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). (Quran, 5:55)
According to Islamic principles and wisdom, in every stage and aspect of his life a person should obey his creator, Allah. For in every moment of a person’s life, one is merely dependent on Allah. None of us is aware of his near future and thus does not know what does happen in the next moments of his life, but the Almighty Allah, who has created us, is aware of the smallest secrets of our nature. He knows the origin and destination of our creation and because of this, our wisdom leads us to Him. He offers nothing else than absolute blessings to His creatures, because He does not need anything and is not dependent on anyone.
According to the Holy Quran and Islamic Teachings, this obedience is not limited to Allah only. It is Allah’s will that every Muslim should obey the Great Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) and the infallible Imams (PBUH&HP). This belief implies that absolute obedience belongs only to Allah and this is His order that makes us obey the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) and the infallible Imams. Their behavior and sayings lead us to the Right path and provide Allah’s satisfaction and eternal prosperity. They have been granted Infallibility, and thus do not commit any sin or make any mistake. Islam restricts absolute obedience to the Almighty Allah and His Messenger and other Infallibles.
Although the necessity of such obedience is proved by our wisdom, but another factor makes it complete. This factor is affection towards the Almighty Allah, who has showered us with great blessings and excessive favors. While seeing continuous favors of Allah despite his disobedience, the human tries to obey Allah more than before.
The main concept of “Wilayat” contains such obedience to the Almighty Allah and the Infallibles. The relation of Muslims (Shiites) with the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imams is a deep and bilateral one. The first part of this relation begins with them; they are so kind to the Muslims that even a simple calamity of a Muslims would bring them unhappiness. (There are many evidences in proof of this claim in Islamic texts.) The second part of this relation is the affection to the Infallibles. The infallibles possess such moral characteristics and spiritual completion that every Muslim loves them deeply. This strong bond between the Muslims and the Infallibles causes for the Muslims to obey the actions and sayings of the Infallibles.”
In the Holy Quran, there are many evidences that the Almighty Allah has mentioned verses, which prove the position of Wilayat for the great Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imam Ali (PBUH). However, Wilayat of the other Infallible is proved by the Prophet’s declaration on account of the Almighty Allah.
In this article, we will discuss and consider one of the Quranic verses, in which the Wali of the believers is introduced and besides Allah the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imam Ali (PBUH&HP) have been named and referred. So first, we will study the words applied in this verse separately1, then refer to the case of descending (Shan e Nozoul), and finally contemplate different phrases of the verse more carefully.
It is a word of Arabic language, used for restriction (Hasr). Restriction means to limit the intention to one specific meaning or definite persons, and leave out other meanings and/or people. For example if we say only Allah is our object of worship, it means that being worshiped does belong only to Him and no one else has any share in this position. According to the previous explanation the usage of this word in Arabic, we shall conclude that the usage of the word at the beginning of the verse, limits the position of Wilayat to specific instances. In other words, only three instances are introduced to posses the positions of Mastership from the time of descent, and others have no share in this position. Therefore, the meaning is as follows”: Only Allah, His Messenger, and the believers who keep up prayer and pay alms (Zakat) while they bow (Rokoo) during prayer, are your Wali (Master).” (More explanation about Innama is brought in “More explanation”)
More explanation about Innama
In order to state a concept in the form of a sentence, there are two kinds of sentences considered in Arabic language. (One is called Fe'lieh, beginning with a verb, the other is called, Esmieh, beginning with a noun. The sentence in this verse is Esmieh. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to describe the details of these concepts in this article). Each kind of sentence has its own parts and elements. These parts and elements make the sentences to have a complete meaning, and if any of them is omitted the meaning would not be perfect. The speaker can put each of these elements in different places of his sentence. In other words, the speaker can change the order of the element of the sentence according to the meaning he has in his mind.
Innama precedes the two main elements of the sentence, and restricts the last element. For example, imagine a person called Mohammad is standing. In Arabic language, we can state this concept in these two ways:
1. The standing man is Mohammad. 2. Mohammad is standing. If Innama precedes the first sentence, it restricts Mohammad i.e. only Mohammad is standing and no other person is standing. If Innama precedes the second sentence, it restricts standing i.e. Mohammad is only standing and does nothing else except standing.
