By Abdulaziz A Sachedina
This paper examines the Qur'anic origins of the concept of wilaya in light of its connection with the historical wilaya of Imam Ali. Various explanations of the concept in the Qur'anic exegesis, written by different schools of thought in Islam, have been studied to investigate the theological importance of wilaya to the fundamental doctrine of the leadership (imama) in Islam. The close relationship between the doctrines of divine justice (al-'Adl) and the necessity of the divinely-appointed imam in the Shi,i school of thought underscore the pivotal status of the acceptance of the wilaya of Imam Ali as imperative to the faith of believers. At the same time, recognition of this wilaya of Imam Ali is regarded as a precondition to the establishment of the ideal public order based on the divine scale of justice. Consequently, no ideal public order is conceivable in Islam without the imama being invested in the person in whom this wilaya is validated through a divine designation. This theological relationship between the imama and wilaya through divine designation made it juridically problematic for anyone other than the divinely appointed Imam to assume the absolute wilaya in the Muslim Ummah. This problem of assuming the wilaya by other than the Imam himself was duly treated in the Shi`i jurisprudence, which carefully defined the limits of juridical
wilaya in relation to the theological wilaya of the Imam. The paper, thus, demonstrates the significance of the wilaya of Imam Ali in the Qur'anic context of establishing the public order and the necessity of accepting the interdependency between imama and waliya in Islamic leadership while differentiating between theological and juridical forms of wilaya.