The issue of wilāyah is one of the most fundamental Islamic concepts in the Holy Qur‘an and Islamic hadiths. The purpose of this article is twofold. Firstly it makes an effort to study the nature and meaning of wilāyah and secondly, by studying the social aspects of wilāyah, it aims to explain that wilāyah (or muwālāt) is a strong spiritual bond between believers and the Infallibles. As will be explained later on in the article, for believers wilāyah produces the same fate and aims both in this world and the hereafter. Contrary to what most people believe, wilāyah is not just the relationship between each individual believer and the Prophet and Imams, rather it is the relationship between the community of believers as a whole and the Prophet and Imams and also the relationship amongst the believers themselves. The wilāyah of Allah swt and His walīs creates a united society and an integrated body of believers who demonstrate love, devotion and dedication amongst themselves. This type of wilāyah is the soul of Islam and is able to give spiritual life to the Islamic ummah and bring unity to it. This article examines issues such as the essential elements, hierarchical order and mutuality of wilāyah, whether or not unbelievers are under the wilāyah of Allah swt, and also the social function of wilāyah. By doing so, one can improve one’s understanding of wilāyah and also take a small step towards strengthening religious brotherhood and achieving a society governed by wilāyah. Indeed, strengthening and reinforcing the relationship of wilāyah amongst the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S) results in the best conditions for achieving Islamic unity and furthermore, Islamic unity results in the ideal conditions for friendship and collaboration of all believers in God throughout the world.
The concept of wilāyah has a great and very special status in the Holy Qur’an and Islamic hadiths. Many studies have been conducted, extended discussions have been held by commentators, theologians, and mystics and many works have been written about this issue. However, it seems that it is necessary to do much more, both from the theoretical and the practical aspects. In this article, we seek help from Allah swt in attempting to profoundly study the meaning and nature of wilāyah from the theoretical point of view, and to illustrate that wilāyah, by its very nature, is a matter which relates to the community and not just to individuals. Limiting wilāyah to a relationship between individuals and the Infallibles is not only incorrect according to Islamic principles, but also prevents fulfillment of some of the main functions of wilāyah in a religious society.