The Meaning of the Shahādah (Testimony) Lā ilāha illallāh: There is no deity worthy of worship in truth except Allah

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The Meaning of the Shahādah (Testimony) Lā ilāha illallāh: There is no deity worthy of worship in truth except Allah

By Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid Alam.

All praise is due to Allāh, and may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his family, his Companions and all those who follow their path precisely. To proceed: Indeed the best of speech is the Speech of Allāh, the best of guidance is the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the worst of all affairs are the newly introduced matters into the Religion for which there is no textual proof, for every newly introduced matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance leads to the Hellfire.

The utterance lā ilāha illallāh is a true statement of sincerity (ikhlās) because its meaning is that one sincerely worships only Allāh, the Most High,  besides whom there is none worthy of worship. Therefore the meaning of lā ilāha illallāh is, “There is no deity worthy of worship in truth except Allāh.” It is the utterance that enters one into the Islamic faith, a truly tremendous statement, and because of it, Allāh sent the Messengers, and He revealed the Books – and for the defence, preservation, and dissemination of this monotheistic statement, the Lord of all creation legislated for the believers striving in His cause (jihād). Every Messenger was sent with this central message, and to begin their call on the basis of this statement. Allāh, the Most High, said:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ

“And We sent not before you, O Muhammad, any messenger except that We revealed to him that [he should announce], ‘There is no deity worthy of worship except Me, so worship Me’.” (Al-Anbiyā 21:25) Every Messenger of God that was sent was commanded to begin His call with this statement, which entails the worship of Allāh alone, without partners. The Messengers (peace be upon them) would say to their people:

يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

“O my people, worship Allāh, for you have no other deity worthy of worship but Him. Will you not then fear Him?” (Al-Mu’minūn 23:23) The unbelievers, to whom these Messengers were sent, already affirmed that there was no creator except for Allāh alone.

وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُم مَّنْ خَلَقَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ

“And if you ask them who created them, they will surely say, ‘It is Allāh.’ How then have they turned away?” (Az-Zukhruf 43:87) The pagans of Makkah would affirm this, and not deny it alongside their polytheistic practices. This is shown by the saying of Allāh, the Most High:

قُلْ مَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَمَّن يَمْلِكُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَمَن يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتَ مِنَ الْحَيِّ وَمَن يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ اللَّهُ ۚ فَقُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

“Say to the pagans O Muhammad, ‘Who provides for you from the sky and the earth? Who controls hearing and sight, who brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living, and who arranges and organises every matter?’ They will say, ‘It is Allāh.’ So say to them, ‘Then will you not fear Him and be dutiful?’” (Yūnus 10:31) Yet this saying and affirmation of their’s was not sufficient in the establishment of true monotheism. Rather, it is a must for the one who recognises that there is one sole Creator of all existence, that he worships Him alone, to the exclusion of all else that is worshipped. It is this knowledge of pure monotheism that Allāh obligates in His saying:

فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ

“So know that none has the right to be worshipped but Allāh, and ask forgiveness for your sins and for the sins of the believing men and women.” (Muhammad 57:19) The unbelievers of the Makkan tribe of Quraish understood that it was this that the mighty statement lā ilāha illallāh entailed and necessitated. It is for this reason they said:

أَجَعَلَ الْآلِهَةَ إِلَٰهًا وَاحِدًا ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَشَيْءٌ عُجَابٌ

“Has he made the gods all into only one God that is worshipped. Verily, this is a strange thing!” (Sād 38:5) There are Muslims today who utter the saying, lā ilāha illallāh, they pray, they fast, perform Hajj and give in charity, unfortunately alongside that they direct aspects of their worship to other than Allāh. Some seek deliverance by calling upon the righteous who are dead and buried in their graves, or they make vows in their names, or they supplicate to them. Such people have not actualised the meaning of lā ilāha illallāh – they have not truly recognised and acted upon the fact that Allāh alone is to be worshipped, and all types of worship must be directed towards Him – and whoever directs any type of worship to other than Him is a polytheist. So a person who utters lā ilāha illallāh and prays, fasts, and claims he is a Muslim cannot truly be a Muslim whilst he directs aspects of worship to other than Allāh. A person cannot receive safety and salvation from the Hellfire except with sincere faith (īmān) that is not polluted by polytheism, and not contradicted with unbelief. Allāh, the Most High, stated:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُم بِظُلْمٍ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَهُم مُّهْتَدُونَ

“Those who believe and confuse not their belief with injustice by directing worship to other than Allāh, for them there is security and they are the guided.” (Al-An’ām 6:82) So the one who worships Allāh, and alongside that he worships others besides Allāh, his worship will not benefit him at all:

وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

“And indeed it has been revealed to you, as it was revealed to those before you, ‘If you join others in worship with Allāh, then surely your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers.’” (Az-Zumar 39:65) The testimony lā ilāha illallāh is not accepted from a person unless it is accompanied by a truthful and sincere intention and with complete certainty. It is a saying of pure and sincere worship, the statement of piety, and it is the key to Paradise. However, this testimony will not benefit the one who utters it unless eight conditions are fulfilled.

The Shahādah (or testimony) is to say the following words:

أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ   ،    وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ


 أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ  ،  وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ 

Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ʿabduhu wa rasooluhu.
“I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh — and I testify that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.”

With these words, a person becomes a Muslim.


See Ithāf Al-Qārī bi Ta’līqāt ‘alā Sharh As-Sunnah lil-Imām Al-Barbahārī of Shaikh Sālih Al-Fawzān, 2/102-103; and Durūs Yawmiyyah, 3/769-773. Some scholars mention seven conditions, while others mention eight.

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