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Walī (Arabic: ولي, plural ʾawliyāʾ أولياء), is an Arabic word whose meanings include "custodian", "protector", "helper", and "friend". It can refer to someone who has "Walayah" (authority or guardianship) over somebody else. For example, in fiqh, a father is wali of his children especially for his daughters in marriage.
In Islam, the phrase ولي الله walī allāh can be used to denote one vested with the "authority of God":
Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.
However, the most common meaning of the word is that of a Muslim saint or holy person. In Turkish the word has been adopted as veli. In Palestine the word wali means both holy man and the tomb or mausoleum of a holy man. This is reflected in 19th- to early 20th-century Western scholarly literature, where the word is spelled "wali", "weli", "welli" etc. in English and "oualy" in French.
It should not be confused with the different word wāli (والي) which is an administrative title that means magistrate or governor and is still used today in some Muslim countries, such as the former Wali of Swat.
According to Islamic law (shari'a) a woman needs a walī' (not to be confused with wāli), that is a male custodian. In marriage, the marriage contract is signed by not by the bride and groom but by the bride's walī (typically the father or, failing that, a paternal grandfather or brother of the bride) and the bridegroom. After marriage the husband becomes the walī. Typically a father or brother (a mahram) or husband is a wāli.
In the case of the woman's first marriage the father or paternal grandfather is al-wali al-mujbir. Her approval is necessary, but the bride's silence is considered consent as being shy. If father and grandfather are deceased another male relative may function as wali. If there is no Muslim relative, a qadi may function as wali. In the Hanafi school of Islamic law a woman may under certain circumstances marry without a wali, if it is not her first marriage.
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