“Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.” (Baqara, 257)
Imam Suyuti (rahmatullahi alayh) records the following as the reason for the revelation of the verse in his Asbabu’n-Nuzul:
“According to the reports, some believed in Isa (alayhissalam) while some disavowed him. When Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was sent, those who denied Isa (alayhissalam) believed in our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam). Those who believed in Isa (alayhissalam) denied Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). This ayah was revealed in relation to this incident.” (Tabari, Jamiul Bayan, 5/426)
‘Allah is the ally of those who believe’
If one allies himself with another, he takes his ally under his protection, watches out for his benefit and aids him in his every effort. If this ally is the all-knowing Allah (subhanahu wa taala) Who knows everything about His servants in the greatest detail possible and Who is closer to them than their own selves, then one can say that this person leans on the greatest, most reliable helper for support. It is said in the Qur’an:
“Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?” (Mulk, 14)
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) loves the believers, helps them, knows about their deeds and doings including the deepest secrets, governs their work Himself and leaves it to no one else.
In this regard, we, the Muslims, know that the truest ally is the Almighty Allah and open up to Him alone about everything with the words of our heart and from Him alone we expect and hope help to come. He responds to our prayers and supplications, takes us out of the darkness and delivers us into the light, grants us success in our efforts and gives us peace in our hearts. He constantly watches over us and protects us. He provides us with every means possible for us to achieve happiness in this world and the next. The only unchanging and absolute ally is Allah (subhanahu wa taala).
The word “wali” (waliyy), which is translated as ally here, means the one who puts things in order, governs and manages them. In this sense, the governor of a city is called “waali” (you can listen to the pronunciation here) and the person who undertakes the management of an orphan’s rights and possessions is called “wali”. The word Mawla (lord, sire) is also derived from the same root. One’s friend who doesn’t abandon him and is at his side with his love and support is that person’s wali. According to this, the meaning of the verse can be described as follows:
Allah (subhnahu wa taala) is the friend, the “wali”, of those whom He wants to have iman and who are certain to profess their faith as He knows with his absolute eternal knowledge. He brings them out of the darkness of kufr (disbelief) and the darkness of all forms of evil, doubt, worldly matters and the life in the grave, He carries them into the light of faith.
Also, if they are troubled by feelings of doubt regarding the religion, He guides them out of their plight and shows them how to resolve their quandary. He grants them success on staying on the steadfast path and brings them out of this predicament by helping them rid themselves of their doubts and achieve the light of yaqeen (certainty of faith).
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) brings all of the believers out of their darkness and guides them into the light. He has sent holy scriptures and prophets for this purpose. He makes it clear that He has paved the way out of the darkness and into the light with having iman, doing good deeds and seeking ways of His rida (His pleasure, His satisfaction with His servants).
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) ascribes walayah (the state of being a wali) to Himself in the verse and He especially associates this quality with the mu’minun (believers). This is due to His name known as “al-Mu’min”. Al-Mu’min is He who grants protection to people and instills trust in them by justly handing people what is their right as a result of their creation and their deeds. People feel assured that He will not neglect or disregard their rights.
The aspect of the name al-Mu’min that is associated with the people should be interpreted as “people cannot be true believers unless they are possessed of these qualities.” In this context, the quality of being a mu’min can be described as the highest degree of status that one can be qualified with.
The name “al-Wali” and its manifestations
“Al-Wali” is one of the beautiful names (asma ul-Husna) of Allah (subhanahu wa taala). It means “the one who helps, who presides over the deeds of the one He loves, the friend.” Wali is the one who doesn’t leave his servant in the clutches of his nafs and who humiliates His servant’s enemies and lets them know ignominious defeat.
As a manifestation of the name “al-Wali”, Allah (subhanahu wa taala) grants the believers success in their works and deeds related to this world and the afterlife. He enlightens their hearts by bringing them out of the darkness and into the light. The believers whose hearts have been brightened by this noor take lessons from and reflect upon everything they see and hear. Their understanding expands to allow them to see the ordainment of Allah (subhanahu wa taala) in everything that transpires around them. They remind all who look upon them of Allah (subhanahu wa taala).
The servants who have been blessed with the honor of having a manifestation of the name “al-Wali” upon them are known as the “awliya”, or in other words, the friends of Allah. There is no fear or sorrow for them for they know no true friend other than Allah (subhanahu wa taala). They fear nothing save doing something that will go against His will and displease Him.