In this verse, the last element introduces the instances who are Wali of the believers. Considering Innama placed at the beginning and the last element mentioned above, it would be clear that these instances are restricted and the verse implies that: “Only Allah, His Messenger, and the believers who keep up prayer and pay alms (Zakat) while they bow (Rokoo) during prayer, are your Wali (Master).”
Arabic dictionaries such as Lesan-al-Arab name several meanings for this word. Some of the meanings that are suggested are son in law, confederate, friend, master, assistant, etc… Not only do the definitions mentioned not make sense in this verse, but they also do not make sense in other verses including term “Wali”. (For example, if we chose son in law, the meaning of the verse will be: “Only Allah and His Messenger and the believers who keep up prayer and give alms while they bow during prayer, are your son in law, which is definitely incorrect). According to this point, Islamic commentators have chosen only one of these three meanings: 1. Friend 2. Helper 3. Master We will discuss these three meanings in the following parts.
Giving Zakat means to give one’s property in a way that Allah is pleased. One of its cases, which is named in this verse, is giving one’s property to the poor.
In this verse, Rokoo is referring to a specific act in prayer that requires the bending of the upper part of the body, reciting a supplication. It is done after the recitation of Surah al-Fatiha and another Surah. The reason for this meaning is that in the previous parts of the verse it is talked about saying prayers by the believers [those who keep up prayers].
More explanation about Rokoo (bowing)
The word “Rokoo” has a literal, expressional, and figurative meaning. The literal meaning is bending. If it is done in prayers with the intention of approaching Allah, then it is used as the expressional meaning. In other words, the expressional meaning is derived from the literal meaning, with the difference that it is a part of prayers and must be done to please Allah, (intention of approaching Allah (Ghasd e Ghorbat) means all the attention is towards Allah, and the action is done only to please Him and not for any other intention). The figurative sense is submissiveness and humility.
While reading texts, at first, we consider the literal meanings of the words. If there are any reasons or indications, we refer to the expressional meaning or the figurative sense. This rule can also be used with the Holy Quran. We should consider the literal meaning at first, then refer to the expressional meaning or figurative sense in case of any reason or indication. Therefore, for the word “Rokoo”, first we consider the literal meaning and if any concept about prayers and saying prayers is mentioned, it is referred to the expressional meaning and if other indications are noted, we refer to the figurative sense. In this verse, we never encounter the figurative sense. Because of the usage of prayers in this verse, the expressional meaning of “Rokoo” (namely bowing) is extracted.2
At the beginning of the article, it was mentioned that according to what the commentators have considered, Wali has only three meanings: 1.Friend 2. Helper (Naser) 3. Master
In order to reach the best meaning of Wali in this verse, we discuss the first and second meaning firstly, and then explain the third one.
If we consider the first and the second meaning for Wali in this verse the whole verse would be:” Only Allah, His Messenger, and the believers who keep up prayer and pay alms (Zakat) while they bow (Rokoo) during prayer, are your friend or helper.“
As it was mentioned before, Innama is used to restrict. We know that Wali means friend or helper; therefore the meaning of the verse would be: “The only friend or helper of us is Allah, His messenger and the believers who keep up prayer and pay alms while they bow during prayers.’ This means that we should not expect any other friend or helper other than these three. For example, the person who has not given alms to the beggar cannot be our friend. It is obvious that such a meaning is wrong and is in contrast with other Quran verses. There are many verses in the Holy Quran, which the Almighty Allah has invited believers to be friend and help one another. (Every body knows that Quran is the word of Allah and no contrast is credible in it.) For example:
“If they ask you in a religious matter, you must help them. (Quran, 8:72)” This verse implies that helping others is not limited to specific people. Rather in aspects of religion, it is a necessity for the believers to help one another any problem in the religion.
“Help one another in righteousness and piety. (Quran, 5:2)” As repeated in this verse, the Almighty Allah has invited believers to help each other in righteousness and piety. Furthermore, the helping suggested in these verses is not restricted to specific or special persons.
