta wahum rāki‘ūn
Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakāt while bowing down.
(Sūratul Mā’idah, No.5, Āyat 55)

In this verse Allah talks about the walī of the believers being Allah Himself, His Messenger – the Holy Prophet (s) – and then a specific people who believe, who keep up the prayer and give charity while in the state of rukū’. A walī is an authority, one who looks after the affairs of someone and has their best interests at heart. Obedience to the walī is obligatory and paves the way for success in all aspects of life.

This verse is one of the clearest proofs of the wilāyah of Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali ‘alayhis salām after the Holy Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wa-sallam. Note the following;
1. The word innamā at the beginning of the verse restricts the wilāyah only to those mentioned in this verse. No one else is worthy of it.
2. The word walī can also be interpreted as a friend or helper. However the word innamā shows that this interpretation is highly unlikely in this verse. Believers are friends and helpers of each other regardless of whether zakāt is obligatory on them or not, and there cannot be a restriction imposed on that to only a specific group within them.
3. The word alladhīna is plural but a plural pronoun is often used for one person to show respect and status. That is a common norm in most languages.
4. The words ‘wahum rāki‘ūn’ refers specifically to the physical state of bowing down while giving charity, not a general state of doing rukū’ to Allah often in salāt. The quality of maintaining salāt has already been mentioned as the first quality and the word rāki‘ūn is linked to the second quality.
5. Some commentators have claimed that rukū’ here means a state of humility rather than the actual act of bowing down. This is not acceptable as nowhere else in the Quran has humility been referred to as rukū’. The words khāshi’ūn (Q 21:90, 23:2), tadharru’ (Q 7:55, 7:205) have been used in many verses to signify a state of humility.

Commentators of the Quran, both Shī‘ah and Sunni agree that this verse was revealed after the incident of Imam Ali (a) giving his ring to the beggar while in rukū’. He is the only one recorded in Islamic history to have done so. According to Hadith one day a poor man entered the mosque of the Prophet and asked for help. No one answered him. He raised his hands and said, “O Allah, bear witness that I asked for help in the mosque of Your Prophet (s) but no one helped me.” Imam Ali (a) was praying at that time and was in rukū’. He signaled with his right hand and the poor man came and took the ring that was on his finger. This verse was revealed after that.

‘Adud al-Din al-Iji, the famous Sunni theologian, affirms in his book al-Mawāqif that the commentators have consensus that this verse was revealed about Imam Ali (a). Al-Jurjānī in Sharh al-mawaqif, Sa‘d al-Dīn al-Taftazanī in Sharh al-maqāsid, al-Qushchi in Sharh tajrīd al-I‘tiqād also have confirmed the consensus. Great Sunni scholars of Hadith have narrated this Hadith in their books, like: ‘Abdul Razzāq al-San’ani, ‘Abd b. Hamīd, Razin b. Mu’āwiya, al-Nasā’ī, Muhammad b. Jarīr al-Tabarī, Ibn Abī Hatam, Ibn ‘Asākir, Abu Bakr b. Murdawayh, Abu l-Qasim al-Tabrani, al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī, al-Haythami, Ibn al-Jawzi, Muhibb al-Tabarī, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī, and al-Muttaqī al-Hindi. Al-Alusī says: most of the muhaddiths believe that the verse was revealed about Ali (a).

A lot has been written about this verse which is beyond the scope of this reflection. A more detailed analysis and a list of Sunni scholars who have interpreted this verse to refer to the wilāyah of Imam Ali (a) can be found athttps://www.seratonline.com/4549/exegesis-of-the-verse-of-wilayat-from-the-ahle-sunnah-perspective/.

As you celebrate the occasion of the blessed birth of mawlā Imam Ali (a), recite this verse to remind you of his position. The Quran explicitly talks about his authority as linked to the authority of Allah and His Messenger. It is an honor to be from among his Shī’ah. Memorize this verse as a gift for his birthday.

Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma’ul Bayan; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūnehhttp://en.wikishia.net/view/Al-Wilaya_Verse