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Tawalli is a theological term that is the opposite of the term tabarri.

In respect to Shia terminology,

tawalli means to love and associate oneself with the Imams (as) and the leaders of religion and to
submit to their authority.

Tawalli, together with tabarri, which are two antonymous concepts, are described in the narrations as
being an obligatory duty, rather they are one of the most important obligations; as being an establisher
of iman and one of its most important foundations and as a matter that is prompted from a person
approaching death and a deceased person.

In Shiism, tawalli and tabarri are a fundamental condition for the acceptance of good deeds in the eyes
of Allah (swt) and without them no deed can be accepted. Regarding this matter, many narrations exist
in the Islamic sources. Also in the salutations and ziyarats like Ziyarat Ashura confessions of love for the
beloveds of Allah (swt) and hatred towards the enemies of Allah (swt) are presented.

Analyzing the Meaning

Tawalli is on the same form (wazen) as tarakki and is a root word from the derivative verb from the
primary pattern (baab) of tafa’ul and is formed from the word ‘wali’, which means to accept authority or
to choose a person and make him ones authority figure. Wali in the Arabic language could mean friend,
helper or guardian. Therefore the word tawalli has the meaning of accepting the friendship or
guardianship of another person.

According to the teaching found in Shiism, tawalli means to love, testify, follow, submit and accept the
authority and guardianship of Allah (swt), the Holy Prophet (s) and the Imams (as), which in reality it is
that very same love in the way of Allah and which is normally accompanied by tabarri which is to hate
and distance oneself from the enemies of Allah (swt).

Tawalli and tabarri are part of the branches of religion and are obligatory according to Shia

Tawalli in the Quran and Hadith

Loving the Holy Prophet (s), his Ahlul Bayt (as) and the love between fellow believers are concepts
that have been emphasized greatly in the Holy Quran. The following verses are sample of these

Love for the Prophet’s (s) family has been described as the recompense for his (s) efforts and
Say," I do not ask you any reward for it except love of [my] close relatives." (Shura:23)

The acceptance of the guardianship of Allah (swt), the Holy Prophet (s) and those vested with
Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat
while bowing down. (Maida:55)

In addition, other verses of the Holy Quran forbid the befriending of unbelievers:
O you who have faith! Do not befriend a people at whom Allah is wrathful: they have despaired of
the Hereafter, just as the faithless have despaired of the occupants of the graves. (Mumtaneh:13)

That guardianship is confined to Allah (swt), the Holy Prophet (s) and specific believers (the
Ahlul Bayt (as)):
Among the people are those who set up compeers besides Allah, loving them as if loving Allah but
the faithful have a more ardent love for Allah…(Baqarah:165)
O you who have faith! Do not befriend your fathers and brothers if they prefer faithlessness to faith.
Those of you who befriend them it is they who are the wrongdoers. (Tawbah: 23)

In Hadith

In numerous hadiths and traditions, the love for the Ahlul Bayt (as) and in particular the love for
Imam Ali (as), has been mentioned as being obligatory. Sayyid Hashim Bahrani has mentioned 95
hadiths from Sunni sources and 52 from Shia sources in the chapter dealing with the merits of the
lovers and followers of Imam Ali (as) and the rest of the Imams (as). In the words of Fazl b.
Ruzbehan, the Ahlul Sunnah also believe that loving the Holy Prophet (s) and his Household (as) and
disassociating from his enemies is obligatory upon every believer, and that person who does not take
the Holy Prophet (s) as his guardian and authority, or does not do tabarri towards his (s) enemies, is
not a believer.
It has also been narrated from Imam Ridha (as):
“The completion of religion is in our guardianship and in the dissociation from our
In some narrations, the different effects and results of loving the Ahlul Bayt (as) and taking them (as)
as guardians has been mentioned, effects such as, blissfulness, success in this World and in the
Hereafter, etc. Additionally, other narrations mention the effects of this love on the worldly and
afterlife of an individual. Some of the effects mentioned in connection to this world are: asceticism,
motivation to perform good deeds, piety, eagerness to worship, repentance before death, pleasure in
praying throughout the night, generosity and obeying the commands and prohibitions of Allah (swt);
and in the Hereafter the lover of the Ahlul Bayt (as) will find security from the fire of Hell, his face
will be bright, his book of deeds will be given to him in his right hand and he will enter Heaven
without being questioned.

The Philosophy of Tawalli

A person who has a specific set of beliefs and tenets and has chosen a set path for himself, whether
he intends it or not, his life will have direction i.e. he will not be indifferent or impartial. Naturally,
such a person cannot associate with everyone, regardless of their similarities or differences with each
other. It is for this reason that the Holy Quran forbids friendship and association with unbelievers.
Shahid Mutahhari say in this regard:
“A believer should possess the ability to attract and repel; he should have borders
and boundaries that explain and show his stance regarding believers and hypocrites,
unbelievers and idolaters.
The philosophy behind tawalli and tabarri is to outline the position and direction of a
person in connection with believers and unbelievers, and to proclaim his stance
regarding this matter. Tawalli and tabarri means that one is not impartial and
indifferent when facing truth and falsehood and that these two realities and not equal
for a person with belief, direction, whose alive and charismatic.
A person cannot have faith and believe in Allah (swt); follow his laws and
commands but yet not have direction and a stance; not inform others of his religious
position and outlook and associate and act with all people in the same way. Another
reason for tawalli and tabarri is to control the direction of one’s beliefs and actions,
based upon truth, whilst time goes by and to abstain for falling into the path of
falsehood and misguidance.
A believer, by practicing tawalli and tabarri, always keeps himself in the middle of
the straight and true path and protects himself from slipping onto the path of
perversion and misguidance, Tawalli and tabarri is a reminder of a believer’s
religious stance, beliefs and responsibilities and a sign that his faith is intact and

The Inseparability of Tawalli and Tabarri

By paying attention to the philosophy and aims of tawalli, it can be seen that this concept is always
accompanied by tabarri, for if it was not, it would not have the necessary effect. In other words,
following a particular path or way means to turn away from detours and diversions. Therefore, one
cannot be completely passive and befriend everyone. This meaning has also been emphasized in
hadiths and narrations that in order to achieve salvation, one must accept the guardianship and
authority of the Imams and associating with them is a necessity and in addition to that one must also
disassociate themselves from their enemies.

