The second dimension of wilayat is a commonly held belief of the Shias as well as the majority of the Sunnis who belong to Sufi orders.

Nothing reflects this more than the interpretation given by Maulawi Salamat ‘Ali, a Sunni scholar of India, to the hadith of Ghadir. He writes in at-Tabsira, “The Ahlu’s-Sunnah do not doubt the Imamate of Amiru ‘l-Mu’minin [‘Ali]; and that is indeed the essence of faith. It is, however, necessary that the import of the ahadith of Ghadir be the spiritual Imamate and not [the political] khilafat. This is the meaning derived from the statements of the Ahlu ‘s-Sunnah and the scholars of Sufism, and, consequently, the allegiance of all the [Sufi] orders reach Amiru ‘l-Mu’minin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib and through him they are connected to the Messenger.”

Other than the Naqshbandi order, all Sufis trace the chain of their spiritual masters back to the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt, ending with Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib as the spiritual authority par excellence after the Prophet. The Naqsbandi order traces its spiritual leadership back to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq and then follows the line through his mother to Muhammad bin Abi Bakr and then to Abu Bakr. This diversion from Imam as-Sadiq to Abu Bakr is, however, not valid because Muhammad bin Abi Bakr was raised from a very young age by Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib who married Muhammad’s mother, Asma’ bint Umays, after Abu Bakr’s death. The only spiritual master that Muhammad bin Abi Bakr knew was Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.).