Muslim Profession of Faith
The Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith and the first of the
‘Five Pillars’ of Islam. The word shahada in Arabic means
‘testimony.’ The shahada is to testify to two things:
(a) Nothing deserves worship except
(b) Muhammad is the Messenger of God
A Muslim is simply one who bears witness and testifies that “nothing
deserves worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
One becomes a Muslim by making this simple declaration.
It must be recited by every Muslim at least once in a lifetime with
a full understanding of its meaning and with an assent of the heart.
Muslims say this when they wake up in the morning, and before they
go to sleep at night. It is repeated five times in the call to
prayer in every mosque. A person who utters the shahada as their
last words in this life has been promised Paradise.
Many people ignorant of Islam have misconceived notions about the
Allah, used by Muslims to denote God. Allah is the proper name for
God in Arabic, just as "Elah", or often "Elohim", is the proper name
for God in Aramaic mentioned in the Old Testament. Allah is also His
personal name in Islam, as "YHWH" is His personal name in Judaism.
However, rather than the specific Hebrew denotation of "YHWH" as "He
Who Is", in Arabic Allah denotes the aspect of being “The One True
Deity worthy of all worship”. Arabic speaking Jews and Christians
also refer to the Supreme Being as Allah.
(a) Nothing deserves worship except God (Allah).
The first part of this testimony states that God has the exclusive
right to be worshipped inwardly and outwardly, by one’s heart and
limbs. In Islamic doctrine, not only can no one be worshipped apart
from Him, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him.
He has no partners or associates in worship. Worship, in its
comprehensive sense and all its aspects, is for Him alone. God’s
right to be worshipped is the essential meaning of Islam’s testimony
of faith: Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā llāh. A person becomes Muslim by
testifying to the divine right to worship. It is the crux of Islamic
belief in God, even all of Islam. It is considered the central
message of all prophets and messengers sent by God - the message of
Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and
Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon them. For
instance, Moses declared:
“Hear, O Israel The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Jesus repeated the same message 1500 years later when he said:
“The first of all the commandments is, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our
God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:29)
…and reminded Satan:
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God,
and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)
Finally, the call of Muhammad, some 600 years after Jesus,
reverberated across the hills of Mecca, ‘And your God is One God:
there is no god but He.’ (Quran 2:163). They all declared clearly:
“Worship God! You have no other god but Him.” (Quran 7:59, 7:73;
11:50, 11:84; 23:32)
But by a mere verbal profession alone, one does not become a
complete Muslim. To become a complete Muslim one has to fully carry
out in practice the instruction given by Prophet Muhammad as
ordained by God. This brings us to the second part of the testimony.
(b) Muhammad is the Messenger of God (Allah).
Muhammad was born in Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 CE. His
ancestry goes back to Ishmael, a son of Prophet Abraham. The second
part of the confession of faith asserts that he is not only a
prophet but also a messenger of God, a higher role also played by
Moses and Jesus before him. Like all prophets before him, he was a
human being, but chosen by God to convey His message to all humanity
rather than one tribe or nation from among the many that exist. For
Muslims, Muhammad brought the last and final revelation. In
accepting Muhammad as the “last of the prophets,” they believe that
his prophecy confirms and completes all of the revealed messages,
beginning with that of Adam. In addition, Muhammad serves as the
preeminent role model through his life example. The believer’s
effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects the emphasis of Islam
on practice and action.