The Nine Conditions of Shahādah

The Nine Conditions of Shahādah

By Jamaluddin Zarabozo

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;

All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

What Every Muslim Needs to Know.

There is something very important for both the new Muslims and those who grew up in Islām, without which a person may not really be a “Muslim.” It is called the “Shahādah.” The complete statement of the creed of the Muslim is: “Ash haduan Lā ilāha illallāh; Wa ashhaduanna Muhammadar Rasūlullāh. (I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh; and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger).”

Every Muslim has been taught that the key to “Jannah” (Paradise) is the statement in Arabic: “Lā ilāha illallāh.”  (There is none worthy of worship except Allāh). 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 they will be granted Paradise because of this mere verbal statement of the Shahādah.

There is no question that the mere saying of the Shahādah: “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger” is not sufficient for salvation. In fact, the munafiqeen (hypocrites) used to make this statement quite often yet Allāh describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest abyss of the Hell-fire.

True scholars of Islām tell us that this testimony of faith is our “Muftah ul Jannah” (Key to Paradise). The famous follower Wahab ibn Munabbih was once asked; “Isn’t the statement of “Lā ilāha illallāh” 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.”

Think about it. If you try to drive your car with the key to your house will it work? Of course, not. So, we see that the statement like a key, must meet certain conditions in order to work. In fact these conditions are what will determine who will benefit from the statement and who will not benefit from saying it, no matter how many times per day they say it. We must work hard to learn, understand and practice these conditions before we run out time and then it would be too late for our Shahādah to help us at all. This article has value only if we use it to look at ourselves and make sure we are really meeting these conditions.

Then by Allāh’s Mercy, the doors to Jannah will open for us with our KEY (muftah) of Lā ilāha illallāh”.

“Nine Conditions of the Shahādah”:

 The “Qur’an” and the “Hadīth” (saying narrated from or about the Prophet Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam regarding his words, actions, or attributes.) are the ultimate sources for knowledge in Islām. We find contained in them the reality of the conditions necessary for the “Shahādah” to work as a “muftah” to the “Jannah” for us. The number might be understood as seven, eight or even nine depending on how you would categorize them or combine them together. Regardless of how we would list them or divide them up, it still remains that we must understand and most important, apply these conditions of our Shahādah if we are to enter the Jannah. We listed them here as “nine” in order to give more attention and detail to each and every aspect. However, the scholars who have listed them as seven or eight have not left anything out. They have merely combined several for easier comprehension and memorization.

The nine conditions of the Shahādah are known as: 1. Knowledge; 2. Certainty; 3. Acceptance; 4. Submission; 5. Truth; 6. Sincerity; 7. Love; 8. Denial of false worship; and 9. Adherence

1. Knowledge (‘Ilm)

That is, one must have the basic and general knowledge of what is meant by the Shahādah. One must understand what the Shahādah is affirming and what the Shahādah is denying. Allāh says in the Qur’an, “So know that there is no God but Allāh, and ask forgiveness for your sin.” (Muhammad, 47: 19).

Similarly, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever dies knowing that there is no one worthy of worship except Allāh shall enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

In fact, the Shahādah itself is a testimony. When one testifies to something, one must know what it is that he is testifying concerns. Obviously, a testimony about something that one does not have any knowledge about is absolutely unacceptable.

Allāh says in the Qur’an, “Except him who bears witness unto the truth knowingly.” (Al-Zukhruf, 43: 86).

Now this condition probably sounds obvious; if someone said to you, “There is no God except Allāh,” and then said that what he meant by Allāh was Jesus, you would immediately tell him that this Shahādah is nonsense. Yet can you imagine that there is a Muslim country in the world that until recently used to have a yearly weeklong celebration to “the Gods of the Sea”! All along they call themselves Muslims and they make the Shahādah numerous times a day.

This clearly shows that they have no idea what the meaning of their Shahādah is. Do you think that this kind of Shahādah 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 Shahādah repeatedly. Yet they see nothing wrong with accepting a Lawgiver other than Allāh? What kind of Shahādah are these people making?

All of us do our best to learn at least the basics of Islāmic beliefs, the basics of what Shahādah means. In this way, Allāh willing, we will be making the correct Shahādah. We will be witnessing to the truth as we are supposed to be witnesses to it.

2 – Certainty (Yāqin)

This is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty. In Islām, 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 Shahādah. Our hearts must not be wavering in any way when we testify to the truth of, “There is none worthy of worship except Allāh.” Allāh describes the believers in the Qur’an as those who have belief in Allāh and then their hearts waver not. Allāh says, “The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allāh and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allāh. Such are the sincere.” (Al-Hujjarat, 49: 15)

Similarly, the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “No one meets Allāh with the testimony that there is none worthy of worship but Allāh and I am the Messenger of Allāh, and he has no doubt about that statement, except that he will enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

I ndeed, Allāh describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are wavering. For example, Allāh says, “They alone seek leave of thee (not to participate in jihad) who believe not in Allāh and the Last Day and whose hearts feel doubt, so in their doubt they waver.” (Al-Tawbah, 9: 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’s 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 Islām entirely or continues to practice Islām while, in fact, in his heart he does not have the true faith. The greatest cure for these doubts is seeking knowledge. It is through sound knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah that most of these doubts will be removed.

