Exegesis of the Verse of Wilayat from the Ahle Sunnah perspective

Reading Time: 9 minutes

There are numerous Quranic verses proclaiming the guardianship and Imamat of our Master – Imam Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.). Of these, some verses allude to his mastership in a manner that makes his Imamat more evident for the Muslims than the splitting of the moon which Allah effected to establish the Prophethood of His Beloved – Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.).  Put simply, the content and context of such verses so clearly establish the mastership and guardianship of our Master (a.s.) that the subject, although a matter of intense dispute between the two Islamic sects, has reached the level of consensus among the reputed scholars of both sects – Shias and Ahle Sunnah. Of course, some bigoted and arrogant individuals continue to reject these verses, but that is only to be expected from individuals steeped in prejudice and haughtiness.

Among the verses that clearly establish the mastership of our Master –  Imam Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) is the 55th verse of Surah Maaidah:

‘Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.’

Let us refer to the exegesis of the Ahle Sunnah scholars regarding this Quranic verse to establish our claim regarding the mastership of Imam Ali b. Taalib (a.s.).

First Tradition

The reputed and illustrious interpreter of the Holy Quran Ahmed b. Muhammad al-Saalabi records in his Tafseer ‘Al-Kashfwa Al-Bayaan’ that Sadi, Utbah b. Abil Hakeem and Ghaalib b. Abdullah relate that the Quranic verse

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

refers to Imam Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) when he offered his ring (as zakaat) to the beggar, while bowing in prayers in the Mosque (of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)).

Then al-Saalabi writes: We were informed by Abul Hasan Muhammad b. Qasim al-Faqeeh, who was informed by Abdullah b. Ahmed al-Sharaani and he was informed by Abu Ali Ahmed b. Ali b. Razeen and he was informed by Muzaffar b. Hasan al-Ansaari and he was informed by al-Sari b. Ali al-Warraaq and he was informed by Yahya b. Abdul Hameed al-Hemaani and he was informed by Qais b. Rabee and he was informed by Amash and he was informed by Ibaayah b. al-Rabee and he was informed by Abdullah b. Abbas (r.a.) while he was standing near the Zamzam and addressing an audience thus

‘The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said…’.

Soon a person wearing a turban rose and repeated the words ‘The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said…’ after Abdullah b. Abbas (r.a.) so as to endorse Abdullah b. Abbas’ (r.a.) claim that the words were indeed narrated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Since the man’s turban concealed his face, his identity was not apparent to the onlookers.

Finally Ibne Abbas (r.a.) exclaimed: I beseech you in the name of Allah to disclose your identity.

The man unveiled himself and addressed the audience:

O people; those who know me know me. Those who don’t know me should know that I am Jundab b. Junaadeh al-Badri – Abu Zarr al-Ghaffaari. I have heard directly from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and if I lie may my ears go deaf and I have seen the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and if I lie may me eyes go blind. I heard him (s.a.w.a.) say: Ali is the leader of the virtuous ones and the killer of the apostates. The one who helps Ali will be helped and the one who abandons him will be abandoned.

Know that once I was praying the afternoon prayers (Salaat-e-Zohr) along with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). A beggar approached the congregation and sought his needs from the praying ones but none entertained him (as they were engaged in congregational prayers). The beggar raised his hands skywards and complained, O Lord, bear witness that I sought from the Mosque of your Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but none fulfilled my need.

At that moment, Ali was bowing in prayers. He pointed the finger of his right hand, which bore a ring, in the direction of the beggar. The beggar advanced towards him and withdrew the ring from his finger. This incident occurred in the presence of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concluded his prayers he raised his blessed head skywards and beseeched Allah:

O Lord, Moosa requested you, O Lord expand my chest for me, ease my affair for me, untie the knots in my tongue so that my speech is comprehensible for the people and appoint my brother from my family as my vizier. Through him strengthen my back and make him a partner in my affair. (Surah Taha (20): 25-32)

Then you responded through a revelation on him: We will strengthen your arm with your brother, and We will give you both an authority, so that they shall not reach you; (go) with Our signs; you two and those who follow you shall be uppermost. (Surah Qasas (28): 35)

O Lord, I am Muhammad, your Prophet and your chosen one. O Lord, expand for me my chest and ease my affair and appoint from my family my brother Ali as a successor and strengthen my back through him.

Abu Zarr (r.a.) narrates, The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had not yet completed his supplication when Jibraeel (a.s.) descended and said: O Muhammad, read! The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) asked: What should I read? Jibraeel (a.s.) answered: Read the verse

‘Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.’

Second Tradition

The respected interpreter of the Holy Quran, Razeen in his book “Al-Jamo Bain al-Sihaah al-Sittah has related from Saheeh al-Nesaai that Ibne Salaam narrates” I was with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when I said, Some people oppose us staunchly only because we acknowledge Allah and His Prophet. They have pledged that they will ex-communicate us. At that moment this verse was revealed:

‘Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.’

After this, Hazrat Bilaal (r.a.) recited the call for the afternoon prayers (Salaat-e-Zohr). Muslims congregated for the prayers. They were bowing, when a beggar sought alms. Imam Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) offered his ring, while he was bowing. The beggar informed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about this, on which the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) recited the two Quranic verses.

(Al-Jamo Bain al-Sihaah al-Sittah volume 3 narrated from Saheeh-e-Muslim)

Third Tradition

Muwaffaq b. Ahmad records the correspondence between Muawiyah and Amr-e-Aas regarding Hazrat Ali (a.s.).

Amr-e-Aas responded to Muawiyah (when he invited Amr to join forces with him to rebel against Hazrat Ali (a.s.)), O Muawiyah you are fully aware that there are numerous virtues of Ali (a.s.) mentioned in the Holy Quran and no one in the world shares these virtues with him.

For example

يُوفُونَ بِالنَّذْرِ

‘They fulfill vows…’ (Surah Insaan (76): 7)

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

‘Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.’(Surah Maaidah (5): 55)

أَفَمَن كَانَ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ وَيَتْلُوهُ شَاهِدٌ مِّنْهُ وَمِن قَبْلِهِ كِتَابُ مُوسَىٰ إِمَامًا وَرَحْمَةً ۚ

‘Is he then who has with him clear proof from his Lord, and a witness from Him recites it and before it (is) the Book of Musa, a guide and a mercy?… (Surah Hud (11): 17)

مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ ۖ

‘Of the believers are men who are true to the covenant which they made with Allah…’ (Surah Ahzaab (33): 23)

قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ ۗ

‘…Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives…’ (Surah Shura (42): 23)

(Manaqib-e-Khwaarazmi p 200)

When this verse (Surah Maaidah: 55), proclaiming the virtue of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), was revealed, Hassaan b. Saabit recited an elegy extempore:

وَ كُلُّ بَطِي‏ءٍ فِي الْهُدَى وَ مُسَارِعٌ‏
أَبَا حَسَنٍ تَفْدِيكَ نَفْسِي وَ مُهْجَتِي
As also all the things that fly on the earth. O Abul Hasan, may my life and my blood be sacrificed on you.
وَ مَا الْمَدْحُ فِي جَنْبِ الْإِلَهِ بِضَائِعٍ‏
أَ يَذْهَبُ مَدْحِي وَ الْمُحَبَّرُ ضَائِعاً
By Allah, never! Praise in the way of Allah is never squandered. Will my praise and writing be squandered?
زَكَاةً فَدَتْكَ النَّفْسُ يَا خَيْرَ رَاكِعٍ‏
وَ أَنْتَ الَّذِي أَعْطَيْتَ إِذْ كُنْتَ رَاكِعاً
May the entire nation be sacrificed on you, O the best of bowing ones! You are the one who paid the poor-rate (Zakaat) while bowing.
فَبَيَّنَهَا فِي نَيِّرَاتِ الشَّرَائِع
فَأَنْزَلَ فِيكَ اللَّهُ خَيْرَ وَلَايَةٍ
And they have the most explicit religious laws in their midst. Thus, Allah has bestowed on you the best guardianship (Wilayat).

In addition to the above, the renowned Ahle Sunnah scholar Al Haafiz al Kabir Ubaydillah b. Abdullah b. Ahmad who is more famous as al-Hakim al-Haskaani has documented close to twenty-five traditions related to this verse in his exegesis ‘Shawaahid al-Tanzeel’. All these traditions reiterate that the aforementioned verse was revealed in favour of Ameerul Momineen, Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.).

Despite such irrefutable evidences, some so-called scholars continue to claim that this exegesis is the concoction of the Shias in praise of Ameerul Ali (a.s.). One such person, Ahmad b. Abdil Haleem b. Taimiyyah, known as Ibne Taimiyyah, writes in his book ‘Minhaaj al-Sunnah’:

قَد’ وَضَعَ بَعضُ  الكذابين حَدِيثًا مُفتَرىً أنَ هٰذِهِ الآيٰةَ : ‘‘إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ’’نَزَلَت فِی عَلِیٍ لَمَا تَصَدَقَ بِخَاتِمِه فِي الصَلوٰةِ وَ هٰذَا كِذبٌ بِاِجَمَاعِ اَهلِ العِلمِ بالنَقلِ.

‘Some liars have fabricated the lie that the Quranic verse

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

refers to Ali when he granted the ring to the beggar as charity while engaged in prayers. The consensus of the Ahle Sunnah scholars is that the Shiite claim is false.’

The pride of the scholars of the Shiite creed, the highly knowledgeable, the great striver (in the way of Allah), Shaikh Abdul Husain Amini (r.a.) has given a fitting rebuttal to this preposterous allegation in his invaluable book, Al Ghadeer.

