Universal Guardianship (Qur’an 5:55)

Some people say: ‘If you (Shi’ah of Ali (as)) claim Imamate and Leadership is a doctrine of faith, then why hasn’t it been mentioned in the Qur’an?’

Those that ask this question are ignorant of the teachings of the Qur’an, since itself clearly states that:

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ – وَمَن يَتَوَلَّ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ فَإِنَّ حِزْبَ اللّهِ هُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ

Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay zakat while they bow. {56} And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe for a Guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant.[5:55]

No one (from the esteemed scholars in either school of thought) in their right frame of mind could possibly argue that waliy (guardian) means ‘aiding to victory’, as we’ll see later.


يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلاً

0 you who believe! obey Allah and the Messenger and those vested with authority from among you; then if you quarrel about any thing, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end. [4:59]


وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُواْ بِهِ وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَى أُولِي الأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لاَتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً

And when there comes to them news of security or fear, they spread it; and if they had referred it to the Messenger and to those in authority among them, those among them who (can) draw out the truth in it would have known it, and were it not for the grace of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have certainly followed the Satan, save a few.[4:83]

Since the matter of Imamate has been the greatest disputed matter in the history of the Islamic ummah, we need to refer it to Allah and the Messenger. Now, let’s assume for the sake of argument, that the doctrine of Imamate has not been mentioned in the Qur’an (I’ve refuted that in an earlier post in the section on Imamate), we should refer our dispute to the Prophetic Traditions (hadith), as ordered by this holy verse.

First though, Allamah Tabataba’i [1] says on the matter of wilayah (guardianship), in the verse 5:55:

‘Ar-Raghib [2] has said in his Mufradatu’l-Quran: "alwilayah" and "at-tawallah" denote that two or more things are so positioned as nothing extraneous comes between them. Metaphorically it is used to indicate proximity in place, or affinity, or friendship, and in help, or in belief al-wilayah is help, and/or management of affairs. It has been said that al-walayah and al-wilayah both are one like al-dalalah and al-dilalah and it really means management of affairs; and al-waliyy addal-mawla denote this meaning, and both are used as nomen agentis, i.e. guardian/manager; and as nomen patientis, i.e. one whose affairs are managed. A believer is called waliyy of Allah, but nowhere is he referred to as mawla of Allah; while Allah is called waliyy of the believers, as well as their mawla.

Further he says: "They say, tawalli when used without any preposition, gives the meaning of wilayah, indicating that it is related to the nearest objective; they say, ‘I turned my ears/eyes/face to so and so. Allah says: …so We shall surely turn thee to a qiblah which thou shall be pleased with; turn then thy face towards the Sacred Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it,…. (2:144); but when it is followed by preposition min (from) clearly or implied, it means turning away and leaving the proximity."

So Allah is the Guardian of the believers, inasmuch as He manages the affairs of their religion through guiding, calling, and helping them and so on. And the Prophet is the Guardian of the believers inasmuch as he has the authority to decide between them, for them and against them through legislation and judgment. Likewise, the hakim (ruler, judge) is the guardian of the people over whom he rules within his jurisdiction. The same is the case with other examples of wilayah, like that of emancipation, covenant, protection, neighbourhood and divorce; similarly, the wilayah of a cousin, of love and of a designated successor, and so on. In short, looking at wilayah in its different usages, we get the meaning of a sort of proximity that gives its subject some authority of management and possession of planning.

Looking at the context of the verse under discussion: "Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe", we find that the meaning of wilayah (guardianship) for all the guardians is the same, because "Allah, His Messenger and the believers", have all been ascribed to one word: "your Guardian", and clearly guardianship of each has the same meaning. This is also supported by the clause at the end of the second verse: then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant, as it indicates or clearly shows that all the guardians are the party of Allah, because they are under His Guardianship; thus the guardianship of the Messenger and of those who believe sprout from the root of Allah’s Guardianship.

In short, the Prophet (s.a.w.) has the wilayah over the ummah, inasmuch as he leads them to Allah, rules over them, judges and decides in all their affairs. It is incumbent on them to obey him unconditionally. In this way, his wilayah springs from Allah’s wilayah, in the meaning of the authority of legislation. In other words, the Prophet (s.a.w.) has precedence over them as they are bound to obey him, because his obedience is Allah’s obedience. Thus, his wilayah is the wilayah of Allah, as some previously quoted verses prove, for example: …obey Allah and obey the Messenger… (4:59); And it is not for a believing man, nor for a believing woman to have any choice in their affairs when Alldh and His Messenger have decided a matter;… (33:36), apart from other such verses.

