All about the awliya’ (part 1)
Abu Hurairah May Allah be pleased with him reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
قَالَ اللَّهَ تعالى:”مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا فَقَدْ آذَنْتُهُ بِالْحَرْبِ وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا وَإِنْ سَأَلَنِي لَأُعْطِيَنَّهُ وَلَئِنْ اسْتَعَاذَنِي لَأُعِيذَنَّهُ وَمَا تَرَدَّدْتُ عَنْ شَيْءٍ أَنَا فَاعِلُهُ تَرَدُّدِي عَنْ نَفْسِ الْمُؤْمِنِ يَكْرَهُ الْمَوْتَ وَأَنَا أَكْرَهُ مَسَاءَتَهُ”. رواه البخاري.
Allah Almighty said: Whoever shows hostility to a waliy ( a close person to Allah) of mine, I have declared war upon him. My servant does not grow closer to me with anything more beloved to me than the duties I have imposed upon him. My servant continues to grow closer to me with extra good works until I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something from me, I would surely give it to him. Were he to ask me for refuge, I would surely grant it to him. I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death and I hate to displease him. (Bukhari)
Who is the waliy ‘?
In Arabic we say, الوَلْيُ: القُرب. al walyu al qurbu – a ‘waliy’ is one who is close to Allah Almighty, from walyu which means closeness (qurb). The plural of waliy is Awliya’.
Limitations of language
The translation of waliy as friendship doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t give the full weight of what ‘waliy’ means. That is why some words are better kept in Arabic, and explained, rather than translated.
The word taqwa, pops up in the Quran 258 times, and can’t be translated as ‘God-fearing’ every time, because God-fearing or piety as they do not give the full extent of its meaning, so I prefer to keep the word taqwa in Arabic. You cannot confine its meaning to one word; it has more dimensions than that. When we say, ‘Behave with taqwa’ its meaning changes depending on the context of the ayah.
Do the awliya’ know they are awliya’?
Some awliya’ are aware that they are, but not all of them. The irony or the beauty is that those who may not know themselves, might be known by others, who recognize them, despite their not knowing.
Gifts from the unseen
While prophets and messengers come with the divine message, supported by miracles. When it is granted to a prophet (nabi) it is called a mu’jiza, however when it is granted to a waliy it is called a karama, which are essentially gifts from Allah.
Scholars say whatever miracle is possible for a nabi is possible as a karama for a waliy afterwards. It is a very common phenomenon.
Scholars divided these uncommon actions into 5 types:
- Mu’jiza (miracle) for prophets (anbiya)
- Karamah (gift) for the awliya’ (those close to Allah)
- I’anah (support) for the righteous
- Ihana (insult)
- Takzeeb (lie)
Mu’jiza and Karamah
These are strange occurrences, which break the natural course of events, for instance. This also happens to some people who are not awliya’, or prophets. How come? We hear about strange incidents at time, for instance in India, Italy, and so on. These events are neither karama, nor mu’jiza. What are they? They are ihana.
Karamah from karam (meaning generosity) is a supernatural gift from Allah, but ihana is the opposite of generosity, it is an insult. It is the opposite of what the person wanted.
For instance, some opponents of Islam experienced this, like Musailama, who claimed that he was a prophet during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He heard that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had spat in the well and turned its salt water sweet. So he copied him, and spat in the well but its salt water became saltier! The opposite of what he intended. This is why, though it is supernatural, it is called ‘ihana’.
The importance of karamah
The Quran and sunnah are full of narrations about the awliya’, righteous people and there were plenty of different karamas which occurred.
كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا الْمِحْرَابَ وَجَدَ عِندَهَا رِزْقًا ۖ قَالَ يَا مَرْيَمُ أَنَّىٰ لَكِ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَتْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ
Whenever Zechariah entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, “O Mary, where did you get this from?” She said, “It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without reckoning.” (3:37).
