What is the Shahada?
Due to the recent events in Australia, there has been plenty of publicity about the Shahada, or the Testimony of Islamic faith. Let me explain what it means, to dispel any misunderstandings, God willing.
Laa illaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasoolullah, means “There is nothing that has true divinity (i.e. absolute divine power, authority, knowledge, dominion) nor truly and rightfully deserves to be the sole object of worship (due to His being our Creator, Sustainer, and Provider) except God, or Allah (the Arabic word for God, used by Arab Jews, Christians, Muslims).
Muslims prefer to use the word Allah since the English God can be misunderstood as god, gods, godesses, etc, whereas Allah in Arabic is a proper name that does not have plural or dimunitive forms.
However, the One True Creator is the same, no matter which name you call Him. “La illaha illa Allah” is extremely profound, as it causes us to view the Universe as bearing witness to God’s Unique Power and Oneness. It implies a Universal order, and that all worship devoted to other than God, is grave falsehood.
The second part of the testimony is that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is God’s Messenger. He was an orphan who after Prophethood brought a message that reformed and brought peace to all of Arabia, which hitherto was steeped in idolotry, barabaric practices, and tribalism.
This part of the Shahada also implies and requires one to believe in ALL of God’s Prophets, including Jesus, Abraham, Moses, David, etc as well as the Holy Books that were revealed to them. It is not permissible in Islam for one to pick and choose which Prophets they want to believe in, rather belief in one requires belief in all.
It also means one believes in everything the Prophets taught, such as belief in the angels, the hereafter, and Divine decree, and follow the guidance of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, peace be upon him.
This Shahada itself is proof that Islam cannot be spread by compulsion, since sincerity in its statement is a precondition for its acceptance by God. A person, if they wish to become a Muslim, must fully understand the Shahada and its implications, believe in it sincerely, unconditionally, with firm resolve, and truthfully.
If one were forced to say it without these conditions it would not be accepted by God.