Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wali, The Friend

Al Wali.png

Reem Shraiky, London

And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So, call on Him by these. And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes. They shall be repaid for what they do.

-Al-Araf, verse 181

One of the Divine Attributes of Allah is Al-Wali: The Arabic word Wali has various possible meanings and has a very broad spectrum of usage in Arabic, it means among other things: the helper, a Being that takes care of all matters of the universe and all creation, so it applies to the relation of Allah with the believers.

One of the other meanings of Wali we find in the Arabic lexicon is rain which follows upon rain. So, what connection or relationship has this got with the word Wali as it is commonly understood? We understand the word Wali to mean someone who is very friendly, who is very loving to someone, but it also as I mentioned means a rain which is incessant, or a storm on the heel of another and so on, such that there is no dry period in between.

Given that rain is a potender of blessings, we can take this to mean that the true lovers – or real friends – whom we can term Wali are those whose benefit continues to flow in the directions of those whom they hold dear, and there are no dry periods. There is no latent hindrance in between, no gaps, no chasms in between, and a true friend is the one who is always good to his or her friend. Now, there may be some patches where you may feel that the friend is not your friend anymore, but if the friendship is true, that rough patch would immediately be followed by another expression of love. So that is why it is not a continuous rain but rather rain after rain that is described and this can be experienced in everyday life, in true friendship.

Sometimes, not only in friendships but also in other relationships which such as the parent-child relationship, the parents become apparently angry, for a while they seem to be breaking away from their children and dissociating with them, in extreme cases they ostracise them. Then there follows another rain, which sometimes is even stronger than before, of expressions of love. So, that is why, this is a beautiful word described as we find it in the Arabic usage.

So, God has applied it in the context of His relationship with the believers. Sometimes, the believers find themselves in a state where they think God has ceased to be kind to them but that is only a temporary phase. So, people  briefly feel sometimes they are abandoned by God, as if God had no relationship with them, and cares no more for them, but that also is an expression of love. He’s trying them like a parent tries their child. This doesn’t mean that the parent has ceased to love them during that period of trial, it only means that they decided to wait for their child to emerge successful from the trial that they might show them what love is, and shower bounties upon bounties and one expression of love after another would follow after this short period of trial is over. So, wilayat of God with the believers has exactly the same nature and the same connotation.

It is stated in Surah Al Baqarah ‘Allah is the friend of those who believe…’ God is the Helper of believers and fulfils their needs, guides them and establishes for them reasoning and proofs. He takes them out of spiritual and physical weakness towards advancement and strength. Those who abide by God’s commandments, God truly becomes their Friend and no opposition, no force on this earth can destroy them.

And with some of Allah’s friends, you also see expressions of such closeness as if God is following their calls and demands, and that we have seen numerous times in the blessed lifetime of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him). He predicted and foretold many things. Also, we have seen this illustrated in the lifetime of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), that instead of having received a definite message from God, he said, Allah would do it, and God would do it exactly so and this has also been witnessed by the companions of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) by way of prayer. It is as if God had told them that He was going to do certain things in a certain manner. So, they would say, so and so would happen, and it happened. This fulfills another connotation of Wali which means one who listens.

So, as we can see, the word Wali has a broad range of connotations all of which deepen our understanding of the love and closeness of Allah.

Have they taken for themselves protectors [Walis] other than Him? But it is Allah Who is the real Protector [the Wali]. And He quickens the dead, and He has power over all things.

-Al-Shura, verse 10

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