Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Saintship (walayat ولایت)

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Chapter XIV (o)

Saintship (walayat ولایت)


You must know that the principle and foundation of Sufism and marifat (knowledge of Allah) rests on walayat وَلايت (saintship) and its authenticity. The reality of saintship is unanimously affirmed by all the Sheikhs, though everyone has expressed himself in different way. Muhammad b. Ali al-Hakim has a peculiar way of using this term particularly its manifestation to Sufism.

Walayat وَلايت entomologically means, power to dispose and help and wilayat وَلايت means circumstantial evidence. Walayat also means lordship; hence Allah hath said,

هُنَالِكَ الْوَلَايَةُ لِلَّهِ الْحَقّ

there, the (only) protection comes from Allah, the True One. (Q 18:44),

i.e. the unbelievers at Resurrection will seek His protection and turning unto Him would renounce their idols. And walayat also means love. And this is also possible that wali ولي may be in the form of an agent refers to an accusative case, as Allah have said,

وَهُوَ يَتَوَلَّى الصَّالِحِينَ

and He will choose (يَتَوَلَّى) and befriend the righteous” (Q 7:196),

for Allah does not leave His servant to his own actions and attributes, but keeps him under His protection. And wali وِليٌ may be the form of faa’il, equivalent to an agent, with an intensive force, because man takes care to obey Allah and remains constant to fulfill the obligations that he owes to Him and refrains from His others. Thus wali in the active meanings is Murid مريد (desirer), while in the passive meaning it denotes Murad مراد (intended). All these meanings, whether they signify the relation of Allah to man or that of man to Allah, are allowable, for Allah may be the protector and helper of His friends as He has promised to protect His friends. He addressed to the companions of His beloved Muhammad (peace be upon him):

أَلا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللّهِ قَرِيبٌ

“Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!” (Q 2:214),


أَنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَا مَوْلَى لَهُمْ

“but those who reject Allah have no protector.” (Q 47:11).

When unbelievers have no protector and helper, it implies that Allah is the protector and helper of believers. He helps them and their intellect and perception seek proofs from the signs and symbols of nature and realities are revealed to their hearts. The signs and proofs unveil themselves to them inwardly and He helps them also in their being refrain from passions and evils of nafs (lower soul). He protects them from following the Satan and nafs (lower soul), and also keeps them away from the place of enmity by choosing them to His friendship, as He hath said,

يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ

whom He will love as they will love Him,” (Q 5:54).

So they love Him because of His friendship and they turn away from mankind. This makes Him to be their Wali وِلي (friend) and they become His Auliya اوِلياء (friends) and then He may confer on one walayat وِلايت (guardianship) that enables him to persevere in obedience to Him, and refrain from disobeying Him and not allow any satanic thought to pass through his mind. And He may confer His walayat وِلايت on another one in such a way that He empowers him with full authority, and makes his prayers answered and his aspirations effectual. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

رب اشعث اغبرذي طمرين لا يعباء به لواقسم علي الله لا بره قسمه

“There are many men with dirty hair and clad in dust-stained old garments, which people never pay any heed but if they were to swear by Allah, Allah honors their words.”

It is a well known incident that during the rule of Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) the river Nile, in accordance with its regular routine got dry. In the time of Paganism there was a tradition to throw a maiden into the river every year as a sacrifice so the river might continue its flow. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) wrote on a piece of paper, ”O water, if you have dried up at your own, be remain as but if your act is command of Allah Umar bids you to flow.” When this paper was thrown in the Nile, it resumed its course. And this was the real saintship.

My purpose in discussing saintship and affirming its reality is to make you understand that the name wali وِلي (saint) is properly applied to those in whom the above mentioned qualities are actually present. The matter of Umar (may blessings of Allah be on him) referred above speaks of his hal حال (state) which was not merely a qal قال (repute).  

The Sheikhs of the Path have formerly written a lot on this subject. I too had their writings but unfortunately these have been lost by a friend. Therefore, now I will entrust to you the explanation given by Abu Abdullah Hakim Tirmidhi, the venerable spiritual director who is the author of the doctrine – for my own belief in him is greater – in order that much instruction may be gained, not only by yourself, but also by every seeker of the Path who may have the good fortune to read this book.