“Truly the believers are brothers of each other (Quran, 49:10)”. In this verse, the Almighty Allah has called believers, brothers of each other. It is an obvious fact that Islamic brotherhood is a closer relationship than friendship, and it holds a higher status than just helping others. How can it be possible that a person limits his choice of friends to only those who say their prayer and give alms (zakat) while they bow down in prayer (Rokoo), while Quran has called all believers, brothers of each other. Therefore, we can deduce that here the meaning of Wali cannot be friend or helper, because these meanings (being a friend and helping) have general concept and cannot be restricted to a specific persons.
Wali meaning Master
Now if we consider Master ruler or possessor of superior authority, as the meaning for Wali, there would be no contrast with other verses of the holy Quran. For mastership, ruling, and superior authority do not belong to all people. In other words, only specific persons can posses these positions, there should be certain people introduced by Allah to be responsible for mastership of the human being. It is obtained from the verse that Wilayat meaning Mastership belongs firstly to the Almighty Allah, and then to His Messenger and the believers who keep up prayer and pay alms (Zakat) while they bow during prayer.
It should be noticed that who the believers, who pay alms (Zakat) while they bow during prayer, are at the time of descent of the verse. For, the important position of Mastership is granted to him after the Almighty Allah Himself and His Messenger.
Both Shiite3 and Sonny commentators4 have said that:
“A poor man came to the mosque and asked the Muslims for help. Nobody helped him except Ali (PBUH) who paid his ring to him, while he was bowing during his prayer. Then this verse (5:55) was descended to the Prophet (PBUH&HP).”
We have two different ways for describing a person. In the first kind, we give a special characteristic of a specific person and we mean just that person and nobody else .In the second description, we give a general characteristic and we mean all who have this characteristic and not a specific person .To explain more, we give an example below:
Suppose a teacher is asked, “Which of your students is the most brilliant? “, and he answers,” The one who is the cleanest”.
Being the cleanest student has nothing to do with being the most brilliant student, but by giving that specific characteristic, the teacher has singled out that student from the rest. Now, if somebody tries to be clean from then on, he is not included in teacher’s answer, because the teacher’s answer was only for that specific date and time. We can also infer from the teacher’s answer that he likes cleanliness and wants his students to be clean; however, they cannot become the most brilliant student. This was an example of the first kind of description.
Now, suppose the teacher answers, “The one who tries more is the most brilliant “.Here, the teacher does not mean a specific student, rather it is said for all students to try harder in becoming the most brilliant. Therefore, the teacher has given a general characteristic and every student who tries more; may become the most brilliant student. This was an example of the second kind of description.
Now let us discuss the above verse. This verse says that after Allah and the Prophet (PBUH&HP) those who pay alms during the bending state of their prayer are the Masters of other Muslims. Because there is no relation between paying alms during the prayer and Mastership of all other Muslims, the description here is of the first kind. In this description those believers who are masters to all other Muslims, are specified by a special characteristic at a specific time. Considering the case of descent (Shan e Nozoul) about this verse, we infer that the one who had this special characteristic was Ali (PBUH). We may also infer that Allah likes paying alms during praying. So the verse is telling Muslims indirectly that although they cannot become the Master of all other Muslims, try to pay alms during praying and not delay it to the end of their prayer.
Now this question may be asked that in this verse the word “believers” is in plural form while we said it refers just to Ali (PBUH) who is a single person.
To answer this question, we should consider that a single word should not be used for more than one thing but a plural word can be used for a single thing. Now, we give some examples from Quran in which a plural form is used for a single person:
When they are told, "Come and let the Prophet of Allah seek forgiveness for you”, they shake their heads and you can see them arrogantly turning away. (Quran, 63:5)
They say, “Give nothing to those who are around the Messenger of Allah so that they will desert him (Quran, 63:7)
These two verses talk about all the hypocrites, who turned away arrogantly in front of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and told others not to give anything to the Prophet’s followers. Although these verses talk about all the hypocrites, referring to the case of descent (Shan e Nozoul) of these verses shows us that these verses are about Abdullah-bin-Obay (you may refer to Tabari or Qortobi elaborations and read narratives from Ibn-Abbas following these verses). For more examples, we just give the addresses of the verses and elaborations about them:
2. The Holy Quran (3:181) Qortobi elaboration vol. 4 p. 294
3. The Holy Quran (9:61) Qortobi elaboration vol. 8 p. 192, al-khazen elaboration vol. 2 p. 253
4. The Holy Quran (4:10) Qortobi elaboration vol. 10, p. 53,
al-Esabah, vol. 3, p. 397
5. The Holy Quran (60:8) Bukhari, Moslem, Ahmad, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi-Hatam, also Qortobi elaboration, vol. 18, p. 59, Ibn Kathir, vol. 4, p. 349
6. The Holy Quran (5:41) Qortobi elaboration, vol. 6, p. 177,
al-Esabah, vol. 2, p. 326)
Thus, to conclude, it does not matter if a word that is used in plural form holds a singular meaning to itself. On the other hand, using a plural word and intending a single person as Master in this verse, will lead minds to a more complete definition. It means that by using a plural word in this verse, the Almighty Allah has indicated indirectly to the believers that, although you cannot be master but you can do the two worships together. Just like Ali (PBUH&HP), who did the two worships; paying and giving alms (Zakat), together and did not postpone one for another (this matter has been discussed in details in the previous part. In the end, we will quote the Zamakhshari’s opinion about this subject. (Zamakhshari is one of the greatest commentators of Sonnies, who has written the text below about the verse mentioned in the Kashaf elaboration).
