Thul-Hijjah 30, 1329
I. Requesting the Wilayat Verse
1) I testify that you are firm in your beliefs, sincere in your campaign, forceful and unmatched in facing your debater, invincible in the field. I am a believer in the ahadith according to the way which you have suggested. Had I not been obliged to believe in the sahabah, I would have accepted your judgement, but taking the word’s meaning in the way those sahabah have taken it is a must, following in the footsteps of the good ancestors, may Allah be pleased with all of them.
But you have not acquainted us with the verse which you claim, at the conclusion of Letter No. 36, that supports your view regarding the interpretation of these ahadith. Recite it for us so that we may comprehend its meaning by the Will of Allah Almighty, Wassalam.
Muharram 2, 1320
I. The Verse of Wilayat and its Revelation in ‘Ali’s Honour
II. Why it was Revealed
III. Why Using it as a Testimonial
1) Yes, indeed, I would like to recite unto you one of the perfect verses of Allah, the Exalted, the Almighty, in His great Book which distinguishes right from wrong. It is one of the verses of Surat al Ma’ida (Table of Viands):1
Only Allah is your wali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who say their prayers and offer zakat (even) while prostrating (in prayers). And whoever takes for Waliullah, His Messenger, and the believers, they, indeed, are the party of Allah; they are the ones who shall achieve victory. (Qur’an, 5:55-56)
Nobody doubts the fact that these verses were revealed in honour of ‘Ali who offered his own ring in the way of Allah while engaged in performing the prayers.
2) The sahih books consecutively report, through the authority of the Imams from among the Purified Progeny, stating that it was revealed in honour of ‘Ali when he, out of charity, offered his ring while prostrating in prayers. Refer to what has been said in this regard by others such as Ibn Salam who quotes hadith from the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny. Refer to it as published in Nisa’i’s Sahih, or in Al Jami Bayna al Sihah al Sittah, in a chapter dealing with the interpretation of Surat al Ma’ida.
Likewise, refer to the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas who explains the meanings of these verses in imam al Wahidi’s book Asbab al Nuzul. Al Khatib has included it in Al Muttafaq.2 Also refer to ‘Ali’s hadith in the musnads of Ibn Mardawayh and Abul-Sheikh. If you wish, refer to it in Kanz al ’Ummal.
Its revelation to honour ‘Ali is a matter of consensus among scholars of the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an. Such consensus is attested to by many Sunni scholars like Imam al Qawshaji in his chapter on imamate in Sharh al Tajrid. Chapter 18 of Ghayat al Maram includes one hadith narrated through the Sunnis testifying to our claim.
Had I not aspired to be brief, in addition to the fact that this issue is as clear as the sun in midday, I would have quoted for you many comments thereupon in authentic chronicles, but, praise to Allah, it is a matter which does not entertain any doubt. Despite that, we do not like to let this letter be without a few ahadith narrated by the majority of Muslims.
Suffices us what Imam Abu Ishaq Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al Nisaburi al Tha’labi3 has stated in his Al Tafsir al Kabir. When the writer comes to this verse, he quotes Abu Tharr al Ghifari saying:
“I have heard the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, with these ears – may I be deaf if I tell a lie – and saw him with these eyes – may I be blinded if I lie – saying: ‘Ali is the leader of the pious, the annihilator of infidels; whoever supports him is supported by Allah, and whoever abandons him is abandoned by Allah.’ I have, indeed, said my prayers once in the company of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, when a beggar came to the mosque and nobody gave him anything. ‘Ali was in the state of ceremonial prostration when he beckoned to him to take his ring. The beggar came and took it from ‘Ali’s finger, whereupon the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, invoked Allah, the Almighty, the Omniscient, and prayed Him on behalf of ‘Ali saying: ‘Lord! My Brother Moses had prayed to you saying:
Lord! Remove the distress from my bosom, render my mission easy for me, and untie my tongue’s knot so that people may understand me, and let me have a vizier from my own kin, my brother Aaron, to support my endeavour and participate in my undertaking, so that we may both praise you a great deal and mention your Name a great deal; You have been most Kind unto us (Qur’an, 20:25-35)
Thereupon, You inspired to him:
Verily, your prayer has been granted, O Moses! (Qur’an, 20:36).
Lord! I am Your servant and Prophet; therefore, remove my distress, render my mission easy for me, and grant me a vizier from my kin, ‘Ali, to support my endeavour’. By Allah, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, had hardly finished his supplication before Gabriel, the trusted one, brought him this verse:
‘Only Allah is your wali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who say their prayers and offer zakat (even) while prostrating (in prayers). And whoever takes for Waliullah, His Messenger, and the believers, they, indeed, are the party of Allah; they are the ones who shall achieve victory (Qur’an, 5:55-56).'”
