the various meanings of Maula (Master) "Of Whomsoever I am the master this Ali is also his master"

"Of Whomsoever I am the master this Ali is also his master. "

Q: Please describe the various meanings of the Arabic word of Maula (Master).

A: According to Arabic language, Maula has sixteen meanings:

(1) Owner/master (2) Lord (3) liberator (4) liberated (5) neighbor (6) ahead and behind (7) ruled (8) guarantor with whom agreement has been made (9) son-in-law (l 0) cousin (1 1) benefactor (12) who has benefited (13) friend (14) helper (15) obeyed one or superior leader and (16) one who is preferable.

When a word having various meanings, like this word (Maula) is used in a sentence, in order to arrive at its proper meaning one must look at the verbal or logical context. So we say: Look at the tradition of Ghadeer Khum which is successively narrated (Mutawatir) that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:

"This Ali is the master for whomsoever I am the master."

Doubtlessly, in this tradition, the first twelve meanings mentioned above do not fit as they are unrelated with the matter on the contrary most of them are false and incorrect. The thirteenth and the fourteenth meaning; which is helper or friend too, has nothing related to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and His Eminence, Ali. They equally and commonly apply to all faithfuls, that is, every believer is the friend of every faithful as is mentioned in the following verse:

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ

"And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other ...” ( At-Taubah, 9:71)

Rather even angels are friends of the faithful and also their helpers as mentioned in the verse:

نَحْنُ أَوْلِيَاؤُكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ

"We are your guardians in this world's life and in the hereafter ..." (Al Fussilat, 4 1:31)

Thirdly, the context definitely, logically and verbally shows that what is meant is the sixteenth meaning and that the fifteenth and the sixteenth meanings are nearer to one another. The verbal context too shows that Maula means one who must be given first preference in following as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) before making this statement, asked:

"Am I not more preferable for you than your own lives?'' Thereafter he said: "For the one whom I am preferable to his l ife so is Al i for him in all affairs."

Thus it is only the sixteenth meaning which fits the occasion. Moreover, any other meaning is improper from the viewpoint of Arabic language and grammar as agreed by linguists.

The second thing which supports this meaning is the statement of Umar, who said:

"Congratulations to you, o son of Abu Talib!"

Ibne Athir also has written that what Umar meant was that Ali has been given the position of preference in obedience over all.

The third support to this meaning is what the Arab poet Hassan bin Thabit composed in Ghadeer Khum and which is equally popular among Shias and Sunnis; He recited:

"Then he (the Prophet) said to him: Stand up O Ali, indeed I am pleased of you being the Imam and guide after me."

This clearly shows that what Hassan, who was present in Ghadeer, meant was only the one who is to be given preference in obedience; that is Imamate.

Fourth proof: Prophet's words:

"You are the Imam of all believer men and women after me and the guardian (Wali) of all believer men and women after me.

Chief of scholars, Akhtab Khwarizmi has recorded this sentence from Zaid bin Arqam, Abdur Rahman lbne Abi Laylah and lbne Abbas, in Akhbaare Hadeethe Ghadeere Khum. So also Ahmad bin Hanbal, Ibne Maghazili Shafei and lbne Mardooyah have quoted it from Buraidah who says:

“I returned from Yemen and went to meet the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as I wanted to complain against Ali.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was upset and angry and he said:

"O Buraid! Do I not have greater right on the believers than their own selves?"

I submitted: Yes, O Prophet of Allah: Then he said:

"Of whomsoever I am the master, Ali is also his master. Verily, Ali is your chief among all people after me.”

And among all the proofs is the holy verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ

"0 Apostle! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord. "(Al-Maidah, 5:67)

And so is the verse of:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ

"This day have I perfected for you your religion ...,” (Al- Maidah, 5:3)

And so is the verse of:

سَأَلَ سَائِلٌ بِعَذَابٍ وَاقِعٍ

"One demanding, demanded the chastisement which must befall. ,” (Al-Ma’arij,70:1)

As for the meaning of all these verses and the contexts in which they were revealed quite cJearly and definitely show that Maula only implies one having precedence in discretion, which is the position of Imam and Caliph.

Among other evidences is what Ahmad bin Hanbal and others have reported that Amirul Momineen (a.s.) made the Muslims swear and asked from the pulpit of Kufa Masjid, those who had heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in Ghadeer Khum making the above statement to stand up and testify. Eighty persons got up and testified that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had on that day and at that place held up the hand of Ali (a.s.) and asked the audience:

"Do you know that I have greater right on the believers than they have on themselves?" They replied: "It i s true, 0 Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.)."

Thereafter the HoJy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:

"Of Whomsoever I am the master; this Ali is also his master."

It is obvious that had the meaning of Maula not been preferred in obedience and if it only meant friend or helper, it would not have been proper and logical for Ali (a.s.) to cal1 upon the people to testify on oath. Such demand would have been meaningless and out of place, because being friend and assistant of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) did not grant any special distinction to Ali (a.s.) as all Muslims have this virtue of loving and befriending and assisting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).

It is also a logical proof known to all that there were some specialties in the event of Ghadeer Khum. There were more than seventy thousand Muslims and they were scattered. The distance between the first and the last of them was at least four Farsakh (24 Kms). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) ordered all of them to gather at one place and that too during the midday heat in summer (in Arabia) when people placed cloaks under their feet and covered their heads from the sun. Then a stage was constructed of stones and camels saddles. The place of the meet was not pre-arranged and the huge caravan was not to halt there. Then the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) took Ali (a.s.) up on the said stage in such a manner that all should see him clearly. Then he said:

Am I not having more right on you than you have on your own selves?

When the audience replied: "Yes" the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) commanded: "Those who are present here should inform those who are absent that Ali is the Maula for whom I am his Maula. Then he (s.a.w.s.) prayed:

"O Allah, love one who loves him and be inimical to one who is inimical to him . . ."

These circumstantial evidences clearly show that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) did not do anything, but appoint Ali as Imam and Caliph of Muslims. No sane person would ever make so many extraordinary and painstaking arrangements just to tell thousands of Muslims that Ali was a friend of one whose friend he was. For more details and replies to objections, please refer to Kifayatul Muwahhideen.

Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib