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The Meaning of the Shahaadatain


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Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), and on his household and all of his Companions.

How many times have you heard or even said the following words?Ash hadu allaa ilaaha illallah wa ashadu anna Muhammadar Rasoolullah. [I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah]. Yes indeed, it is the two-part testimony or declaration of faith by which the one who utters it enters into the fold of Islam. More importantly however, is whether you as a listener or as the one who has made this declaration have really considered the meaning of this great declaration and its implications for the one who utters it?

Importance of Understanding The Testimony

This testimony of faith is the foundation upon which Islam is based. The concept of life, the universe and man is diffused from it, and upon it is based the message of all Messengers (‘alaihimus salaam) beginning with Noah (‘alaihi salaam) and ending with Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), peace be upon them all. The first half of the testimony constitutes what is also known as al-kalima, which literally means ‘the word’Laa ilaaha illallah.

Allah the Exalted says: We did not send a Messenger before you without revealing to him: 'There is no God worthy of being worshiped except I, therefore worship Me’[Al-Anbiyaa - 21:25]

The Testimony Comprises Two Pillars:Denial And Affirmation

1. The first half of this first partLaa ilaaha - There is noIlaah(deity) - denies everyone and everything other than Allah, the Exalted, the attribute of divinity. This is known asnafy(negation) in Arabic.

2. The second half of this declarationillallah(except Allah) affirms and restricts divinity to Allah alone. That is, the slave must believe that Allah is the only true God, and therefore must not dedicate any act of worship to other than Allah. This is known in Arabic asithbaat(affirmation).

Conditions Of The First Half Of The Declaration

Confessing the testimony of faith must be coupled with fulfilling its seven conditions. Every door has a key that unlocks it. These conditions may be analogized with the teeth of that key in order that it function properly. Though one may have indeed entered Islam upon uttering the words it can also be said that complete faith cannot be attained unless he fully understands the implications of his testimony.

1. Knowledge which negates Ignorance. Allah states: So know (O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), Peace be upon him) that La ilaaha Illa-Allah.(There is no God but Allah). [Q 47:19]. The more a believer knows about Allah and His Deen the less likely is he to fall prey to the traps of Satan and more likely to benefit himself and others.

2. Certainty which negates Doubt. Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives in the Cause of Allah. They are the truthful. [Al-Hujuraat - 49:15]. The declaration should be made with the fullest conviction and confidence that Allah is One and Alone and Islam is indeed the true religion.

3. Sincerity and purity of intent which negates Shirk. Surely the religion (i.e. worship and obedience) is for Allah only. [Az-Zumar - 39:3]. No deed will be accepted if it is not done with pure intent and aim to please Allah.

4. Truthfulness which negates Hypocrisy. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say ‘We believe’ and will not be tested? And we indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make known those who are true and will certainly make known those who are liars. [Al-Ankabut - 29:2,3]. It is very simple for one to feign belief but it is Allah who indeed knows the inner truthfulness of all who claim to believe in Him.

5. Love and devotion which negates disdain of Allah’s religion. And to mankind are some who take some (associates for worship) besides Allah as rivals; they love them as they love Allah. But those who believe love Allah more (than anything else). [Al-Baqarah - 2:165]. Loving Allah necessitates that the believer put full trust in him and loves all that he learns of what Allah has commanded and forbidden. Therefore the true believer loves each and every aspect of Islam and he loves those others who likewise do so.

6. Submission which negates Disobedience. And turn in repentance to your Lord and submit to Him in Islam. [Az-Zumar 39:54]. To willfully disobey when Allah’s commands have been made clear is to belie the declaration of faith.

7. Acceptance which negates Rejection or Denial. Truly when it was said to them: ‘There is no God except Allah’, they puffed themselves up with pride (i.e. denied it). And (they) said : ‘Are we going to abandon our gods for the sake of a mad poet? [As-Saffaat 37:35-36]. There can be nothing but full acceptance of the truth of the declaration. Partial acceptance is like no acceptance at all.

The Second Half Of The Testimony: Muhammadan Rasoolullah

This is the declaration that "Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah". This second part of the testimony of faith is no less important than the first. In fact. It is impossible for one to be a true believer in the first part without also believing in the second. It necessitates belief in the following:

1 . Total submission to Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in whatever he ordered. Allah states: But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions and accept them with full submission. [Q4:65] and He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah [Q4:80]

2 . Avoiding what he (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) forbade. And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), gives you, take it and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it). [Al-Hashr 59:7].

3. Believing in all those matters he informed us about. The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him form his Lord and so do the believers [Q2:285]

4. Loving the Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). The Prophet has said about himself None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his parents [lit. father], his children [lit. son] and all of mankind. [Al-Bukhaari]

A Sobering Thought

Allah states:O Prophet, We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of glad tidings and a Warner. And as one who invites to Allah (i.e, to worship Him Alone) by His Leave and as a Lamp spreading Light (through your instructions). [Al-Ahzaab - 33:45, 46]

In an age when there is actually controversy over whether or not a Muslim must actually obey Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and adhere to his way, no true Muslim should remain ignorant of the great meanings contained within the two-part testimony by which one joins this great Deen of Islam. It may well be true as is said by some "There are many who have been Muslims for all of their lives who are really in need of taking theShahaadatainall over again." The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is the one who brought us Islam in its final form and exemplified it in his speech and character. Though him (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) Allah has spread His light all over this earth and surely in such a dark place as the world can at times be, there is nothing more needed than a beacon to show us the way .

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