3) You, may Allah support righteousness through your own person, know that the meaning of the word “wali” in such a context is “one who has the top priority in faring with one’s affairs.” We say “Such and such is the minor’s wali.” Lexicographers have made it clear that whoever takes charge of someone’s affairs is the latter’s wali.
The meaning of the verse, therefore, is as though Allah says that “the ones who take charge of your affairs and have priority even over your own lives in faring with the latter are: Allah, the Almighty and Omniscient, His Messenger, and ‘Ali,” for in ‘Ali alone have all these qualities been combined: faith, saying the prayers, and offering zakat even while prostrating in prayers, and for whom these verses were thus revealed.
The Almighty has in these verses reserved wilayat for Himself and for both His Messenger and wasi in the same manner. The wilayat of Allah, the Almighty and Omniscient, is general and inclusive. So is the wilayat of the Prophet as well as his wali; it carries the same meaning. It is not possible to apply to it in this context the meanings of “supporter, loved one, etc.,” since such a restriction [of application] is groundless, as is quite obvious. I believe this is a quite clear matter, and praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
- This is why people in Syria call a Shi’ah “mutawali,” due to his taking for mawla Allah, His Messenger, and those who have truly believed, that is, those in whose honour the same verse was revealed. Linguistically, the “mutawali” is singular, and the “mutawla” are the Shi’ahs. They are so-called because they accepted the wilayat of ‘Ali and Ahlul Bayt ‘alayh al Salam.
- It is hadith number 5991 of the ones cited in Kanz al ’Ummal on page 391, Vol. 6.
- He died in 337. Ibn Khallikan mentions him in his Wafiyyat al A’yan saying: “He was the unique authority of his time in the science of exegesis; he wrote Al Tafsir al Kabir, which surpassed all other books of tafsir,” and he goes on to say: “He is mentioned by ‘Abdul-Ghafir ibn Isma’il al Farisi in his book Siyaq Nisabur, where the author lauds him and describes him as ‘accurate in transmitting, trustworthy.'”
The insistence on citing this verse, referred to as Ayat al Wilayah, as evidence for ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu immediate succession is peculiar. Firstly, there’s nothing in the verse to suggest ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. If this verse is evidence for ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu divine appointment it is overly vague and ambiguous. There is nothing to suggest that he is intended specifically. The only indication of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu being intended is what is found in the Hadith; not the verse.
Authenticity of the Hadith
The Hadith is thus subject to scrutiny. We refer the reader to the lengthy discussion on the authenticity of this narration in the response to letter 12. To summarize, the narration was transmitted by way of the following companions, ‘Ali, ‘Ammar, Abu Rafi’, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas. All the narrations were found to be extremely weak and significantly flawed.
We might add here that the narration ascribed to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu can be found in both Ma’rifat ‘Ulum al Hadith, by al Hakim al Naysapuri, and Tarikh Dimashq, by Ibn ‘Asakir.
The narration appears with a common chain in both collections by way of Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Durays – ‘Isa ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib – his father – grandfather – ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu
‘Isa ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali is accused of forging this narration. Ibn Hibbban, Abu Nuaim and Al Dhahabi all said that he narrated fabricated reports by way of his father, from his grandfathers.
‘Abdul Hussain introduced the version from Tafsir al Tha’labi by way of Abu Dharr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, pinning his argument to this narration. The narration appears in his Tafsir with the following chain of transmission:
Abu al Hassan Muhammad ibn Qasim ibn Ahmed – Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmed al Sha’rani – Abu ‘Ali Ahmed ibn ‘Ali ibn Razi – al Muzaffar ibn al Hassan al Ansari – al Sindi ibn ‘Ali al Warraq – Yahya ibn ‘Abdul Hamid a-Hammani – Qais ibn al Rabi – al A’mash – ‘Abayah ibn Rib’i – ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas – Abu Dharr
‘Abayah ibn Rib’i was a fanatic Shia, known for narrating baseless reports. Musa ibn Tarif, another fanatic Rafidi was the primary narrator from him.
Al A’mash heard from Musa but never transmitted. Once, people were heard narrating from Al A’mash from Musa, from ‘Abayah, so the scholars asked him about this. He responded saying that he was mocking ‘Abayah and demonstrating some of his ridiculous narrations and people must have assumed that he was narrating from him.
We learn from this the interruption between al A’mash and ‘Abayah.
Qais ibn al Rabi’ was considered weak in terms of his memory. The difference of opinion among the scholars is how serious that was. It is believed that in his old age his son corrupted his books by adding narrations to them, when he would narrate from his books he did not realize that he transmitted baseless narrations. He was also known for being a Shia, which could have influenced the way he narrates the Fada’il of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Despite his weakness, he was held to be trustworthy by some of the scholars. 
