Brainstorm of an Ishmaelite

Basic Rights and Obligations of Mawla and Mawali

If Muslims only recognized their mawla and mawali, so many problems of the umma would be resolved.


This essay discusses some of the basic rights of mawla and mawali. It may be read as a companion piece to The Critical Relationship Between Mawla and Mawali.

1. The Hierarchy of Mawali in Islam

Every Muslim is either a mawla (patron) or a mawali (client). Mawali must take instructions from their mawla. Islam divides people into nations (races) tribes and houses (vv. 35:27, 49:13, Tirmidhi 47:3538 & 49:3966).

A house includes its allies and mawali (al-Adab al-Mufrad 3:2). Only seven houses in Islam have only the Prophet as their mawla from whom they directly receive instructions (Bukhari 61:22). Quraysh is the top of these seven houses (ch. 106, Bukhari 65:4818 & 62:19). Among Quraysh, Alids are mawla to anyone to whom the Prophet is a mawla (Tirmidhi 49:4078) as they inherit the Qur’an directly from the Prophet (Bukhari 55:3 & Riyad as-Salihin 1:346). The Prophet’s wali is Abraham (Tirmidhi 47:3263) whose wali is God (vv. 8:40 & 48:10).

Hence, only Abraham’s heirs can rule in the name of their father Abraham (v. 2:124, 4:54 & 22:78). Other Muslims receive instructions from their mawla. See my essay: The Seven Houses of Islam. Mawla and mawali aren’t supposed to intermarry (Malik 28:1223) otherwise, their children will be Muladis, who are mawali (Ibn Majah 1:58, Ahmad 2:195 & Abu Dawud 43:485). Arabs and mawali belong to different classes (Bulugh al-Maram 8:39).

2. Inheritance

Mawali don’t inherit from their mawla, but rather the opposite (Malik 38:1490). Muladis are mawali who don’t inherit from either parent. Rather, their inheritance reverts to their mawla (Malik 27:1091).

3. Naming Conventions

Mawali must address their mawla as sayyidi or mawlay (Abu Dawud 43:204). If the ancestors of mawali are known, it’s called by the name of its ancestors. If its ancestors are unknown, it’s called by the nisba (patronymic) of its mawla (an-Nasa’i 26:29). The Prophet says: “Say so-and-so, the mawla of so-and-so” (Tirmidhi 47:3512).

Denial of one’s ancestry or mawla is an act of kufr (heresy) as is pretending to belong to people to whom one doesn’t belong (Bukhari 61:18, Ibn Majah 20:2707Tirmidhi 30:5). Accusing a person of false paternity or not belonging to a people is tantamount to accusing them of kufr. This implies the accuser or accused is a kafir (al-Adab al-Mufrad 24:15 & Bukhari 78:130).

Muslims should therefore make sure that their names point to their people, homeland and ancestors. For a discussion of naming conventions in Islam, see s. 4.5 of my essay: If Algeria Went My Way. Muslims with confusing names may be guilty of kufr, especially if they deny their mawla or neglect their duties toward it. For instance, many Indian and Pakistani Muslims go by the surname Qureshi. This is a clear example of kufr, since Quraysh aren’t Indians or Pakistanis. This confuses two different nations, which are associated with different races, languages, ancestries and cultures (Bukhari 61:16 & Ibn Majah 36:154). An Indian ‘Qureshi’ is either an Indian or a Muladi (Ibn Majah 1:58). 

Muslims with confusing names should change them to reflect their people, tribe and ancestry. See my post: Ajam Shouldn’t Be Named as Arabs. The Prophet changed people’s names when they weren’t good or accurate (Abu Dawud 43:184 & an-Nasa’i 26:29). Muslims should also be careful to fulfill their duties to their mawla and mawali, as the Prophet says the prayer of three don’t rise above their ears:

1. a mawali who forsakes its mawla,

2. a wife whose husband goes to bed angry with her and

3. a ruler whose subjects despise him (Tirmidhi 2:212).

The Prophet also says:

If anyone makes a claim of false paternity or pretends to be the mawali of other than its mawla, it shall incur the curse of God, the angels and all the people. (Muslim 15:531)

4. The Covenant

A mawali is a convert to Islam. To convert to Islam, a person must take a covenant with an Ishmaelite tribe, which becomes its mawla. The tribe will circumcise the convert, as a form of purification and a sign of the covenant (Genesis 17, Malik 43:4, al-Adab al-Mufrad 1:1252 & 1:1245). The covenant is eternally binding on a person and its issue. Violation of the covenant is considered to be high treason, which is a capital offence (an-Nasa’i 37:94). See my post: Blasphemy, Apostasy and War Against the Prophet in Sharia for a more nuanced discussion. A mawali pledges as follows:

We pledged to the Messenger of God to listen and obey in difficulty and ease, willingly or unwillingly, to our superiors, not remove the command from its people and to speak the truth wherever we are, for the sake of God, without fear of reproach. (Ibn Majah 24:2976)

This shows that the Prophet and his family (Quraysh) and successors (Alids) aren’t interested in recruiting followers who aren’t dead serious. The Prophet says concerning Muslims in general:

The true believer is like a camel with a nose ring. Wherever it’s driven, it complies. (Ibn Majah 1:45)

5. Trusteeship

The rights of wala–that is, the rights of mawali–are analogous to trusteeship of property or guardianship of a person. A wali has has the greatest right to dispose of its wala. The order of precedence of a mawali’s obligations is as follows: 

1. its parents and siblings

2. its mawla

3. its other relatives (al-Adab al-Mufrad 2:1)

