ibn Taymiyyah

Characteristics of a Wali of Allah

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah

[This article is adapted from his Book “Criterion between the Allies of Allah and the allies of the Devil”]

From As-Sunnah Bimonthly Islamic Newsletter

The word ‘Awliya’ singular ‘wali’ comes from the root word of wilaya. Wilaya is the opposite of enmity (adawaa). The Wali is therefore the one who is close.

Allah has explained in His Book, and in the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) that He has awliya among the people and that shaitaan also has his awliya. The Qur’aan mentions the allies of Allah.

“Indeed there is no fear upon the awliya of Allah, nor shall they grieve; those who believe and used to fear Allah much. For them are glad tidings in this life and the Hereafter…” [Soorah Yunus (10): 62]

“Allah is the protector (ally) of those who believe, He takes them out of darkness into light.” [Soorah Baqarah (2): 257]

The allies of devil have also been mentioned in the Qur’aan: “…As for those who disbelieve, their allies are the taaghoot who take them out of the light and into the darkness. Those are the people of fire, and they will be in it forever.” [Soorah Baqarah (2): 257]

“We have made the devils allies of those who do not believe; those who commit outrages and then say: “We found our predecessors on this (tradition)” Surely they have taken the devils as allies instead of Allah, and they think that they are on guidance” [Soorah Al-A’raf (7): 27-28]

After knowing that there are among people allies of the Merciful and the allies of the devil, it becomes very important to differentiate between these groups by means of the criterion, as described by Allah and His Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) as follows: .

The First and Foremost Condition of an Ally of Allah – Taqwa and Belief in Allah –

No slave can be an ally of Allah, unless he has the characteristics of faith and pious practices, since Allah has made faith and piety a pre-condition for His Wilaya. He said: “Indeed there is no fear upon the awliya of Allah, nor shall they grieve, those who believe and used to fear Allah much (i.e. have Taqwa – piety). For them are glad tidings in this life and the Hereafter…” [Yunus (10): 62]

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) said:
“Allah, the Exalted said: “Whoever takes a Wali (loyal slave) of Mine as an enemy, I will wage war on him; and My slave will not perform any act with which he draws closer to Me, more beloved to Me then when he fulfills what I have ordained on him; and My salve will keep drawing closer to Me by performing the Nawafil (voluntary acts of worship) until I love him, and when I love him, I will be his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his legs with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him; and if he seeks refuge with Me, I will grant him refuge.” [Saheeh Bukhari]

From this narration and the above-mentioned Qur’aanic verse, we know that the Awliya of Allah are those who believe in Allah and give Him their full loyalty Thus, they love all that Allah loves, hate what Allah hates, are pleased with what Allah is pleased with, despise what Allah despises, they enjoin what Allah enjoins, forbid that what He forbids, give to those whom Allah loves for them to be given, and withhold from those whom Allah loves not to receive, since Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) explained the best handhold of faith to be love and hate for the sake of Allah: “The most dependable handhold on faith is: love for the sake of Allah and hatred for the sake of Allah.” [At-Tirmidhee]

“Whoever loves for Allah, hates for Allah, gives for Allah, and withholds for Allah, has sought the completion of his faith.” [Abu Dawood]

Belief (imaan) of necessity entails belief in Allah, His angels, His books, His Prophets, and the Last Day:
“Say: We believe in Allah and in that which has been sent to us and in that which was sent to Ibrahim, and Ismail and Ishaq and Ya’qub, and the tribes and that which was given to Moosa and Isa and that which was given to the Prophets form their Lord. We do not differentiate between any of them, and we submit to Allah. And so, if they believe in that which you believe, they have achieved guidance, but if they turn away, they are surely in rebellion. Allah will suffice you against them and He is the all-hearing, the all-knowing.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 136-137]

“The Prophet has believed in that which is sent to him from his Lord as have the believers. All of them believe in Allah, His angels, His books and His Messengers. We do not differentiate between any of His messengers, and they say: “We hear and we obey. (We seek)Your forgiveness, our Lord to You is the return (of all). Allah does not burden any soul beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned.” [Soorah Baqarah (2): 285-6]

“This is a book in which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who are pious. Those who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them. Those who believe in that which was sent down to you and that which was sent down to those before you, and certainly of faith in the existence of the Hereafter. Such are on a true guidance from their Lord, and such are the successful.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 1-5]

Thus, a necessary component of faith (eeman) is to believe that Muhammad (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) is the seal of the prophets, and there is no prophet after him, and that Allah sent him to all of the two possessors of free will: humans and jinns. From the moment he was made a prophet, Allah made him the criterion between His allies and His enemies, none are the allies of Allah except one who believes in Muhammad (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) and in that with which he was sent, and follows it openly and in secret. Whoever claims love of Allah and alliance with Allah but does not follow the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) is not one of the allies of Allah. He is one of the allies of shaitaan.

