Al-Wala' Wal-Bara' in Islam

By: Dr. Muhammad Saeed Al-Qahtaani

Translated by: Omar Johnstone

Al-Wala' Wal-Bara' and the Declaration of Faith

Love is the source of wala' and hate is the source of bara'; it is by this that both the heart and the hand are moved to act. Wala' inspires intimacy, concern and help. Bara' provokes obstruction, enmity and rejection. Wala' and Bara' are both related to the declaration of faith and constitute essential elements in it. The evidence of this from the Qur'an and the Sunnah is considerable.

As for the Qur'an, consider the following ayat: "Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoever does this has no connection with Allah unless you are guarding yourselves against them as a precaution. Allah bids you to beware (only) of Himself. And to Allah is the journeying." [3:28] And He says: "Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind), If you love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your wrong actions. Allah is Forgiving, Compassionate. Say, Obey Allah and the Messenger. And If they turn away, then surely Allah does not love the disbelievers." [3:31-32] Speaking of the aims of the enemies of Allah, He says: "They long for you to disbelieve even as they disbelieve, so that you may be the same (as them). so do not choose friends from among them until they go out in the way of Allah." [4:89]

And also: "O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends of one another. And whoever of you takes them for friends is (one) of them. Surely Allah does not guide wrongdoing people." [5:51]

And lastly: "O you who believe! Whoever of you becomes a rebel against his Deen, (know that in his place) Allah will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble towards the believers, harsh towards the disbelievers, striving in the way of Allah, and not fearing the blame of any blamer." [5:54]

We will mention only a few of the many hadith and reports of the Companions on this subject. Imam Ahmad reports from Jarir ibn Abdullah that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made him swear an oath to 'offer counsel to every Muslim and to steer clear of every disbeliever.' (1) Ibn Shayba reports that the Prophet said, "The strongest bond of faith is love for the sake of Allah and enmity for His sake." (2) Ibn Abbas reports that the Prophet said, "The strongest bond of faith is loyalty for the sake of Allah and opposition for His sake, love for the sake of Allah and enmity for His sake." (3)

Ibn Abbas is also reported to have said,
"Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and whoever seals a friendship for His sake, or declares an enmity for His sake, will receive, because of this, the protection of Allah. No one may taste true faith except by this, even if his prayers and fasts are many. People have come to build their relationships around the concerns of the world, but it will not benefit them in any way." (4) Shaykh Sulaiman ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab explained the words of Ibn Abbas by saying that the meaning of 'to seal a friendship for the sake of Allah' indicates the obligation of establishing relationships of love and trust for His sake; this is friendship for the sake of Allah. It also indicates that simple affection is not enough here; indeed what is meant is a love based upon alliance. This entails assistance, honour, and respect. It means being with those whom you love both in word and deed.

As for 'enmity for the sake of Allah', it includes the obligation to declare enmity for His sake: opposition for the sake of Allah. it is to declare opposition in deed, to take up arms against His enemies, to shun them, and to stay far from them both in word and deed. This proves that simple opposition of the spirit is not enough, and that it must be a complete honouring of your commitment, for Allah says: "There is a good example for you in Ibrahim and those with him, when they told their people: 'Surely we disassociate ourselves from you and all that you worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there has arisen between us and you enmity and hate for ever until you believe in Allah only'." [60:4] (5)

All this leads us to conclude that loyalty for the sake of Allah really means to love Allah and to come to the assistance of His Deen; it is to love those who are obedient to Him and to come to their help. Opposition for the sake of Allah is to feel anger at the enemies of Allah and to struggle against them. Because of this Allah has called the first group the "party of Allah" and the second the "party of Satan": "Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein." [2:257] And Allah says: "Those who believe do battle for the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve do battle for the cause of idols. So fight the friends of Satan. Surely Satan's strategy is always weak." [4:76] It is well known that Allah has never sent a Prophet on His mission without also raising up opponents against him. Allah says: "Thus have We appointed for every prophet an adversary - devils from mankind and the jinn who inspire in one another plausible words that are deceiving." [6:112] It may be that opponents of Divine Unity possess some learning, a part of Revelation, and proof.

