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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]

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 messenger 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, but he has never seen Allah nor Muhammad, so it's a false testimony.

"No god but Allah" (لا إله إلا الله)

Sometimes it's interpreted henotheistically as "No god is worthy of worship except Allah" and sometimes monotheistically "No god exists except Allah".

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. Notice that it doesn't mean that other swords don't exist. It just means that his sword is the best.

There is also a phrase Allahu Akbar - Allah is the greatest. The greatest what? The greatest god. So he is greater than other gods.

In the Quran

Since saying the shahada is considered the first pillar of Islam, we would expect that there would be a clear verse in the Quran saying: "This is the shahada that new Muslims must say" with the whole text cited. But the text of the shahada is actually not 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 Messenger 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.

So the whole shahada is nowhere in the Quran. And although we can find pieces of the shahada in the Quran, none of them mentioned "I testify" and none of them says that new converts have to say it.

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


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