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Nubuwwa (Prophethood) and Nabi (Prophet), Wilayat (Providence) and al-Wali


Nubuwwa (Prophethood) and Nabi (Prophet), Walaya (Providence) and Wali (Intimate). 

Stephen Lambden UC Merced,

In Progress 1980s/ 2017-8.




Introductory Note.

The Qur’ān rooted Arabic walāya (or the synonymous wilāya) and the related walī (plural, awliyā’), the `friend, saint, overseer, leader, authority or guardian’, etc, is often indicative of an aspect of spiritual or divine intimacy, of divine providence and its human locus or vehicle of expression (cf. Qur’ān Q. 42:28). Walāya has thus (among many other things) been regarded as an expression of special intimacy, friendship, saintliness, providence and overseership or the like. The human walī, for example, may be a special Intimate, Friend, Saint or Sage, etc. From the early Islamic centuries, walī became a significant human centered technical term within select Sufi circles. So too in the writings of those who sought to clarify dimensions of Shī`ī imamology. Shī`ī discussions of these matters often make much of the differences between nabī and rasūl relative to the position of the walī (locus of divine guidance) and the sanctified Imam. This can be seen, for example, in such works as the `Ilm al-yaqīn (The Knowledge of Certainty) of Mullā Muḥsin Fayḍ al-Kashānī (d.1090/1679) (`Ilm 1:366f) and will be briefly examined below. [1]

[1] For useful overviews of walāya/walī See Landolt, `Walayah’ in Enc.Rel.  1987; Chodkiewicz, 1993; Radtke, 1996; Renard, 2008, especially pp. 260-263; Kamada, 455ff in Lawson, ed., 2005; McGregor, `Friend  of God’ in EI3 (Brill online version 2013). On the walāya concept and the figure of the walī in the writings of the Bāb and Bahā’-Allāh see below and Appendix 7.  

Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib and the wilaya concept.


Muhammad Muḥyi al-Dīn Ibn al-`Arabī (b. Murcia, Spain c. 560/1165 - d. Damascus, Syria 638/1240).  

The influential and prokific master of Islamic mysticism, Muhammad ibn `Alī Ibn al-`Arabī (d. 638/1240), with numerous of his commentators, made much of the related concepts of nubuwwa (prophethood) and wilāya ("human mediated providential guidance"). For the Great Shaykh, walāya is essentially the bāṭin (inner depth) of nubuwwa, itself of various kinds. It transcends legislative prophethood or the limited, time-bound sharī`a legalism of the divine messengers. Ibn al-`Arabī was much influenced by al-Tirnidhī on whose Sirat al-awliyā’ he wrote a commentary entitled Jawāb al-mustaqīm (The Straight Reply), He likewise drew upon this work of al-Tirmidhi in chapter 73 of his encyclopedic al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Disclosures) (so Elmore 2001: 416). Only a few notes on key works of Ibn al-`Arabī at times centering on khatm (seal) concepts and on the major themses of nubuwwa (prophethood),  wilāya  and the supreme walī (Friend, Saint, Guide) can be set down here.  

Kitāb `Anqā mughrib fî ma`rifa khatm al-awliyā’ wa shams al-maghrib (The book of the Fabulous Gryphon [Phoenix] on the Seal of the saints and the Sun of the West).

This complex lengthy, early work of Ibn al-`Arabī, was written in Andalusia in c. 596/1200. As its title indicates, it contains some centrally important materials relating to Islamic eschatology and to the khatm al-awliyā, the Seal of the Walis, the Friends, Saints or persons closely intimate with God and capable of guiding humanity.   

al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Disclosures).

Begun in Mecca in 598/1201 Ibn al `Arabī’s massive (560 chapter), encyclopedic compendium, al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya (`The Meccan Revelations’; spanning some 2,500 + pages) took more than thirty years to complete. The following (loosely translated) passages from the al-Futūḥāt revolve around khatm / khātam (seal) concepts touching upon modes of nubuwwa (prophethood) and of wilāya (provindetial guidance), and must suffice to illustrate a few aspects of these developments:

Walāya (Providential Intimacy, Friendship) is expressive of nubuwwa `āmma (general or universal Prophethood) and that prophethood which is legalistic (al-tashrī`) also known as nubuwwa khāṣṣa (specific, historical prophethood) ... Muhammad is the khātim al-nubuwwa (seal of prophethood) for there is no prophethood (nubuwwa) after him… Yet after him is the like of Jesus among the ūlū al-`azm, (major prophet figures characterized by steadfastness) among the Messengers (al-rusul) and certain specified Prophets (al-anbiyā’) ... there will be disclosed a Walī (‘Chosen Intimate’, ‘Friend’, `Saintly Leader’) possessed of absolute Prophethood (nubuwwa al-muṭlaqa) ...  (Futuhat, II: 24ff, 47ff; cf. I: 200, 429; Fusus, 134-6; 160, 191). [1]

[1]  For further details see al-Tirmidhi, Khatm al-Awliyā,   ed. Osman Yahya, 1965;  ed. Radtke, 1992;  Abrahamov, 2014, Elmore 1999, 2001, Renard, 2008: 263ff,

The Fuṣuṣ al-Ḥikam (Ringstones of Wisdom).

The terse yet profoundly deep Fuṣuṣ al-Ḥikam (Ringstones of Wisdom, c. 627/1230) of Ibn al-`Arabī, is perhaps his best-known and the most widely commented upon of his late compositions.  It is among the most influential and important of his religio-philosophical and mystical works.  Though relatively brief (around 200 pages) it is yet "incomparably vast in content and philosophical significance" (Izutsu, EIr. 5:554). Its author claimed that each of its 27 chapters were handed to him in a vision of the Prophet Muhammad. Each section revolves around one of the (traditionally) 27 or so largely named qur’ānic prophets  who are thought to  enshrine  a particular divine attribute, theological mode (maqām) or wisdom central to engagement with the Real (al-ḥaqq) (Chittick, VII:665).

The Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikam and the tradition of the final “brick”.

It will be appropriate to preface the following summary of paragraphs and translations from Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam sections II (Seth) and XIV (Ezra), by citing a version of a prophetic tradition drawn upon and interpreted by Ibn al-`Arabi. It is about Muhammad representing himself symbolically as the final “brick” in the “wall of prophethood” in connection with his being the “seal of the prophets” (Q. 33:40):

From Abū Hurayrah [it is transmitted] that the Messenger of God [Muhammad] ... said: “My  similitude] (mathalī) and the similitude of the prophets (mathal al-anbiyā’) who preceded me, is even as the parable of a man (mathal al-rajul) who contructed a house. He improved it and beautified it save for the place of a single [absent] brick constituting the cornerstone (labinat min zāwiyya). The people circumambulate about it and are astonished by it. They say: `Why then is this brick (al-labina) not placed?” Yet, `I am indeed the brick (al-labina) and I am the “seal of the prophets” (khātim al-nabbiyīn)”!’ (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3535; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2286, Lambden trans.)

This prophetic tradition illustrates the central position of Muhammad among the prophets. It illustrates his primacy as the “Seal of the prophets”. Like Christ in the New Testament, Muhammad is the “chief cornerstone” of the edifice of religion (Ephesians 2:19-21; cf. Isaiah 28:16-17; 1 Peter 2:6). For Ibn al-`Arabi this ḥadīth has interior and exterior levels of interpretation which extend any sense of finality.  

In the second, Seth section of the Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, Ibn al-`Arabic draws upon, interprets, and in various ways comes to transcend, the `finality’ of the prophetic tradition in which Muhammad is pictured as the “last brick” thereby representating himself as the  “last prophet”, within the “wall” of the edifice of prophethood (al-nubuwwa).[1] For Ibn al-`Arabī, this tradition has inner and outer dimensions. The “wall” of prophethood leaves room for the khātim al-wilāya (the `Seal of Divine Intimacy – Sainthood’). Its concluding “brick” can also be or include the figure of the supreme Walī (Intimate Friend). We glimpse here the possibity of  future advent(s) of human instruments of walāya (Divine Intimacy), of the guiding Friend(s) or saintly Intimates of God. Suggestive of futurity the one “brick” of prophethood becomes two bricks or two “walls”, one of “silver” and the other of “gold” suggestive of future messengers or intimates of God (see Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam ed Afīfī, 1980: 63).

Some notes upon and translations from the second, Seth (Shīth) and fourteenth Ezra (Uzayr) sections of the Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikām.   

The following, sometimes complex passages from the second Seth (Shīth, son of Adam) section of the Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikām, are well-worth citing in full translation here (see Appendix 3 below) though it must suffice at this point to attempt to sum up some of the main points made by Ibn al-`Arabī. Among many other things, these and related paragraphs, have it that, through the walāya (Divine providential Intimacy) centered in the person of the Walī (Friend, Saint, Guide), especially as the Seal of the Intimate Friends (khātim al-awliyā’), the boundary of the “Seal of the prophets” (khātim al-nabiyyīn) was transcended and extended for all-eternity.[2] The main points made by Ibn al-`Arabī in the second Seth related section may thus be summed up as follows:

  • While the Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul) and the Seal of the Friends (khātim al-awliyā’) both have access to special knowledge [of God] (al-`ilm), Prophets (al-anbiyā’) and Messengers (al-rusul) are dependent on the Niche of that Messenger [Muhammad] (mishhkat al-rasūl) who is their Seal (khātim). The Awliyā' (chosen, intimate Friends) likewise envision this special knowledge from the niche of the Walī (mishhkat al-walī) who is their Seal (khātim).
  • The Messengers (al-rusul) only envision the special knowledge through the niche of the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (mishkat khātim al-awliyā').
  • The sent Message (al-risāla) of the messenger (rasūl) and prophethood (al-nubuwwa) have time-bound legalistic aspects (nubuwwat al-tashrī`) and a specific message (risāla) they may come to be terminated.
  • Wilāya (Divine Intimacy, Saintly Virtue) can never cease to be available to humanity.
  • The sent Messengers (al-mursalūn) are awliyā' (intimate, chosem ones, Friends, Saints). They do not vision things save through the niche of the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends] (mishkat khātim al-awliyā’).
  • Although the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (khātim al-awliyā') follows the legal directives (sharī`a) of the Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), this does not compromise their particular stations.  
  • Every prophet (kull al-nabī), from Adam until the final Prophet (ākhir al-nabī), attained prophethood through the niche of the Seal of the Prophets (mishkat khātam al-nabiyyīn) [Muhammad]. Prophets (anbiyā’) are, however, commissioned by God.
  •  The Seal of the Chosen Friends (khātim al-awliyā') was a special, primordial Walī (Saintly authority) when Adam was between [primordial] water and clay (al-mā’ wa’l-ṭīn). Some come to be a Walī (Intimate Ones, Friend, Saint) by  attaining the qualities of wilāya (sharā’iṭ al-wilāya), by appropriating of divine characteristics (al-akhlāq al-ilāhiyya) or assimilating (al-ittiṣāf) the modality of God (kawn Allāh), who is “the “Walī” (“the Protector/Friend”,  Q. 42:28).  
  • The Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), expresses His wilāya (Divine Intimacy, Saintly virtue) through the Seal of the Chosen Friends (khātim awliyā’). He is also connected with the Prophets (al-anbiyā’) and the Messengers (al-rusul) as the Walī (the Intimate Friend of God), who respesents the Messenger (al-rusūl), and the Prophet (al-nabī).
  • The Seal of the Chosen Friends (khātim awliyā’) is indeed the Walī (the Chosen Friend), who is the Inheritor (al-wārith) and one situated above a lower hierarchy.   
  • He [the Walī] is one perfect among the perfections (ḥasanat al-ḥasanāt) of the seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), Muhammad… the Foremost of the community (muqaddam al-jama`a) and the Lordly Master of the children of Adam (sayyid walad adam) who opens up the gateway of intercession (bāb al-shifā`a). He is thus assigned a specific spiritual status (ḥāl) which is all-embracing (`amam). Relative thereto he [Muhammad / the Walī] has precedence over the Divine Names (al-asmā’ al-ilāhī) … (Fusūs al-hikam, 2nd printing, ed Afīfī, 1980: 62-4; trans. Lambden; see Appendix 1).[3]

Extracts from Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, section XIV centered on `Uzayr-Ezra (Q. 9:30).

Know thou that wilāya (providential Intimacy) is a universal, all-encompassing firmament-sphere (al-fulk al-muḥīt al-`āmm) which can never be terminated-  circumscribed-abstracted. Universal prophets (al-anbiyā’ al-`āmm) channel it. As for legislative prophethood (nubuwwat al-tashrī`) and the conveyors of the sent messenger (al-risāla) this may come to be cut off [terminated]. This was the case with [the legalistic prophethood of] Muhammad (upon him be peace). This was indeed terminated for there can be no prophet (nabī) after him. Certainly not, in other words, one [a prophet] Law-generating, one subject to one Law-generating or even a Messenger (rasūl) given to legislation (Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, 2nd printing, ed Afīfī, 1980: 134-137; trans. Lambden.  cf. Chodkeiwicz, 50-51).

