5 Pillars of Islam: No.1: The Testification of Faith (Shahada)

The shahada (Arabic: الشهادة‎ aš-šahādah (from the verb شهد šahida, “he witnessed”), means “to know and believe without suspicion, as if witnessed, testification”; it is the name of the Islamic creed. The shahada is the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet. The declaration in its shortest form reads:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله (ʾilāha ʾillà l-Lāh, Muammadur rasūlu l-Lāh) (in Arabic)

There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. (in English)

Recitation

A single honest recitation of the shahadah in Arabic is all that is required for a person to convert to Islam according to most traditional schools (madhab).

Muslims believe that the shahadah is without value unless it is earnest. Islamic scholars have therefore developed, based on the data of the Quran and hadith, essential criteria for an expression of the shahadah to be earnest. These criteria are generally divided into seven to nine individual criteria; the varying numbers and orderings are not due to disagreements about what the criteria actually are, but rather different ways of dividing them. One such list of seven critical conditions of the shahadah, without which it is considered to be meaningless, are as follows:

  • Al-ʿIlm (العلم): Knowledge of the meaning of the Shahadah, its negation and affirmation.
  • Al-Yaqeen (اليقين): Certainty – perfect knowledge of it that counteracts suspicion and doubt.
  • Al-Ikhlaas (الإخلاص): Sincerity which negates shirk.
  • Al-Sidq (الصدق): Truthfulness that permits neither falsehood nor hypocrisy.
  • Al-Mahabbah (المحبة): Love of the Shahadah and its meaning, and being happy with it.
  • Al-Inqiyad (الانقياد): Submission to its rightful requirements, which are the duties that must be performed with sincerity to God (alone) seeking His pleasure.
  • Al-Qubool (القبول): Acceptance that contradicts rejection.

The second part of the Shahada carries several conditions as well:

  • To believe in the Prophet and in whatever he said and conveyed in his message as the seal of the prophets.
  • To obey him in whatever he commanded.
  • To stay away from or avoid whatever he commanded Muslims not to do.
  • To follow or emulate him in our ʿibādah (عبادة; worship), ʾaḫlāq (أخلاق; manners), and way of life.
  • To understand, practice, and promote his sunnah (“habits”) in the best way possible, without creating any chaos, enmity or harm.

 

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