Definition of Awliya-Allah
Walī (Arabicولي , plural Awliyā' أولياء), is an Arabic word meaning "custodian", "protector", "sponsor", or authority as denoted by its definition "crown". "Wali" is someone who has "Walayah" (authority or guardianship) over somebody else. For example, in Fiqh the father is wali of his children. In Islam, the phrase ولي الله walīyu 'llāh. can be used to denote one vested with the "authority of God":
بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ [Quran 5:55] "Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, establish worship, and pay the poor due while bowing down (in prayer)."[Quran 5:55]
What is an Awlia
In religious uses, it is generally short for Waliullah (Arabic ولي الله) or friend of God. Belief in the Awliya is an agreed upon article of faith in Tassawuf/ Sufism having been mentioned in the earliest creeds to the most recent. Imam Tahawi mentions them in his creed:
We do not prefer any of the saintly men among the Ummah over any of the Prophets but rather we say that any one of the Prophets is better than all the awliya' put together. We believe in what we know of Karamat, the marvels of the awliya' and in authentic stories about them from trustworthy sources.
Islamic books of Aqeedah are not meant to be exhaustive of every branch of faith but rather to clarify points deviated from by non-Sunni sects. Thus Imam Tahawi clarifies some Sufis mistaken belief that the Awliya could become greater than Prophets and confirmed the majority of Sunni Muslims' belief that the Awliya can perform miracles.
Awliya in the Quran
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Awliya in the Hadith
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System of Awliya
A hierarchy of Awliya and their functions are outlined in the books of Sufi Masters. There is disagreement as to the terms used for each rank but there is a general agreement about the numbers and functions of each level. Starting from the top downwards:
- One Ghawth (Helper)
- Three Qutub (Pole)
- Three Nuqaba (Watchmen)
- Four Awtaad (Pegs)/Aqtab (Poles)
- Seven Abraar (Pious)
- Forty Abdal (Substitutes)
- Three Hundred Akhyaar (Chosen)
The Ghawth is the leader of "Rijjall ul Ghaib" (the invisible men). He leads the world government.