2. Hajj, Symbol of Walayah

The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam whose importance and centrality becomes apparent upon even a little deliberation. For instance a part of the first verse quoted above read, “And it is the duty of mankind toward God to make pilgrimage to the House”. For no other pillar or commandment of the Law are the words “duty…toward God” used and this manner of speaking is unique to the Hajj.

The remainder of the verse implies that those who do not take up this duty - while having the ability to do so - have disbelieved in some manner!

So among the exoteric pillars of Islam, the Hajj stands out and God has called the people to perform the Hajj in this serious tone. But there is another pillar, more esoteric than the others, which demands even greater attention.

In a tradition from the grandson of the Prophet (S), Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (‘a) it is said:

بُنِيَّ الاسلام على خَمسْ على الصلاة و الزكاة و الصوم و الحج و الولاية و لم يناد بشيء كما نودي بالولاية

Islam has been founded on five [pillars]: on Salah, zakah, Sawm, Hajj, and walayah; and nothing has been called to like walayah has been called to.4

What is this walayah that is so important and how is it related to Hajj?

The word walayah, in its root meaning, means “nearness” and proximity - both in its physical and figurative senses. As such it is a relative concept. When it is said “waliyahu” (i.e. he/it became close to him/it), the meaning is reciprocal in that just as one thing became close to and attained proximity to the second - the other thing, in an equal and similar manner became close to the first.

This is very much like brotherhood and opposed to fatherhood. In this meaning if someone becomes close to Allah, He becomes near to him. But in the Qur’an, the concept of nearness is not usually used in this simple “horizontal” sense - especially when the nearness that is intended is not of a material and physical nature.

This “vertical” nearness in the Qur’an is such that it is obtained on one side and ,not obtained for the other. For example Allah is equally close to both a believer and a disbeliever:

وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

We are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein. ( Qur’an 50:16)

But on the other hand, the disbeliever, due to his not performing good actions (acts of qurb), is “far” from the Divine Presence.

أُولَٰئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ

Those (kuffar), they are called to from a far-off place.(Qur’an 41:44)

The nearness or farness then is from the human perspective.

So to recap, the walayah that is usually used in the Qur’an is not a relative term that is equal on both sides; rather it is of a type that the Muslim philosophers have termed as ishraqi. In an ishraqi relation the second term is dependent upon the first and can be said to be a manifestation of it.

In the Arabic language, especially as used by the ‘ulama, the first case of the two-sided nearness is termed wilayah and the second case - one-sided or ishraqi is termed walayah.

Now the Qur’an says:

…فَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْوَلِيُّ …

But it is Allah Who is the (real) Wali. (Qur’an 42:9)

So absolute walayah (and implicitly wilayah) belongs only to Allah. He most perfectly and supremely encompasses all creation and is infinitely close to all things and hence has command over them. His servants become close to Him and hence gain walayah only by approaching Him through correct intellection and willpower.

They must know the truth and do good acts to gain this nearness and become one of the awliya. The widening of the circle of walayah for a person and its ability to encompass more and more of reality is a tendency pointing towards the Absolute walayah of Allah and hence is divine in nature and essence. What is God-like is liked by God and is the cause of our becoming near to Him and His friends.

And Allah in turn becomes the Friend of these believers.

اللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ….

Allah is the Wali of those who believe. (Qur’an 2:257)

In this sense walayah can be seen to be the great chain of being and becoming - the principle in existence and of existence that ties all existents together and unifies them in their Source and Origin. As such the wali al-muťlaq is theraison d'être of walayah - infinitely close to all things but yet the cause of their gradation and farness from Him and the cause of their becoming towards Him.

To phrase again, the principle of walayah is known by its peak - that is by the Wali - Allah. This very same principle in both its horizontal aspect (implying connectedness and relevance) and its vertical aspect (implying goal and example) requires the existence of a relative peak in all realms and conditioned by the limitations of that realm.

Hence the necessity of a human wali in the human realm - a centre - an insan al-kamil - exemplifying the way of overcoming the particular limitations of that realm for the purpose of salvation and eternal becoming - to be more and more.

Now just as the Ka’bah is the centre and the House of God or the House of al-Wali, it is also the symbol of the human wali.

The human wali in his turn is the living example and standard of this symbol, mediating between it and God. The walipar excellence after the Prophet (S) was Amir al-Mu’minin Imam ‘Ali (‘a). In defending himself against the attacks and accusations of the Khawarij he said:

قد قال الله عزوجل : (ولله على الناس حج البيت من استطاع إليه سبيلا( ولو ترك الناس الحج لم يكن البيت ليكفر بتركهم إياه ولكن كانوا يكفرون بتركهم ايّاه ، لأنّ الله قد نصبه لكم علما، وكذلك نصبني علما حيث قال رسول الله ( صلى اله عليه وآله وسلم ) : يا علي ، أنت مني بمنزلة الكعبة تؤتى ولا تأتي.

Surely God has said, “And it is the duty of mankind toward God to make pilgrimage to the House - for those who are able to find a way to go to it”. So if the people do not perform the Hajj , it is not for the Ka’bah to be (accused) of unbelief due to their keeping away from it, rather it is the people who disbelieve (i.e. become kafir) by staying away from the Ka’bah.

This is because it is surely Allah who has set the Ka’bah for you as a standard (or point of reference); and similarly He has appointed me as a standard, as the Prophet (S) said: “O’ ‘Ali, you are like the Ka’bah - you are approached and you don’t approach.”5

Hence the man born in the Ka’bah and the first holder of the station of walayah after the Prophet (S) is the inner reality and substance of the Hajj.

Through the mediation of the Imam - the holder of the station of walayah - the Ka’bah plays its fundamental role as the channel of Divine grace and the sustainer of religion and livelihood of the people; for in one of its most significant meanings walayah is nothing other than the Divine channel of grace.