The concept of Wilayah, with all its roots and meanings, is common in all communities. In other words, it is common in all communities that a person has a certain right on another, along with a responsibility based on the right. For example, the father of a child is the closest person to him/her, and subsequent to the father, the child’s uncle, mother… might become responsible for taking care of him/her. Therefore, from this point of view, Wilayah is a common concept and is defined in the context of a community.

However, besides this common concept of Wilayah, there exists another interpretation of Wilayah which is defined by religion and only by religion. For example, Catholics believe in a specific type of Wilayah for the pope.

Similarly, Islam has defined 2 types of Islamic Wilayah, namely:

1. The right of a Muslim on another Muslim

2. The right of Allah (SWT) on a Muslim

According to the Fiqh (jurisprudence) of Shia, there are about 30 types of rights among the Muslims. In addition to that, a Muslim who believes in Allah (SWT), the Prophet (PBUH&HP), and other Islamic principles believes in a right to command and forbid, and also Wilayah for Allah (SWT) upon His servants. However, Allah (SWT) has the option to offer this right to His messengers and successors. The Hadith of Ghadir and the phrase “Whoever has me as his/her Master (Wali), Ali is his/her Master (Wali)” (by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)) are declarations of the offering of this right to Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) by Allah (SWT). But what is the exact meaning of such Wilayah?

In general, the word “Wali” has two definite meanings, namely:

1. Vicinity or having the same boundaries: This meaning for “Wali” has been used by the Holy Quran in verse 123 of Chapter 9: ”O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you… (1)”. This meaning is not discussed in this writing.

2. Guardianship, accountability, being in charge of people’s affairs, and the right to command and forbid: This meaning for “Wali” has been mentioned in the 55th verse of Chapter 5 of the Holy Quran: ”Only Allah, His Messenger, and the believers who keep up prayer (Salat) and pay alms (Zakat) while they bow (Rokoo) during prayer, are your Wali (Master)(2)”.

If we study all the Islamic Hadiths, we will find no correct meaning for the word “Wali” other than the aforementioned ones. Yet, some people have mentioned about 70 meanings for this word. However, they all well know that the exact meanings of this word are the ones mentioned above, and the other meanings are just examples of Wali.

For example, if a father, uncle, mother, owner … is called Wali, it is because they are all examples of guardians. For instance, a father is called “Wali” because he is responsible for taking care of his child’s affairs. However, a father is not always identical to Wali. If the father of a child dies while his/her grandfather is still alive, it is said that the child “has lost his/her father”; but we cannot say that “he/she doesn’t have a Wali” since his/her grandfather, for instance, becomes the Wali and is responsible for taking care of the child’s affairs.

An owner (of anything) is also an example of Wali; because the owner of anything is the guardian of it; however, Wilayah is not identical to ownership or possession.

On this basis, the meaning of the saying of the messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) on the day of Ghadir is as follows: ”Whoever I am his/her Mawla and guardian, this Ali is his/her Mawla and guardian”.

Shafe’i, the prominent Sunni scholar, has mentioned the following statement in regards to the Hadith of Ghadir and the meaning of Wali:

The meaning of Mawla in the Hadith “Whomever I am his/her Mawla (master), this Ali is his/her Mawla (master)” is the Wilayah of Islam (the Wilayah that Islam has established), the proof for which is the saying of Allah (SWT) that “Allah is the guardian of those who believe, and because the unbelievers shall have no guardian for them (3)”. Nevertheless, as for the saying of Umar bin Khattab in regards to Ali (PBUH) (spoken by Umar on the day of Ghadir) “You have become the Mawla of all the faithful”, what is meant is the Wilayah on all the Muslims”. (4)

As evident from the saying of Shafe’i saying on the Hadith of Ghadir, he has also inferred the concept of Wilayah of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) and Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) on the Muslims from the Hadith of Ghadir; because he refers to the 11th verse of Chapter 45 of the Holy Quran. In this verse, the Wilayah of Allah (SWT) is intended; therefore, the meaning of Wilayah in this verse is the legislative Wilayah, and the authority to command or forbid. According to the saying of Shafe’i, the Hadith of Ghadir indicates the offering of this type of Wilayah from Allah (SWT) to Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH).

(Selection taken from the booklet of “The Divine Imamate”, from the lecture series of Ayatullah Muhammad Reza Ja’fari)

The Roshd Website congratulates all the Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon the arrival of the great divine Eid, the anniversary of perfection of religion and the announcement of the succession of Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) to the Prophet, Eid al-Ghadir.


1. The Holy Quran, (9:123)

2. The Holy Quran, (5:55)

3. The Holy Quran, (45:11)

4. The History of Damascus (Taarikh Damishq), vol. 42, p. 238

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