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Al-Shahada (the Testimony): “there is no god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Allah, is exclusively related to the Islamic Call that Muhammad (PBUH) carried. It is more than a statement or a declaration of the oneness of Allah. On one hand, al-Shahada is a reminder of the teachings of all revelations; namely that the Origin of everything and of all the creatures is One. The second part of al-Shahada introduces to humankind the Path to the Truth that will always enlighten humankind's way.

Knowing that "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah prepares the individual human being to reflect upon Muhammad's teachings and encourages him to follow his path. On another level of knowledge, as we will elaborate later, Muhammad (PBUH) is a symbol of all the previous revelations, and to follow him, is to follow the teachings of Jesus (PBUH) , Moses (PBUH) , Abraham (PBUH) and all the heavenly guidance that came to earth. In few words, al-Shahada is a reminder of the base call in all revelations and a sum up of them in the Islamic Call conveyed through Muhammad (PBUH).

Al-Shahada is an Arabic word driven from the root sh. h. d., and the verb sha ha da. This verb has various meanings, among which we mention: to “see”, to “declare”, and to “testify” or “witness”. Al-Shahada condenses all those meanings. When the individual person starts by saying “ash-hadu”, s/he “declares” that s/he “witnesses” and as such emphasizes to her/himself that this declaration transcends the field of knowledge to the field of reality for s/he perceives the reality of the oneness of Allah and the fact that Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger.

Al-Shahada is a reminder
of the Eternal Covenant

Al-Shahada is a remembrance of the knowledge that was inherited in man's soul, and s/he tends to forget. The story of Adam in the Holy Qur’an demonstrates the very characteristics of his children, and how much they tend to forget the covenant that they take from eternity:

When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam from their loins, their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord)?" They said: "Yea! we do testify!" (this), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful (HQ 7:172).

We had already, beforehand, taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot: and We found on his part no firm resolve (HQ 20:115).

Revelations came to remind people of their commitment. Like Muhammad (PBUH) like other prophets who came before him, he came to remind people of that commitment which they made. Accordingly, they can set their priorities, define their goals and give up any marginal attractions. Al-Shahada the first pillar in Islam is meant to remind people of how to live according to the knowledge and experience of the Oneness of God.

To witness that “there is no god but God” stands as a guideline that directs a Muslim's way in the sense that s/he should not be deceived by any illusive powers that do not last permanently, and consequently cannot represent the absolute Truth. Nothing then is the Truth but God. To God alone, one should direct his deeds and Him alone one should seek.

"High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth!" (HQ 20:114).

This is so, because "Allah is the Truth: it is He Who gives life to the dead, and it is He Who is capable of everything (HQ 22: 6).

That is because Allah, He is the Truth: and those besides Him whom they invoke, they are but vain Falsehood: verily Allah is He, Most High, Most Great (HQ 22: 62).

What It Means to Witness
that Muhammad Is the Messenger of God

We are having here two levels concerning the second part of al-Shahada: “Muhammad is the Messenger of God” Muhammad Rasulu Allah . The first level is where Muhammad (PBUH) is a prophet who came in a certain period of time and carried a definite and known Call, and who had a great impact on the whole world in history. For, no one can deny the impact of the Call that The Prophet (PBUH) conveyed on changing the nature of Arabia and the resurgence of the Islamic Civilization afterwards. Those changes were the natural outcome of the great inner spiritual transformation of people who believed in Muhammad (PBUH) and the Islamic Call.

On another level, Muhammad's greatness transcends the great impact that he made on the turn of history. Muhammad (PBUH) is a symbol of the Message of God, the Primordial Religion al-Deen al-Hanif; that Religion which all prophets called for. In the part of al-Shahada that “Muhammad is the messenger of God” is a call to believe that the Call he conveyed is the one that came with all previous prophets. Al-Shahada is a continuous Call to other people from all walks of life to believe in their religions as was introduced by the Divine through Muhammad (PBUH) regardless of whether they would convert to Muhammad's creed or not:

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and kind counsel; and “if “ you argue with them choose the best way (to make them see what is better for them) for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance (HQ 16:125).

On the spiritual experience level, "to witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God" means more than acknowledging the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH). "To witness" is not merely to admit or testify, but also to see the reality of Muhammad (PBUH) as a messenger of God. The act of seeing is possible because Muhammad (PBUH) is not part of a history but he exists also in the present, and can be seen within the heart of his followers. The teachings of The Prophet (PBUH) are not words to be uttered, theological theories to be learnt or logical statements to be comprehended. Those teachings were alive in the life of The Prophet (PBUH) and have expanded in those who have been reviving them in their hearts. They have been continuing his Call. Muhammad (PBUH) as a messenger of God symbolizes the continuous existing guidance that will maintain on earth. Muhammad (PBUH) in that respect is a symbol of heavenly guidance.