Thus, it would be befitting to say: “O, son of Adam. You who have come to this world! Strive to partake of this sacred name of your Lord and earn His friendship. Be as a friend to those who are His friends. Believe what they believe, love what they love and renounce what they renounce. The believer who seeks to attain the friendship of his Creator and who wants to be his wali needs to avow and affirm everything that he does and ordains, trust only in Him and rely on Him and submit to Him in all things whether in secrecy or in plain sight, whether in times of wealth or poverty.”
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) asserts that, of all His servants, He is the wali of the ones who are the mu’minun, which is a tremendous blessing in and of itself. This friendship has two aspects: The first aspect of this friendship indicates to the servant while the other is attributed to Allah (subhanahu wa taala) Himself. A mu’min needs to fulfill certain responsibilities to attain the divine love and become a friend of Allah (subhanahu wa taala).
These responsibilities can be summed up as fulfilling the duties that being a servant of Allah entails as required. That is to say, it is for a servant to do as he is commanded while avoiding the things that are prohibited. Allah (subhanahu wa taala) favors being closer to those of His servants that avoid the haram and draw closer to Him with acts of worship. Him being closer to His servants means Him taking His servants under His protection and not leaving them at the mercy of their nafs. It is said in the Surah al-A’raf:
“…and it is He who protects the righteous”
Three steps to friendship (walayah)
In order to be a friend of Allah, one first needs to have a strong iman and be in total submission to Him. It is also necessary to fulfill the fard duties and avoid the haram. The third stage of this process involves doing nafilah acts of worship. Nafilah acts are the acts of worship that a servant performs in addition to the fard ones purely for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa taala). Allah says in a qudsi hadith:
“I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (non-fard and non-obligatory acts of worship) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (Refuge), I will protect him; (in other words, I will give him My Refuge)” (Bukhari, Riqaq 38)
He whose friend is Allah (subhanahu wa taala) surely finds that his heart is filled with noor (divine light). With that noor, he finds peace and happiness wherever he may go. He is always far removed from any sorrow, gloom or darkness. Even if the whole world turns against him, he cares not, for his Lord suffices him. If one does not have Allah (subhanahu wa taala) as his friend, then his companions are none other than Shaytan and his sycophants. This is the truth that the verse warns us about.
The ones whose friends are the “taghut”
By saying “Allah is the ally of those who believe”, Allah states that He is the one who takes care of the deeds of the believers and governs them, who brings them out of pits of darkness such as kufr, ignorance, succumbing to the dark desires of the nafs and being racked by doubts and suspicions and He mentions the deniers thereafter saying that the “taghut” are their friends. As it stands, one needs to have a decent understanding of what “taghut” is.
Taghut is derived from the arabic word “tughwan” and means “extremely transgressive”. It is with this sense of the word that the following explanation is given: Everything other than Allah that is worshipped, everything that misleads people away from the true path, things that violate or are used to violate the boundaries that Allah has set for his servants such as idols, shaytan, corrupt people, fortune tellers and nafs al-ammara (the nafs that commands doing evil) are the taghut. A human being is either a servant of Allah (subhanahu wa taala) or a servant of the taghut. There is no alternative.
The taghut are the friends of the unbelievers. They drive them away from the noor that is innately present in their creation and drag them into the darkness or they sway them from entering the fold of Islam and send them adrift into the darkest void of kufr, ignorance, submitting to the lowly desires of the nafs and blindly copying and following trends and traditions that diverge from the norms of Islam. They turn people away from the light of the clear evidence and drag them into the darkness of doubts. Those who befriend the taghut and follow them constantly find themselves in a swirling mist of doubt. These people eventually become the people of Hell and they end up staying there indefinitely due to being adamantly intent on maintaining their kufr until they die.
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) uses a plural pronoun in the part of the verse “They take them out of the light into darknesses” because the taghut are various and many while the beginning of the verse “Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light.” clearly shows that the one who brings people out of darknesses and into the light is singular and none other than Allah Himself.
All of the mufassirun (the interpreters of the Qur’an) unanimously agree that the darknesses in the verse are kufr, which is disbelief, and the noor is iman. The phrase “darknesses” also encompasses anything that involves disobeying Allah by doing what He forbids, harboring doubt and the confusion of the mind and that of the heart regarding the truth that is caused by the intellectual sciences.
