Your first serious step, the testimony of faith:

The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith

by Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo

On the following article Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo looked closer at The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah). This article appeared in two parts in AL-BASHEER magazine (Vol.7, No.5 January-February, 1994).

THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..( Shahadah)......PART I

[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

Every Muslim knows that the key to Paradise is the statement, "There

is none worthy of worship except Allah." Yet too many Muslims simply

rely upon this statement and believe that as long as they have made this

statement, nothing will harm them. They think will be granted Paradise

because of this mere verbal statement of the Shahadah.

There is no question that the mere saying of," I bear witness that

there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that

Muhammad is His servant and messenger," is not sufficient for salvation.

In fact, the hypocrites used to make this statement quite often yet Allah

describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest abyss

of the Hell-fire.

As many scholars state, though, this statement or testimony is the key

Paradise. The famous Follower Wahb ibn Munabbih was once asked, " Isn't

the statement of la ilaha illa-llah the key to Paradise?" He answered,

"Yes, but every key has ridges. If you come with the key that has the right

ridges, the door will open for you. Yet if you do not have the right ridges

the door will not open for you." That is, it is saying must meet certain

conditions. These conditions are what will differentiate the person who

will benefit from his making of that statement from the one who will not

benefit from that statement, no matter how many times a day he may have made

that statements.

Before discussing the conditions of the Shahadah, there is one more

point that I feel compelled to make. That is, some people have a tendency

to take one hadith or one verse and then based on that one text, they will

make some conclusion that, for example, whoever simply says," There is no

God except Allah," will enter Paradise. But, actually, we should all realize

that all of the Quran and Hadith complement each other and explain one

another. To find the correct position on any one question, one must bring

together all of the related verses and hadith and see what the true Islamic

position is of that question. The same is true for the conditions of the


If we study the verses of the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet (peace

be upon him), we will find that the conditions of the shahadah are seven,

eight or nine in number depending on how we look at them. It is important

that all of us make sure that we are meeting these conditions in our own

lives and in our own testimony of faith. We must do our best to satisfy

these conditions before it is too late and our testimony will be no avail

whatsoever. It is not simply for the sake of teaching these conditions.

Indeed, there is no benefit to that. But it is, instead, for all of us to

look to ourselves and to make sure that we are actually meeting these

conditions so that, by Allah's mercy, the doors to Paradise will be open

for us by our key of la ilaha illa-llah.

THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART II

[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

The FIRST of these condition is KNOWLEDGE. That is , one must have the

basic and general knowledge of what is meant by the shahadah. One must

understand what the shahadah is affirming and what the shahadah is denying.

Allah says in the Quran, "So know that there is no God but Allah, and ask

forgiveness for your sin" (Muhammad 19). Similarly, the Prophet (peace be

upon him) said, "Whoever dies knowing that there is no one worthy of worship

except Allah shall enter Paradise." (Recorded by Muslim.)

In fact, the shahadah itself is a testimony. When one testifies to

something, one must know what it is that he is testifying concerning.

Obviously, a testimony about something that one does not have any knowledge

about is absolutely unacceptable. Allah says in the Quran," Save him who

bears witness unto the truth knowingly" (Al-Zukhruf 86).

Now this condition probably sounds obvious. If someone said to you,

"There is no God except Allah," and then said that what he meant by Allah

was Jesus, you would immediately tell him that this shahadah is nonsense. Yet

can you imagine that there is a Muslim country in the world that until

recently used to have a yearly week-long celebration to "the Gods of the

Sea"! All along they call themselves Muslims and they make shahadah numerous

times a day. This clearly shows that they have no idea what the meaning of

their shahadah is. Do you think that this kind of shahadah will open the

doors to Paradise for them?

Today, there are many Muslims who wonder why we should not accept

secularism. They think that there is nothing wrong with secularism! Many of

these Muslims pray five times a day and utter the shahadah repeatedly. Yet

they see nothing wrong with accepting a Lawgiver other than Allah? What kind

of shahadah are these people making.

all of us do our best to learn at least the basics of Islamic beliefs.