“Then if we say: How come this phrase (the believers) is about Ali (PBUH) if it is used in plural. I will say although this verse was revealed because of one man, it is stated in plural to in encourage such deeds, as of his, in people to gain blessings. People should notice that the moral values of the faithful should be to such extent of interest and caring for the poor that even if a good deed occurs in the middle of prayer, they should not postpone it until the end of prayer lest the lose the opportunity (to help)."
With more precision, we can conclude another result: Although the Almighty Allah considers the Mastership of the believers after Himself for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imam Ali (PBUH), but he has used the word “your Master”, which is singular, instead of your “Masters”, which is plural. From using “your Master”, which is singular, it can be understood that the Almighty Allah has intended to authorize his Mastership to the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imam Ali (PBUH) without taking this position away from Him. Their Mastership is as like as Allah’s Mastership. It means that, if Allah had said, “your Masters” it could have been concluded that there are other types of masterships that people have over the believers, but Allah did not say such and has specified only one kind of Mastership.
In fact, the Mastership of the Almighty Allah, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and Imam Ali (PBUH) are the same with the difference that the Mastership of Allah is inherent and independent. It means that the Mastership of Allah is not authorized to Him. (Since Allah is the creator of everything, he should be Master of all the creatures) but the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) Mastership and the Imam Ali’s (PBUH) are authorized by the Almighty Allah and their Mastership depends on Allah’s Mastership.
Shiites believe the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and the Infallible Imams (PBUT) are Allah’s creatures. Whatever power they have has been granted to them by Allah, for they have nothing from themselves.
1. According to Muslims Quran is the word of the Almighty Allah and is directly descended from Him. To prove this fact, Quran itself has invited the deniers many times to bring few verses like its verses. However, historical evidences show that the deniers were unable to even bring one verse. While considering this characteristic of the Holy Quran, we understand that by contemplating and concentrating more on Quran verses, we will reach higher and deeper concepts and meanings.
2. We must pay attention to the fact that some words have meanings different from their original meaning and have become an expression among the experts of various fields. For instance, the word “Atom”, which originally means indivisible, has become an expression and is said to be the tiniest particle of a substance among Physicists or Chemists, or the word “Salat”, which originally means invocation, means prayers among Muslims. When we come across these words in different fields (in which the words have expressional meanings), first we should consider the expressional meaning and then refer to the literal meaning or figurative sense supposing that there are indications. For example, wherever the word “Salat” comes in the holy Quran, it means prayers and if there are any indications, we refer to the literal meaning, namely invocation, or the figurative sense.
3. Refer to al-Tebyan, Majma’ al-bayan, al-mizan, Kanz al-dagha’egh, Safi... below the verse 55 of Surah al-Ma’ida
4. Tabari elaboration, (Egypt), vol. 6 p. 165.
Kashaf elaboration, (Egypt, al-Tejariatolkobra), vol. 1, p. 347.
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir, (New, Egypt), vol. 12 p. 26.
Al-Suyuti, al-Dorr al-Manthur, (first publish), vol. 2 p. 293.
Aloosi al-baghdadi, Rooh al-mani,(Cairo,Second edition), vol. 6 p. 169.