As Allah says: "And when their Messengers brought them clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), they exulted in the knowledge which they (themselves) possessed. And that which they had become accustomed to mock befell them." [40:83]

It is the obligation of every Muslim to learn from Allah's Deen whatever may serve as a weapon for him in the struggle against the friends of Satan. In this he should have no fear and no misgivings, since the devil's strategy is always weak. Allah says: "And surely that Our host would be the victors." [37:173] To the host of Allah shall be the victory in discussion and in debate, as in war and strife. In this way an ordinary man from the party of the One God will overcome a thousand scholars of the disbelievers. (6)

If the aim of the enemies of Islam - whether they are atheists or Jews, or Christians or modernists, or Zionists or Communists - is the emasculation of the Aqeedah of the Muslims, and the erosion of their unique character in order to make them 'the ass of the chosen people', (as it is put in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion), then the urgency of this issue should become clear to every Muslim. We should all take heed, for ourselves and for those who are with us, so that we may warn all the Muslims who are slipping away into the abyss of apostasy, warn them of the treacherous call of the disbelievers to what they call 'brotherhood and equality', warn them of the false claim that religion is for Allah but that nationhood is for the masses. We will return to this point in more detail later.
For the present, the evidence is clear from the Qur'an and the Sunnah that allegiance is demanded by the declaration of faith since this is an essential part of its meaning. As Ibn Taimiya has said, "The declaration of faith, there is no god but Allah, requires you to love only for the sake of Allah, to hate only for the sake of Allah, to ally yourself only for the sake of Allah, to declare enmity only for the sake of Allah; it requires you to love what Allah loves and to hate what Allah hates." (7) It also requires you to ally yourself to the Muslims wherever you find them and to oppose the disbelievers even if they are your closest kin.


Imam Ahmad, Musnad, 4/357-8.
Abu Bakr Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Shaybah, (d.235 AH) Kitab al-Iman. At-Tabarani, al-Kabir, ascribes it to Ibn Mas'ud as "marfu'", and classed it as "hasan".
At-Tabarani, al-Kabir. It is mentioned by as-Suyuti, al-Jami' as-Saghir, 1/69. Al-Albani classes it as "hassan". Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Jami' al-Ulum wal Hikam, p.30.
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, Sharh Kitab at-Tawhid, p.422. Abridged from Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, Kashaf ash-Shubuhat, 3rd edition, p.20.
Ibn Taimiya, al-Ihtijaj bil-Qadar, p.62.


According to Ibn al-Qayim, belief in Divine Unity is not simply saying that Allah is the sole Creator and that He is Lord and Master of all things. This was what the pagans used to say, while at the same time worshipping many gods. Belief in Divine Unity does not only mean love of Allah, but also submission to Him, humility before Him, complete obedience to Him, and devotion to Him in all our words and deeds, in what we hold on to and in what we give, in our love and in our hate. It can never be confused with the urge to disobey, or to do as you please in misguided self interest.

Whoever takes this to heart will understand the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "Certainly Allah has forbidden the Fire from taking whoever says 'There is no god but Allah', and who says this for the pleasure of Allah.";(1) and in another hadith, "whoever says 'there is no god but Allah, shall not enter the Fire."

So what do these reports really mean? Many people have misunderstood them, going so far as to say that these statements were later abrogated, and that they were made before the completion of the Shariah, before we knew what we must and must not do. Others have said that the fire they refer to is the hell of the disbelievers, while others still interpret the actual entering of the fire to mean entering it for eternity; thus "..shall not enter the Fire (for eternity)." These are just a few of their baseless interpretations.

In fact, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not say that this would occur merely by pronouncing the declaration of faith; this would contradict our entire understanding of Islam. The hypocrites say these words with their tongues, but they are bound for the deepest pit of Hell, and will be punished even more severely than those who actively dispute the fact that there is no other god than He. What is being referred to is, of course, a matter of both the heart and the tongue.

While the heart must believe, it must also realise the truth: it must realise the meaning of the words of the declaration of faith, of what they deny and what they affirm; realise that there is no other divinity than Allah; and realise that the attribution of divinity to anything else is quite impossible. Thus its meaning must be taken to heart consciously and deliberately, with certainty and urgency. This is what protects you from the Fire.

This recalls the story of the man who had murdered a hundred men, and though faith arose in his heart he took no notice of it, pushing it out of his breast; but when he came to death's door it again entered his heart and so he was one of those who entered Paradise. (2) And also the account about the prostitute whose heart was moved by the sight of a dog dying of thirst by the side of a well, eating the dust in desperation. With no higher purpose or hope of reward, she filled her shoe to the brim and gave it to the dog. Though people usually beat it she took it by the paw and stilled it until it had drunk, knowing that it could neither reward her nor even thank her in any way. Her supreme act of love wiped out all her previous sins and this is how she was forgiven. (3)

Imam Muslim reports a hadith in which the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, says, "Whoever says, There is no god but Allah, and denies whatever he used to worship beside Allah, will find that his life and his property are protected, and his reward is with Allah." (4) Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab points out that this is the greatest proof we have of the real meaning of the declaration of faith, since neither life nor property are protected simply by pronouncing these words; indeed there is no significance at all in just saying them, nor in advocating them, nor in calling on Allah alone. Your life and your property are not protected until you actually deny whatever you used to worship beside Allah; and if you have any doubt or hesitation about that, then you are still outside Islam. (5)

This should make clear the error of the Murji'a sect (6), who said that faith was equivalent to knowledge, and disbelief to ignorance, and who in this way severed deeds from belief. Everyone knows that the pagans of Makkah understood what the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, meant by saying, "There is no god but Allah". They understood it and they believed it, but they arrogantly refused to acknowledge it; so their faith in the One God, the Provider, the Bringer of Life and Death, did not benefit them at all. When the Prophet told them, "Say there is no god but Allah", they said: "Does he make the gods One God? Surely that is an astounding thing." [38:5]

The strange thing is that while the disbelievers know that the declaration of faith is more than just saying the words, some think that these reports mean that a simple utterance of the words 'there is no god but Allah', with none of their meaning entering the heart, is all that is required. But wiser people understand that it means that there is no creator other than Allah: no other provider, giver of life, bringer of death, and no other who holds all things in his hand. However, there is still no benefit to be gained by knowing what the declaration of faith means if you are without any belief. This throws new light on the meaning of those reports in which the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, mentions the simple repetition of these words, such as, "I have been ordered to struggle against people until they say 'There is no god but Allah'." (7)

Some people hope to imply by this that whoever recites the declaration of faith is not a disbeliever, and that we should not oppose him, regardless of whatever else he does. These people should recall that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, fought the Jews and cursed them even though they said, 'There is no god but Allah'. Not only this, but also the Companions of the Prophet fought the Bani Hanifa who not only said, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah", but also prayed and claimed to be Muslims; this was the same for the people whom Ali ibn Abi Talib burned alive for saying that he was an incarnation of Allah.
However, when you ask these people about the case of someone who denies the rising of the dead, they say that he has disbelieved and that we should fight him, even he says, 'there is no god but Allah'. They agree that whoever disputes any of the five pillars of Islam has disbelieved and should be opposed with the pen and the sword, even though he may pronounce the declaration of faith.

