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The Muslim faith statement, Shahādah, states that only one God exists and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is His prophet. The shahādah is the first of five pillars of Islam (arkān al-Islām). Every Muslim must recite it at least once in their lives, aloud, correctly, and purposefully, with complete knowledge of its significance and hearty acceptance. 

In the proper written Arabic form, the Shahada is:

“أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمدًا رسول الله”

Which can read: “Ashahadu La ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadur Rasulullah.” It translates as “I bear witness that there is no god but ALLAH and that Muhammad (PBUH) is ALLAH’s Messenger.”

Meaning of Shahada (faith).

The Shahada, or First Pillar of Islam, is Muslims’ foundational profession of faith. The Shahada is a brief yet powerful statement that serves as an introduction to the Muslim faith. It contains two declarations:

La ilaha illallah (There is no god except ALLAH). This section of the Shahada confirms the monotheistic belief in ALLAH’s oneness. It maintains that only one deity or god is worshipable: ALLAH. This proclamation lies at the center of Islamic monotheism.

Muhammadur Rasulullah (The Messenger of ALLAH): The second part of the Shahada acknowledges Muhammad’s (ﷺ) prophethood; peace be upon him. Muslims believe that ALLAH sent Muhammad (ﷺ) as the ultimate prophet to guide humanity. Muslims who accept him as the last messenger agree to follow his teachings and the Quran, the sacred book revealed to him.

The Shahada asserts God’s oneness (tawhid) and accepts Muhammad (PBUH) as His messenger. Some Shias include a remark affirming their trust in Ali’s wilayat. According to most traditional schools, becoming a Muslim requires only one honest recitation of the Shahada.

It is chanted in numerous daily prayers, during the call to prayer (Adhan), and on special occasions, such as when converting to Islam. It is a testament to belief and a unifying factor connecting Muslims from many countries and origins. It serves as the foundation for Muslims’ shared beliefs and values, emphasizing the necessity of loyalty to ALLAH and adhering to the teachings of His final Messenger, Muhammad (ﷺ).

Five facts about the Shahada:

1. One of the five pillars.

Shahadah is one of Islam’s five pillars. It is a sacred testament that Muslims must keep throughout their lives and embody in all their deeds and intents.

2. Recitation in the Athan.

The Shahadah is chanted during the Athan (call to prayer).

3. Recitation during Salah.

Muslims say the Shahadah once or twice during their Salah, which they must complete five times daily.

4. Acceptance of Islam.

Reciting the Shahadah upon deciding to become a Muslim marks a person’s admission into the faith and the start of their life as a Muslim.

5: Recitation for Infants

The Shahadah is said as the first words a Muslim newborn hears upon entering the world as part of the adhan, and Muslims desire for the Shahadah to be their final words when they die.

The Importance of Shahadah In the All Pillers of Islam

Shahadah in the First Piller of Islam

According to the prophet (ﷺ), Islam is based on five pillars. These pillars form the foundation of Islam as a religious system of faith, worship, and devotion. “Islam was established upon five (pillars): the testimony that none has the right to be worshipped except ALLAH and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is ALLAH’s Messenger; the establishment of prayer; charity (Zakat); pilgrimage to the Hajj and fasting Ramadan” (Qur’an). The shahadah is the essential pillar since it declares that there is no god except God and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is God’s Messenger, and it also demonstrates how they believe in Islam as a whole.

Shahadah in the Second Piller of Islam

The second pillar of Islam is to practice frequent worship. Obligatory prayers, or “salat,” are said five times daily and at night (optional prayer). The call to prayer is repeated at least twice for emphasis. The cry goes as follows: “God is bigger. I bear witness to the fact that God is the only god and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is God’s messenger. Hasten the prayers! God is greater; therefore, hasten to success. “There is no god but God”. The quote establishes that salat cannot be conducted without uttering the quote beforehand. The fact that the phrase is said several times before the actual prayer is declared emphasizes the importance of the shahadah. This also lends credence to the argument that the second pillar cannot be done without the shahadah.

The first Surah, known as al-Fatihah, is essential to Muslim prayers. Because of its repetition, the shahadah is the most significant pillar. Al-Fatihah emphasizes the significance of the shahadah by clearly stating, “You alone do we worship, and to you alone do we seek assistance.” With the statement that there is no god but God, Muslims can recite al-Fatihah and then proceed with their practice of Islam.

Shahadah in the Third Piller of Islam

The third pillar of Islam is to provide zakat alms. The annual amount of money, food, and property that a Muslim with enough resources must distribute to the eligible recipients is known as the zakat (Zakat). The third pillar demonstrates the link between glorifying God and serving the less fortunate. The Qur’an says, “O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a bargain that will save you from excruciating pain? You must believe in ALLAH and His Messenger and work hard for ALLAH’s cause with your assets and your lives; this is for your welfare – if you knew it.” The Qur’an explicitly states that one should “believe in ALLAH (God) and His Messenger (Muhammad (ﷺ).” One cannot believe in God until they bear witness.

The Qur’an’s inclusion of this and the requirement to believe in the Messenger demonstrates how the first pillar must be declared to pay zakat donations.

Muslims are also expected to engage in voluntary almsgiving or sadaqah. According to the Qur’an, sadaqah is a debt made to God that will be repaid on the Day of Resurrection. Sadaqah cannot be practiced without believing that one will be repaid on the day of God’s resurrection. To believe in Islam, one must acknowledge that there is only one god and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is God’s messenger. 

Shahadah in the Fourth Piller of Islam

The fourth pillar of Islam is the fast of Ramadan, which is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows: “A sacred month of Ramadan, in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance to humans, manifestations of guidance, and the Criterion.” Therefore, anyone among you witnesses the moon, let him fast.” The Ramadan fast demands one to refrain from “eating, smoking, drinking, chewing, and having sexual relations during daylight hours.” The fast is broken after dusk, and Muslims then attend regular prayers, additional “Tarweeh” prayers, and late-night Qur’an readings. Ramadan is regarded as a worship ceremony, and acts of worship can only be done with the shahadah. This contributes to the argument that the shahadah is the most fundamental pillar of Islam.

Shahadah in the Fifth and Final Piller of Islam

Islam’s fifth and final pillar is to complete the hajj once in one’s lifetime. When one performs the hajj, it is to demonstrate submission to God. Following the Hajj, the event is described as “a once-in-a-lifetime mandatory duty for any Muslim who is financially and physically capable.” It is both a profound religious rite and a social phenomenon, bringing together Muslims from all continents, social and economic classes in a shared experience, unlike any other planet.” Muslims follow Muhammad’s (ﷺ) exact steps on his first and only Hajj. Muslims demonstrate their belief in Muhammad’s (ﷺ) status as God’s messenger by following in his footsteps. This is also a crucial component in completing the Hajj.

Final Words

All else in the Islamic faith revolves around the core principle of the belief in a single Allah. The recitation of the Shahada at each of the five daily prayers, along with numerous other significant occasions in a Muslim’s life, is a constant reminder of this fundamental conviction to Muslims.

The cornerstone and basis of Islam are the five pillars fundamental to the faith. Every pillar has two components: an internal, voluntary component and an external, mandatory component. Apart from the shahadah, all the other four pillars of Islam consist of worship rituals. Consequently, the shahadah is the most crucial pillar since it is the only way to perform the worship rituals included in the other four pillars without first professing one’s faith.