Month 1- Active Waiting

TAWALLĀ and TABARRAʾ

Tawallā (تَوَلّی, to love) and Tabarraʾ (تبرأ‎, to express aloofness), are two obligatory principles of Islamic practice (Furūʾ al-Dīn).

Tawallā is derived from the Arabic root (w-l-y) which means to accept the guardianship of someone. In Islamic terminology it means to love, testify to, follow, and submit oneself to the friends of Allah; those who show the path to the truth, and are the supporters of justice. Foremost amongst them are the Prophet (s) and the Aimmah (as) from his progeny.  

Tabarraʾ is derived from the Arabic root (b-r-a‘), which means ‘expressing aloofness’. It means to dissociate oneself from the enemies of Allah, and the enemies of the Prophet (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt (as).  It is the opposite of the term Tawallā. 

THE PHILOSOPHY OF TAWALLĀ AND TABARRAʾ 

The world is full of oppressors and oppressed, the unjust and the victims of injustice, the tyrants and the weak, the pure and the polluted. It is not possible to love all of them; to be pleased with all of them. 

If, instead of acting upon the two principles, everyone agreed with every school of thought and accepted every condition, human society would be destroyed. 

These two principles are part of the basic beliefs taught by Islam so that the followers of truth, justice, freedom, purity, and goodness can create unity among their ranks, and that the impure, oppressive, and the unjust ones are boycotted; in other words, they are socially and morally subjugated by the unity of the good people.

The life of a person who has a specific set of beliefs and tenets and has chosen a particular path, has a specific direction, and therefore, such an individual is unable to be indifferent or impartial. Naturally, he cannot travel on the same path as everyone else, whether they are his friends or enemies. That is why the Qur’an forbids friendship and close association with unbelievers: 

لَا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

[3:28] Let not believers take disbelievers as close friends rather than believers…

Shahīd Muṭahharī says 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 Tawallā and Tabarraʾ is to outline the position and direction of a person in connection with both believers and unbelievers, and to proclaim his stance regarding this matter; these two realities are not equal for a person who has belief and direction, and who is alive and dynamic. By practicing Tawallā and Tabarraʾ, a believer always keeps himself in the middle of the straight path and protects himself from deviation and misguidance.

TAWALLĀ and TABARRAʾ IN QURAN AND AHADITH

Loving the Prophet (s), his Ahl al-Bayt (as), and fellow believers are concepts that have been emphasized greatly in the Qur’an:

1. Love for the Prophet’s family has been described as the recompense for his prophethood

قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ

[42:23] Say: I do not ask you any reward for it except love of [my] close relatives.

2. The acceptance of the guardianship of Allah, the Prophet (s) and those vested with guardianship:

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ

[5:55] Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakāt while bowing down.

The term Tabarraʾ is originally derived from the Qur’an, and essentially denotes ‘avoiding and dissociating from the enemies of God’.  For example:

1. Surah al-Tawbah begins with a repudiation of the polytheists:

بَرَاءَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّم مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

[9:1] (A declaration of) disassociation, from Allah and his Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty from amongst the polytheists.

2. The declaration of the Prophet (s) that he dissociates from the acts of the polytheists:

فَإِنْ عَصَوْكَ فَقُلْ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ

[26:216] So if they disobey you, then say: Indeed, I am dissociated from what you are doing.

The Prophet (s) has stated: 

‘Hate for the sake of God’ is one of the most important pillars of faith.  

Imam al-Sadiq (as) clearly states the necessity of dissociation from the enemies of the religion and their allies. 

Generally, in aḥādīth, Tabarraʾ is often mentioned alongside Tawallā.

SUMMARY

Tawallā and Tabarraʾ go hand in hand; following a particular path means to turn away from diversions and deviations. So, in order to achieve salvation, one must accept the guardianship and authority of the A’immah (as), love them and also love those who love and follow them. In addition to that one must also dissociate oneself from their enemies. It should be noted here that in the opinion of Shīʿas, Tabarra’ is not something that should be practiced against all non-Shīʿa, only those who have knowledge of the rightfulness of the  Ahlul Bayt (as) and – despite their knowledge – still show them enmity.

It has been narrated from Imam al-Bāqir (A) that:

“If you would like to know whether you are a good person or not, look into your heart! If you admire and love those people who obey Allah and dislike and hate those who disobey him, know that you are a good person and that Allah loves you. But if you dislike and hate those who obey Allah whilst you love and admire those who disobey Him, you have no worth and Allah also dislikes and hates you. Know that people are always with those whom they love and admire.”

It has also been narrated from Imam al-Riḍā (as) that:

“The completion of religion is in our guardianship and in the dissociation from our enemies.”

From the words of Imam al- Riḍā (as), it appears that a sure-fire route to success for a believer is to practice Tawallā and Tabarraʾ. The question, then, is how? Below are some ideas, using the easy-to-remember acronym IMAM!

We tend to love certain people in our lives; our family, friends, those who make us feel good, and those who caress our ego. However, the Imam (as) teaches us that the people that we love should be those dictated by Allah. Allah has told us to love our family, make friends with believers, and love those who love the Ahlul Bayt (as).

We tend to distance ourselves from those who have upset us, angered us, and those who have bruised our ego. However, the Imam (as) teaches us that the people that we should distance from are those dictated by Allah. Allah has told us to distance ourselves from those who deliberately disobey Him and those who bear enmity towards the Ahlul Bayt (as).

To love the Ahlul Bayt (as) is to follow and emulate them. Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an:

…لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ

[33:21] Indeed you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar…

It is only when we follow their example, that we can have the correct Akhlaq. Having excellent Akhlaq is the mark of a true follower of the Imam (af). We cannot on the one hand claim to love the Imam (af), and on the other, be of poor moral character.

Here we are looking at showing the Imam (af) that we love him. This needs to be done through our words and actions. When we love someone:

  • They are constantly on our minds, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep;
  • We take any opportunity to talk to them;
  • We care about their safety, pray for them, and take out sadaqa for them;
  • We send them gifts, that we know they would like, e.g. Salawaat;
  • We invite them home at every opportunity; 
  • We eagerly wait for them.

Find out more!

See a compilation of all English-language resources on the Imam (af), view FAQs and ask your own questions!

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