At this point in Fuṣūs XIV, Ibn al-`Arabī states that the above position is a “mortal blow” (qasama) for the awliyā’, those intimate with God. This in that it restricts the possibility of expressing pious servitude (`ubudiyya) centered in a prophet (nabī) or a Messenger (rasūl). Such desigmations are “created names”! which are transcended by the Divine Name al-Walī, the Intimate Friend (see Q. 42:28 and cf. above). General or universal prophethood' (nubuwwa 'āmma), however, remains and is expressive of that walāya which may legitimately involve the interpretation of the religious Law. God, or an individual representative of Him such as Muhammad, is more perfact as a Walī, an `Intimate Friend’, than as a prophet or a Messenger. al-Walī (the Intimate Friend) is a perpetual Name of God, Human beings may to some degree assimilate this station by appropriating the Divine attrbutes (ṣifāt Allāh) manifested by God, the Walī (the Intimate Friend). The human agent(s) of walāya extend the prophethood of the “seal of the prophets” (see Fusūs al-hikam, ed Afīfī, 1980: 134ff.  cf. Chodkeiwicz, 50-51).

We may conclude these often complex, innovative insights of Ibn al-`Arabi relating to khātamiyya, nubuwwa and wilāya etc., by citing the refreshingly straightforward summary of central aspects of these matters by Chittick:

When God opened the door for him, Ibn ‘Arabi found that he had inherited all the sciences of Muhammad. Among these sciences was the knowledge that no one after him – except Jesus at the end of time – would be Muhammad’s plenary inheritor. It was this unveiling that allowed him to see himself as the Seal of Muhammadan Friendship, that is, the last person to actualize the specific mode of friendship that results from embodying the fullness of the paradigm established by Muhammad.

By no means does Ibn ‘Arabi’s claim to be the Muhammadan Seal imply that he was the last friend of God. Rather, it means that no one after him, with the exception of Jesus, would inherit the totality of prophetic works, states, and knowledge – a totality that had been realized only by Muhammad among all the prophets (Chittick, 2005:16).

Some commentators on Ibn al-`Arabī and his many writings, thus reckon and cite pssages to the effcct that he himself was, or specifically claimed to be, the khātim al-walāya (The Seal of Friendship, Sainthood, Divine Intimacy). Many of his disciples certainly saw him in this light.  His doctrine of wilāya expressed as universal, deep-level prophethood (nubuwwa) channelled through saintly individuals intimate with God, extended the modes of divine guidance and transcended the bounds set down by Islamic finality fundamentalists. Certain of his numerous Sunnī and Shī`ī disciples, as we shall inadequately illustrate here, linked his ideas with messianism, imamology and future theophanic manifestations of Divinity.[4]  Ibn al‑`Arabī saw himself, Jesus and the future Mahdī as loci or "seals" of various modes of wilāya. Jesus, for  example, is the seal of the general, absolute wilāya (khatm al‑wilāya al‑muṭlaqa) (Qayṣarī, Sh.Fusus, 255, 456, 460, 843).

[1] See above and refer al-Bukharī, al-Sahih , 1997,  Vol. 4,  Kitāb al-manāqib,  Bk. 61, section 18 `Khātam al-nabiyyīn’, No. 3535, pp. 454-5. Also in  Muslim, al-Sahih, Kitāb al-Faḍā’il and elsewhere.

[2] Details cannot be  commented  upon here thought for greater clarity I have included a good deal of transliteration.  

[3] Cf. the translations of Burckhardt, 25-31; Austin 1980: 60-70; Dagli, 2004: 26-28; Bewley, 2013; etc.

[4] See further Ibn al-`Arabī, 'Anqd' mughrib fī ma'rifat khatm al-awliyā, trans. Elmore 1999; Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, sect II (Seth) summarized and translated below in Appendix 6; Chodkiewicz, 1993; Elmore, 2001).     

Extracts from Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, sections II and XIV.

Trans. Stephen Lambden

Appendix 3

 The Fuṣuṣ al-Ḥikam (Bezels of Wisdom) of Ibn al-Arabi: Extracts from the second, Seth (Shīth) and fourteenth Ezra (Uzayr) Sections relating to wilāya / walī.

Full translation. Stephen Lambden (2017).

The following, sometimes complex passages from the second Seth (Shīth, son of Adam) section of the Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikām, are appended here in full translation with frequent transliteration for the sake of clarity within what is odten a terse and complex Arabic.