Following in the Prophet’s footsteps is not by blind imitation, nor by adhering to his teachings as a mere label, but by following the methodology that he represented throughout his earthly life. His way is the way of all prophets and of continuous search for the truth with honesty and sincerity at any time or place.

Al Shahada Is the Corner Stone
In All Revelations

While it is true that Al Shahada as the first pillar in Islam distinguishes between those who are following the Primordial Religion as conveyed by Muhammad (PBUH) and those who are following other prophets, this distinction is not arbitrary. The “common term” that gathers the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) and people of the book, is the belief in the oneness of God:

Say: "O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back, say ye: "Bear witness that we are Muslims (bowing to Allah's Will)" (HQ 3: 64).

The very belief in the oneness of Allah leads a person -regardless of her/his creed affiliation- to "bow to Allah's will", and to be a Muslim in heart.

Those who follow the Primordial Religion under any name are actually following The Prophet's path. The core of al-Shahada is to surrender to the Divine Law. What matters is not names that are socially given to us, but the basis according to which one perceives one's life.

And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: they will not sell the Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! for them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account" (K :3:199).

People of the Bookglossary were asked not to make distinction between God's messengers. Qur’an reveals to them that Allah took the covenant of the prophets where they all agreed to believe in the message to Muhammad (PBUH) and to support him:

Behold! Allah took the Covenant of The Prophets, saying: "I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you a Messenger, confirming what is with you; do you believe him and render him help." Allah said: "Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding on you?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses." (HQ 3: 81).glossary

The implication of this verse is very helpful in enlightening our understanding of the meaning of "Muhammad is the Messenger of God". It implies that Prophets in Heaven were asked to follow Muhammad (PBUH), for he would confirm and perfect their Call on earth. While it is true that there is one Primordial Religion, then each prophet came to clarify part of that Religion. All revelations before Muhammad (PBUH) were part of the very Revelation he carried. The followers of those Revelations are in his path and whether they declare it or not, they are linked to his message.

Ash'hadu anna La illaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Alllah “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, points to the necessity of following a direction. It is that direction of all prophets. Hence, to witness that Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of God is to follow his light within the hearts that were enlightened by his wisdom. Those are the master guides that have been existing all through the ages and in different places.

So despite the fact that al-Shahada distinguishes outwardly the followers of Muhammad (PBUH), al-Shahada represents a Path and a Way which can be followed by people from different creeds. That is, they should follow a guide. By following sincerely the way toward the Truth, they follow the same journey of all the spiritual masters, and they are in truth following the path of Muhammad (PBUH).

Each part of Al Shahada
expresses the same meaning


La ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Alllah,” There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God” cannot be taken apart either, because each part in this statement expresses the same meaning from different perspectives, and relates to the other part. Al-Shahadah reveals a law. The oneness of God cannot be lived and experienced fully if a person does not know her/his direction. Muhammad (PBUH) is that direction. In other words, the Originator of life and death, the Omnipresent and Unseen, the Hidden and Revealed is Allah. Muhammad (PBUH) is the Teacher of humankind, the exemplar for all, and the guide who will lead the way. Without the direction, we get lost in our way. And without deciding our goal, we cannot choose a direction. Human beings are guided to live truly by following The Prophet Muhammad’s example. Within this context, Muhammad (PBUH) is a symbol, not only a figure.

Spiritual freedom, which is achieved by experiencing the oneness of God, implies that the deeds and the orientation of a believer describe her/his inner attachment to the One God. In so doing, s/he is actually following The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who came as an exemplar of living that experience. On the other hand, to follow The Prophet Muhammad's example, is to experience the oneness of God. Following Muhammad’s Way (Sunna) is to be connected to him spiritually through living the experience of the oneness of God. To witness that The Prophet is the messenger of God is for one to revive this inner voice as he did, so one can be linked to him.

One’s inner voice is the messenger of the Sublime Source. It is the sign that Life is present within:

Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead. Allah can make any that He wills to hear; but thou canst not make those to hear who are in graves (HQ 35:22).

“Heavens and Earth contain Me not, but the heart of my believing òServant contains Me” (DH).

Used by Al Ghazali in Ihia Ulum Al Din

"The heart is the house of the Lord". (PH)glossary

"He who Knows himself knows his Lord” glossary

Without a direction, man tends to go astray. By directing her/himself to the path of the spiritual guides, taking them as exemplars, and discerning their teachings, it is possible that man achieves her/his goal, and realizes the aim of her/his own existence. That is, s/he will be in harmony with the law of life, realize being a Servant of God, a Muslim, and a witness that there is no god but God and Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger.  Next >>>

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