Testimony of Faith – Shahaadah

Bismillah. This is the continuation of our An-Nawawi series – the explanation of Imam An-Nawawi’s 40 hadith by Jamal al-din Zarabozo. We are currently covering the third hadith, discussing the 5 pillars of Islam. We are going to discuss the first pillar today – the testimony of faith, or shahaadah.

“There is none worthy of worship except Allah”

Meaning and Linguistical Composition

I took an aqeedah class with AlMaghrib – Light of Guidance – so I’ll be using those notes also to help explain this section inshaAllah 🙂

The shahaadah is the essence of tauheed, the reason mankind was created and why the prophets were sent. It is the phrase that a person says when he first becomes Muslim and it is the goal of every Muslim that it be the last he says when he dies.

We’re going to take a quick look at some of the words and phrases linguistically:

The word ilaah is any object that is worshiped.

The word la is a la of negation. In Arabic, this would require both a subject and a description. However, when we look at the shahaadah, we see that there is a subject, but no description. The missing phrase is understood by context. This negation is not negating every other ilaah in the world (as there are other worshipped beings in the world). Rather, their worthiness of worship is negated.

The testimony of faith is a combination of negation and affirmation – the strongest form of all inclusiveness in the Arabic language. La ilaaha is the negating part of the shahaadah in which we are negating that any other deity is worthy of worship. And the phrase illa Allah is the affirmation; we are saying that Allah is that deity worthy of worship. This is basically the testimony of tauheed that we thoroughly discussed in the previous hadith.

The Right Ridges

The shahaadah is the key to Paradise, but merely saying it is not enough. Certain conditions must be met.

Wahb ibn Munabbih was asked, “Isn’t the statement of la ilaaha illa-laah the key to Paradise?” He answered, “Yes, but every key has ridges. If you come with the key that has the right ridges, the door will not open for you.” These ridges are conditions that differentiate Muslims who will benefit from the statement from those who who will not benefit from that statement, no matter how many times a day they may have made that statement.

The conditions of the shahaadah are:

1.) Knowledge/’ilm: the basic understanding of what is meant by the shahaadah.

2.) Certainty/al yaqeen: one’s heart must not be wavering in any way when they testify to the shahaadah.

Allah says: “Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful.” (Al Hujuraat, 15)

A cure for doubt is knowledge. A sound knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah removes most, if not all, of these doubts.

3.) Acceptance/al Qabool: the acceptance, with the tongue and heart, of whatever the shahaadah implies.

This includes believing whatever is in the Qur’an and Sunnah without picking and choosing what to believe or reject.

Allah says: It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error. (al Ahzaab, 36)

4.) Submission/compliance/al inqiyaad: this is submitting by actions.

Allah says: “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” (An Nisaa`, 65)

This is one of the main meanings of the word Islam itself: the submission to the will and commands of Allah [God].

5.) Truthfulness/al-Sidq: when one says the shahaadah he should say it honestly, actually meaning it.

This is in contrast to the hypocrites, who just testify to protect themselves or gain something from doing so.

6.) Sincerity/al-ikhlaas: testifying solely for the sake of Allah.

One becomes (remains) Muslim solely to serve Allah, to avoid His anger and punishment and to get His mercy and reward. Especially for those of us who are born and raised Muslim: we should always keep our sincerity in check. We should continually renew or intention that we are Muslim for Allah; not for family, friends or some other reason.

7.) Love/mahabbah: loving the shahaadah, its implications and those who act and strive based on it.

8.) Denying every other object of worship

Allah says: “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut [false deities] and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Al Baqarah, 256)

This point would seem very obvious, but there are Muslims who say the shahaadah, but then go and worship people who are in their graves. A’oothubillah!

9.) Adhering to the shahaadah till death

Allah says: “O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him].” (Al Imraan, 102)

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

When one testifies that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, he is stating his belief that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen by Allah to be His Messenger and to convey His Message.

When one makes the shahaadah, they are also testifying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been sent for all of mankind until the day of judgment. This also implies that the Prophet’s teachings and his Sunnah are valid and obligatory upon all of mankind until the day of judgment.

Third, declaring the shahaadah is believing in certainty that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam conveyed the message correctly, in its completion and that he conveyed it clearly. There is no need to turn to other religions or spiritual teachings for guidance. Everything we need is in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Another implication of this testimony is that Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the last Messenger of Allah. No new prophet or scripture will come. [Just a note – we believe in the return of Jesus, but he’s not a new prophet, nor will he bring a new scripture. Allah knows best.]

One of the obligations we have towards the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is to love him. We must accept the Prophet (peace be upon him) as our example of how to live and behave.

Say (O Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al Imraan, 31)

Why weren’t the other articles of faith mentioned? (As in the hadith of Gabriel/Jibreel)

The answer is that they are implicitly implied as soon as the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is mentioned in the testimony of faith 🙂 If you accept the Prophet (peace be upon him), then you accept everything he taught.

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