Allah said: “Say (O Mohammad) If you truly love Allah, then follow me so that Allah loves you.” [Al-Imraan (3): 31]

Allah made it clear in the verse that Allah loves whoever follows the Prophet, and whoever claims the love of Allah, but does not follow the Prophet, is not from the allies of Allah. Al-Hasan al-Basri said about this verse: “A group of people claimed to love Allah, so He sent down this verse as a test for them.”

And secondly to believe in all that which he (Prophet) was sent with. Anyone who does not believe in it is not a believer, much less a pious ally of (waly) of Allah. Whoever believes in part of what he brought and rejects part is a kaafir, and not a believer:

“Those who disbelieve in Allah and His Prophets and seek to differentiate between Allah and His prophets, and they say: “We believe in some and we reject some” Such are true disbelievers, and We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment. As for those who believe in Allah and His prophets, and sought not to differentiate between any of them. We shall give them their rewards. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful.” [(4): 150-152]

Whatever stage the person reaches in terms of asceticism, devotion, and knowledge, but without belief in the entire message brought by Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), it can never make him a believer, nor an ally of Allah. Allah said: “Whoever turns away from the reminder of the Merciful, we will assign to him a devil, who will be a partner to him.” [(43): 36]

The reminder is the reminder with which He sent His Messenger such as the Qur’aan. So, whoever does not believe in the Qur’aan, and all the information contained therein, has turned away from it, and so is assigned a shaitaan. He turns himself as blind from the Book of Allah and Allah will turn him blind on the Day of Judgment:

“And whoever turns away form my reminder will have an oppressive, restricted life, and We will resurrect him on the Day of Qiyamah: blind. He will say: “Oh my Lord! Why have you resurrected my blind, while I used to see?” (Allah) will say: “Just as My verses came to you and you forgot them, today you are forgotten.” [Soorah Ta-Ha (20): 124-126]

This verse clearly shows that ‘my reminder’ here is the same thing as ‘my verses’ which Allah sent down. Thus, even if someone mentions Allah (which is known as ‘dhikr’ in Arabic) constantly, day and night, with devotion, but at the same time is not a follower of Allah’s dhikr (Qur’aan) which He sent down to His prophet, he would be one of the allies of shaitaan, even if he were to fly through the air, or walk on water.

Faith also includes – belief that Prophet is the intermediary between Allah and His creation for the purpose of delivering His orders and forbiddance, His promises and threats, and the definition of Halaal and the Haraam. The Halaal is that which Allah and His Messenger have declared Halaal, and the Haraam is what Allah and His Messenger have ordained, because Allah commands the believers to obey him:

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and Obey the Messenger and make not vain your deeds.” [Soorah Muhammad (47): 33]

“He who obeys the Messenger had obeyed Allah” [Soorah An-Nisa (4): 80]

He also says: “Whatsoever the Messenger gives you take it and whatsoever he forbids you refrain from it.”

Thus, whoever believes that any waly has a way to Allah without following the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) is a kaafir, and is an ally of the devil.

Actions of the Allies of Allah

The allies of Allah are of two levels: forerunners those who brought near – and those of the right hand who act in moderation. Allah, the Exalted says reminding the Day of Judgement: “And you (all) will be in three kinds (i.e separate groups). So those on the Right Hand and Who will be those of the Right Hand? And those on the Left Hand and who will be those on the Left Hand? And those foremost will be foremost in Paradise. They will be those nearest to Allah.” [Soorah al-Waqiyah (56): 8-12]

And again Allah says in the end of the same Soorah: “Then, if the dying person be of the Muqarraboon (those brought near to Allah.) (There is for him) rest and provision, and a Garden of delights (Paradise). And if he be of those on the Right Hand. Then there is safety and peace for those on the Right Hand. But if he be of the denying then for him is entertainment with boiling water. And burning in Hell-Fire.” [(56): 88-94]

And the actions of these two groups are mentioned in the Hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam):
“Allah says: “Whoever takes a Wali (loyal slave) of Mine an enemy, I will wage war on him; and My slave will not perform any act with which he draws closer to Me, more beloved to Me then when he fulfills what I have ordained on him; and My salve will keep drawing closer to Me by performing the Nawafil (voluntary acts of worship) until I love him, and when I love him, I will be his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his legs with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him; and if he seeks refuge with Me, I will grant him refuge.” [Saheeh Bukharee]