The basics of what shahadah means. In this way, Allah willing, we will be

making the correct shahadah. We will be witnessing to the truth as we are

supposed to be witnesses to it.

The SECOND condition of the shahadah is CERTAINTY (or Al-yaqeen). This

is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty. In Islam, in fact, any kind of

doubt is equivalent to Kufr or disbelief. We must, in our hearts, be

absolutely certain of the truth of the shahadah. Our hearts must not be

wavering in any way when we testify to the truth of, "There is none worthy

of worship except Allah."

Allah describes the believers in the Quran as those who have belief in

Allah and then their heart waver not. Allah says, "the (true) believers are

those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not,

but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are

the sincere" (Al-Hujurat 15). Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (peace be

upon him) said, "No one meets Allah with the testimony that there is none

worthy of worship but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah, and he has no

doubt about hat statement, except that he will enter Paradise." (Recorded

by Muslim.)

Indeed, Allah describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are

wavering. For example, Allah says, "They alone seek leave of thee (not to

participate in jihad) who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and whose

hearts feel doubt, so in their doubt they waver" (Al-Tauba 45).

Many scholars have stated that the diseases of the heart, or the doubt

and suspicions that one allows into one's heart, are more dangerous for a

person' faith than lusts and desires. This is because lusts and desires may

be satisfied at some time yet the person still knows them to be wrong and he

may control himself and repent and give up that evil deed. On the other hand,

the doubts and suspicions may linger in the heart, with no cure, until the

person finally leaves Islam entirely or continues to practice Islam while,

in fact, in his heart he does not have the true faith.

The greatest cure for these doubts is seeking knowledge. It is though

sound knowledge of the Quran and the sunnah that most of these doubts will

be removed. By study and understanding, one will attain certainty. And as

one studies and learns more, his certainty will be made firmer and firmer.

I will give you just one example on this point. This is related to all

of the doubts, suspicions and misconceptions that are circulating about the

authenticity of the hadith literature. For example, some Muslims even claim

that hadith were not recorded until at least 200 years after the death of

the Prophet (peace be upon him). Indeed, there are Muslims who seem to have

a great deal of doubt about hadith and very quick to reject hadith on that

basis. But, in fact, if one actually takes the time to study the history

and preservation of hadith, one will immediately recognize that all those

claims and charges against the hadith are not based on anything scientific

whatsoever. They are nothing but false claim that come from Satan and which

Muslims with poor understanding and knowledge have allowed to creep into

their hearts.

Let me make one last point about this condition of certainty. As I

alluded to earlier, doubts and misconceptions are very dangerous for a

person's faith. Doubt and wavering are tantamount to apostasy in Islam,

as I mentioned earlier. Hence, every Muslim should do best to safeguard

himself from such doubts and remain away from the sources of doubts-

especially if they are not well grounded in the Islamic sciences and do

not have the knowledge to refute such doubts and misconceptions. Hence

if a person has an associate or friend, even if he be a Muslim friend, who

is always making him doubt Allah or the religion, then he should remain

away from that person in order to safeguard his own religion. Many Muslims

nowadays study courses on Islam taught by Orientalists and because of their

weak backgrounds in Islamic studies, they are influenced by the nonsense

that some of these Orientalists are teaching in the name of "science".

Similarly, many brothers and sisters nowadays are spending hours at a time

with the computer news groups and bulletin boards. A lot of nonsense and

falsehood are posted on those news groups and bulletin boards. Again, the

one who is not very knowledgeable of his religion may easily be influenced

and affected by the misconceptions and false arguments that he reads in

those bulletin boards. He should remain away from those things and get a

deeper knowledge of Islam through the authentic sources of the religion.

Again, the greatest counter force that can defeat doubts and

misconceptions, after the bounty and guidance of Allah, is sound knowledge

and understanding of the religion. When a person has that, he will not be

affected by the weak arguments put out by the enemies of Islam and he will

be, Allah willing, from among those described in the Quran, " It is only

those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah" (Fatir 28)

THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART III

[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

The THIRD condition of the shahadah is ACCEPTANCE (or Al-qabool).

I a person has the knowledge of and certainty in the shahdah, this must

followed by acceptance, with the tongue and heart, of whatever that

shahadah implies. Whoever refuses to accept the shahadah and its

implications, even if he knows that it is true and certain about its truth,

than he is a non-believer. This refusal to accept is sometimes due to pride,

envy or other reasons. In any case, the shahadah is not a true shahadah

without its unconditional acceptance.

The scholars all talk about this condition as a general condition in

the way that I have just stated. However, there is also a more detailed

aspect that we must all be aware of. The believer accepts whatever the

implications of the shahadah are. This also means that he believes in

whatever is stated in the Quran or stated by the Prophet (peace be upon

him), without any right to choose what he wants to believe and what he

wants to reject. Allah says in the Quran, "Do you believe in part of

the book and reject part of it? And what is the reward of those who do so

save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they

will be consigned to the most grievous doom" (Al-Baqara 85).

This is one aspect that the Muslims must be aware of. Although it is

not the same as the complete refusal to accept the truth, by rejecting part

of the truth that has come from Allah, one also negates his testimony of


Unfortunately, many Muslims are doing this nowadays in various ways.

Although not all of these form may necessarily be considered apostasy, they

are still very dangerous. For example, if they do not like what is stated in

a verse in the Quran, they simply reinterpret the verse according to their

liking. If they do not like what is stated in a hadith, they simply state

that the hadith must not be authentic although they are not scholars in that

area. This kind of behavior is the antithesis of the behavior of the true

Muslims. Whatever comes from Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), the

true Muslim believe in as the truth. This goes hand in hand with their

testimony of faith.

The FOURTH condition of shahadah is SUBMISSION and COMPLIANCE (or

Al-inqiyad). This implies the actual physical enactment with our deeds of

our shahadah. In fact, this is one of the main meaning of the word Islam

itself, "the submission to the will and commands of Allah." This is what

Allah commands in the Quran, "Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unot

Him" (Al-Zumar 54).

Allah has praised those who submit to His command by their actions.

Allah says, "Who is better in religion than he who surrenders his purpose

to Allah while doing good" (Al-Nisa 125).

Actually, Allah has clearly made it a condition of faith that one

submits to the command of Allah and His messenger. Allah says, "But nay,

by your Lord, they will not truly believe until they make you [the Messenger

of Allah] judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves

no dislike of which you decide, and submit with full submission" (al-Nisa 65)

Unfortunately, there are many claim that there is no relationship

between faith and deeds. You can even hear one Muslim saying about another,

"That is the best Muslim I have ever met." yet the other person performs

scarcely any of the deeds of Islam whatsoever. This incorrect understanding

of faith has spread throughout the Muslim world.

Indeed, our shahadah or testimony of faith must be implemented or

realized in our hearts, tongues and actions. In our hearts, we must have love

for Allah, fear Allah and hope in Him. With our tongues we must testify to

the shahadah. And with our actions, we must implement what the testimony of

faith requires from us. Anyone who claim to be a Muslim and yet does no

deeds, either does not understand Islam whatsoever or is bearing testimony

against himself that his testimony of faith is not a true and correct

testimony of faith.

This does not mean that the true believer never commits a sin. Indeed,

true believers do commit sins. But as long as they recognize that what they

did is not correct and it is inconsistent with their obligation of submitting

to Allah, then they have not violated the soundness of their testimony or

shahadah .But, do not forget, they are still sinners.

And what is the minimum of submission that is required from a person

beyond which there can be no claim to faith? For those scholars who say that

the abandonment of prayers is infidelity, it is the five daily prayers.

Whoever does not perform, at least, the five daily prayers has gone beyond

the limit that is acceptable for lack of deeds. Allah knows best.

The FIFTH condition is TRUTHFULNESS, as opposed to hypocrisy and

dishonesty. This means that when we say the shahadah, we are saying it

honestly. We actually mean it. We are not lying when it comes to our

testimony of faith.

The Prophet (peace be upon his) said, "No one bears testimony to there

being no one worth of worship save Allah, sincerely from his heart, except

that Allah makes the Hell-fire forbidden for him." (Recorded by Al-Bukhari

and Muslim.)

We are all familiar with those who say the testimony of faith yet they

are not saying it honestly. They do not believe in it but they are simply

saying it in order to protect themselves or to get some gain from doing so.

These are the hypocrites. Allah has described them in the opening of the

Quran with the following words, "And of mankind are some who say, 'We

believe in Allah and the Last Day,' when they believe not. They think to

beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves,

but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increases

their disease. A painful doom is their because they lie" (Al-baqara 8-10).

Obviously, the shahadah of these who become Muslims simply to benefit

from being Muslim and not because they believe in Islam will be rejected

by Allah in the Hereafter. They will face a painful punishment due to

their lying.

The SIXTH condition is SINCERITY (or ikhlas). That is, when we make

the sahahadah, we must do so solely for the sake of Allah. We must not do

it for any other reason. And we must not do it for anyone else's sake. In

this manner, the meaning of sincerity is opposite of Skirk or ascribing

partners with Allah. We became and remain Muslims solely for Allah's sake.

Allah says in the Quran, "Worship Allah, making religion pure for him"

(Al-Zumar 2). And Allah also says, "And they are ordained not else than

to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him, as men by nature upright

and to establish worship and to pay the poor-due. That is true religion"

(Al-Bayyinah 5). And the Prophet (peace be upon him) added, "Allah has

forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, 'There is no one worthy of

worship except Allah,' and say so desiring the face [and pleasure] of

Allah." (Recorded by Muslim).

This is something that we should think about. But especially those

of us who grew up in Muslim families and were born Muslim. We should make

it very clear to ourselves that we are Muslims only for the sake of Allah.

We are not Muslims for the sake of our parents, friends, family or

community. It must be clear in our minds that we are Muslims for the sake

of Allah first, last and only.

One of the signs that we are Muslims for the sake of Allah is that we

do whatever Allah asks of us, regardless of what anybody else desires or

wants from us. That is, in the same way that we are Muslims solely for the

sake of Allah, all of our actions are done for the sake of Allah.

However, sometimes one begins to wonder whether this condition is met

by some people. Some people from the Muslim world practice Islam to the

extent that it is pleasing to their families. If there is anything in

Islam that their families do not like- although their families are Muslim

and therefore they actually should like all of Islam- then they do not

practice that aspect of Islam. One common example of that nature is mixing

between men and women. Sometimes a brother, here in the U.S., will not

mix with women and his wife will remain separate from the men. Yet, when

they return to their homes, because this is not pleasing to their families

who want to mix between men and women, they easily, simply and happily

compromise their religion for the sake of their parents. These people

must sincerely ask themselves why they are Muslims. Are they Muslims for

the sake of their parents and therefore whatever their parents like they

will do and whatever their parents do not like they won't do? Or are they

Muslims for the sake of Allah and therefore whatever Allah dislike they

will not do and whatever Allah is pleased with they do?

THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART IV

[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

The SEVENTH condition is LOVE. That is, the believer loves this

shahadah, he loves in accordance with the shahadah, he loves the

implications and requirements of the shahadah and he loves those who act

and strive for the sake of this shahadah. This is a necessary condition of

the shahadah. If a person makes the shahadah but does not love the shahadah

and what it stands for, then, in fact, his faith is not complete. It is not

the faith of a true believer. And if he loves something more that this

shahadah or if he loves something more than Allah, then he has negated his

shahadah. The true believer, the one meeting the conditions of the shahadah

puts no one whatsoever as an equal to Allah in his love.

Allah says in the Quran, "Yet of mankind are some who take unto

themselves (objects of worship which they set as) rivals to Allah, loving

them with a love like (that which is due to) Allah only. However, those who

believe are stauncher in their love of Allah" (al-Baqara 165). And

elsewhere Allah says' "Say: If your fathers, or your sons, or your brethren,

or your wives, or your tribe, or the wealth you have acquired, or merchandise

for which you fear that there will be no sale, or dwellings you desire are

dearer to you than Allah and His messenger and striving in His way: then wait

till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah guides not wrongdoing folk"

(Al-Tauba 24). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever has three

characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith. [The first of these] is

that he loves Allah and His Messenger more than he loves anyone else..."

(Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.).

This is one of the most important aspects of Islam yet, for some reason,

it is missing from the lives of many Muslims. They act in Islam as if Islam

were a chore instead of doing things out of the love of Allah. When Allah

orders us to do something, like bear witness to the faith, we should realize

that that thing is pleasing to Allah and, therefore, out of our love for

Allah, we should be very pleased to do the acts that are pleasing to Allah.

But, as I said, this feeling is missing from many, many Muslims today.

The EIGHT condition of the shahadah is that the person who makes the

shahadah must DENY EVERY OTHER OBJECT OF WORSHIP. Although that is clear in

the words of the testimony of faith, it does not seem clear to everyone who

makes that testimony. Therefore, I am mentioning it explicitly here.

In Surah al-Baqara, Allah clearly reminds us of this important aspect

of the shahadah, the shahadah is not merely an affirmation but it is both

and affirmation and a negation. Allah states, "And he who rejects false

deities and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never

break" (al-Baqara 256). Perhaps the Prophet (peace be upon him) made this

point even clearer when he said, "Whoever says there is no one worthy of

worship except Allah and denies whatever is worshipped besides Allah, then

his wealth and blood are protected and his accounting will be with Allah."

(Recorded by Muslim.)

Although this condition should be obvious to everyone who says the words

of shahadah, you can still find Muslims who say the shahadah and then make

acts of worship for beings or things other than Allah. You will find them

going to the graveyards and worshipping those in the graves. They will

perform acts of worship, not for the sake of Allah, but for the sake of the

dead "saints" in the grave. What kind of shahadah have these people made? Do

you realy think that their shahadah will mean anything on the Day of Judgment

as long as they believe that acts of worship may be done for other

than Allah?

The NINTH condition of the shahadah is that the Muslim ADHERS to the

shahadah until he dies. This is must if the shahadah is to mean anything

for you in the Hereafter. You ca not rest on your laurels of what you may

have done in the past. No, indeed, the shahadah must be your banner until

your death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, " A man spends a long time

doing the deeds of the people of Paradise and then he ends his deeds with

the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire. And a man spends a long time doing

the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire and then he ends his deeds with

the deeds of the people of Paradise." (Recorded by Muslims) In another

hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "By the One whom there is no

other God, one of you does the actions of Paradise until there is just a

hand span between him and Paradise and then the book [preordainment] overtakes

him and he does the actions of the people of Hell and he enters into it"

(Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

And Allah says in the Quran, "O believers, observe your duty to Allah

with right observance, and die not save as Muslims [surrendering yourselves

to Allah]" (Al-Imran 102).

Dear brothers and sisters, these are the conditions of the shahadah.

These are the aspects of the shahadah that each and every one of us should

look to in ourselves and ask ourselves, "Is my shahadah meeting those

requirements? Am I saying it sincerely, honestly and out of love for Allah?

Am I saying it based on what it really means? Am I denying all other false

objects of worship?..."

These questions we should ask ourselves now before we meet Allah. Allah

willing, we shall ask ourselves these questions now and we shall find that

we have all the right answers for them. Or, if we find we have some

deficiency, we shall work to remove that deficiency. Such that, by Allah's

mercy, in the Hereafter, our shahadah will be the key to Paradise for us and

the gates of Paradise will swing wide open for us and we will be able to live

forever in the bounties of Paradise, with Allah being pleased with us.

Again, it is not simply a matter of knowing these conditions. Indeed, one

can meet many Muslims who have these conditions memorized, yet when one

looks to their deeds and behavior, one can see that these conditions have no

effect on them. This means, in fact, no matter how well he knows and can rattle

off these conditions, he, in fact, is not fulfilling them. In the Hereafter, his

knowledge of these conditions will be of no avail to him. Indeed, his knowledge

will be a proof against him as he clearly knows what the conditions are that he

must satisfy yet he has shown that he is not willing to satisfy them in his life.