This particular knowledge [of God] (al-`ilm) is naught but what is specified to the Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul) and the Seal of the Friends (khātim al-awliyā’).  None can envision it among the Prophets (al-anbiyā’) and the Messengers (al-rusul) save by means of the Niche of that Messenger (mishhkat al-rasūl) who is their Seal (khātim). The Intimate Friends (awliyā') can only envision it from the niche of the Walī (mishhkat al-walī) who is their Seal (khātim). Even the Messengers (al-rusul) only envision it to the extent that they view it through the Niche of the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (mishkat khātim al-awliyā'). Since the Sent Message (al-risāla) and the Prophethood (al-nubuwwa) express that Prophethood which has legalistic aspects (nubuwwat al-tashrī`) and a specific message (risāla), it may come to be terminated. Yet the phenomenon of wilāya (Providential Intimacy, Imspired Guidance, Saintly Virtue) shall never cease.

 Wherefore, in their very being, the Sent Messengers (al-mursalūn) are Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (awliyā'). This though they do not see what we have just mentioned, save through the niche of the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends] (mishkat khātim al-awliyā’). How, for others, could it [this vision] be other than through the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (awliyā')? Although the Seal of the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (khātim al-awliyā') follows the dictates of the Law (sharī`a) of the Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), this neither diminishes his [spiritual] station nor detracts from what we have set forth. Indeed! From one vantage point, it constitutes a grave descent though from another it is a supreme elevation … Every single Prophet (kull al-nabī), from Adam until the final Prophet (ākhir al-nabī), receives [prophethood] from the niche of the Seal of the Prophets (mishkat khātam al-nabiyyīn)… Aside from him, Prophets (al-anbiyā’) only become a Prophet (nabiyyan) by virtue of their being [specially] commissioned [by God]. 

It was likewise with the Seal of the Chosen Ones [Friends, Saints] (khātim al-awliyā') who was a Walī (Chosen Guide) when Adam was between [primordial] water and clay (al-mā’ wa’l-ṭīn). Others among the Intimate Ones [Friends, Saints] (awliyā') did not come to be a Walī (Intimate Ones, Friend, Saint) save as a result of attaining the qualities of wilāya (Divine Intimacy, Saintly virtue) (sharā’iṭ al-wilāya) through the appropriation of divine characteristics (al-akhlāq al-ilāhiyya). This in line with assimilating (al-ittiṣāf) the modality of God (kawn Allāh), exalted be He, for He [God] is named “the “Walī”, the Protector, One worthy of Praise” (al-walī al-ḥamīd; a phrase concluding Q. 42:28). 

The Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), may thus be seen as expressive of His wilāya (Divine Intimacy, Saintly virtue) which is connected to the Seal of the Chosen Friends (khātim awliyā’). So too is he connected with the Prophets (al-anbiyā’) and the Messengers (al-rusul). Wherefore is he the Walī (the Intimate Friend of God), the Messenger (al-rusūl), and the Prophet (al-nabī). The Seal of the Chosen Friends (khātim awliyā’) is indeed the Walī (the Chosen Friend), the Inheritor (al-wārith) who receives from the Foundation (al-aṣl) and bears witness unto [those occupying the hierarchy of] the subsidiary levels (al-mashāhid l’l-marāṭib).  

He [the Walī] is one perfect among the perfections (ḥasanat al-ḥasanāt) of the Seal of the Messengers (khātim al-rusul), Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace), the Foremost of the community (muqaddam al-jama`a) and the Lordly Master of the children of Adam (sayyid walad adam) who opens up the gateway of intercession (bāb al-shifā`a). He is thus assigned a specific spiritual status (ḥāl) which is all-embracing (`amam). Relative thereto he [Muhammad / the Walī] has precedence over the Divine Names (al-asmā’ al-ilāhī) … (Fusūs al-hikam, 2nd printing, ed Afīfī, 1980: 62-4; summary trans. Lambden, Cf. the translations of Burchardt, 25-31; Dagli, 2004: 26-28; Bewley, 2013; etc.).

