Testimony of Faith in Islam
Testimony of Faith is a statement that a person pronounces at the time he accepts Islam. This testimony is the first and most important among the five pillars of Islam. In Islamic terminology, it is called ‘Shahada’. It is an Arabic word which means observe, witness, testify, etc. Complete testimony for acceptance of Islam is stated as: ‘Ash-hadu an laa ilaha illallah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadar Rosoolullah’ (I bear Witness that there is no God, except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah).
Testimony of Faith is the greatest statement that a person makes in his life. After Testimony, a believer feels a total change in his life by virtue of accountability to Allah. However, this depends on how he understands and practices Islam after testimony. Thorough study about Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Iman and Islam is the first step to live up to the expectation of the Testimony and achieving its benefits. Muslims can renew their ‘Shahada’ in its rightful spirit only after acquiring knowledge about these. Same is for non-Muslim; who will gain more of an interest in accepting Islam only after acquiring knowledge about Islam.
Declaration of Shahada
A person establishes his faith between him and Allah after understanding and sincerely believing in Islam. However, in order to achieve the status of a believer, he needs to declare the Shahada: “I bear witness that there is no God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The process of pronouncing the Shahada and becoming a Muslim is simple – just make pure intention and pronounce Shahada, preferably with a few witnesses present.
Acceptance of Shahada
Allah accepts the testimony of a believer, provided he does the duties assigned by Allah and His Messenger with sincerity. The following will help in performing duties leading to the acceptance of the testimony:
- Acquiring knowledge about Iman, Islam, Allah, and His Messenger, prior to acceptance and declaration of faith is important for a person for understanding what he is going to testify and what is its effect in life. Knowledge on these should be based on deep reflection of the Quran, Hadith, actions by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his lifetime and actions by the four rightly guided caliphs after him. He should clearly understand the significance of faith in Islam and then pronounce the Shahada. It is not logical to accept or reject Islam without knowing it from its source.
- He should investigate and think deeply if there is doubt on any issue and it should be cleared prior to pronouncing Shahada.
- He should understand and accept Islam as a complete way of life before pronouncing Shahada. He should be aware that after Shahada, he cannot add or reject anything in the religion.
- After declaration of faith, a believer needs to submit himself totally to the will of Allah by obeying His order. He needs to obey Allah and worship Him in the way shown by His Messenger Muhammad (PBUH).
- Declaration of Shahada must be sincere. A believer must be honest to his declaration of faith by sincerely following Islam as a complete way of life. It should be made clear that Shahada is not just pronouncing a few words. He needs to prove the truthfulness of his testimony by following Islam in all affairs of life and by working for the cause of Allah.
A believer needs to work on the above five points with respect to each of the two parts of the Shahada for its acceptance by Allah. This can be done effectively by understanding the Significance of Iman in Allah and Iman in His Messenger (PBUH). A summary of these two subjects is stated here in the context of testimony of faith.
Part I of the Testimony: “I bear witness that there is no God except Allah.”
It is a firm decision about the absolute Oneness of God and commitment to fulfill the duties to Him by a believer. Characteristics of Oneness of God and Duties to Him are stated in the Quran in detail and explained by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his traditions. A believer, after testimony, should adhere firmly to these two sources concerning Attributes of Allah and duties to Him. Some of these are stated here with reference to the Quran and hadith:
- Follow the Guidance of Allah in everything: “Our Lord is the One Who has created everything and has given Guidance for everything” (Quran 20:50).
- After testimony, a believer needs to remember Allah always throughout his life. Remembrance of Allah helps to obey Him and get benefits from obeying Him in this world and in the afterlife. It also helps to rely on Allah in all situations and brings comfort: “Remembrance of Allah certainly brings comfort to all hearts” (Quran 13:28).
- A believer needs to fear Allah and do everything throughout life with a feeling that Allah is aware of what he does and will punish him for any disobedience: “Fear Allah; He is aware of all that you do” (Quran 59:18). “Allah sees whatever you do” (Quran 64:2).
- A believer needs to follow the way of life (Islam) sent by Allah: “Tell them plainly, the right way is shown by Allah” (Quran 2:120). “Surely the right way of life with Allah is Islam” (Quran 3:19).
- A believer needs to perform all duties assigned by Allah: “O mankind! Fear your Lord and be dutiful to Him” (Quran 22:1).