(Al Ghadeer v 3 p 156)

However, the reality is that prejudice and a corrupt disposition blind certain Muslims from the obvious truths. They begin to imagine that traditions that have been related by the immaculate Imams (a.s.) and the memorizers of Quran (Huffaaz) are fabricated. They assume that traditions with chain of narrators terminating at eminent personalities and Salaf-e-Saaleh like Ameerul Momineen, Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.), Ibne Abbas (r.a.), Abu Zarr (r.a.), Ammaar (r.a.), Jaabir b. Abdullah Ansaari (r.a.), Abu Raafe, Anas b. Maalik, Musalma b. Kumail and Abdullah b. Salaam, are a pack of lies and totally unreliable and untenable.

Clearly, Ibne Taimiyyah is way off the mark in his preposterous claims, living up to his reputation as a peddler of the most ludicrous assertions. His tall claims are baseless lacking any merit whatsoever, which should not surprise anyone. Even more laughable is his assertion that all Muslim scholars have a consensus on the interpretation of the 55th verse of Surah Maaidah being a fabrication of the Shias. Only Allah knows which Muslim scholars he is referring to; obviously they don’t exist in this world!

Let us review the scholars who have documented in their books and compilations the fact that the interpretation of the 55th verse of Surah Maaidah refers to none other than Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).

Third Century after Hijrah

Al Qaazi al-Waqedi (died 207 AH)

Haafiz al-Haskaani (died 211 AH)

Haafiz Ibne Abi Shabeeh al-Kufi (died 239 AH)

Abu Jafar al-Iskaafi al-Motazali (died 240 AH)

Haafiz Abu Muhammad al-Kashi (died 249 AH)

Abu Saeed al-Asbah al-Kufi (died 257 AH)

Fourth Century after Hijrah

Haafiz Nesaai in his Saheeh (died 303 H)

The famous historian and interpreter of Quran, Muhammad b. Jarir Tabari (died 310 AH)

Ibne Albi Haatim al-Zaazi (died 328 AH)

Fifth Century after Hijrah

1. Haafiz Abu Bakr Shiraazi (died 407 AH)

2. Haafiz Ibne Mordowayh al-Isfahaani (died 416 AH)

3. Abu Ishaaq al-Saalabi (died 416 AH)

4. Haafiz Abu Noaim al-Isfahaani (died 430 AH)

5. Al-Maawardi al-Faqih al-Shaafei (died 450 AH)

6. Haafiz Abu Bakr al-Baihaqi (died 458 AH)

7. Haafiz Abu Bakr al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi al-Shaafei (died 463 AH)

8. Haafiz Abu Hasan al-Wahidi al-Nishapoori (died 468 AH)

Sixth Century after Hijrah

Al-Faqih Abul Hasan Ali b. Muhammad al-Kiya al-Tabari al-Shaafei (died 504 AH)

Haafiz al-Firaa al-Baghawi al-Shaafei (died 516 AH)

Abul Hasan Razeen b. al-Abdari al-Aandalusi (died 534 AH) in his book Al-Jamo bain al-Sihaah al-Sittah from Saheeh al-Nesaai

Abul Qasim Jaarullah Mahmud al-Zamakhshari al-Kharazmi al-Hanafi (exp 538 A.H.)

Haafiz Samaani al-Shaafei (died 562 AH)

Al-Imam Qurtubbi (died 567 AH)

Ibne Asaakir Demeshqi (died 571 AH)

Haafiz Ibne Jauzi Hanbali (died 597 AH)

It must be noted that this is an abbreviated list of the most prominent scholars. Those who wish to venture into details can refer to the book of al-Ghadeer.

Evidently, Muslim scholars from the third up to the sixth century after Hijrah across the fields of jurisprudence (Fiqh), theology (Kalaam), traditions (Hadis), exegesis (Tafseer), history (Taarikh), etc have a consensus on the fact that the 55th verse of Surah Maaidah refers to none other than Ameerul Momineen, Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.).

To substantiate an allegation falls squarely on the shoulders of the claimant. This raises the question as to why Ibne Taimiyyah has not taken the trouble of advancing evidence of the so-called fabrication of the interpretation of the 55th verse of Surah Maaidah by the Shias. This discussion must be evaluated in the context of Ibne Taimiyyah’s suspect Islamic beliefs to which many of the Ahle Sunnah scholars both old and new have vehemently testified. Many of these scholars have even taken the extreme step of pronouncing him an apostate. Of course, this is an independent topic that will be tackled on a different occasion. Unfortunately, such decrees and charges leveled against Ibne Taimiyyah have not prevented his followers from decorating him with titles like Shaikh al-Islam and adopting his twisted beliefs as a way of life.

It should also not be lost on the readers that those who claim to swear by the righteous companions (Salaf-e-Saaleh) have in fact rejected the traditions narrated by these very personalities to massage their egos and selfish desires. In effect, the Salaf-e-Saaleh is reduced to being a slogan and an eyewash for an unsuspecting populace.

We supplicate to Allah to give us success in following the true Salaf-e-Saaleh viz. the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his successors, the immaculate Imams (a.s.).

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.