You must know that the word wali وِلي is current among the people, and Quran and Sunnah (the Prophet’s Traditions) are also witness and speak of it. Allah hath said:

أَلا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاء اللّهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

“Behold! verily, on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; (Q 10:62),


نَحْنُ أَوْلِيَاؤُكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ وَلَكُمْ

“We are your protectors in this life and in the Hereafter: (Q 41:38),

اللّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ

“Allah is the protector of those who have faith:“ (Q 2:257).

And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

ان من عباد الله لعبادًا ليغبطهم الانبياء والشهداء

“Among the servants of Allah there are some whom the prophets and martyrs envy.” 

He was asked: “Who are they?

Describe them to us that perchance we may love them.

He replied:

قوم تحابوا بروح الله من غير اموال ولا اكتاب وجوههم نورعلي منا برمن نورلا يخافون ادا خاف الناس ولا يحزنون اذا حزن الناس

“Those who love one another, through Allah’s mercy, without wealth and without seeking a livelihood: their faces are luminous, and they sit on thrones of light; they are not afraid, nor do they grieve when men grieve.”

Then he recited,

أَلا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاء اللّهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Behold! Verily, on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; (Q 10:62).

Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that Allah commanded:

من اذي لي وليا فقد استمل محاربتي

“He who hurts a wali ولي (saint) has allowed himself to make war on Me.”

The object of this discussion is to make it amply clear that auliya اوِلياء (saints) of Allah are those to whom He has specially distinguished by His friendship and walayat وِلايت (sainthood). They are His deputies in His kingdom and have been marked out to manifest His actions. They have been blessed with diverse kinds of virtues and karamat كرامات (miracles). Allah has purged them of their natural corruptions and has delivered them from subjugation to their lower soul and passion, and now their liberality and thoughts are only of Him and their intimacy is with Him alone. Such friends of Allah have been in the past; they are now also and shall be hereafter until the Day of Resurrection. 

Allah has exalted the Ummah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) above all others and has promised to preserve the religion of Muhammad by Himself. Therefore, through Divine plan for the perseverance of Shariat as the traditional and intellectual proofs of this religion are to be found among the Ulama,  similarly the visible proofs and evidences are to be found among the Saints and Elects of Allah.

Here we have dispute with two groups, namely, the Mutazilites and the rank and file of the Hashwiyya sect. The Mutazilites deny the superiority of any Muslim over other Muslim. But if you deny the peculiarity of a saint, then particularization of the Prophets is also denied and this is infidelity. As regards to the common Hashwiyya, they agree on the peculiarity of the saints, but assert that such elects no longer exist, although they did exist in the past. To deny either past or future is the denial of both since one side of denial is no better than another.

Allah has kept the prophetic evidence alive to the present day, and has made the Saints the means whereby it is manifested, in order that the signs of the Truth and the proof of Muhammad’s veracity may continue to be clearly seen. He has made the Saints ruler of the universe and now they have become entirely devoted to His business, and have ceased to follow their sensual affections. Through their blessing the rain falls from heaven, and through the purity of their lives the plants spring up from the earth, and through their spiritual influence the Muslims gain victories over the unbelievers.

Among them there are four thousand who remain hidden from mankind and even do not recognize each other and are not aware of the excellence of their states. They under all circumstances remain hidden from themselves and from mankind. The traditions and the sayings of the Saints are evidence and proclaim the truth to this fact, and I myself (Allah be praised!) have had ocular experience of this matter.

But of those who have absolute power to loose and bind and the chosen of the Divine Court are:

-          Qutb قطب or Ghuth غوث        one

-          Naqba نقباء                         three

-          Autad اوتاد                          four

-          Abrar ابرار                           seven

-          Abdal ابدال                         forty

-          Akhyar اخيار                        three hundred

All of them know each other and cannot act save by mutual consent. The traditions are evident to this fact and Sunnis (orthodox Muslims) agree on their validity. The further detail is not the object here.

Here the people may object on that they know each other to be saints, therefore if such is the case, they must be secure as to their fate in the next world. It is absurd to suppose that knowledge of saintship involves peace and security. It is a recognized fact that a true believer may have knowledge of his faith and yet not be secure, similarly why should not the same hold good to a saint who has knowledge of his saintship? This is also possible that Allah, because of the state of spiritual soundness, refraining from disobedience and detestation of nafs (lower soul), cause the saint to know his security and peace in regard to the life of next world.  The Sheikhs differ on this question for the reason which I have explained. About those four thousands saints who remain hidden, some have the view that they do not know about their sainthood but some have the contrary view. Similar view is held by the theologians also.

Abu Ishaq Isfrahani and some of the ancients hold that a saint is ignorant of his saintship, while Abu Bake b. Furaq and others among the ancients hold that he is conscious of his sainthood. I say what loss or evil a saint suffers by knowing his own state. Such people think that if one knows about his sainthood he might get indulged into self-conceit and arrogance. I answer that Divine protection is a necessary condition of saintship, and one who is protected from evil cannot fall into self-conceit. It is an absurd and bizarre notion that a saint to whom extraordinary karamat (miracles) are continually vouchsafed, does not know himself to be a saint or these karamat to be miracles.

Some people are the followers of later and some of former, but their opinion is of no account. The Mutazilites totally deny peculiarity and miracles, which constitute the essence of saintship. They affirm that all Muslims when they are obedient to Allah are auliya اوِلياء (friends) of Him. And that anyone who fulfils the ordinances of the faith and denies the attributes and vision of Allah and have faith that believers to be eternally damned in Hell and acknowledges only such obligations as are imposed by reason, without regard to Revelation of Divine Books and arrival of Prophets, is a wali (friend). No doubt people also acknowledge him wali, but wali (friend) of Satan.

The Mutazilites also maintain that, if saintship involves miracles, all believers must have miracles vouchsafed to them, as both are at par in faith and when they share the fundamental (faith) they must likewise share in what is derivative. They further maintain that miracles may be vouchsafed both to believers and to infidels, e.g. when anyone is hungry on a journey, suddenly he finds some host or if he is fatigued may find some ride. If it were possible, they add, for anyone to traverse a great distance in one night, the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his travel of Mecca must have been that man to avail the facility, although Allah says,

وَتَحْمِلُ أَثْقَالَكُمْ إِلَى بَلَدٍ لَّمْ تَكُونُواْ بَالِغِيهِ إِلاَّ بِشِقِّ الأَنفُسِ

and they carry your heavy loads to lands that you could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed:” (Q 16:7).

But I say that their arguments are worthless, for Allah said,

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His Servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque,” (Q 17:1). 

This shows that miracles are exceptional, not common but it would have been a common instance if all the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been miraculously conveyed to Mecca, which would have destroyed all the principles of faith in the Unseen. Faith is a general term, applicable to both righteous and wicked alike, whereas saintship is a distinctive state. Where Allah issued a common decree, there He included His Prophet with the companions to share their loads but when the time for special decree came, Allah conveyed him in one night from Mecca to Jerusalem and thence to a space of two bow-lengths from the Divine presence and showed to His beloved each and every nook and corner of the Universe and when Prophet (peace be upon him) returned ere the night was far spent.

In short, the command of faith implies on commons and command of karamat (miracles) imply on elects. Again, to deny special privileges is manifestly unreasonable, as in the king’s court there are chamberlains, janitors, grooms, and viziers, who being royal servants are all equal, but everyone is distinguished with a different rank. Similarly, all the believers are equal in respect of their faith, but some are obedient, some wise, some pious, and some ignorant i.e. to deny a quality is denial of the object.

In respect to the true meanings of walayat (saintship) there are many hints and sayings of Sufi Sheikhs. Now I will bring together as many of these selected hints and sayings as possible.

Abu Ali Jurjani says:

الولي هوالفاني في حاله الباقي في مشاهدة الحق لم يكن له عن نفسه اخبار ولا مع غير الله قرار

“The wali (saint) is one who is annihilated in his own state and subsistent in the contemplation of the Truth. It is beyond him to talk anything concerning himself, or gain rest with anyone except Allah,”

The reason is that to talk about self is to disseminate the knowledge of own state and when his states are annihilated he cannot tell anything about himself. Besides, to communicate one's hidden state to another is to reveal the secret of the Beloved, which cannot be revealed before others. Moreover, when in contemplation it is impossible to regard aught and while under such state, how can he be at rest with mankind?

Junaid said:

من صفة الولي ان لا يكون له خوف لان الخوف ترقب مكروه يحل في المستقبل او انتظار محبوب يفوت في المستانف و الولي ابن وقته ليس له مستقبل

 فخاف شيءا, و كمالاخوف له لا رجاء له, لان الرجاء انتظار محبوب يحصل او مكروه  يكشف و ذلك في الثاني من الوقت, 

و كذلك لا يحزن لان الحزن من حزونة الوقت, من كان في ضياء الرضا و روضة الموافقة فاين يكون له حزن كما

“The saint is one who has no fear because fear is the expectation either of some future calamity or of the eventual loss of some object of desire or fear to lose what is already with him. The saint is a time-server; he has no fear that anything would frighten him.

As the saint has no fear so he has no hope, since hope is the expectation either of gaining an object of desire at some future time or of being relieved from a misfortune.

He does not have any grief, because it arises from the rigor of time, One who occupies the place of satisfaction or is in conformity with the Divine decree, how can he grieve?”

Allah says,

أَلا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاء اللّهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Behold! verily, on the friends of Allah there is no fear, Nor shall they grieve; (Q 10:62).

The common people have a notion that as the saint feels neither fear nor hope nor grief, he must be in peace. Whereas, he does not have peace also, for security arises from not seeing that which is hidden, and from turning ones back on time.  This characteristic is held by those who pay no regard to their humanity and are not contented with attributes. Fear and hope and security and grief all refer to the interests of the nafs (lower soul), and when these are annihilated satisfaction (rida) becomes an attribute of man, and when satisfaction has been attained his states become steadfast in vision of the Truth, and he turns away from all other states. Then walayat (saintship) is revealed to wali and is manifested to him inwardly. 

Abu Uthman Maghrabi says:

الولي قد يكون مشهورا ولا يكون مفتونًا

“The saint is sometimes celebrated but he does not become captive of the world,”

And another says:

الولي قد يكون مستورًا ولا يكون مشهورًا

“The saint is hidden, but he is not celebrated.”

Wali refrains from celebration because it may leads to sedition. Abu Uthman considers it legal, subject to that it might not lead to sedition because seduction consists in falsehood. Wali is veracious in his walayat وَلايت (saintship), then how word of walayat can be applicable on a liar. It is impossible for a liar to perform karamat (miracles) as its performance would become cause of sedition which follows that the saint is incapable of being seduced.

These two sayings refer to the controversy whether the saint knows himself to be such. If he knows, he is celebrated, and if he does not know, he is fascinated but the explanation of this is tedious and lengthy.

Ibrahim b. Adham asked a man whether he desired to be one of Allah’s saints, and on his affirmed reply he said:

لا ترغب في شيء من الدنيا والاخرة و فرغ نفسك لله و اقبل بوجهك عليه

“Do not incline to anything of this or the next world, and devote yourself and turn to Allah entirely and whole heartedly.”

Free yourself from the desire of this or the next world because for the sake of that which is transitory, and in case of next world which is everlasting, you are turning away from Allah.  Because that which is transitory perishes and its renunciation becomes naught, but that which is everlasting cannot perish, hence its renunciation also is imperishable, therefore, free yourself from both the worlds and prepare yourself for the friendship of the Truth. Do not let this and the next world to sneak in your heart, turn whole heartedly to Allah. Once you acquire these qualities, walayat (saintship), will not be far off from you.

On a question that who was a saint, Abu Yazid replied:

الولي هوالصابرتحت الامروالنهي

Wali is that who remains patient to the command and prohibition of Allah,”

because the more a man loves Allah the more does his heart revere to what He commands and the farther is his body from what He forbids.

Abu Yazid narrated that once he was told of a saint living in another town. He went to see him and when he arrived at his mosque, incidentally the saint also came forth from his chamber and spat on the floor of the mosque. He turned back without saluting him, and said to himself:

“A saint must keep the Shariat (religious law) in order that Allah may protect him in his spiritual state. Had this man been a saint his respect for the mosque would have prevented him from spitting on its floor, or Allah would have preserved him from committing such act.”

Abu Yazid further narrated that the same night he dreamed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to him,

“O Abu Yazid, the blessing of that which you have done has come to you.”

The next day he attained the degree which we behold. 

A man who came to visit Sheikh Abu Said entered the mosque with his left foot foremost. The Sheikh gave orders that he should be dismissed, saying, “He who does not know how to enter the house of the Beloved is not suitable for us.”

A group of heretics who have adopted Sufism assert that service (devotion) of Allah is necessary only while one is asserting for saintship, but that after one has become a saint service is annulled. This is clearly a deviation as there is no maqam (station) on the way to the Truth where devotion or any obligation of service is abolished. I will explain this matter fully in its proper place.


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Zahid Javed Rana, Abid Javed Rana, Lahore, Pakistan

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