3. The Wali, the Kabah of Tawhid
Just as the baťin and esoteric aspect of prophethood (nubuwah) is the tradition of initiation (imamah), the inner reality of tawhid is walayah. This itself can be seen from two perspectives. Looking inwardly more emphasis is put on the “vertical” walayah in its aspect of truth. As al-Wali, is also al-Haqq, the Truth permeates and hence unites - walayah being the dynamic principle of the Truth. The human Wali symbolizes this and acts as the “Pole” and “Ka’bah” around which and through which humanity can unite, in their journey to the One.
The second perspective is more outward and more importance is paid to the “horizontal” wilayah - the one that human beings have with one another through love, assistance, brotherhood and the other valid and true human relations.
To begin with the second, it can be said that the clearest and most obvious manifestation of this idea in the context of Islam is the Ummah. The political and practical unity of the community of Muslims is of paramount importance.
Was it not for this very reason that Imam ‘Ali (‘a) refused to fight for his right after the death of the Prophet (S). Only the person who truly understands and is the possessor of the station of walayah could forgo his rights - in practice if not in principle - so as to meet the demands of the wilayah and its logic of unity.
For the Qur’an says:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ....
The believers are surely brothers. (Qur’an 49:10)
It also says:
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ
And the believing men and the believing women are the friends of one another. (Qur’an 9:71)
The meaning of both these verses is imperative - a command from Allah. As such it is the duty of Allah’s trustee and guardian to enforce this law. Hence the great and overwhelming task that is at hand for the Imam (‘a) and his representatives and followers to try to unite the Muslim Ummah, with all its many divisions and differences.
The outward symbol of this coming together of all Muslims, with their various schools of thought, races, tongues and cultures, is the Hajj. It is the focal point of the unity of the Ummah.
Now to return to the fist perspective - the one in which the vertical walayah in its aspect of truth and connection to the Truth predominates - it can be said that this is the essence of the other perspective.
The truth, by its very nature unites, and unites in a real and true sense. But the quintessential point here is to know and realize that the truth qua truth - in its totality - is unfathomable by any and all human minds. One can never claim to know all of the truth; hence one cannot absolve oneself totally from its many possible manifestations, in all their variegated degrees and archetypes.
In fact the closer a person is to the Truth, the more he can see these various manifestations and help to perfect their “light”, as it were. This is precisely what the Imams (‘a) would do and in particular the foremost of them. Hence it is no accident that all Sufi orders, without exception, trace their chain of authority and grace back to Imam ‘Ali (‘a).6
And it is also not coincidental that it was these very orders that played such an important part in the spread and subsistence of Islam in the world. The logic of the above can be found in the saying of the Prophet (S), in which he said that:
علي مع الحق و الحق مع علي يدور حيث ما دار
‘Ali is with the truth and the truth is with ‘Ali - he goes wheresoever it goes.7
The truth and right was with the Imam (‘a) as is so clearly and graphically portrayed in Ghadir at the time of the last Hajj of the Prophet (S). The consequence of this is that the truth proceeded through his progeny and we now have access to it through mainly their sayings - to whatever extent that they were recorded and correctly transmitted to us.8
But ‘Ali is with the truth. This is a much greater claim. So, where ever the truth is to be found, irrespective of whether there is documented proof of it or not, know that the reality of the Imam (‘a) - in his role as the initiator of the station of walayah and partaker of the Muhammadan Light - is also there.
It is precisely because of this that such great figures of Islamic history as Mawlana Rumi and Ibn ‘Arabi, inspite of the differences in their exoteric perspectives and madhabi affiliations, were great. They partook of the Muhammadan spirituality through the grace and connection that they had with Mawla ‘Ali (‘a) - the Ka’bah of faith.
To deny this would be to limit and belittle the greatness of the Imam (‘a). It is through this - through reference to the esoteric reality of Islam (which principally unites and gives grace to exoteric partialities) and its initial channel that the first Imam (‘a) represents - that we can conceive of a unity that is truly becoming of him and his Beloved, the One.