3 – Acceptance (Qabūl)

If a person has knowledge of and certainty in the Shahādah, this must be followed by acceptance, with the tongue and heart, of whatever that Shahādah implies. Whoever refuses to accept the Shahādah and its implications, even if he knows that it is true and certain about its truth, and then he is a disbeliever? This refusal to accept is sometimes due to pride, envy or other reasons.

In any case, the Shahādah is not a true Shahādah 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 Shahādah are. This also means that he believes in whatever is stated in the Qur’an or stated by the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam), without any right to choose what he wants to believe and what he wants to reject.

Allāh says in the Qur’an, “Do you believe in part of the book and reject part of it? And what is the reward of those who do so, except humiliation in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent to the most dreadful doom.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 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 Allāh, one also negates his testimony of faith. Unfortunately, many Muslims are doing this nowadays in various ways. Although not all of these forms 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 Qur’an, they simply reinterpret the verse according to their liking. If they do not like what is stated in a hadīth, they simply state that the hadīth 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 Allāh and His Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the true Muslim believes in as the truth. This goes hand in hand with their testimony of faith.

4 – Submission and Compliance (Inqiyād)

This implies the actual physical enactment with our deeds of our Shahādah. In fact, this is one of the main meanings of the word Islām itself, “the submission to the will and commands of Allāh.” This is what Allāh commands in the Qur’an, “Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unto Him” (al-Zumar, 39: 54).

Allāh has praised those who submit to His command by their actions. Allāh says, “Who is better in religion than he who surrenders his purpose to Allāh while doing good” (al-Nisā’, 4: 125).

Actually, Allāh has clearly made it a condition of faith that one submits to the command of Allāh and His messenger. Allāh says, “But nay, by your Lord, they will not truly believe until they make you [the Messenger of Allāh] judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of which you decide, and submit with full submission” (al-Nisā’, 4: 65)

Unfortunately, there are many that 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 Islām whatsoever. This incorrect understanding of faith has spread throughout the Muslim world. Indeed, our Shahādah or testimony of faith must be implemented or realized in our hearts, tongues and actions. In our hearts, we must have love for Allāh, fear Allāh and hope in Him. With our tongues we must testify to the Shahādah. And with our actions, we must implement what the testimony of faith requires from us.

Anyone who claims to be a Muslim and yet does no deeds either does not understand Islām 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 Allāh, then they have not violated the soundness of their testimony or Shahādah. But do not forget they are still sinners. And what is the minimum of submission that is required from a person beyond whom 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 have gone beyond the limit that is acceptable for lack of deeds. Allāh knows best.

5 -Truthfulness (As-Siddiq), As Opposed To Hypocrisy and Dishonesty

This means that when we say the Shahādah, we are saying it honestly. We actually mean it. We are not lying when it comes to our testimony of faith. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “No one bears testimony to there being no one worth of worship save Allāh, sincerely from his heart, except that Allāh makes the Hell-fire forbidden for him.” (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 them or to get some gain from doing so; these are the hypocrites.

Allāh has described them in the opening of the Qur’an with the following words: “And of mankind are some who say, ‘We believe in Allāh and the Last Day,’ when they believe not. They think to beguile Allāh and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves, but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease and Allāh increases their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie” (Al-Baqarah: 8-10).

Obviously, the Shahādah of those who become Muslims simply to benefit from being Muslim and not because they believe in Islām will be rejected by Allāh in the Hereafter. They will face a painful punishment due to their lying.

6 – Sincerity (Al-Ikhlās)

That is, when we make the Shahādah, we must do so solely for the sake of Allāh. 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 Shirk or ascribing partners with Allāh. We became and remain Muslims solely for Allāh’s sake.

Allāh says in the Qur’an, “Worship Allāh, and making religion pure for him” (al-Zumar, 39: 2).

And Allāh also says, “And they are ordained not else than to serve Allāh, 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-Baiyinah, 98: 5)

And the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) added, “Allāh has forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, ‘There is no one worthy of worship except Allāh,’ and say so desiring the face [and pleasure] of Allāh.” (Muslim)

This is something that we should all think about, 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 Allāh. 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 Allāh first, last and only. One of the signs that we are Muslims for the sake of Allāh is that we do whatever Allāh 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 Allāh, all of our actions are done for the sake of Allāh.

However, sometimes one begins to wonder whether some people meet this condition. Some people from the Muslim world practice Islām to the extent that it is pleasing to their families. If there is anything in Islām that their families do not like- although their families are Muslim and therefore they actually should like all of Islām- then they do not practice that aspect of Islām. One common example of that nature is mixing between men and women. Sometimes a brother, 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 Allāh and therefore whatever Allāh dislikes they will not do and whatever Allāh is pleased with they do?