Yahya ibn ‘Abdul Hamid al Himmani, despite his comprehensive knowledge, was accused of Sariqat al Hadith; he would graft his own isnad on another Hadith. Ibn Numair and Ahmed ibn Hanbal called him a liar.
Sindi ibn ‘Ali al Warraq. Despite comprehensive searching we could not find a biography for any narrator with this name.
Al Khatib al Baghdadi does mention a Sindi ibn Aban who narrates from Yahya ibn ‘Abdul Hamid al Himmani. He remains Majhul.
There is another Sindi al Warraq al Baghdadi, he worked as a scribe for Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al Mawsili. This Sindi was known to forge narrations into the books of Ishaq ibn Ibrahim, this was confirmed by Hammad ibn Ishaq. If this is the narrator he would be a forger.
Al Muzaffar ibn al Hassan al Ansari is considered Mahjul. There is no biographical entry for him in the books of Rijal. The same can be said for the teacher of al Tha’labi, Abu al Hassan, Muhammad ibn Qasim ibn Ahmed, he has not been mentioned with credit or discredit.
This Isnad is riddled with flaws. One can see how desperate the Shia are to prove the Imamah of ‘Ali if they base their entire doctrine on narrations such as this. Without this narration, the Shia have no argument that can be proven from the verse in Surah al Ma’idah.
Narrations from the Imams
‘Abdul Hussain reassures the readers that the narrations from the infallible Imams are in such abundance they reach the level of Mutawatir. Why does he not volunteer some of these narrations then?
The truth is that if his bluff were called he would be left with egg on his face since the fifth Imam, Muhammad al Baqir, was asked about this verse and he had this to say, “The ones intended by it are the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Companions.” ‘Abdul Malik says, “I then said to him that people say it refers to ‘Ali?” He responded, “Well, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is included among them (the Companions).”
It appears al Baqir was either unaware of the context of the revelation of this verse, or that the alleged context was an outright forgery!
Ibn Jarir al Tabari narrates by way of Hannad ibn Sari — Yunus ibn Bukayr — Muhammad ibn Ishaq — Ishaq ibn Yasar — ‘Ubadah ibn al Walid ibn ‘Ubadah ibn al Samit who said
When the Jewish tribe of Banu Qaynuqa’ decided to fight the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Ubadah ibn al Samit radiya Llahu ‘anhu – from Banu ‘Auf from the Khazraj who had alliances with the Banu Qaynuqa’ – went to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and announced that there remained no fealty between him and Banu Qaynuqa’. He pledged his loyalty to Allah and His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and disassociated with all the disbelievers. It was in this regard that the verse was revealed…
The verses preceding this all relate to the theme of loyalty to Islam and Muslims, not taking the disbelievers as allies, promising continuity of the religion even if people renegade. The verse after it prohibits taking the People of the Book and other disbelievers as allies, pledging loyalty to them.
When all the previous verses refer to the Wali as a helper, friend, supporter, ally; and the verses after also use the term in the same context; why should it mean something different in verse 55?
Problems with applying it to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu specifically with the meaning of authority
If the term Wali meant authority or inferred governing, it would imply that Allah and the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam share the same authority with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The only interpretation of the term Wali, where its application could simultaneously apply to Allah, the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the believers, or ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu specifically, is when it is said to mean helper, friend, ally etc.
It would also mean that ‘Ali held this authority during the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam life independently of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Is it logical that he and the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam share this authority simultaneously?
If this meant that leadership was conferred exclusively for ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu because of giving the ring in charity, it follows that none of the remaining ‘eleven infallibles’ are deserving of Imamah. They fall short of the criteria of giving charity whilst in Ruku’. If it is argued that their appointment is determined by other texts it would undermine the very argument made by ‘Abdul Hussain; that the verse applies exclusively to ‘Ali! ‘Abdul Hussain has created his own conundrum.
There are other inaccuracies in ‘Abdul Hussain’s interpretation of this verse. He has brought up these issues in the ensuing correspondence, it is there where we shall address some of these issues with Allah’s permission.
 Tarikh Dimashq vol 42/356; Ma’rifah ‘Ulum al Hadith pg. 350
 Al Majruhin vol 2 pg 121, Mizan al I’tidal vol 3. Pg. 315
 Al Kashf wal Bayan, Surah al Ma’idah: 55
 Mizan al I’tidal vol. 2 pg. 388, Lisan al Mizan vol. 4 pg. 417
 Al Kashif bio. 4600, Mizan al I’tidal vol. 3 pg. 393, al Taqrib bio. 5573
 Al Du’afa wal Matrukin by Ibn al Jawzi vol. 3 pg. 197
 Tarikh Baghdad vol. 10 pg. 234
 Lisan al Mizan vol. 4 pg. 196
 Hilyat al Awliya’ vol.3 pg.185
 Jami’ al Bayan vol. 8 pg. 529