Reflection No. 232 on Q 5:55 – Verse of Wilāyah

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

This verse talks about the guardianship of the believers. The true and only authorities over the believers are: Allah, His Messenger and those who keep up prayers and give charity while in rukū‘. This important verse is known as the Verse of Wilayah and much has been written about it.

The following are some points about the verse:
1) Walī – the word has been interpreted as friend. Although it can mean friend, the context here is something more than just a friend. It is not possible that Allah would tell us to befriend only those who have these two qualities. Walī here means leadership, both physical and spiritual leadership for the guidance of believers. It is also interesting to note that there are no hadith that have narrated the use of the word walī as friend in this verse. Thus that interpretation has no support in Hadith.

2) The bowing down in rukū‘ is linked to the giving of charity. These are not two separate qualities. Salāt has already been mentioned as one of the qualities. The second one is giving charity while in rukū‘. The letter ‘waw’  links these two qualities. Some translators have translated it as giving charity, and doing rukū‘. This goes against the apparent meaning of the verse as well as contradicting the scores of Hadiths that talk about this verse.

3) Hadith narrates that the cause of revelation of this verse is the incident of Imam Ali (a) giving a ring to a beggar while bowing for rukū‘. This Hadith has been narrated by ten different companions, and mentioned in more than 30 books of the Ahl Sunnah themselves.

How is it possible to overlook all these narrations of the cause of revelation for this verse? For other verses one or two narrations about the cause of revelation would be enough. According to Tafsīr Namūne very few verses have a cause of revelation narrated so many times.

4) Wilāyah of Imam Ali (a) and the Holy Prophet (s) are rooted in the Wilāyah of Allah. Obedience to them is obedience to Allah. Love of them is love for Allah. It is one single concept.

Tafsīr al-Kabīr, a renowned tafsīr of the Ahl Sunnah, narrates from from Abu Dhar al Ghifari under this verse:

Both of my ears may turn deaf and both of my eyes may become blind if I speak a lie. I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) 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 Prophet. A beggar came to the mosque and begged for alms, but nobody gave him anything. ‘Ali was in a state of kneeling in the prayer. He pointed out his ring to the beggar, who approached him and removed the ring from his finger. Thereupon the Prophet (s) implored Allah the Mighty and Glorious, saying: “O Allah! My brother Moses 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 my kinsmen, Harūn, 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.’ O Allah! I am your slave and your prophet. 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, then, proceeded. By Allah, the Messenger of Allah (s) had not yet finished his supplication when the trustworthy Gabriel descended to him with this Verse: Certainly Allah is Your Master, and His Prophet and those who believe who establish prayer and give charity while they bow. And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe as a guardian, so surely the party of Allah will be victorious.

Recite this verse on the Day of Ghadīr and on other days to remind yourself of the blessing of Wilayah. Be thankful to God for opening your eyes and heart to the true status of Imam Ali (a) and making you form his followers. It is an invaluable blessing.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nasir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;