wilaya

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Term Definition
wilaya

The Arabic term wilaya, means guardianship, authority, succession, and friendship. As key concepts in Shia belief, wilaya and wali (the person holding the position of wilaya), have special spiritual, political, and social significance. The Holy Quran elaborates the essential place wilaya maintains in the life of every Muslim: "Your wali (the infallible-protector) can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the zakah, while bowing down in prayer" (5: 55). In the eyes of the Shia Muslims, after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), wilaya exclusively resides in Imams, emphasizing that Muhammad designated as his successor his son-and-law and cousin Ali ibn abi talib when he announced at the oasis of Ghadir Khumm: 'For whomever I am the authority (mawla), Ali is his authority' (EI 707). It is also to be noted that during the occultation of the last Imam of Shia (Imam Mahdi a.s.), the responsibility of providing the Muslim community with religious leadership and guidance would be carried by the jurists (mujtahids). The French philosopher and orientalist, Henry Corbin (1903-1978), presents wilaya as the cornerstone of Shia Islam and in many of his works has discussed this principle.

Synonyms: wilaya
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