People love to hear about the supernatural, superpowers, and superheroes, but karama are not that as important as they seem to us. Scholars say: ‘A karama for the waliy is like a doll for the baby.’ It is a bonus, not their ultimate aim. Their aim is their closeness with Allah.
For this reason, they do not pray salah to gain the karama. If that was their intention, they would not get the karama in the first place.
The scholars used to say: الاستقامة هي عين الكرامة, Istiqamah being on the straight path is the real Karama.
When your intention is to become closer to Allah, then whatever Allah gives to you, comes naturally. And the moment you achieve this closeness then as Allah promised in this hadith:
Whatever you ask, He will give to you.
Of course it goes without saying, whatever you ask has to be in compliance with the shariah, and what Allah gives you is in accordance with your destiny.
Love of the angels
Allah Almighty mentioned that we come closer to Him by performing the obligations and then nawafil until Allah loves us. This is the core of the whole hadith.
If Allah loves somebody, Jibril and all the angels also love them. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
When Allah loves a servant, he calls Jibril and he says: Verily, I love this person so you should love him. Then Jibril loves him and makes an announcement in the heavens, saying: Allah loves this person and you should love him. Thus, the dwellers of the heavens love him and he is honored on the earth. (Bukhari)
Not only do the dwellers of the heavens love them, but people on earth will also love him and wherever they go, the affairs of the awliya’ are sorted out and facilitated for them. This does not mean in any shape or form that they won’t face difficulties, – they will still miss the bus and be tested. They will. However, in general Allah will facilitate their concerns.
The four imams
We can see from the legacy of the four great imams, Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i and Ahmad that were loved by Allah, by the fact that He granted them the acceptance (qabul) of the whole ummah. This is an obvious karama for them. Even their enemies, appreciate that they are great imams and that we can learn from them and so on.
The clear path
The fruits of Allah’s love are not easy to get but also not impossible to achieve, but Allah Almighty has shown us the clear path – through the faraid, (the obligations) first, and then nawafil (extra acts of voluntary worship). Not through hanky-panky, or jumping in circles. These are not the way to become closer to Allah. You have to stick to what has been prescribed by the Quran and the sunnah, by what the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught the ummah.
I will not argue with those people, who do dhikr while jumping up and down, but I do not subscribe to or endorse this style of dhikr.
Having the hearing and sight of Allah
When Allah loves someone, He has told us that He becomes their hearing and sight. These are our main faculties. Our sight, hearing, tongue, and limbs are essential for us to function.
In some other narrations, these faculties include our heart and our mind. First we have a thought, then we follow it by an action. As long as you keep performing the ‘faraid’ and the ‘nawafil’ these faculties will be blessed.
As Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
‘If there was a river at your door and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?’ They said, ‘Not a trace of dirt would be left.’ The Prophet said, ‘That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins.’ (Bukhari)
Therefore performing the salah is like being washed five times a day, and more by the extra voluntary prayers, and his mind, his sight, his heart, his hearing, his tongue, his foot, his hand will be engaged with what pleases Allah.
This is ‘tawallallah’, تولى الله drawing closer to Allah Almighty. In return, He will ‘yatawallak’ يتولاك draw Himself closer to you. And you will have His love. This is the ultimate aim of every worshipper is to have Allah’s Almighty love.
This hadith gives us the formula: when you do what is required from your side, Allah Almighty fulfills His promise. Do it with the right intention, and the right actions.
In general Muslims don’t talk about love much. Even the study of the seerah is often a study of war and battles, Badr, Uhud and Khandak… rather than the supreme character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or the manifestation of his character throughout the seerah.
The reality is that the total time spent in battles amounts to one year of his life. Yet he lived for 23 years after revelation, so what happened in those 22 years? The real seerah is his biography, not a compilation of battles.
In the beginning of the compilation of seerah wasn’t called seerah, it was called ‘Maghazi Rasul Allah’ of the Prophet (peace be upon him)’. Maghazi means battles and expeditions. However maghazi is not seerah. Seerah is his way of life. You cannot summarise his life as a series of battles.
Follow the role model
When we talk about closeness to Allah Almighty, it comes through the role model, the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is the way to be close to Allah Almighty. This is the only way. There is no other way. That’s it. Allah has sent us Muhammad (peace be upon him) to show us the way.
Otherwise He could left us to figure it out ourselves and navigate our way, without Google maps. But He wanted us to know the right path through Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Know the seerah
Alhamdullilah we have plenty of new books written about his seerah, which are very good. I always recommend ‘Our Master Muhammad’, by our Shaykh rahimahullah Abdullah Siraj. It’s been translated to English 2 volumes.
The other one is Muhammad Abu Shuhbah has also written well about the seerah, in which he refutes the accusations of orientalists. And Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, (rahimahullah) who was a heavy weight scholar, has written a beautiful book.
In addition there are 4 volumes by Muhammad al- Sadiq Urjun : (Muhammad Rasulullah) which is new style, with authentication.
Have the right intention
In our circle, some students came to our Shaykh, and said they prayed few rakahs during the night and they felt like they were flying and illuminated by light, but the next day they didn’t feel it. The Shaykh smiled, he said that the first night they were sincere, so they felt it, but the next night their intention was to get that feeling again, not for Allah’s sake. This is why they didn’t get it. Intention is a very, very crucial element in acceptance.
Allah grants special powers
Allah gives special powers to certain awliya’, not all of them, to see or do things which others can’t see or do.
I can tell you this my first hand observations of our shuyukh. Allah Almighty enabled us to meet such people and it’s amazing, but very scary. You sit with them, and it is as if they see straight into your heart. If you did something wrong, like argue with your mother or father, some of them would know it straight away, and drop hints about it.
We once took a friend to our Shaykh Yunus rahimallah. He was not a Shaykh of knowledge but he was a Shaykh of ‘tarbiyah’. His spirituality was exceptional, but if someone ever asked him about fatwas he would point to us and say we were the knowledge seekers. And it was not his specialty.
The Shaykh started to say odd things tomato and tomato soup, he was a funny Shaykh, sometimes he cracked jokes when you were down, to make you smile. So we thought he was being funny, but we saw our friend changing colour. As we were leaving, he asked us ‘How did he know I had an argument with my mum and I threw the tomato and tomato soup on the floor? How did he know this?’ He was giving him a subtle lesson how to behave and respect his mother.
The karamat of Maryam
Thus Allah gives them special powers. Such as Maryam. The majority opinion is that she is not a prophet nabiyyah, (with some opinions who say she is), but if you go with the majority opinion she was not, she was given the karama of food from the unseen, which Allah Almighty mentions in the Quran.
So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariyya. Every time he entered the Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: ‘O Maryam! From where did you get this’She said, ‘This is from Allah.’Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit. (3:37)
The karamat of Suleman (peace be on him)
And the story of Sulaiman (peace be on him) who asked for the throne of Bilqis to be brought, and within the blink of an eye it was transported to him, by a waliy:
He said: ‘O chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience? An Ifrit (strong one) from the jinn said: I will bring it to you before you rise from your place (council). And verily, I am indeed strong, and trustworthy for such work.’One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: ‘I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!’ Then when he [Sulaiman (Solomon)] saw it placed before him (27:38-40)
In the travel dua we say the line:
Allaahumma hawwin ‘alayna safarana haathaa watwi ‘annaa bu’dahu,
O Allah, lighten this journey for us and fold the space/distance for us.
The journey to bring the throne (1400m) would have taken a month and miles to bring, but it was brought in seconds. Allah is the Creator. He can enable him or her to do these kinds of things
In the story of Musa and al Khidr from surat al Kahf, al Khdir is not a nabi, though some scholars think he is, but he was given plenty of karama.
Why does Allah give karamat to awliya’ ( I will be his hearing and his sight)
These are obvious karamat. Many companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) experience these too because Allah allowed them to hear and see things that ordinary people cannot hear or see due to their piety. This is one interpretation.