7 – Love (Mahabbah)

That is, the believer loves this Shahādah, he loves in accordance with the Shahādah, he loves the implications and requirements of the Shahādah and he loves those who act and strive for the sake of this Shahādah. This is a necessary condition of the Shahādah. If a person makes the Shahādah but does not love the Shahādah 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 Shahādah or if he loves something more than Allāh, then he has negated his Shahādah. The true believer, the one meeting the conditions of the Shahādah puts no one whatsoever as an equal to Allāh in his love.

Allāh says in the Qur’an, “Yet of mankind are some who take unto themselves (objects of worship which they set as) rivals to Allāh, loving them with a love like (that which is due to) Allāh only. However, those who believe are stauncher in their love of Allāh” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 165).

And elsewhere Allāh 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 Allāh and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allāh brings His command to pass. Allāh guides not wrongdoing folk” (Al-Tawbah, 9: 24)

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever has three characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith. [The first of these] is that he loves Allāh and His Messenger more than he loves anyone else…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

This is one of the most important aspects of Islām yet, for some reason, it is missing from the lives of many Muslims. They act in Islām as if Islām were a chore instead of doing things out of the love of Allāh. When Allāh orders us to do something, like bear witness to the faith, we should realize that that thing is pleasing to Allāh and, therefore, out of our love for Allāh, we should be very pleased to do the acts that are pleasing to Allāh. But, as I said, this feeling is missing from many, many Muslims today.

8 – Denial of False 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-Baqarah, Allāh clearly reminds us of this important aspect of the Shahādah, the Shahādah is not merely an affirmation but it is both an affirmation and a negation.

Allāh states, “And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allāh has grasped a firm handhold which will never break” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 256).

Perhaps the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) made this point even clearer when he said: “Whoever says there is no one worthy of worship except Allāh and denies whatever is worshipped besides Allāh, then his wealth and blood are protected and his accounting will be with Allāh.” (Muslim)

Although this condition should be obvious to everyone who says the words of Shahādah, you can still find Muslims who say the Shahādah and then make acts of worship for beings or things other than Allāh. 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 Allāh, but for the sake of the dead “saints” in the grave. What kind of Shahādah have these people made? Do you really think that their Shahādah will mean anything on the Day of Judgment as long as they believe that acts of worship may be done for other than Allāh?

9 – Adherence (Astaqīm) Until Death

This is must if the Shahādah is to mean anything for you in the Hereafter. You cannot rest on your laurels of what you may have done in the past. No, indeed, the Shahādah must be your banner until your death.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) 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.” (Muslim)

In another hadīth, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “By the One beside 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] overtake him and he does the actions of the people of Hell and he enters into it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

And Allāh says: “O believers, observe your duty to Allāh with right observance, and die not except as Muslims [in complete state of surrender, submission, obedience to Allāh]” [in complete state of surrender, submission, obedience to Allāh]” (Al-Imran, 3: 102).

These are the conditions or aspects of the Shahādah that each and every one of us should look deep down into our own hearts and ask ourselves:

  • “Is my Shahādah meeting those requirements?”
  • “Am I saying it sincerely, honestly and out of love for Allāh?”
  • “Am I saying it based on what it really means?”
  • “Am I denying all other false objects of worship?”
  • “Is there any part of my Shahādah that is weak or missing?”

It is not enough to simply memorize these conditions and the answers to the questions as though we were on our way to class to take a “pop quiz.” We might meet Muslims or even the teachers themselves, who have totally memorized these conditions and their meanings so much so that they can recite every detail. But if we look to the way they act and the way they treat others, we know that the conditions are not having the right effect on them. This is proof that no matter how much a person knows, it only matters how much they live up to it. In the Next Life their knowledge of these conditions of Shahādah will not benefit them in the least if they have not put them into practice. Actually, their knowledge will be proof against them because they clearly knew the conditions, yet they were not willing to live up to them in this life.

As Muslims we need to ask ourselves right now, before we die and go in front of Allāh for His Judgment. We need to consider our answers carefully to these questions. If we are weak in certain areas of these important questions, then we should work hard to remove that weakness. So that in the Next Life our Shahādah will be our “Key to Paradise” and the gates of the Paradise will open wide for us and we will be able to live forever in Allāh’s Jannah with Him being please with us.

“O Allāh, make us of those who learn, understand and apply the true meanings of the Shahādah, amīn. Forgive us were we fall short or make mistakes, ameen. Bring us closer to You by Your Mercy and enter us into Your Jannah, amīn.” Wal Hamdulillahi Rabbil Alamīn

Allah the Exalted Alone Know most.

[Excerpted from the article entitled “The Conditions of “Lā ilāha illallāh” By Jamaluddin Zarabozo, published in Al-Basheer Magazine]

About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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