It is this meaning of wilayah as ascribed to Allah and His Messenger, which is bestowed on the believers in the verse under discussion, when it says: "Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe." You have seen that the context proves that it is only one wilayah, and it belongs to Allah directly and to the Messenger and to those who believe indirectly by permission of Allah. Had the wilayah ascribed to Allah in this verse, been different from that ascribed to those who believe, it was more appropriate, in order to avoid any confusion, to bring another word of wilayah before mentioning "those who believe", as Allah has done in similar situations. For example, He says: Say: "A hearer of good for you (who) believes in Allah and believes the faithful…" (9:6 1). The word: "believes", has been repeated because its connotations in the two clauses are different. A similar style was used in the verse: …obey Allah and obey the Messenger… (4:59.

Moreover, the word: "Your Guardian", is singular and is ascribed to, "those who believe", i.e. plural. According to the exegetes, it is because wilayah here has a single meaning, and it directly belongs to Allah and as for the Messenger and the believers, it is indirectly, through Allah. It is clear from above that the restriction in "Only" aims at confining the wilayah to those mentioned in the verse. It removes the possible misunderstanding that it might cover those who are mentioned and also the others. There is another possibility that this restriction negates the wilayah of all persons other than those mentioned therein.’

So bearing the above in mind, let’s look at what the (clear and correct and accepted by all) prophet tradition has to say in this matter:

In Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 16, pg.497, H.22908 [3]:

حدثنا ابن نمير حدثني أجلح الكندي عن عبد الله بن بريدة عن أبيه بريدة قال بعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بعثين إلى اليمن على أحدهما علي بن أبي طالب وعلى الآخر خالد بن الوليد فقال إذا التقيتم فعلي على الناس وإن افترقتما فكل واحد منكما على جنده قال فلقينا بني زيد من أهل اليمن فاقتتلنا فظهر المسلمون على المشركين فقتلنا المقاتلة وسبينا الذرية فاصطفى علي امرأة من السبي لنفسه قال بريدة فكتب معي خالد بن الوليد إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يخبره بذلك فلما أتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم دفعت الكتاب فقرئ عليه فرأيت الغضب في وجه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقلت يا رسول الله هذا مكان العائذ بعثتني مع رجل وأمرتني أن أطيعه ففعلت ما أرسلت به فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا تقع في علي فإنه مني وأنا منه وهو وليكم بعدي وإنه مني وأنا منه وهو وليكم بعدي

‘Ibn Namir has narrated, through Ajlah Al Kindi and Abd-Allaah ibn Buraydah from his father, said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent two missionaries to Yemen, one of them, Ali ibn Abi Talib and the other Khalid ibn al-Walid. Then he said, if you meet, then Ali will lead over (both)groups (of soldiers), if you separate, then every one of you leads his (own) soldiers. He said, we saw Bani Zeid of the people of Yemen, whom we fought, and the Muslims overcame the infidels, so we killed the fighters and captured the others (women, children and elderly), and Ali kept a woman to himself, said Buraidah: I and Khalid ibn al-Walid wrote to the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, telling him so (of this incident). Then when I came to the Prophet peace be upon him, I gave him the letter and I saw anger in the face of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him and I said, O Messenger of God, you sent me with a man and asked me to obey him, so I did (i.e. I’m just the messenger of this letter). The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: Do not produce falsehoods about Ali, he is from me and I am of him, and he is your guardian after me, he is from me and I am of him, and he is your guardian after me.’

You be the judge on the meaning of this narration.

Here’s the clip from the the episode of Mutarahat in arabic talking about this narration.


[1] Allamah Muhammad Hussein Tabataba’i, Al Mizan fi Tafsir Al Qur’an; 20 volume quranic exegesis.

[2] Ar Raghib Al Isfahani – Mufradat Al Qur’an; famous arabic dictionary on quranic words.

[3] This narration can also be fond in the following sources –

المحدث: الألباني المصدر: السلسلة الصحيحة – الصفحة أو الرقم: 5/262 

Al Silsillah Al Sahiha, Al Albani

المحدث: ابن كثير – المصدر: البداية والنهاية – الصفحة أو الرقم: 7/356

Al Bidayah wa Al Nihayah, Ibn Kathir

الهيثمي – المصدر: مجمع الزوائد – الصفحة أو الرقم: 9/130

Majma’ Al Zawa’id, Al Haithami


4 thoughts on “Universal Guardianship (Qur’an 5:55)”

  1. Great topic. And Thanks for the link to Sayed Kamal’s episodes on youtube! Saves me downloading the rest from al kawthar!

    I’m EndlessEndeavour from sc :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s