Consequently, the righteous – those of the Right Hand are those who seek to come close to Allah with obligatory actions: they do that which Allah has ordered them to do, and avoid that which Allah has forbidden them, and do not demand of themselves the doing of the commendable but less than obligatory (i.e. mandoob), or the avoiding of some of the disrecommendable of the allowed (i.e. makrooh)

As for the forerunners those brought near, they sought to come close to Allah with extra efforts after the obligatory. They did the obligatory and the commendable, and avoided the forbidden and the non-recommended. When they sought to come close to Him with everything within their ability of that which they love, Allah’s love for them became complete, as Allah says: “…My salve will keep drawing closer to Me by performing the Nawafil (voluntary acts of worship) until I love him…” [Saheeh Bukharee]

The Allies of Allah have no Special Appearance

The allies of Allah have no special appearance with which they differ form other people. They have no special dress from other than just being permissible. Rather, they are to be found in all categories of the nation of Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam). However, the Qur’aan and the Sunnah show clearly that the best people in the sight of Allah is the one with the most of Taqwa (pious practice):

“O people, we have created you from a male and a female and made you in peoples and tribes that you may know each other. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the greatest in righteous practice.” [Soorah al-Hujarat (49): 13]

Abu Hurairah narrates in a Saheeh Hadeeth: “The Prophet of Allah (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) was asked: “Which people are the best? He said: “Those greatest in taqwa (righteous practice)”… [Bukhareee and Muslim]

Allies of Allah are not ma’soom (protected) from mistakes

It is not a condition for an ally of Allah that he be free of (protected from) mistakes and errors. It is quite possible that some knowledge of the shari’ah may be hidden from him, just as it is possible for him to be confused about some issues in Islam But, he may not necessarily because of this, leave the ranks of allies of Allah, since Allah has overlooked and forgiven for this Ummah error, acts of forgetting, and things done under compulsion:

“There is no burden upon you for that in which you were mistaken, rather that which you have done with the full determination of the heart.” [Soorah Ahzab (33): 5]

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: “When a ruler exerts himself to arrive at the correct ruling, and is correct, he gets two rewards and when he exerts himself but is mistaken, he gets one reward.” [Bukharee and Muslim]

Since, it is possible for any ally of Allah to make a mistake. It can never be obligatory upon the people to believe in everything any one of them says, except that in the case that one of them is a prophet. Rather, it is obligatory for him to measure all of that up to the criterion of that which the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) brought. If it is in agreement therewith then he can accept it, but if it is in disagreement then he must reject it, and if he cannot be sure whether it is in accordance with the Prophet’s message or at variance with it, he must refrain from believing it or applying it.

The second Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), regarding whom Prophet of Allah (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: “In previous nations there were individuals who were addressed (with the truth). If there are such people in my nation, Umar is the one of them.” [Bukharee and Muslim]

“Verily, Allah has put the truth on the tongue of Umar and in his heart.” [At- Tirmidhee (hasan)]

But, Umar always did that which was obligatory upon him: i.e. – to measure things that occurred to him against that with which the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam) was sent. He never said: “I am mahaddath, I receive inspiration and visions, and so you should accept that which I say and not oppose me therein.”

Heart is an intuitions and not protected from falling into errors, and so one needs always to measure them against that which has been brought by the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa-sallam), the protected from falling into error. And the early scholars of Islam have unanimously agreed that the opinions of any man can be accepted and rejected i.e. they are open to questions except for the statements of the Prophet.

The point we are making here is an issue of complete consensus of the allies of Allah:

It is obligatory upon the allies of Allah to hold tight to the criterion; the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, and no one of them is ma’soom; i.e. protected against falling into errors, such that it is permissible to him or to his followers to follow that which comes to his heart without subjecting it to the test of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Whoever does not accept this is in no way or shape or form among the allies of Allah, whom Allah has ordered us to emulate. Such a person is either ‘kafir’ or is engaged in extreme and excessive foolishness and ignorance.

Forgiveness: The Mark of a Believer

by Shaykhu-l-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH / 1328 CE)

With the Name of Allâh, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy. Indeed Allâh – to whom belongs all praise – has bestowed upon me immense grace, great favours and generous blessings which necessitates immense gratitude, being firm upon obedience to Him, and becoming accustomed to having beautiful patience in that which He ordered. Indeed, a servant is ordered to have sabr (patience) in times of ease more so than in times of hardship. Allâh – the Most High – said:

“But if we let man taste the good favours after poverty and harm has touched him, he is sure to boastfully say: Harm has departed from me. Indeed he is exultant, boastful and ungrateful to Allâh, Except those who show patience and do deeds of righteousness and obedience to Allâh, for them will be forgiveness and a great reward.” [Sûrah Hûd 11:10-11].

And you all know that Allâh – the Most Perfect – has blessed this affair [2] with such blessings which contain the means to aid His Religion, raise high His Word, aid His Army, and grant honour to His Awliyâ (pious and righteous servants). It is also the cause for strengthening Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamâ’ah and causing humiliation to the people of innovations and sectarianism. Likewise, it is also the cause for affirming that which has been affirmed by yourselves from the Sunnah (regarding the truth of this matter), and a cause for increasing this by opening up the avenues of guidance, victory and proofs: such that the truth becomes known to the people, who none but Allâh can enumerate. It is also a cause for the masses to begin to accept the way of the Sunnah and the Jamâ’ah; as well as countless other favours. All of this must therefore be accompanied by immense gratitude to Allâh, as well as having patience – even ii this patience is in times of ease.

And you all know that from the great principles which sum up the Religion is: Uniting the hearts, unifying the word, and reconcilination between each other, as Allâh – the Most High – said:

“So fear and obey Allâh, and reconcile the matters of differences between yourselves.” [Sûrah al-Anfâl 8:10].

“And hold fast altogether to the rope of Allâh and do not split-up.” [Sûrah آl-‘lmrân 3:103].

“And do not be like those who split-up and differed after the clear proofs came to them. For those there will be a severe punishment.” [Sûrah آl-‘lmrân 3:105].

And other examples like this from the texts (of Revelation), which order us with the Jamâ’ah (unity upon the way of the Companions) and coming together, and prohibit splitting and differing. And the people who most exemplify this principle are Ahlul-Jamâ’ah (the people of the Jamâ’ah); just as the people who most exemplify leaving it are the people of sectarianism.

And that which sums up the Sunnah is: Obedience to the Messenger. This is why the Prophet sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

“Indeed Allâh is pleased with three things: That you worship Allâh alone without associating any partner along with Him; that you holdfast all together to the Rope of Allâh and not to become split-up; and that you give sincere advice to whomsoever Allâh put in charge of your affairs.” [3]

And in the Sunan collections from the hadîth of Zayd ibn Thâbit and Ibn Mas’ûd – who were both great fuqahâ (Scholars of deep understanding) – who relate that the Prophet sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

“May Allâh enliven whosoever hears my words, memorises them and then conveys them to others. Many a carrier of knowledge does not understand it, and many a carrier of knowledge conveys it to one who has better understanding. There are three things which the heart of a Believer has no malice about: Sincerity for Allâh in one’s action; sincere advice to those in authority and clinging to the Jamâ’ah.” [4]

And his saying: ” has no malice ” means not having any contempt for them. So the heart of a Muslim does not hate these characteristics. On the contrary, it loves them and is pleased with them.

So the first thing which I shall begin with regarding this principle is what is connected to myself. So you all know – may Allâh be pleased with you all – that I do not desire any harm at all – inwardly or outwardly – for anyone from the general masses of the Muslims, let alone our colleagues and companions. Nor do I harbour any ill-feeling towards anyone of them, nor do I blame them for anything at all. Rather, to me they are deserving of nobility, love, honour and respect, over and over – each in accordance with their level. And a person cannot be except (one of three types): Someone who sincerely strives to ascertain the truth; and is correct, or one who sincerely strives to ascertain the truth; but errs, or a sinful person. As for the first, then he is rewarded and thanked. The second is rewarded for his ijtihâd (striving to ascertain the truth), and is forgiven and excused for his error. As for the third, then may Allâh forgive us, and him, and all the Believers.

So we should not try to dwell upon the words of those who opposed this fundamental; by saying that so and so is deficient, or so and so did not act, or so and so was the cause of harm to the Shaykh, or was the reason why all this occurred, or so and so used to speak about the plots of so and so; and other such similar statements which contain criticism of some of our colleagues and brothers. For indeed do not allow them to harm the brothers and colleagues in this manner, and there is no might, nor any power except with Allâh. [5] Rather, the likes of this criticism actually returns to the one who said it in the first place, unless he has good deeds by which Allâh will forgive him – if He wills – and indeed Allâh does forgive that which has preceded. And you also all know about the harsh treatment that was given to some of the brothers in Damascus, and that which occurs even now in Egypt. This – in reality – is not due to a deficiency or shortcoming in the brothers, nor has it occurred because we have changed our views and hate them. Rather, such people, after receiving such harsh treatment increase in the status, love and respect that we have for them. For indeed the likes of these trials are beneficial to the Believers, because Allâh corrects and improves them due to it. Since the Believer to another Believer is like each of a pair of hands, each washes the other. However, it sometimes happens that dirt cannot be removed except with a certain amount of roughness, but that brings about cleanliness and softness, for which that roughness is praised … You (also) all know that much of what has occurred in this matter were lies, false accusations, false suspicions, and the following of false desires, the likes of which cannot be described. So all those lies and false accusations that were directed against me, are actually a source of goodness and blessing for me. Allâh – the Most High – said:

