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The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادة aš-šahādah audio (help·info), from the verb شهد šahida, "to witness" or "to testify") or Kalimat ash-Shahādah (Arabic: كلمة الشهادة) is an Islamic creed which declares belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet. The declaration, in its shortest form, reads:
- لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله
- lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh
- "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God."
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The word shahādah (شَهادة) is a noun stemming from the verb shahida (شَهِدَ) meaning "he observed, witnessed, or testified"; when used in legal terms, shahādah is a testimony to the occurrence of events, such as debt, adultery, or divorce.2 The shahādah can also be expressed in the dual form shahādatān (شَهادَتانْ, literally "two testimonials"), which refers to the dual act of observing or seeing and then the declaration of the observation. The person giving the testimony is called a shāhid (largeشاهِد), with the stress on the first syllable. The two acts in Islam are observing or perceiving that there is no god but God and testifying or witnessing that Muhammad is the messenger of God. In a third meaning, shahādah or more commonly istishhād (إسْتِشْهادْ), means "martyrdom", the shahīd (شَهيد) pronounced with stress on the last syllable ("martyr") demonstrating the ultimate expression of faith.3 Shahīd can also be used in a non-Islamic religious context. Long before the advent of Islam, Christian Arabs of the Middle East used the word shahīd referencing to someone that was wrongly killed or someone that died for his family, his Christian faith or his country. The two words shāhid (شاهِد, "witness") and shahīd (شَهيد, "martyr") are pre-Islamic; both are paradigmsfurther explanation needed of the root verb (شَهَدَ, shahada, "he observed").
This declaration, or statement of faith, is called the kalimah (كَلِمة, literally "word"). Recitation of the shahādah, the "oath" or "testimony", is the most important article of faith for Muslims. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam do so by a public recitation of this creed.4 Most Muslims count it as the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, while the Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a connect it to their respective lists of pillars of the faith.5 The complete shahādah cannot be found in the Quran, but comes from hadiths.6
The Islamic declaration of faith is called the Shahada(h)
Shahadah: "I testify that there is no god but God and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God."
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According to most traditional schools (madh'hab), three honest recitations of the shahadah in Arabic is all that is required for a person to convert to Islam. In usage, the two occurrences of ašhadu ʾanna or similar (اشهد أن "I testify that" or "I bear witness that") are very often omitted. The recitation of the shahadah needs to be made in the presence of an Imaam and other people as witnesses.7
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Another of the earliest surviving translations of the shahadah into a foreign language is in Greek, from the reign of al-Walid I (86–96 AH, 705–715 CE): (Ούκ Έστιν θεός εἰ μὴ ὁ θεὸς μόνος, Μααμετ ἀπόστολος θεοῦ) (Ouk estin theos ei mē ho theos monos; Maamet apostolos theou).8 "There is no god except for the God alone; Muhammad is the Apostle of God." "Allah", the Arabic word for "the God", is translated as "ὁ Θεός" and "Muhammad" is transliterated as Μααμετ.
A variation of the shahādah can be found at Bab al-Futuh built by the Fatimid minister Al-Afdal Shahanshah (952-975 A.D.), northern wall of Fatimid Cairo. It reads: bismi -llāhi -r-rahmāni -r-rahīm lā ʾilāha ʾilā -llāh waḥdahu lā sharīk lahu muḥammad rasūlu -llāh ʿalī walī allāh (بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له محمد رسول الله علي ولي الله "In the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate, there is no god but God the One, no partner has he, Muhammad is the Messenger of God, Ali is the walī of God").
Muslims believe that the shahadah is without value unless it is earnest. Islamic scholars have therefore developed, based on the data of the Quran and hadith, essential criteria for an expression of the shahadah to be in earnest. These criteria are generally divided into seven to nine groups; the varying numbers and orderings are not due to disagreements about what the criteria actually are, but rather different ways of dividing them.9
One such list of seven critical conditions of the shahadah, without which it is considered to be meaningless, are as follows:citation needed.
- Al-ʿIlm (العلم): Knowledge of the meaning of the Shahadah, its negation and affirmation.
- Al-Yaqīn (اليقين): Certainty; perfect knowledge of it that counteracts suspicion and doubt.
- Al-Ikhlāṣ (الإخلاص): Sincerity, to negate shirk.
- Aṣ-Ṣidq (الصدق): Truthfulness, that permits neither falsehood nor hypocrisy.
- Al-Maḥabbah (المحبة): Love of the Shahadah and its meaning, and being happy with it.
- Al-Inqiyād (الانقياد): Submission to its rightful requirements, which are the duties that must be performed with sincerity to God (alone).
- Al-Qubūl (القبول): Acceptance that contradicts rejection.
The second part of the Shahada carries several conditions as well:
- To believe in Muhammad and in whatever he said and conveyed in his message as the seal of the prophets.
- To obey him in whatever he commanded.
- To stay away from or avoid whatever he commanded Muslims not to do.
- To follow or emulate him in ʿibādah (عبادة "worship"), ʾaḫlāq (أخلاق "manners") and way of life.
- To understand, practice and promote his sunnah ("habits") as well as possible, without creating chaos, enmity or harm.citation needed
Of sovereign states recognized internationally, the flags of Saudi Arabia and of Afghanistan include the shahada in their designs. The 2004 draft constitution of Afghanistan proposed a flag featuring the shahada in white script centered on a red background. The design from the Saudi flag has been used in the flag of the unrecognized state of Somaliland since 1996.
It can be seen in the second flag that the name of God (الله) is written in a higher position. The name for God is written twice in each flag, but the first ʾalif (ا) is written after the second lām (ل) only once in the first instance of Allah in the flag of Hamas (pink), and only once in the second appearance in the flag of Saudi Arabia (green). This overwriting is also visible for the lam of rasul(u) (light blue), but only in the Saudi Arabian flag. The ligature lām + ʾalif (لا) is always written the same way in the Saudi Arabian flag, but the calligraphy is changed in the case of the second لا (red) of the Hamas flag at the left.
Flags reported as in use in Islam have been frequently included the shahada, usually on a black background, since the time of Muhammad. Between 1997 and 2001, the Taliban used a white flag with the shahada inscribed in black as the flag of their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Flags that include the shahada, often written on a green background, have also been displayed by supporters of Hamas in rallies during the 2000s.
The shahadah is referenced in the eighth stanza of the Turkish national anthem, which can be translated as:
Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,
No heathen’s hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These ʾaḏāns, whose shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,
May their noble sound last loud and wide over my eternal homeland.
- "The Origin of the Sunni/Shia split in Islam". Islamfortoday.com. Retrieved 2011-05-23.dead link
- The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril hi tom Alta Mira Press, 2001, p.416.
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p.201.
- Farah (1994), p.135
- "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Retrieved 2007-07-09.
- "Shahadah". Albalagh.net. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "A Bilingual Papyrus Of A Protocol - Egyptian National Library Inv. No. 61, 86-96 AH / 705-715 CE". Islamic-awareness.org. 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "9 Point Shahadah". Islamtomorrow.com. 2002-08-06. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
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