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Walī (Arabic: ولي, plural Awliyā' أولياء), is an Arabic word meaning "custodian", "protector", "helper", or authority as denoted by its definition "crown". "Wali" is someone who has "Walayah" (authority or guardianship) over somebody else. For example, in fiqh, a father is wali of his children. In Islam, the phrase ولي الله walīyu l-Lāh can be used to denote one vested with the "authority of God":
Only Allah is your Vali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.
In English, wali most often means a Muslim saint or holy person. It should not be confused with the different word wāli (والي) which is an administrative title that means magistrate and is still used today in some Muslim countries, such as the Wali of Swat.
Sunni Islam 
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 Sunni Islam having been mentioned in the earliest creeds to the most recent. Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-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 al-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.
Use in Tasawuf/Sufism 
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 Qutb (Pole)
- Three Nuqaba (Watchmen)
- Four Awtaad (Pegs)/Aqtab (Poles)
- Seven Abraar (Pious)
- Forty Abdal (Substitutes)
- Three Hundred Akhyaar (Chosen)
See also 
- ولي. Google Translate. Accessed February 7, 2010.
- "Walī (a., pl. awliyā;)"
- Quran 5:55
- Google Translate. Accessed February 7, 2010.
- Imam Abu Ja'far al-Tahawi al-Hanafi. Aqidah al-Tahawiyya. trans. Iqbal Ahmad Azami. Verse(?) 98-99. Accessed November 9, 2012.
- Chodkiewicz, Michel. The Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn 'Arabi. trans. Liadain Sherrard. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1993. ISBN 0-946621-40-3.
- Radtke, Bernd, and John O'Kane. The Concept of Sainthood in Early Islamic Mysticism: Two Works by Al-Hakim Al-Tirmidhi. Richmond, Surrey, UK: Curzon Press, 1996, pp. 10, 109. ISBN 0-7007-0453-2, ISBN 0-7007-0413-2.
- Sajid, Imam Dr. Abduljalil (22 December 2004). "Scholars Smash Hizb Argument Against British Politics". Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK.