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Shahadah

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The Shahadah (الشهادة), which means "testimony" (also degree or certificate), is the name of the Islamic profession of faith. It is the most important of all Five Pillars, and its recitation in Arabic is required for a non-Muslim to become a Muslim.[1]

Contents

The text

Arabic: أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله

Transliteration: ašhadu ʾanla ilāha illal-Lāh, wa ʾašhadu ʾanna muḥammadan rasūlul-Lāh

Literal: I testify that No god but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.

Shi'ite Muslims may add "and Ali is the friend of Allah." (wa-‘Aliyun waliyu l-Lāh), but this is not obligatory.[2]

"I testify that" (أشهد أن)

A new convert to Islam has to say that he testifies about Allah and Muhammad, likely hearkening back to Greek Christian idiom of "testifying" to their faith, an idiom ultimately originating in the Roman persecution of Christians (see Shahid).

"No god but Allah" (لا إله إلا الله)

A statement of absolute monotheism. Note the unusual difference between أله "'ilah" "a god" and the definite الله "'allah" "the God" where one would otherwise expect الإله "al-'ilah" "the god." This is likely under the influence of the Syriac ܐܲܠܵܗܵܐ "Alaaha" for "god."

There is a grammatically analogous statement used by Shia Muslims:

لا سيف إلا ذو الفقار

lā sayf ʾillā Ḏū l-Fiqār.

Literally: No sword except Zulfiqar


Zulfiqar is the sword of Ali. Note that it doesn't imply that other swords don't exist, merely that Ali's sword is the preeminent sword of swords.

In the Quran

Since saying the shahada is considered the first pillar of Islam, one might expect that there would be a clear version of it in the Quran saying. Yet the text of the shahada actually does not appear in the Quran, at least not in its full form.

"No god but Allah" is mentioned in two verses. In one verse it was said to disbelievers:

37:35 Indeed they, when it was said to them, "There is no deity but Allah (لا إله إلا الله)," were arrogant

37:36 And were saying, "Are we to leave our gods for a mad poet?"


And the second verse is Allah talking to Muhammad (Allah talks about himself in 3rd person):

So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah (لا إله إلا الله) and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place.


"Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" was mentioned once:

48:28 It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion. And sufficient is Allah as Witness.

48:29 Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah (محمد رسول الله); and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration. That is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers - so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward.


The entire declaration, though, appears no where as such in our received rescension of the Quran.

In the hadith

The concept of "five pillars of Islam" is actually based on a hadith:

It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah son of 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

(The superstructure of) al-Islam is raised on five (pillars), testifying (the fact) that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His bondsman and messenger, and the establishment of prayer, payment of Zakat, Pilgrimage to the House (Ka'ba) and the fast of Ramadan.


See Also

References

  1. Embracing Islam - The Modern Religion
  2. Shahada - Encyclopedia of the Middle East