The contradiction here is that none of these denials involve the central tenet of Islam, which is the affirmation of Divine Unity, and yet these people are prepared to go to war over them; but when it is a matter of someone who denies the very essence of belief, the Diving Unity of God, then they provide him with an excuse for its denial, even though it is the very source and foundation of the Deen. So it becomes clear that these people are the enemies of Allah, and that they have not understood at all the meaning of what the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has said: It is well known that when a man declares himself to be a Muslim we should act prudently towards him until he does something that clearly contradicts his claim. Allah says: "O you who believe! When you go out (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful, and do not say to one who offers you peace: 'Your are not a believer', seeking the chance profits of this life (so that you may despoil him). With Allah are plenteous spoils. You too were like this once, and Allah gave you hope, so be careful; surely Allah is well aware of what you do." [4:94]

This verse indicates the necessity of restraint until such time as you are sure about the situation, since Allah says: "be careful". If it becomes clear that someone is at odds with Islam, then fight him. If this were not the case, then the command to verify the situation before fighting would meaningless.
Similarly the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said of the Kharijites, "Wherever you find them fight them, for were I to discover them I would destroy them utterly, as the people of Ad were destroyed." (8)
He said this even though they were meticulously observant in their dedication and in their worship, so much so that the companions, with whom they studied, felt humbled before them. Their declaration of faith, however, did not benefit them, and neither did the fullness of their worship, nor indeed their service to Islam, once they had abandoned the Shariah.(9)

Any intelligent person knows that if this whole matter hinged upon a single word, a mere word, then it would have been a simple thing for the Quraish to say it. They would have said, 'There is no god but Allah', saving both themselves a lot of trouble and their gods from ridicule. But they knew that the declaration of faith also involved a commitment, and it was this commitment that threatened their power and status in the land.
The point here is that Islam is a force that liberates all people from the unjust slavery of one to another, and places mankind at the service of the One, the Victorious. The degree of their fear of Allah became the measure of their worth and excellence among people. Thus the habits and customs of the jahiliyyah, inherited from parents and grandparents, had no place. Every good hearted, sincere Muslim must strive towards the full realisation of the declaration of faith, in order that each and every one of us may worship Allah with insight, knowledge, and certainty. This is the real challenge of Islam.

Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Masajid, 1/356.
See Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Anbia', 6/512, (3470); and Sahih Muslim, Kitab at-Tawba, 4/2118 (2766)
Ibn al-Qayim, Madarij as-Salikin, 1/330-332.
Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 1/53, (23).
Ibn Abdul Wahhab, Kitab at-Tawhid, p.115. The Murji'a sect believed that belief is all that is needed to reach the Garden Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 1/51, (20)
Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Zakat, 2/742, (1064) Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, Kashaf ash-Shubuhat, p.40. The Kharijites believed that committing major wrong actions turns a Muslim into an unbeliever.


Abu A'la al-Mawdudi mentions in his book, Fundamentals of Islam, nine effects of the declaration of faith upon the heart. First, as a believer you are not narrow minded like those who believe in many gods or who dispute the existence of God altogether. Second, as a believer you feel a sense of your own worth and dignity, since it is Allah alone who brings benefit and harm, and He alone who brings life and death. Wisdom, power and authority are His. Because of this the heart feels no fear of anything other than Him. No head bows to another, no one is humbled before anyone else. No one may fear another or be intimidated by human power or majesty, since Allah is the Majestic and the Omnipotent over all things. In contrast to this we see the subjugation of the disbelievers, the Christians and the Jews, and the pagans and the atheists, to one another.

Third, as a believer your sense of honour and self esteem are inspired by faith. The Muslim knows humility without humiliation, and pride without vainglory. Shaytan can not affect his pride or inspire conceit in him since he is well aware that it is Allah Who has given him all that he has and Who is capable of stripping him of everything at any time. Yet you see the atheist bursting with pride whenever some worldly benefit comes his way.
Fourth, as a believer you have the knowledge and the certainty that it is only through purification of the self and the performance of good works that success may be had. As for the disbelievers they have only the false hope that the 'son' of God will wash away the sins of the world, or that since they are themselves the 'sons' of God and His high priests they will not be punished for their sins, or that they will benefit from the intervention of the noble and pious, or that their offerings and sacrifices to their gods will give them licence to do as they please. As for the atheist who supposes that his existence in this world is without purpose and unguided by any higher plan, his gods are his own passions and desires. To these things he has dedicated his life. Fifth, the believer in this Aqeedah will not know hopelessness or despair, because he believes that Allah is Master of all that the heavens and earth contain. So his heart is reassured in peace and in hope. Even when weak in himself and defeated, when life closes in around him, he knows that those whom Allah takes into His protection will not be neglected or abandoned so long as they depend upon Allah and trust in Him. The disbelievers prefer to depend upon their own feeble resources, yet how quickly despair overtakes them, plunging them into desperation, and even driving them to suicide.

