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Its mentioned in several ahadith (like this) that the 'wala' of a slave is for the one who buys the slave, and that 'wala' should not be bought and sold.
This 'wala' comes up a lot in the ahadith concerning slavery.
What does it mean ?

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In short wala in Arabic means loyalty.

Why is it so important?

Wala is one of the conditions of Iman. Allah has stated:

And if they had believed in Allah and the Prophet and in what was revealed to him, they would not have taken them as allies; but many of them are defiantly disobedient.﴾٨١﴿

It is not just for slaves, you will find many Ahadith that shows that loyality to Allah should never be bought or sold as it is one of the basics of islam.

  • While this explains a little bit the word "wala", it does not respond to the OP's question. – Ely Jun 30 '15 at 23:42
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The word wala in your question's context has a legal meaning that comes with rights and duties. Therefore there is no direct translation.

The meaning has elements of similar yet different concepts. Among others you find in it the notions of:

  • guardianship, custodianship, wardship
  • tutelage, trusteeship, curatorship, fosterage
  • maybe there are other nuances
  • I have already needed to delete multiple comments on this post, all of which were nothing to do with the question asked nor how well this answer answered the question asked, rather they were arguing about the tangential claims which I have now removed. If you wish to argue that they are actually necessary for answering the question asked, please take it to meta. – goldPseudo Jan 28 '16 at 1:10

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