- A believer should follow and try to establish the Judiciary System of Allah in society: “Allah Judges and no one has the power to reverse His Judgment” (Quran 13:41).
- A believer needs to follow the Rule of Allah in everything: “He (Allah) Rules all affairs from the heaven to the earth” (Quran 32:5).
- A believer should stop doing things that Allah has made unlawful. Doing unlawful deeds is contrary to sincere faith. Prophet (PBUH) said: “‘The person who sincerely declares, Allah is only One without any partner, he will enter paradise.’ The companions of the Prophet (PBUH) asked him, ‘O Messenger! What is the meaning of sincerity here?’ He replied, ‘When the declaration stops one from doing unlawful things, then this declaration is sincere’” (Kurtubi).
- A believer accepts Allah as the only Authority to decide lawful and unlawful in any matter. They do not accept the authority of any religious or political leader in deciding what is lawful or unlawful. Doing so is as good as considering them the same as God. Allah says: “They have made their scholars and monks as their Lord beside Allah” (Quran 9:31). Adi Ibn Hatim (a companion who converted to Islam from Christianity) asked the Prophet (PBUH) about this verse: “‘He said this verse accuses us of making scholars and monks God; what is the real meaning of it?’ The Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘Is it not a fact that you accept as unlawful what they declare as unlawful and accept lawful what they declare lawful?’ Adi admitted that they did. Prophet (PBUH) replied, ‘That amounts to making them God’” (Tirmidi, Tabarani, Imam Ahmed).
Unfortunately, nowadays the situation is so deteriorated that many leaders in Muslim countries have replaced the ‘Law of Allah’ with manmade law. Believers should work hard to implement the ‘Law of Allah’ instead of manmade law in the Muslim countries.
- A believer should remain careful about disobedience of Allah in anything throughout life. Disobeying Allah is a clear error: “Whoever disobeys Allah, and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error” (Quran 60:12).
- By the Testimony, a believer agrees to live within the limits set by Allah. He is always careful to avoid crossing His limits: “Whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits- He will put him into fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment” (Quran 4:32).
- Allah orders the believers to do everything in this world in the spirit of Worship of Him: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him” (Quran 17:23). “I have created Jinn and human beings only to Worship me” (Quran 51:56). From these verses, we understand that believers are not allowed to do anything except Worship of Allah. All deeds of believers will get the status of worship provided these are permissible in Islam and done in the way of His Messenger (PBUH).
Believers confirm their acceptance to worship Allah everyday many times in five daily prayers: “You alone we Worship” (Quran 1:5).
- A believer believes that the order of Allah is mandatory to obey. Upon hearing His order: “Believers! Obey Allah and His Messenger” (Quran 4:59); he responds: “We hear, and we obey” (Quran 24:51).
- He should always maintain a ‘sense of accountability to Allah’ for any negligence in performing duties assigned by Him: “Whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it” (Quran 2:284).
The above few references give an idea about the meaning of part one of the Testimony: “I bear witness that there is no God except Allah”. After this testimony, a believer directs his thoughts and actions towards the satisfaction of only One God, Allah. He does what Allah has ordered to do and avoids what He has forbidden. He not only testifies, ‘Oneness of God’ by words but also fulfill his duties to Allah by actions. He is aware that his testimony should confirm acceptance and obedience to the Order of Allah in all affairs of life. He is aware that it is not allowed to obey orders from anyone other than Allah if it contradicts with His Order.
Significance of the Second Part of the Testimony: “I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
Testifying, ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’ is so important that it is integrated in the Testimony of Faith by which a person becomes Muslim. A believer is required to render committed faith unto him, because only through him, he accepts the Quran as the ‘Word of Allah’. The Quran confirms that he is the last Messenger appointed by Allah: “Say, O people! I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah” (Quran 7:158).
Testifying ‘Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah’ is not just a few words to pronounce at the time of acceptance of Islam. Rather, it is a lifetime commitment to follow Islam and worship Allah in the way of Muhammad (PBUH).
Everyday a believer testifies this part of ‘shahada’ while sitting in front of Allah during the five daily prayers. The caller for prayer also announces this from the minaret of the mosque: “Ash ha du anna Muhammadar Rosool Allah.” To comply with this testimony, a believer needs to think deeply about what he did, how he did it, what he told us to do and how, what he has forbidden and his way of worshipping Allah.
After knowing about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his mission, a believer starts working for Islam by following his footsteps. His endeavours on the path of Islam continues throughout his life. Some of the key features that confirm the truthfulness of the second part of the testimony are as follows:
1. A Muslim must follow Muhammad (PBUH), as a proof of the truthfulness of his testimony. Allah Orders: “Say, (O Muhammad) if you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins” (Quran 3:31).
2. A believer must try to understand the noble life of Muhammad (PBUH) and follow him as the Role Model for everything. He is the best Model and best character to follow. Allah says: “Surely you are standing on and adorned with the best of qualities” (Quran 68:4). “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah has the best Model to follow for him who looks forward to Allah, the Last Day and remember Allah much” (Quran 33:21).
3. Obeying the Messenger is obligatory for a believer. Allah says: “O you who have faith! Obey Allah and His Messenger” (Quran 8:20). “We did not send any Messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah” (Quran 4:64).
4. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the symbol of Worship and obedience to Allah. By obeying him, a believer obeys Allah. Allah says: “Whoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys Allah” (Quran 4:80).
5. By testifying Shahada, a believer pledges obedience to Muhammad (PBUH). Allah says: “Those who pledge obedience to you (Muhammad) are in fact, pledging obedience to Allah” (Quran 48:10).
6. A believer cannot make any decision against the decision of Allah and His Messenger. This contradicts with the testimony of a believer: “When Allah and His Messenger decided something, no believing man and woman has a choice about (following or not following) it. Anyone who disobeys Allah, and His Messenger is clearly misguided” (Quran 33:36).
7. After pronouncing testimony of faith, a believer cannot follow anything from any other religion or manmade law except Islam. Allah says: “If anyone opposes the Messenger after the guidance has become clear to him and follows a way of life other than that of the believers, we shall leave him in the path he has chosen and land him in hell-what a terrible destination” (Quran 4:115).
Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever turns away from my Sunnah (way) is not from me (not my true follower)” (Bukhari).
8. By testifying Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah, a believer confirms to take whatever he gives and avoid whatever he forbids. Allah orders the believers: “Take only whatever the Messenger gives you and refrain from whatever he has forbidden. Fear Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment” (Quran 59:7).
9. A believer needs to work for Islam by following the Quran and the Prophet’s (PBUH) way. Allah says: “Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel, commands them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, he releases them from their burdens and from the shackles which were upon them. So those who believe in him, honour and help him, and follow the light (Quran) which is sent down to him, will have everlasting happiness” (Quran 7:157).
Everything the Prophet (PBUH) did in his lifetime, including those mentioned in this verse, was for establishing Islam for the welfare of the people. Believers of his time helped him by sacrificing their wealth and lives for making the religion of Allah supreme. Today he is not among us physically, but he left the Word of Allah (Quran) and his rich legacy for billions of Muslims to follow and work towards the revival of Islam. By following them, believers of any time and any place can do the same as the believers did in the Prophet’s (PBUH) time for making this religion victorious. This is the way to believe in him, help him and honour him. This is the true spirit of testifying: “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” By doing so, a believer proves the truthfulness of his testimony.
Success of believers depends on understanding and living with the spirit of testimony.
Actions based on understanding as stated above is the spirit of testimony of believers. This spirit directs believers to fulfill their pledge to Allah and His Messenger. They welcome the order of Allah by saying; ‘we hear, and we obey.’ Allah says about them: “When the believers are called to Allah and His Messenger for judgment between them, their only words are, ‘we hear, and we obey.’ Such believers are the successful” (Quran 24:51). They always think and work for the satisfaction of Allah. They prove the truthfulness of their testimony by sacrificing their wealth and lives for Islam. Allah says: “Only those are the believers, who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and never doubt, but strive with their wealth and lives for the cause of Allah. They are the truthful ones” (Quran 49:5). In return for the truthfulness of their testimony, Allah grants them a blessed life in this world and opens the door of paradise in the afterlife: “The person who pronounces last word before he dies: ‘There is no God except Allah’ will enter paradise” (Abu Daud).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will intercede for such believers: “The luckiest person who will have my intercession on The Day of Resurrection will be one who said sincerely from his heart, ‘There is no God except Allah’” (Bukhari).