Who are wali and auli’a? How can one identify them?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by DarulUloomTT.net


1. Who are wali and auli’a? How can one identify them?

2. Who are Abdal? I have heard that there are always 70 abdals present on earth for protecting Islam?


Assalaamu Alaikum

All praises are for Allah and peace and blessings be upon His final Prophet (S.A.S).

A Wali means one who is beloved to Allah. Awliya is the plural of Wali. There are different levels of the Awliya based on their closeness to Allah. The level of Taqwa (piety) in each person makes him reach closeness to Allah to the extent of his Taqwa. In truth and in fact, Allah recognizes those who are known to be His true Awliya (or friends). But there are apparent signs which can be seen from them that tells a person that they are close to Allah. Their strict adherence to the teachings of the Holy Quraan and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.S) are from the first apparent signs. They refrain from sins and unlawful actions. They are not arrogant and boastful, and do not entertain pride in their hearts. They guard their eyes, tongues and ears from all that which is Haraam. Their hearts are filled with the love of Allah and with the light of guidance which then become manifest from their limbs. They are humble ones, who do not seek ‘name’ of ‘fame’. They do not wish to be known by others and they keep a very close relation with Allah through worship, obedience, submission and devotion. In truth, Allah alone knows who these pious servants are, we can simply accept the external acts of a person to have love, respect and high regards for him. It is these things that we will look at to accept a person as a leader and a source of knowledge and inspiration. But, truly, it is Allah alone who knows who His friends are.

While explaining the concept of ‘Wali’ and ‘Awliya’ the scholars have stated that it is a level of closeness to Allah which is reserved for distinguished people. It is the level of love, and the one who reaches this level is among the awliya. In a Hadith Qudsi the Prophet (S.A.S) has stated that Allah says, “My servant continues attaining closeness to me through optional prayers, until I begin to love. And when I love him, I become his eyes with which he sees; I become his ears, and I become his feet and his arms’.

Essentially, this means that anything done by Allah’s servants is done for His pleasure.

Regarding this Allama Muhammad Idris Kandalwi writes, ‘Awliya of Allah are people characterized by Imaan and taqwa. The higher the Imaan and Taqwa, the higher the level of closeness to Allah. In this sense, every believer is a Wali. In the terminology of the Quraan and sunnah, Wali is that person who has a higher level of Imaan and taqwa. This is the person who is always cognizant of the greatness of Allah and his heart is inundated with love and fear of Him’. (Consequences of Debasing the Awliya pg.12).

Similarly, the great Scholar, Mufti Muhammad Shafi explained that ‘the Awliya of Allah and the levels of wilayat and endless’.

‘The highest level is that of the Prophets of Allah, (for they are closest to Allah and the most beloved to Him). The lowest level of this wilayat (being a Wali) is when a person reaches such a state that his heart is so absorbed in the remembrance of Allah, that the love of everything else in this world cannot override it. Whomsoever he loves, he loves of the sake of Allah. He himself plays no part in his love or dislike for anything. The outcome of this is that the internal (spiritual) and external (physical) dimensions of this person are perpetually occupied in pleasing Allah and avoiding any thing that he dislikes’.

‘A sign of attainment of this state is that one is incessantly in remembrance of Allah and in adherence to the Quraan and Sunnah. Anyone who attains these two attributes becomes a Waliyullah’. (Ma’riful Quraan, Pg.548, Vol.4, Urdu print, Idaratul Ma’arif)

On this topic, it is important to pay attention to what the great scholar, Allamah Idris Kandalwi (A.R) has written. He says, ‘one thing should be understood: the acceptance of Allah and becoming beloved to Him are different from being famous. The acceptance of Allah and being beloved to Him manifests in the pious ones in that Allah puts His love in the hearts of His humble servants for them. Slowly, this love spreads and the person becomes beloved amongst the people. Fame gained through the media or for the wrong reasons is in no way a proof of acceptance by Allah. This should be clearly understood’.

With respect to ‘Abdaal’ there is an authentic tradition of the Prophet (S.A.S) that speaks about this. In a narration related by Um Salma (R.A.), she says that the prophet (S.A.S) said, ‘There will be differences at the time of the death of the Khalifa, then a man from the people of Madina will run towards Makka fearing that he may be chosen for leadership or fearing the mischief that will erupt in Medina. The people of Makka will then come to him and they will take him out of (his house), but he will dislike it (because of being chosen as a leader or the fitna that is in Madina). They will then make Bai’ah (the pledge of allegiance) to him between the Hajr Aswad and Maqam Ibrahim. (According to scholars, this man will be the Mahdi from whom Bai’ah will be taken). (After people have accepted the Mahdi as their leader), armies will be sent from Sham (Syria) to fight with him’.