Extracts from the fourteenth Ezra (Uzayr) Section of the Fuṣuṣ al-Ḥikam  

Know thou that wilāya (providential Intimacy) is a universal, all-encompassing firmament [sphere] (al-fulk al-muḥīt al-`āmm) which can never be terminated [abstracted]. Universal prophets (al-anbiyā’ al-`āmm) channel it. As for legislative prophethood (nubuwwat al-tashrī`) and the conveyors of the sent messenger (al-risāla) this may come to be cut off. This was case of with [the legalistic prophethood of] Muhammad (upon him be peace) which was indeed terminated for there can be no prophet (nabī) after him. Certainly not, in other words, one Law-generating, one subject to one Law-generating or even a Messenger (rasūl) given to legislation (Fusūs al-hikam, 2nd printing, ed Afīfī, 1980: 134-137; trans. Lambden.  cf. Chodkeiwicz, 50-51).

Maḥmūd ibn ʻAbd al-Karīm Shabistarī (b. Shahbistar, near Tabriz, c.  686/1287 - d. c. 720/1320).

Sufi insights and twelver Shī`ī perspectives surrounding the khātam al-nabiyyīn and associated matters touching upon finality and non-finality, cannot be comprehensively dealt with here. The following stanzas from the Persian Gulshan-i rāz (The Rose Garden of the Secrets) of the Ibn al-`Arabī influenced Maḥmūd ibn ʻAbd al-Karīm Shabistarī, must suffice to give an indication of deeply profound khatm / khātam (“seal”) related insights. They provide a glimpse into the fascinating universe of the mystical and messianic dimensions of doctrines inspired by the qur’ānic khātam (”seal”) motif:    

Prophethood (nubuwwat) came to be manifest in Adam, Its perfection (kamāl) was realized through the existence of the Khātam [Muhammad].

Wilāyat (“Saintly guidance”) lingers behind while it makes a journey,

As a [Prophetological] Point (nuqṭa) in the world, it scribes another cycle.

Its theophany in its fullness (ẓuhūr-i kull-i ū) [through Him] will [erelong] be realized through the Khātam (Seal [of the Friends/Saints])’.

For through him the cycle of Existence (`ālam-i wujūd) will be completed.  

His chosen ones (awliyā’) are even as his bodily organs (`aḍw).

While he Himself is the Pleroma (kull), they constitute segments thereof.

As one intimate with the Master (khwajah), his Providence complete,

Through him will Universal Mercy (raḥmat-i `āmm) find realization.

An Exemplar he shall be throughout both worlds, a Viceregent [Leader] (khalīfa) for the progeny of Adam (Gulshan, III. 2 , 1978: Per. 369-374 pp. 22-3, trans.Lambden). [1]

In summary, as I understand these lines: The first man Adam initiated primordial prophethood (nubuwwa) which came to be perfectly fulfiled or realized in Muhammad, its “seal” (khātam). The potent, supra-prophetological force of walāya (“Divine Guidance”) as a “Point” or locus of Divine Reality, came to express itself through scribing, writing out, initiating or delineating, a new cycle or era. As a result the fullness of a Divine Theophany related to the Khātam (Seal) will come about. Through this evolution, by means of a future Exemplar and Leader, Universal Mercy (raḥmat-i `āmm) will find realization. Transcending finality, the “Seal” through its transcendent walāya (divine potentiality), becomes a future locus of universal, Divine Guidance. [2]

[1]  For a recent translation of the Gulshan-i Rāz see Robert Abdul Hayy Darr, 2007, For his translation of the lines translated above see lines 367f, pp.77-78.

   On Sufi aspects of the khātam al-nabiyyīn in Ibn al-`Arabī etc., see further al-Futuhat and the Fusus al-Hikam (indexes) as well as Friedmann, 1989: 71ff + index.

[2]  There are important materials in the Commentary of Muhammad ibn Yaḥyá al-Lahījī on the Gulshan-i rāz (The Rose Garden of Secrets) pertinent to the matters discussed here.

Twelver Shī`ī  Imamology, Prophethood  and the Walāya phenomenon.

As previously indicated wilāya is of central importance within Shī`ī Islam especially as it is centered in and focused in the twelver Imams.[1] It is clear that the figure of the walī is often descriptive of a human authority figure; one possessed of a role and fuction seen in the Ithnā `asharī (twelver) Imam as religious leader and authority.