Countless seas of darkness and a single unwavering light
Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır (rahmatullahi alayh) sums up what has been covered in this article so far in his tafsir titled “Hak Dini Kur’an Dili” (The Religion of Truth, The Language of the Qur’an) as follows:
“Allah loves those who profess their faith, the ones who are ordained to profess their faith in his eternal knowledge. He is their friend and the governor of their deeds. He brings them out of the darkness (zulumat) into the light (noor) with his hidayah (guidance) and tawfiq (bestowal of success). It is exceptionally noteworthy that the word “zulumat” is plural while the word “noor” is singular. It then appears that there are many forms of “zulmat” (darkness) in the world and only one “noor” (light) to expel all this darkness, and that light is the light of al-Haqq (The Truth/ Reality/ the Only One Certainly Sound and Genuine in Truth) as made absolute by the decree “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” (Noor, 35)
When a person is unaided in a matter by the embrace of the light of al-Haqq, whatever the matter at hand may be, he is immediately swarmed by countless masses of darkness. When the light of al-Haqq appears, the darkness vanishes. When the light of al-Haqq is absent, the earth and the skies become as nothing, the days give into the night, the suns turn pallid, the eyes become unseeing and the ears become unhearing. Hearts twist and turn in a thousand dreams of despair; what is sought cannot be found, moreover, even that which should be sought cannot be known. Delusions, sorrows and torments of all kinds descend upon hearts. Thoughts riddled with fictive misconceptions and emotions plagued by fear enclose everything. The djinn and the shaytans gather around. Then, even existence itself becomes an agony and the person amidst all of this cries out “Woe is me, I wish I could just cease to exist!”
When things are in such a grievous state, should the light of al-Haqq appear, the heavens rejoice, the stars are born anew, spring blooms everywhere, cheerful feelings abound, pains vanish, troubles are forgotten, hearts fill with an uplifting sense of relief and elation, one can cherish the joy of existence. With the radiance of the light of al-Haqq, one feels the joy of living vividly.
Those who wish to enjoy and experience this feeling forever should break the habit of giving their nafs free reigns and firmly hold onto the steadfast rope of al-Haqq to reach his noor.
There is only one right direction in everything and that is the direction one must follow to journey towards Allah (subhanahu wa taala). In contrast to this, there are innumerable wrong paths to take filled with falsehoods. For instance, let us assume that you have lost something. That which you have lost exists only in one place. At that moment, the right direction to attain that thing is only towards it. But if you don’t know the whereabouts of what you have lost and even believe that the thing you have lost isn’t there in the first place, no matter what direction you may think to follow, it is a false direction. You cannot find what you have lost in this fashion and all the directions in the world lead to falsehood in relation to that thing.
Similarly, in any matter, there is an infinite number of wrong directions as opposed to the one true direction. When marifah (divine knowledge) dawns as the light of al-Haqq, one finds its way out of these inextricable quandaries and mires of darkness. As a consequence of this, the zulumat / the sources of darkness are many while the noor / the light stands alone. The noor is bound to be eternal while every instance of darkness is bound to be snuffed out of existence one day. A single existence stands against infinite oblivion. Allah (subhanahu wa taala) alone is the one who governs all of existence.
Because of this, believing in Allah is the inception of the noor of al-Haqq, the yaqeen knowledge (knowledge without doubt) and the true relief and expansion of the heart. As a counterpart of iman and marifah, or rather as an opposition, each and every instance of oblivion, desperation, kufr, doubt, delusion, perversion, ignorance, lacking knowledge, fisq (depravity), submission to one’s own whims and desires, egregious audacity and the like is a zulmat, an embodiment of darkness.
Allah (subhanahu wa taala) holds the believers by their hands and pulls them out of the darkness and bestows upon them success in their deeds, maturation of their souls and peace within their hearts with the light of yaqeen (the light of iman free of doubt). He delivers them unto eternal bliss and peace through the sirat al-mustaqim (the straight path).
On the other hand, those who deny the religion of Islam and Allah (subhanahu wa taala) whereas they are supposed to deny the taghut (transgressors who drive people away from the righteous path), who reject the tawhid and steer clear of the circle of iman have none other than the taghut as their walis, friends and governors of their deeds. The taghut veer them away from the noor, the righteous path and the light of iman that Allah grants people in their creation and drag them into the darkness. This eventually ends in the kafirun (the disbelievers) and the taghut being cast into the fire together. They remain in the fires of hell forever.”
Only Allah (subhanahu wa taala) knows the ultimate truth.