Another interpretation is that those who are engaged in worshipping Allah much, only see what pleases Him, and hear what pleases Him. This is also a good and deep explanation.
When awliya’ are falsely accused
Sometimes the awliya’ come under attack. They may experience accusations against them out of envy or disagreements, or become the victims of social media campaigns. If they are innocent, and they are from the awliya’, Allah will respond to their dua. Ibn Abi ad Dunya compiled a book called Mustajabu ad dawa about those whose duas were accepted. It is very scary. If a waliy makes a dua against you, you will perish.
Who is a waliy? You can’t tell. This is the point. Don’t wrong anyone, because you do not know who is a waliy and who isn’t. If you wrong someone, seek their forgiveness. Allah did not reveal the identity of the majority of His awliya’ or the hour of acceptance of dua, to keep us busy asking, and He did not reveal Laylatul Qadr, to keep us seeking it. Some are well known, but most are hidden. They might be the person sitting next to you, or the grocery shop keeper or a nurse in the hospital or even your spouse.
The awliya’ are hidden
Shaykh Yunus rahimahullah, whom I mentioned earlier, said, ‘The awliya’, O my son, Awliya’ of today are different. They might wear ties.’ Later I understood that you cannot recognise a waliy from his clothes and his beard. Don’t think a waliy has patches on his clothes and long beard, long tasbih. He might be very handsome, with a tie, without a beard even. You never know. It took me a while to appreciate this.
Tawallla allah yatawalak Allah – Make Allah your priority, Allah will look after you.
What is wilayah? Those whom Allah Almighty is looking after. Put Allah first, and He will watch your back. That is the secret of wilayah.
A man once told his story. He used to go to work everyday and on his way back, he always saw a poor, old lady selling vegetables. He would usually give her a lift on his way back. In this country you don’t do this. You can’t stop and ask somebody if they need a lift. But in Lebanon its pretty common to stop and give a lift to a stranger.
One day, as he was dropping her off, she could see that he was very sad. So she asked him what the matter was. He had a very difficult and complicated case in court which he couldn’t resolve. He had been suffering for more than a month but no one could sort it out. The moment he said this, the woman adjusted her position, raised her hands in dua, leaned towards the window and said sternly, ‘I beg You, Now! Resolve it for him.’
He was shocked at her tone. How could she talk to Allah like this? But that very night, Allah Almighty resolved his tricky court case. This lady, who had just been selling vegetables, had this closeness to Allah Almighty. And Allah Almighty responded to her dua immediately. Our Shaykh called such people the mudalalun ala allah – the pampered and favoured by Allah. Because they are like the favourites of Allah. He grants them what they want. Some might ask why was this woman so poor, when she could have had anything from Allah. The reason is that she was satisfied with what she had, and she doesn’t want more than that. Also she knew the limits of what to ask for.
Seeing wilaya first hand from our Shaykh
Shaykh Yunus rahimahullah, himself was from amongst the awliya’. We were his students, and one day during Ramadan, our landlord told us to vacate his property as soon as possible so he could use it for his son.
We had nowhere to go so we were sad. Shaykh Yunus asked us what the matter was and we told him. He said, ‘Easy, easy, after Eid, after Eid.’
We went back to Beirut, and after Eid we returned to Damascus, out of the blue, our friend came and said, ‘I have found you a new room. Come, come. Bring your stuff and I’ll move you to your new room’ Just like that.
How did he know? Such people have a special connection with Allah and you feel it. When you sit with these people, you feel the barakah of their presence, even if they do not speak.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked:
‘Which of our companions are best?’
He replied: ‘One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.’ Narrated by Al-Bazzar.
The moment you see them, you remember Allah. Without them saying anything. You learn from their haal before their qaal. Their presence before their speech.
So be careful, not to underestimate the power of their dua.
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim to the Watford Hadith Circle as part of Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith
Transcribed by Rose Swinburn
November 24, 2023
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