Walī (Arabic: ولي, plural ʾawliyāʾ أولياء), is an Arabic word meaning "custodian", "protector", "helper", etc. "Wali" is someone who has "Walayah" (authority or guardianship) over somebody else. For example, in fiqh, a father is wali of his children especially for his daughters in marriage.
In Islam, the phrase ولي الله walī allāh can be used to denote one vested with the "authority of God":
Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.
However, the most common meaning of the word is that of a Muslim saint or holy person. In Turkish the word has been adopted as veli. In Palestine the word wali means both holy man and the tomb or mausoleum of a holy man. This is reflected in 19th- to early 20th-century Western scholarly literature, where the word is spelled "wali", "weli", "welli" etc. in English and "oualy" in French.
It should not be confused with the different word wāli (والي) which is an administrative title that means magistrate or governor and is still used today in some Muslim countries, such as the former Wali of Swat.
Wali as male custodian of a woman
According to Islamic law (shari'a) a woman needs a wali, that is a male custodian. In marriage, the marriage contract is signed by not by the bride and groom but by the bride's wali (typically the father or failing that a paternal grandfather or brother of the bride) and the bridegroom. After marriage the husban becomes the wali. Typically a father, brother or husband (a mahram) is a wali.
In the case of the woman's first marriage the father or paternal grandfather is wali mujbir. In this case, the bride's silence is considered consent. If father and grandfather are deceased another male relative may function as wali. If there is no Muslim relative, a qadi may function as wali. There are only very few exceptions to this ruling, e.g. in the Hanafi school of Islamic law a woman may under certain circumstances marry without a wali, if it is not her first marriage.
At least in conservative Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male wali.
Use in Sufism
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Sufism and Tariqat
A hierarchy of ʾawliyāʾ 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 (Guide)
- Three Qutb (World Pillar)
- Three Nuqaba (Watchmen)
- Four Awtaad (Pegs)/Aqtab (Poles)
- Seven Abraar (Pious)
- Forty Abdal (Substitutes)
- Three Hundred Akhyaar (Chosen)
- Hans Wehr, p. 1289
- Quran 5:55
- Robert S. Kramer, Richard A. Lobban Jr., Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Sudan. Historical Dictionaries of Africa (4 ed.). Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Press, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield. p. 361. ISBN 978-0-8108-6180-0. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
QUBBA. The Arabic name for the tomb of a holy man... A qubba is usually erected over the grave of a holy man identified variously as wali (saint), faki, or shaykh since, according to folk Islam, this is where his baraka [blessings] is believed to be strongest...
- Guérin, 1880, p. 488
- Hans Wehr, p. 1290
- Sahih Muslim, The Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 008, Number 3303.
- "World Report 2013 - Saudi Arabia". 2013. Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 2014-01-09. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- 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 978-0-946621-40-8.
- 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 978-0-7007-0452-1, ISBN 978-0-7007-0413-2.
- Sajid, Imam Dr. Abduljalil (22 December 2004). "Scholars Smash Hizb Argument Against British Politics". Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK.