Acts of Worship : Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) 

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Islam is based on five things: the testimony that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, the observance of prescribed prayer, the fast during Ramadan, the payment of the poor-due, and the pilgrimage.” (hadith)

The first of the acts of worship is to believe with the heart and declare with the tongue that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. This is expressed in the words “Ashaduan la ilaha illa Llah wa ashaduanna Muhammadan rasool Allah” (I bear witness that there is no deity except God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God).

[An alternative wording used interchangeably with the above is “wa ashaduanna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasooluhu” “. . . .and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger”). This denotes that even Muhammad, the best and most perfect of all men, was, like all other human beings, God’s humble servant. This makes it clear that the terms servant and messenger are complementary, not contradictory, because the greatest of prophets is, in spite of his exalted station among his fellow human beings, just as much as the humblest of men or the worst of sinners, God’s servant, albeit the most honored among all the servants of God]

Here, as we saw earlier, the word “deity” is used in the broad sense which the Arabic word Llah conveys: that is, anyone or anything who is worshiped, to whom one’s love and devotion are given and one’s goal is directed: it also denotes that Being in Whom is vested ultimate authority and the right to prescribe and legislate, Whose words or commands are considered binding, and Who alone is worthy to be obeyed. Thus it becomes clear that this declaration has a far broader meaning than the words convey in English. It is, in effect, a proclamation that the one who believes and utters it cancels from his heart loyalty, devotion, obedience, submission to and worship of anything other than God, the Praised and Exalted not merely of man-made idols of wood or stone, but also of any conceptions, ideologies, ways of life, desires, loves, preoccupations and authority figures which claim his supreme devotion, loyalty, obedience and worship.

Similarly, “Muhammadan rasool Allah,” although it is a very brief, terse statement, denotes a whole train of thought beyond the mere words as they are rendered into English. This proclamation of belief in Muhammad as God’s Messenger is simultaneously a proclamation of belief in the guidance which that Prophet (peace be on him) brought to mankind — God’s final and complete guidance for all humanity and at the same time implicitly a statement of the intention to faithfully follow that guidance.

Author : Suzanne Haneef

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