The Position of Tawalli in Shia Beliefs

Tawalli is one of the results and branches of love for the Ahlul Bayt (as) and associating and
attaching oneself to them, that itself is one of the essential and fundamental concepts of Shiism.
Tawalli is discussed and presented in Shia jurisprudence, theology and ethics. In Shiism, Tawalli and
tabarri are fundamental and crucial conditions for the acceptance of good works, and without them,
no deed can be accepted; it will be as if a person never performed any good deeds. In this regard,
numerous hadiths and narrations can be found within the sources of Islamic literature.
In Shia jurisprudence, tawalli and tabarri are counted as being among the branches of religion and
one of the obligations in jurisprudential law and at the time of death a person is prompted to do
tawalli and tabarri. This shows the importance of these religious concepts.
Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi in his book Akhlaaq Muhtashami allocates an entire chapter to love and
hate, tawalli and tabarri. In it he mentions verses from the Holy Quran, hadiths and sayings from
ascetics. In addition to this, a brief booklet entitled, ‘An essay on tawalli and tabarri (that has been
printed together with Akhlaaq Muhtashami),’ has been attributed to him. In this book, tawalli and
tabarri has been looked at from a philosophical angle and it concludes by saying that faith is achieved
by means of tawalli and tabarri.
Khawajah Nasir in this book analyses tawalli and tabarri in this way that whenever the bestial soul
comes under the control of the rational human soul, the two faculties of desire and anger become
more refined and are changed into yearning and ignoring and because the rational human soul has
become subservient to the intellect, yearning and ignoring are refined even further and are changed
into will and dislike. Eventually, when the intellect becomes subservient to the controller of reality,
will and dislike is changed into tawalli and tabarri. He believed that the perfection of tawalli and
tabarri was achieved when the four elements i.e. ma’rifat, muhibbat, hijrat and jihad were all
realized. He also believed that the perfection of religiousness occurred at a higher level i.e. at the
levels of Ridha and Taslim, and this occurs when tawalli and tabarri unify, i.e. tabarri is absorbed by
tawalli. At the end, in the opinion of Khawajah Nasir al-Din Tusi, faith is achieved and realized only
when all of tawalli, tabarri, ridha and taslim gather together in a person at one point of time and
becomes a reality. When this happens it can be said that a person has now gained faith and become a
true believer.

External Referents of Tawalli

Showing love towards the friends of Allah has many differing levels and it is clear that perfect and
complete loved is accompanied by obedience and following.
Shaykh Yusuf Bahrani says about tawalli, which is supported by many Shia hadiths that have given
the same conclusion that love for the Ahlul Bayt (as) is the acceptance of their Imamate and placing
them in a position to which is rightfully attached to them. Therefore, placing anyone ahead of them in
this matter, in reality, removes a person from being amongst the lovers of the Imam.
Fundamentally, the purity and truthfulness of love towards one person is in the conformity and
compliance towards that person. Therefore, a love that does not result in tawalli i.e. the acceptance of
the guardianship of the Imams (as) and submitting to them or in a theoretical and applied tabarri of
their enemies essentially cannot even be classified as love. The basis for this being a narration that
states that the completion of guardianship and sincere love in respect to Muhammad (s) and his
family (as) can only be achieved with tabarri from their enemies, close and distant.
Thence that love and hate and guardianship and removal (baraat) that has been emphasized in
numerous traditions must be taken to mean tawalli and the acceptance of the guardianship, authority
and leadership of the Imams (as) in all issues and matters. So according to this principle, affirmation
of the Imamate of the Twelve Imams (as) – a belief which necessitates their infallibility and divine
appointment to that position by Allah (swt) and the Holy Prophet (s), and their prudent knowledge of
the affairs of this World and the next and thus resulting in the obligation of following their
commands and prohibitions.- is from amongst the fundamentals that establish belief, rather it is
counted amongst the requirements of the School of the Ahlul Bayt (as).
In this way, guardianship and its acceptance can be placed next to Salah, Zakat, Hajj and Fasting as
being one of the pillars of religion, but rather it should be regarded as being the most important pillar.
In addition, tawalli, together with tabarri, has been described and confirmed as being a fundamental
element in any form of proclamation of correct religion and belief that has been approved and
recommended by the Imams (as).
To summarize, the concept of tawalli possesses different levels and instances that are as follows:

 The acceptance of Allah’s (swt) guardianship and that of the Holy Prophet (s) and the
Imams (as)
 Loving and acquainting oneself with Allah (swt), all the prophet (as), the Imams (as) and
Lady Fatima (sa)
 Loving and being associated with the believers and friends of Allah (swt)
It has come in a narration from Imam Baqir (as) that:
“If you would like to know if you are a good person or not, look into your heart!
If you admire and love those people who obey Allah (swt) and dislike and hate
those who disobey him, know that you are a good person and that Allah (swt)
loves you. But if you dislike and hate those who obey Allah (swt) whilst you
love and admire those who disobey Him (swt), you have no worth and Allah
(swt) also dislikes and hates you. Know that people are always with those who
they love and admire.”