‘But they (the enemies) will sink in the earth at (a place called) Al Baidaa, which is between Makka and Madina. When people will see this (i.e the miracle which has occurred on account of the Mahdi, which will be the sign that he is the Mahdi), the ‘Abdaal’ of Sham (Syria) will come to him and the best of the people of Iraq (will also come to him)’.

‘They will then make the Bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to him. At this time, a man from the Quraish whose relatives shall be from Banu Kalb (a tribe) will come out (and openly oppose the Mahdi in his affair and will seek help from his family members against him). He will then send an army to fight those who have pledge allegiance to the Mahdi. (Through Allah’s help), the followers of Mahdi will gain the upper hand over the army of the Banu Kalb people’.

The Mahdi will then practice and establish among the people the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.S) and his Shariah, and will establish Islam on the earth. He will then remain for seventy years and will die. The Muslims will then perform Janaza over him. (Recorded in Mishkat in Kitabul Fitan from Abu Dawood) (Recorded by, Ahmad, Hadith No.26751, Vol.10, Pg.216, Darul Fikr / Tibrani (Mu’jamul Kabeer), Hadith No.931, Vol.16, Pg.5572, Mu’assasa Rayaan / Abu Dawood, Hadith No.4286, Vol.2, Pg.239, Maktaba Rahmania / Ibn Hibban, Hadith No.6757, Vol.15, Pg.239, Al Resala Al Ala’miah)

After narrating this Hadith in Al Mirqaat (Sharah of Mishkaat), Mulla Ali Qaari states, ‘(Imam) Hafiz Suyuti has stated in his commentary of Abu Dawood that the mentioning of ‘Abdaal’ does not occur in the six books except in this Hadith of Abu Dawood. However, Al Hakim has made the Takreej of the Hadith and has stated that it is Saheeh (sound). (Mirqaat -Sharah of Mishkaat, Vol.10, Pg.93,94 – Print Maktaba Rasheediya, Queta, Baluchistan).

In the above tradition, mention has been made of the ‘Abdaal’, and it has been stated that at the time of Mahdi, the ‘Abdaal’ of Shaam (Syria) will come to him and take the pledge of allegiance. While explaining who are the Abdaal, Mulla Ali Qaari states, ‘In An Nihayah it is mentioned that the Abdaal of Shaam (Syria) will be the Awliya and the worshippers. The singular of ‘Abdaal’ is ‘Badl’ (which means replacement or an exchange). These (pious servants of Allah) are named with this word because every time one from among them dies, he is replaced by another.’ Al Jawhari states, ‘Al Abdaal’ are people from the pious and righteous ones (the saaliheen), the world is not empty (or devoid) of them. When one of them dies, Allah replaces another one in his place’. (Mirqaat -Sharh Mishkaat, Vol.10, Pg.93, Print Maktaba Rasheediya, Queta, Baluchistan)

With respect to the amount of Abdaal, Mulla Ali Qaari has stated, ‘In Al Qamoos, it is mentioned that they (the Abdaal) are seventy, forty in Sham and thirty in other palces.’ Mulla Ali Qaari further writes, ‘what is evident is that what is meant by Shaam (Syria) is not specifically Damascus-Syria. Instead, it means that area which is in the direction of Sham and what is close to it from behind it.’ (Mirqaat -Sharh Mishkaat, Vo.10, Pg.93, Print Maktaba Rasheediya, Queta, Baluchistan)

While commenting on the above hadith, Allama At Teebi has also mentioned that ‘The Abdaal’ of Shaam (Syria) are the Awliya of Allah and the sincere worshippers.’ He has also quoted the statement of Al Jawhari in which it is stated that ‘The Abdaal’ are from the pious and righteous ones that the world does not exist without them’. (Sharh At Teebi -Sharh of Mishkaat, Vol.10, Pg.104, Print Dar Al Kutub Al Ilmiya, Beirut).

From these explanations, the understanding of ‘Abdaal’ is clear.

And Allah knows best
Mufti Waseem Khan


This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.