6. Fealty

A mawali owes a duty of fealty to its mawla. It can’t take another mawla without the latter’s permission (an-Nasa’i 45:124). This relates to the fourth and final special instruction on the Scroll of Eli, which he kept with the Qur’an:

If a mawali joins another nation without its mawla’s permission, it will incur the curse of God, the angels and all people. God will neither accept its good works or purification. (Bukhari 96:31)

The Prophet similarly says:

Whoever takes another ally without his mawla’s consent will be damned by God and its angels. God won’t accept any of its obligatory supererogatory acts. (Muslim 20:22)

7. Patronage

A mawla is a patron to its mawali. A mawla can’t refuse its excess wealth to its mawali who need it and ask for it (an-Nasa’i 23:0). Muslims can’t give each other the silent treatment for three days. Mawali especially can’t do this to their mawla, as this can only be done by a superior (Riyad as-Salihin 18:1595 & al-Adab al-Mufrad 22:6).

The Prophet is the best mawla. He prayed for riches to make his mawali rich (al-Adab al-Mufrad 31:0) and distributed all of his wealth to charity or his mawali, except enough to pay for debts (Muslim 12:39). The Prophet fights for Muslims, who are his mawali. He listens to their grievances. He finds them work (Ibn Majah 12:2282) and women to marry (an-Nasa’i 26:5) and pays their debts and damages they can’t afford (Bukhari 93:54 & an-Nasa’i 21:146). The Prophet (whom the caliph represents) is the personification of the Islamic state and the “Law and Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). See my posts: Why Love the Prophet? and Muhammad Is the Law and Prophets.

8. How Does It Work Today?

What does the relationship between mawla and mawali mean today? First of all, it’s still binding. All Muslims are mawla and mawali and owe rights and obligations to their mawla and mawali. Consider the case of a woman whose surname is al-Idrisi, which is the nisba of Banu Idris, a well-known Hasanid clan that’s based in the Maghreb. There are three legal possibilities. She is either:

1. an Idrisi,

2. a mawali of Banu Idris or

3. a kafir, if her nisba is false.

If she’s a mawali of Banu Idris, she can ask her Idrisid mawla for support from its excess means, which her mawla can’t refuse. Conversely, her mawla has a greater right to command her respecting matters that don’t pertain to her rights or obligations. For instance, if a mawla doesn’t want its mawali to marry from a certain tribe, it can veto the marriage (Tirmidhi 11:23). A mawla can also rally its mawali for a legitimate cause.

9. Why Arabs Are Leery of Mawali and Don’t Mix

Arabs are leery of mawali because of a number of prophecies concerning them; namely, there will come a time when:

1. They don’t recognize their mawla (Ibn Majah 1:66) to the point that bedouins, Turks or Ethiopians will rule them (Muslim 54:71, Abu Dawud 39:12Tirmidhi 33:71).

2. They pretend to be mawla (Ibn Majah 1:66) and confuse the Arab race (Ibn Majah 1:58).

3. They return to the creed of their ancestors (Bukhari 92:63).

4. They will vastly outnumber Arabs, who will be weak and few at the time (Ibn Majah 36:152, Tirmidhi 49:4309, 49:4308 & Bukhari 58:18).

5. Many mawali will join the Antichrist (Bukhari 29:15).

In other words, mawali are guaranteed to betray Arabs and go back to the way of their ancestors, who were enemies of Abraham. The question is when. All of these things have already happened.

Mawali are innately disposed to replace or disinherit Abrahamic people. They’re also collectively hypocrites, since they aren’t true to a single nation or creed over time, unlike the sons of Abraham (an-Nasa’i 47:53 & Muslim 52:49). People who don’t come to Abraham as his mawali come to rule him. Abraham’s life and sanctity (hurumat) are thus preserved by separating from mawali, who are haram to him. That’s why Abrahamic people don’t heed or marry other nations (Genesis 24:4, vv. 3:33-34, 40:53, 6:83-87, 4:54 & Riyad as-Salihin 1:346). Malik 28:1123, 28:38 & Bukhari 68:34 basically forbid Qurayshis from marrying anyone today except Ishmaelites, Israelites or Edomites, like the Prophet’s wives (an-Nasa’i 26:109 & Tirmidhi 49:4266). Ibn Majah 1:58 & 5:1134 also forbid Qurayshis from heeding Muladis and ajam.

10. A Good Muslim Knows Its Place

In short, a good Muslim knows its place; it:

1. recognizes and obeys its mawla,

2. doesn’t mix money and Islam and

3. doesn’t make up Islam but only says what Ahl al-Bayt say concerning it.

That doesn’t mean Quraysh completely ignore gentiles or Muladis even if they say something true. Rather, it means they’ll only receive the truth if it’s obvious or a legitimate authority confirms it. As Mu’adh ibn Jabal says:

“In the future, you’ll be tested with abundant wealth, such that every believer and hypocrite, man and woman, old and young, slave and free will usurp (ya’khudhu) the Qur’an. A person would fain say: “Why won’t people follow me–though I studied the Quran–unless I invent something else?” So, beware of invention, for invention is wrong. Beware of the deviation of a sage, for the devil sometimes speaks falsehood through the tongue of a sage, and sometimes a hypocrite says the truth.”

Whereupon his companion Yazeed ibn ‘Umayra said: “I don’t understand. May God have mercy on you.  How can a sage speak a word of falsehood and a hypocrite speak a word of truth?”

“Indeed,” he replied, “avoid the popular words of a sage that give to question: ‘What’s this?’ and don’t praise him for it. He may reconsider his statement. Accept the truth when you hear it, for truth has a light of its own.” (Abu Dawud 42:16)