If I say the words ‘protective friend’ what comes to mind? Your best friend, the person you can tell all your secrets and dreams to, the person who has your back, the one who would protect you in all circumstances? Is it the one who turns up at your door with a welcome cup of coffee or the gift that is perfect?
Everybody longs to have a friend just like that. Someone who is there beside you whenever you need a hand, or a shoulder, or even just a few minutes of relaxation and joy.
The reality however is that sometimes friendships don’t turn out the way you expect, and sometimes friendships don’t last, or are not as satisfying. Perhaps you desperately need your friend but they have their own needs and problems; maybe their parents are ill or their child needs to go to an appointment. Your protective friend suddenly isn’t able to protect you.
The Protective Friend
In Islam, we understand that we do have a protective friend that never lets us down, a friend that is there for us in, and under, all circumstances. Nothing diverts this friend from paying attention to us, and this friend is always available. It is God.
God is our protective friend, and He named Himself Al Wali, the protective friend, thereby facilitating our understanding of His love for us, His love for every person in this world.
God – There is no deity except Him. To Him belong the best names. (Quran 20: 8)
The most excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him, and keep away from those who abuse them– they will be revenged for what they do. (Quran 7:180)
What is Wali?
Al Wali comes from the root wa, lam, ya, and has several meanings. To be close by, to be a friend and supporter, to lovingly defend and guard, to be in charge, to turn one towards something, and to be the master, owner or lord.
This root appears in the Quran many times, and in many forms, including, al-mawla (the protector) and awliya (allies). Thus, Al Wali combines the near, loving, protective, and guarding attributes of the One who is also the Lord and Master of the universe.
Allah’s Name Al Wali in Quran
God asks us to use His names and attributes when we call on Him for our needs. God frequently calls Himself Al Wali in the Quran.
And it is He who sends down the rain after they had despaired and spreads His mercy. And He is the Protective Friend (al-Wali), the Praiseworthy. (Quran, 42:28)
Indeed, my protector (wali) is God, who has sent down the Book; and He is an ally to the righteous. (Quran, 7:196)
And God is the ally (wali) of the believers. (Quran 3:68)
Or have they taken protectors (guardians, supporters, helpers) besides him? But God – He alone is the Lord, and Protector (Al Wali). And it is He who gives life to the dead, and He is able to do all things. (Quran 42:9)
Benefits of the Name Al Wali
While we all enjoy this friendship with God those who take this friendship seriously receive extra benefits from this special protection and friendship. Those who cultivate a relationship with God understand that they are never alone, they are never without a guiding and protecting friend. In a hadith qudsi God explains this friendship to us.
Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily God said, ‘Whosoever shows enmity to a wali (friend) of Mine, then I have declared war against him. And My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved to Me than the religious duties I have obligated upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to me with supererogatory (extra) deeds until I Love him. When I Love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge. (Al Bukhari)
Your close friend is the one you turn to when you are afraid or upset, their protection can be physical or emotional, it can be in the form of words, or strength. However, they are fallible human beings, no matter how much they want to help, the assistance they provide may or may not be enough, or even what is required.
When we turn to God, when we have strengthened our relationship enough to automatically turn to Him in times of need, we find that there are multiple advantages to being accepting God’s friendship. When God is on your side, you are already victorious.
God is the wali of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into the light. But as for those who disbelieve, their Awliya (supporters and helpers) are false deities and false leaders, they bring them out of light into darkness. Those are the dwellers of the Fire, and they will abide therein forever. (Quran 2:257)
Wali in Marriage
Often the first time converts to Islam hear the term wali it is with reference to getting married. A woman is required to have the permission of her wali, which usually equates to her father, uncle, brother or other family member.
The real meaning of this term seems to have been lost over time. A wali is the one who protects the woman’s interests and cares about her future. A wali is concerned about the woman’s well-being. If we extrapolate this care and concern, we discover that God is the wali of anyone who calls on Him or requires His assistance.
God is the protector friend of those who worship Him. He helps them. He relieves their burdens and hardships, replacing them with ease. And He makes their good deeds successful. He takes them out of darkness and into the light. God’s friends need not fear they have a guiding friend looking after their interests.
Note: Other Names related to Al Wali.
Al Muhaymin is the One who ensures well-being, and covers and protects all of creation. He is the One who is ever watchful, the One who protects and guards.
Al Mani is the Protector, Defender and
Preventer. He averts harm and guards from harmful situations.
 A hadith qudsi is a saying from the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, in which Prophet Muhammad tells us what God says about a particular subject or situation.