“Indeed those who brought forward the lie are a small group amongst you. However, do not think that it is an evil for you. rather, it is good for you. And every person amongst them will be paid the sin of what they earned. And as for the one who took on the leading role in this, his will be a severe punishment.” [Sûrah an-Nûr 24:11].

So through such trials, Allâh manifests the light of truth and its clear proofs, which repel the falsehood and lies. So I do not desire to take revenge upon any of those who lied against me, or oppressed me, or showed enmity and hatred towards me. For indeed I forgive every Muslim, and I love only the good for them, and I desire for every Muslim the good that I desire for myself As for those who lied and did wrong, then I have excused and forgiven them. However, whatever is connected to violating the Rights of Allâh in this affair, then they should seek tawbah (repentance). So if they turn to Allâh in repentance, then Allâh will turn to them in forgiveness, otherwise the Judgement of Allâh will apply to them. So if a person were to be thanked for his evil actions, then I thank all those who were the cause for this (trial) to happen to me – for it entails all the good of this world and the Hereafter. However, Allâh is thanked for His good blessings and favours by which no affair happens to a Believer, except that there is good for him in it. And the people of good intentions are thanked for their intentions, and the people of good actions are thanked for their actions. And as for those who did evil – then we ask Allâh that He turns to them in forgiveness. And you all know that this is from my nature and character.

Likewise, you all know that Abu Bakr as-Siddîq radiAllâhu ‘anhu, concerning the matter of al-lfq (the Lie against ‘آishah, his daughter, and wife of the Prophet sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), about which Allâh revealed some Verses of the Qur’ân, so he swore that he would not give any more charity to Mistâh ibn Athâthah; because Mistâh was one of those who participated in the Lie. So Allâh revealed:

“And let not those amongst you who have been blessed with grace and wealth swear not to give any help or support to their relatives, or to the poor and needy, or to those who migrated in the path of Allâh. Rather, let them pardon and be forgiving. Do you not love that Allâh should forgive you? And Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sûrah an-Nûr 24:22].

So when this Verse was revealed, Abu Bakr radiAllâhu ‘anhu said: “Rather, by Allâh! I love that Allâh should forgive me.” So he continued to give to Mistâh the aid and charity that he used to give before. [6]

So with forgiveness and kind treatment towards one another, and doing Jihâd (fighting and striving) in Allâh’s Path, then it is a must that:

“Allâh will bring a people whom He will love, and they will love Him; soft, humble and gentle with the Believers, stern towards the unbelievers, fighting in the path of Allâh, and never afraid of the blame of the blamers. That is the Grace of Allâh which He bestows upon whosoever He Wills. And Allâh suffices for the needs of His creation, the All-Knower. Indeed your Walî (protector and guardian) is Allâh, His Messenger, and the Believers; those who offer the Prayer correctly, and give Zakâh, and who bow down in obedience to Allâh. And whosoever takes Allâh, and His Messenger, and the Believers as protectors and guardians, then it is the party of Allâh who will be victorious.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah 5:53-55].

1. Majmû’ Fatâwâ (28/50-57), slightly abridged.

2. The affair being referred to is the first of Ibn Taymiyyah’s unjust imprisonment – a period of one and a half years, in the year 705H – which occurred due to some lies and false accusations against him.

3. Related by Muslim (3/1340) and Ahmad (2/367).

4. Sahîh: Related by Ahmad (4/80) and Ibn Mâjah (no.230). It was authenticated by al-Albânî in as-Sahîhah (no.404).

5. This is in reference to some of their colleagues and brothers in Damascus, who weakened during this ordeal, and did not remain firm upon the correct methodology. So Ibn Taymiyyah is prohibiting any of his students and collegues from harming them in any way, and makes an excuse for them, and explains that he bears no ill-feeling or hatred in his heart towards any of them. Rather, he makes it clear that he has respect for them, and loves them for the sake of Allâh.

6. Related by al-Bukhârî (no.4757)


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