Sixth, belief in this Aqeedah develops in the individual great determination, fortitude, patience, confidence and trust, since you are engaged in the greatest of enterprise, the quest for the pleasure of Allah. Indeed you feel that what supports you is the power of He Who possesses the heavens and the earth. In this way the strength and determination of the believer, with his resolute will inspired by this confidence, becomes like a mountain that no human force may move. Could there ever be such a strength and confidence as this to inspire a person's disbelief?

Seventh, the believer derives both strength and support from the declaration of faith, since it puts you out of reach of the two things that can undermine your strength, love of the world and fear of it. Love of the world is to place love of yourself, your spouse or your money before love of Allah. Fear of the world is fear of an unknown force, not under the power of God, waiting to destroy you. The believer knows that there is no god but Allah, and so neither of these things can gain any power over the heart, because it is reassured by the fact that Allah is the Sole Possessor of both life and property. Once you dedicate yourself to the pleasure of your Lord regardless of the cost, you suddenly realise that no one can deprive you of your life, neither man nor beast: the gun, the sword and the stone do not kill; it is God alone Who brings death.

There is no stronger determination than that of someone who believes in Allah. No man can intimidate him and no army frighten him, neither flashing swords nor bullets falling like rain. Whenever a believer presents himself for battle in the path of Allah, his strength is multiplied tenfold. So where does this leave the Christians and the Jews, the disbelievers and the atheists.

Eighth, by believing in the declaration of faith you can take command over your own life, take pride in yourself, in your confidence and determination, and in this way purify your heart from the influence ofavarice, jealousy, cowardice, spite, and all other vices. Ninth, and by far the most important of these effects on the heart, is the knowledge that the declaration of faith guides you to understand the law of Allah, and helps you to keep carefully to it. Thus you are awakened to the fact that Allah is totally aware of every thing, and that He is nearer to you than your jugular vein; and although you may be able to escape from most kinds of danger, there is no escaping from Allah. The degree to which faith pervades the human mind determines in turn the extent of the believer's obedience to the laws of Allah, his keeping to Allah's limits and not coming near to what Allah has forbidden, and his hastening to do good works and to fulfill Allah's commands.

The declaration of faith is the first of the five essential pillars of Islam. It is also the most important of these when it comes to ascertaining the extent of a person's faith. The Muslim is the obedient servant who keeps near to Allah. We can not do this until we believe from the depths of our hearts that there is no god but Allah. The declaration of faith is the source of Islam and the basis of its strength. Regardless of the details of our belief or the different shades of legal opinion, everything ultimately rests upon this one statement: the power of Islam relies upon nothing else. If this should ever be lost, then nothing at all would be left of our Deen.(1) Ibn Rajab, when commenting on the declaration of faith, quotes Sufyian ibn Uyaynah: "Allah did not bestow upon His servants a greater blessing than the knowledge that there is no god but Allah. For the people of Paradise these words are the same as fresh water is to a people who live on the parched Earth. By it the scales of Heaven and Hell are set. Because of it the Messengers were sent into battle. Whoever declares it to be so, his wealth and his life are protected, but whoever denies it shall find himself destroyed. It is the key to paradise, and the single call of all the Messengers." (2)

Abu A'la al-Mawdudi, Mabadi' al-Islam, p.87.
Ibn Rajab, Kalimat al-Ikhlas, p.53

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