shahadatan(declaration of faith)
“I testify there is no god but Allah.”
Allah (pronounced: Allaah) is the Arabic word for God. It is the same word used by Jewish and Christian Arabs to refer to God. The most literal meaning of the declaration is not the intended one, as there are many things human beings worship instead of the One God. The true meaning is: “I testify there is none worthy of worship but Allah.” This statement combines negation and affirmation. It denies the right of anything in creation to be worshipped, and it affirms that right for the Creator. The concept of worship is probably more comprehensive in Islam than in any other religion. It includes devotional rituals, but it also includes all transactions between individuals and groups. It also includes emotional states and actions of the heart, such as love, hate, hope, fear, etc. In fact, every action that pleases God is considered an act of worship in Islam.
The second part of the declaration of faith is:
“I testify that Muhammad is the [final] Messenger of God.”
Without it, implementing the first part of the declaration of faith becomes very difficult. The Quran says,
“You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who remembers Allah profusely.”
Following the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has been made a litmus test for the love of God:
“Say: ‘If you do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins; for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’”
Accepting the rules revealed by God through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has also been made a test of true faith;
“But no, by your Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.”
Merits of the Declaration of Faith
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Whoever bears witness that none is worthy of worship but Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, and that Jesus is the slave of Allah and the son of a woman who was His slave, and His word that He cast into Mary, and a soul from Him, and that Paradise is real and that Hell is real, Allah will enter him into Paradise by any of its eight doors he wishes [according to his actions].”
On one occasion the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting in a garden. He told one of his Companions, “Take these sandals of mine. When you meet anyone outside this garden who testifies that there is no god but Allah, being sure of it in his heart, give him glad tidings of Paradise.”
On another occasion Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Allah has prohibited from the Fire of Hell anyone who says, ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah,’ seeking thereby the pleasure of Allah.”
The Necessity of Declaring One’s Faith
These and other statements of the Prophet (pbuh) have led scholars to conclude that a person who believes that this declaration is true must declare it in front of witnesses to become a Muslim. Knowledge and acceptance in the heart are conditions for the validity of the declaration, but knowledge and acceptance without the declaration would not save a person from Hell if there were no threat of physical harm to prevent him from declaring it.
If a person would be endangered by making his or her faith known, he/she has the option of keeping it a secret. One of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was tortured and forced to denounce Muhammad and praise the gods of the idol worshippers upon pain of death. When he was released, he came to the Prophet crying. When he had explained to him what had happened, the Prophet asked him, “How did you find your heart while you were saying those things?” He replied that his heart was content with Islam and that he hated what he was forced to say. The Prophet instructed him that if he were placed in the same situation again that he should again say what his tormenters demanded of him to save himself. It was about him that the following verse of Qur’an was revealed:
“Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters disbelief - except one who does so under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but those who open their hearts to disbelief, the wrath of Allah is on them, and they will have a dreadful penalty.”
One of the prominent reasons that Islam requires a person to declare his/her faith is that a new convert needs the support and help of the community to help his faith grow and stabilize. When a person is a very new Muslim, his/her friends and family are likely to be displeased with the change. They will raise questions and doubts about Islam in the mind of the new convert to try to shake his/her faith. They may even try to draw the convert into behavior condemned by Islam just so that his faith will weaken through sinning. Everyone also has a personal devil to raise doubts and temptations. If the Muslim community knows that the person is a new Muslim, they have a responsibility to make him/her feel welcome and to help him/her through some of the problems of transition.
Another implication of the declaration of faith is that a believer should have an open personality without hidden agendas. People should know who you are and what you stand for. Life is a struggle between good and evil. The struggle goes on in each person’s heart, but it also goes on between people who align themselves with good, more or less, and people who align themselves with evil, more or less. Each of us needs to try to identify the truth, struggle to live by it and help others to find it and live by it. This doesn’t mean that you shove your beliefs down other’s throats, but one has a responsibility to share beneficial knowledge with those who don’t know.