We may cite here the al-Ziyārat al-jami`a al-kabīra (The Greater Comprehensive Visitation Text) attributed to (and allegedly transmitted through) the tenth Imam `Alī al-Hādī Imam `Ali al-Hadi (d. 254/868). It at one point contains testimony to the elevated status of the Imams as conveyors of al-ḥaqq (Truth), as hiers of the prophets with eschatological purpose, and as loci of the intimate walāya of God. They are expressive of the divine walāya and of the walī of God :   

The Truth (al-haqq) is ever with you, within you, of you, and directed towards you (ma`akum wa fi-kum wa minkum wa ilaykum)!  Thou are its devotees (ahlihi) and its very quintessence [treasury] (ma`din)!  [6] The legacy of prophethood (mirath al-nubuwwa) is yours. With you is the destination [return] of all creation (`iyab al-khalq) for their ultimate reckoning (ḥisab) revolves around you! ...  His Light (nūr) and His Proof (burhān) are of you. [13] His command (amr) revolves around you! [14] Whosoever is your intimate (walī) in indeed an intimate of God (walī Allāh)! (al-Ziyāra al-jami`a al-kabīra in XXX, full trans. Lambden Hurqalya Website).

Ḥaydar al-Āmulī (b. Āmul 719–787 / 1319–1385).

This learned twelver Shī`ī scholar and mystic was much influenced by Ibn al`Arabī upon whose seminal Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam (The Bezels of Wisdom) he wrote a commentary entitled Naṣṣ al-nuṣūṣ (The Text of Texts). His position on the matters of interest here have been well summed up by Kohlberg in his Encyclopedia Iranica article on al-Āmulī :

In accordance with Āmolī’s system, the Mahdī must be a walī, not a prophet; indeed, Āmolī follows Saʿd-al-dīn Ḥammūya (d. 650/1252) (in his al-Maḥbūb) and ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Kāšānī (d. 730/1330) in maintaining that the seal of the universal (moṭlaq) walāya is ʿAlī and the seal of the particular (moqayyad, Mohammadan walāya is the Mahdī (who for Āmolī is identical with the Twelfth Imam). On this issue Āmolī differs from Ebn al-ʿArabī, who identified the ḵātam al-walāyat al-moṭlaqa with Jesus and who was himself regarded by some of his disciples as the ḵātam al-walāyat al-moqayyada (Jāmeʿ al-asrār, pp. 385, 395-448). (Kohlberg EIr. 1: 983-985). 

Mullā Muḥsin Fayḍ al-Kashānī (d.1090/1679)

The `Ilm al-yaqīn (The Knowledge of Certainty) of Mullā Muḥsin Fayḍ al-Kashānī   ADD HERE  (`Ilm 1:366f)

A few notes based on passages from the Kalimāt-i maknūnih (Hidden Words) of Fayḍ al-Kāshānī (d.1007/1680-81) must suffice to illustrate key themes of interest here. This work contains an interesting discussion of the senses in which al-insān al-kāmil (The Perfect Man/Human) could be considered a nabī (Prophet) or a walī   a bearer of wilāya,  Kāshānī states that al-nubuwwa al-muṭlaqa is the "ultimately real prophethood" (al-nubūwwa al-ḥaqīqa), an eternally existing reality like al-nubūwa al- `amma (general prophethood). It is the force through which Muhammad infuses all existence and is the locus of all Ḥaqq (Ultimate Reality). Its bearers are variously entitled al-khalifa al-a`ẓam (Most Great Khalifa), quṭb al-aqṭāb (Pivot of Pivots) al-insān al-kabīr (The Great Human) and Ādam al-ḥaqīqa (The Adam of Reality). Therefrom the "Supreme Pen" (al-qalam al-a`lā) inscribes reality as the al-`aql al-awwāl the First Intellect and the al-rūḥ al-a`ẓam (Most Great Spirit). This al-nubuwwat al-muṭlaqa (absolute prophethood) is alluded to as the first creation of God, the "Light" (nūr) of Muhammad and the locus of his being a nabī (Prophet) when "Adam was betwixt water and clay".

This same writer further maintains that the bāṭin (inter depth) of absolute nubuwwa is the "absolute walāya" (bāṭin al-walāyah hiya al-walāyah al-muṭlaqa). It is related to the supernal "Light" of Imam `Alī’s utterance "I was a walī  (bearer of walāya), when Adam was betwixt water and clay". The prophethood of all prophets results from their being channels of al-nubuwwat al-muṭlaqa (absolute prophethood) (Fayḍ Kāshānī, Kalimat, 186-7).

