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The Shahada is the Islamic declaration of faith. It is the first pillar of Islam. Every believer must pronounce the Shahada at least once in his or her life. When one wishes to embrace Islam, the first thing that he or she has to do is to say the Shahada with a complete understanding of its meaning and wholehearted belief in it.
Those whose last words before they die are the Shahada have been guaranteed Jannah. There are seven conditions for the acceptance of the Shahada. One’s declaration of faith has to fulfill all the conditions of the Shahada for it to benefit him or her.
The Shahada consists of two parts
The first part of the Shahada is to testify that there is no God worthy of worship but Allah. He is the sole true deity worthy of worship. He has no partners and is the only One who has the right to be worshipped. Allah forbids Muslims from associating any partners in worship with Him. All our worship must be for Allah alone, whether it is the belief in our hearts, our prayers which are to Him alone, the charity we give for His sake, the fasting we do to please Him, or the Hajj pilgrimage we perform for Him alone.
A person enters the fold of Islam by declaring that Allah is the only deity worthy of worship. This is the fundamental monotheistic belief that forms the core of Islam. Monotheism is the main message that all Prophets of Allah brought to earth. Merely affirming that Allah alone is deserving of worship isn’t sufficient for one to truly become a believer. Rather, it’s essential to submit to Allah by obeying His final Prophet (PBUH).
Thus, the second part of the profession of faith is to testify that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. He was Allah’s chosen one, who He entrusted with the noble mission to purify Arabia of polytheism.
Muhammad (PBUH) was the last Prophet, sent with the final revelation. It confirmed the revelations that preceded it. However, unlike the revelations that came before it, the Quran is binding on all of mankind. Therefore, Muslims have to believe in Muhammad’s (PBUH) Prophethood and follow his teachings, as Allah commands us to obey the Messenger. Moreover, he is the ultimate role model, who every believer should seek to emulate.
The importance of knowledge
A person should have knowledge of the Shahada. He should know the meaning of its words, which affirm the existence of Allah while denying the existence of any other god. One should understand that these words refer to the oneness of Allah, in which every Muslim has to believe. Furthermore, one should know that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. Every believer ought to believe in the Prophethood of the final Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), as his teachings are binding on all of mankind.
In order to submit to Allah, it is necessary to obey His Messenger (PBUH). Therefore, one cannot be a Muslim without affirming the second part of the Shahada, which pertains to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). The religion with which Allah sent Muhammad (PBUH) is the only faith that He accepts. Indeed, the religion of Islam is for all of mankind, unlike the teachings of earlier prophets. One cannot consider one’s Shahada to be acceptable if he is ignorant of these fundamental Islamic beliefs.
Certainty is a condition of Shahada
Certainty is a must for one who pronounces the declaration of faith. When saying the Shahada, it is necessary for a person to have complete certainty of its meaning. One should be free of any doubts pertaining to the faith when entering it. The person who says the Shahada should believe in Allah and His Messenger with firm conviction.
As Allah tells us in Surah Al-Hujurat, believers are only those who have faith in Allah and His Messenger and don’t go on to doubt. Hence, one should have complete faith in the truthfulness of the Shahada before uttering it and embracing Islam. It is not acceptable for a person to say the Shahada while having any doubt regarding it. In a hadith in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) said that one who meets Allah without having any doubt about the Shahada would never be denied Paradise.
The acceptance of Shahada
A person does not become a Muslim merely by saying the Shahada. Rather, he should accept the Shahada and all that it entails not only verbally but also in his heart. It is not sufficient for one to say the words of the Shahada if his heart fails to accept the truth of it. In a hadith in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) compares those who do not accept what Allah sent him with to a barren land that does not retain water or grow grass when there is rainfall.
The importance of submission
The believer is not only required to believe and accept the truth of the Shahada. He must also completely submit to all that acceptance of the Shahada entails. Thus, when one pronounces the testimony of faith, he must submit to Allah and obey the teachings of Islam. In order to submit to Allah as He commands us to, one must obey the Prophet (PBUH) and follow the teachings he conveyed to us.
Therefore, the Shahada is not acceptable if a person says it without submitting to Allah. If a person wants to become a Muslim, submission to Allah, following the teachings of Islam and obeying the final Prophet (PBUH) is essential. When a person makes the testimony of faith, he must be ready to submit to Allah rather than submitting to his own desires.
Shahada and true faith
When a person utters the Shahada, it should be an honest declaration of faith. One should not disbelieve in the truth of the Shahada while saying it. If a person does not have true faith in the oneness of Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His Messenger, his Shahada is invalid. Saying the Shahada won’t benefit anyone who does not have true belief in the truth of Islam in his heart.
In a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) stated that anyone who testifies that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is His Messenger will have Allah’s protection from the Hellfire. Therefore, one who says the Shahada must genuinely believe in it. Otherwise, his or her Shahada will not be valid.
The importance of sincerity
Sincerity is a must when one is saying the Shahada. This means that such a person must have the correct intentions and faith. One’s beliefs must be pure and free from any kind of shirk (association of partners with Allah). A Muslims should utter the Shahada with the sincere intention of submitting to Allah by following Islam and obeying Allah’s Messenger.
There should be no element of deception or hypocrisy in one’s testimony of faith. A person’s Shahada will not be valid if he does not inwardly hold the correct belief. He should not have any ulterior motives for professing Islam, as that would mean he is insincere.
In Surah Az-Zumar, Allah tells us that worship and obedience is for Him alone. Moreover, in a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) states that those who say Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah (affirming the oneness of Allah) with sincerity will be the ones who are most worthy of his intercession. People need to accept Islam, become Muslims, and worship Allah without the association of any partners purely for Allah’s sake.
Developing love for Shahada
Love for the Shahada, its meaning, and all that it entails is necessary for the person who wishes to embrace Islam. Additionally, the person who says the Shahada should love those who act upon the Shahada and follow its conditions. On the other hand, he or she should also hate those who go against the Shahada. In Surah Al-Baqarah, we learn that believers love Allah more than anything else.
One who loves Allah is supposed to give importance to what He loves, even if it is something that is contrary to one’s desires. Furthermore, he should hate what Allah hates, even if it’s something that he finds appealing. He should befriend the friends of Allah and His Messenger and be an enemy of the enemies of Allah and His Messenger.
Moreover, among the signs of one’s love for Allah is that he obeys the Prophet (PBUH) and follows his Sunnah. These are all crucial aspects of the love for Allah that every believer should have. In a Hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) said that one of the three things that lead to a person discovering the sweetness of faith is when he loves Allah and His Messenger more than anything else.