Such  elevated transformations of nubuwwa and walāya left ample room for the continuation of prophethood and for the setting forth of a transcendent imamology with messianic and theophanological implications. In many Sufi circles and within streams of Twelver Shī`ism, the personified walāya expressed through the walī as Friend, Saint, Intimate or messianic Imam, all but exploded the constraints of the finality of prophethood. For some the Islamic universe came to embrace or expect a future supreme walī, Guide-Mahdī or `Perfect Human’ (al-insān al-kāmil). For many deep thinkers the finality of providential divine guidance failed to be utterly finalized.[2]   

Transcendent walāya concepts in Shaykhism

Walāya and associated doctrines are expounded in the works of the first two Shaykhī leaders, Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Zayn al-Dīn al‑Aḥsā’ī (d. near Medina, 11XX/1826)  who composed a lengthy (1,500 or so page) commentary on the (The Greater Comprehensive Visitation Text) cited above. The equally prolific Persian born Sayyid Kāẓim  al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashṭī (d. 1259/1844) succeeded him.  The walāya / walī theology was of tremendous importance within al-Shaykhiyya also known as al-Kashfiyya, indicative of a movement centered on Inspirational, Imamological Unveiling   after the person and orientation of the Arab born Shaykh al-Aḥsā’ī. 

Commenting on the world maṭla` (Dawning Point), for example, in his Sharḥ al-Qaṣīda al‑lāmiyya (Commentary on the Ode rhyming in the letter “L”) of `Abd al-Baqī Effendī Mawṣūlī, Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī (the successor of Shaykh Aḥmad) states that this indicates walāya. This he defines as an eternally elevated phenomenon without beginning. It is "the Eternal Light (al‑nūr al‑azal), the Primordial Designation (al‑ta`yīn al‑awwāl), the secondary Eternality (al‑azaliyya al‑thāniyya), the Bearer of Eternality upon Eternlity without Beginning (ṣāḥīb al‑azaliyya al‑azaliyya) and the sanctified, most holy Emanation (al‑fayḍ al‑aqdas al‑muqaddas)".  Indeed, it is of such elevated sanctity that it is something closely associated with the divine Essence (hiya ḥaqīqa al‑dhāt aḥad). Walāya, furthermore, has the station of the Primal Dhikr (Remembrance of God) (al‑dhikr al‑awwāl) and is the genesis of the divine Names and Attributes (mabdā’ al‑asmā’ wa’l‑ṣifāt). Its magnitude can hardly be overestimated (Rashtī, al‑Qaṣīda, 6). [3] It is hardly suprising that persons claiming to be embodiments of walāya claimed to transcend the limitations of ordinary prophethood and challenged the constraints of the khatamiyya (prophetological sealedness) as the finality of prophethood thought to be registered in Qur’ān 33:40.

There are likewise sometimes messianically charged references to wilāya / walī in the writings of the Bāb and Bahā’-Allāh. The former titled Surah LXII (62) of his tmportant Qayyum al-asma’, the Surah of the Chosen Friends (al-Awliyā’) and made much of walāya concepts in his Tafsir Surah `By the Declining Day’ (wa’l-asr) Qur’an 102 and elsewhere (for further  details see Appendix 7).

[1]  For some details see  Walker, :Wilaya," in Shi'ism, E12, 10: 208-9; Amir-Moezzi, Spirituality, 2003 and 2011 esp. chapter 7 (Notes on Imami Walāya).

[2] Full details of the many twelver Shī`ī messianic and other dimensions of the “seal” and  walāya and related matters cannot possibly be set forth here. It may simply be noted that there is much of interest in the writings of the important Safavid Akhbarī Shī`ī and Sufi thinker, Muhammad Muhsin Fayḍ al-Kashānī (d. Isfahan 1091/1680). See, for example, the bibliography below under al-Kāshānī and the 2006 article of Shigeru Kamada.

[3]  For some notes on walāya and the title walī in Bābī and Baha’i sacred writ see Appendix 7 below.

The relationahip between the twelver Shi`i Holy Family and Walaya is registered in the Ziyarat al-jami`a al-kabira (The Larger Comprehensive Visitation Text) ascribed to the    Imam `Ali al-Hadi (        ). There we read :

Walaya in The writings of the Bab





Select Bābī-Bahā’ī and other secondary sources.

Abrahamov. Binyamin.

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Adams, Edward.

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Amir-Moezzi, M. A.

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Bijlefeld, Willem A.

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Browne, Edward, G. (d.1926)

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Chittick, William C.

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Titus Burckhardt trans. (French –> English by A. Culme-Seymour).

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R. W. J. Austin, trans.

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Caner K Dagli, trans,

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Binyamin Abrahamov, trans. 

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