The Testimony of Faith: There is None Worthy of Worship except Allah

A person becomes a Muslim by testifying to the truth of the statements: There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Since this is a testimony or bearing witness to the truth of something, it must be a “public proclamation” (or, in other words, not something hidden within oneself but, instead, conveyed to others74). Ibn Abu al-Izz wrote,

[The Prophet (peace be upon him)] has made it absolutely clear that a person is definitely not a believer if it is claimed that he believes in the Prophet (peace be on him) but he does not profess it with his tongue, even though he can...75

This profession of the tongue plays a three-fold role. It is first a statement of a fact. One is testifying that he recognizes the truthfulness of that statement of faith. This would be analogous to a person giving testimony in a court of law. All he is really stating is that those are the facts that he believes to be true.

Second, though, it is statement of commitment to that fact. It is an admission by the person that he intends to adhere to the requirements and guidance of what he has testified to.

Third, it is a public proclamation that the individual has now joined the fold of Muslims, accepting all of the rights and responsibilities that such implies.

Muslims know that the key to Paradise is the statement, “There is none worthy of worship except Allah.” Yet many Muslims simply rely upon this statement and believe that as long as they have said it, nothing will harm them. Because of this mere verbal statement of the testimony of faith, they think they will be granted Paradise However, the mere saying of the statement is not sufficient for salvation. In fact, the hypocrites used to say, “I testify that none is worthy of worship except Allah and…,” yet Allah describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest abyss of the Hell-fire. Obviously, there are some conditions for any testimony but in particular for this testimony to be accepted by Allah there are some particular conditions76—and everyone should be extremely concerned over whether his testimony of faith is acceptable to Allah or not.

The famous Follower Wahb ibn Munabbih was once asked, “Isn’t the statement of, ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah,’ 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.” These ridges are conditions that differentiate Muslims who will benefit from that statement from those who will not benefit from that statement, no matter how many times a day they may have made that statement.

A study of the verses of the Quran and the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) will show that there are a number of conditions for the soundness of one’s testimony of faith. Again, it is important that every Muslim verify that he is meeting these conditions in his own life with respect to his own testimony of faith. The new convert should consider these conditions concerning his testimony of faith. Preferably (but not necessarily), these would have been explained to him before he undertook the declaration of faith.

The first condition is knowledge. One must have the necessary basic understanding of what is meant by the declaration of faith. One must understand what he is affirming and what he is denying in the declaration. This is true for any kind of 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 of is unacceptable. Allah says in the Quran, “Save him who bears witness unto the truth knowingly” (43:86).

Therefore, the basics of the testimony must be understood by the person testifying to it. If he does not understand, for example, that Allah is the only one worthy of worship and that all other gods are false gods, then he does not even have the most elementary understanding of what it is he claims to be testifying to. Such a testimony cannot be considered a proper one that is acceptable to Allah.

The second condition is certainty. This is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty. In Islam, in fact, any kind of doubt concerning anything confirmed in the Quran or the Sunnah is equivalent to disbelief.77 One must, in his heart, be absolutely certain of the truth of the testimony of faith. One’s heart must not be wavering in any way when one testifies to the truth of, “There is none worthy of worship except Allah.” Allah describes the true believers as those who have belief in Allah and then their hearts waver not. Allah says, “The (true) believers are only those 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” (49:15).

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 that statement, except that he will enter Paradise.”78 On the other hand, Allah describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are wavering. For example, Allah says, “They alone seek leave of you [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” (9: 45).

The third condition of the testimony of faith is acceptance. If a person has the conditions of knowledge and certainty, this must be followed by acceptance, with the tongue and heart, of whatever that testimony implies. Whoever refuses to accept the testimony of faith with all of its implications, even if he knows that it is true and is certain about its truth, is a disbeliever. This refusal to accept is sometimes due to pride, envy or other reasons. In any case, the testimony is not an acceptable testimony without its unconditional acceptance.

This condition also means that the Muslim 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” (2:85). Allah has also said, “It is not for a believing man or believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed strayed in plain error” (33:36).

The fourth condition is submission and compliance. This implies the actual physical enactment by deeds. This is one of the main meanings of the word Islam itself, “the submission to the will and commands of Allah.” Allah commands this in the Quran, “And turn in repentance and in obedience with true Faith to your Lord and submit to Him” (39: 54).

Allah has 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 that which you decide, and submit with full submission” (4:65).

This does not mean that the true believer never falls into 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.

The fifth condition is truthfulness as opposed to hypocrisy and dishonesty. This means that when one says the testimony of faith, he is saying it honestly, actually meaning it. He is not lying when it comes to his testimony of faith or simply trying to deceive or fool anyone. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one bears testimony to there being no one worthy of worship save Allah, sincerely from his heart, except that Allah makes the Hell-fire forbidden for him.”79

The sixth condition is purity or making this testimony of faith solely for the sake of Allah. One must not do it for any other reason or anyone else’s sake. In this manner, the meaning of purity is the opposite of ascribing partners with Allah. One becomes and remains Muslim solely to serve Allah, to avoid His anger and punishment and to gain His mercy and reward. Allah says in the Quran, “Worship Allah, making religion pure for him” (39:2). The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “Allah has forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, ‘There is no one worthy of worship except Allah,’ and says so desiring the face [and pleasure] of Allah.”80

The seventh condition is love. That is, the believer loves the testimony of faith, he loves in accordance with the testimony, he loves its implications and requirements and he loves those who act and strive on its basis. This is a necessary condition of the testimony of faith. If a person makes the testimony but does not love it and what it stands for, then, in fact, his faith is not complete. It is not the faith of a true believer. If he has no love for this testimony or if he actually feels hatred for it, he has negated his testimony.

The true believer puts no one 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” (2:165). Elsewhere Allah says, “Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brethren, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have acquired, 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” (9:24).

An eighth condition is that the person who states the testimony 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. herefore, it needs to be mentioned explicitly.

In soorah al-Baqara, Allah reminds Muslims of this important aspect of the testimony. The testimony of faith is not merely an affirmation but it is both an 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” (2: 256).

The ninth condition is that the Muslim adheres to the testimony of faith until he dies. This is a must if the testimony is to mean anything in the Hereafter. One cannot rest on his laurels of what he may have done in the past. No, indeed, the declaration of faith must be his banner until death. 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]” (3:102).

Finally, the testimony does not have to be in the Arabic language or with specific terms but it must be very clear as to the exact meaning and purport of what the person is saying.81

74 A possible exception to this would be when one fears immediate death upon displaying one’s Islam. Otherwise, one is expected to openly profess Islam even if he may face some opposition or hardship along the way. Such was the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Companions.

75 Ibn Abu al-Izz, vol. 2, pp. 471. The transla on used here is a pre-publication copy of Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, trans., Commentary on the Creed of at-Tahawi by ibn Abi al-Izz (Riyadh: Ministry Paraof Higher Educa on, 2000). For the sake of the page numbering, the published version from Mu’assasat al-Risaalah will be the work referred to.

76 The conditions of the testimony of faith are well-known and discussed in numerous works. See, for example, Haafidh ibn Ahmad Hakimi, Ma’arij al-Qubool bi-Sharh Sullim al-Wusool ila Ilm al- Usool fi al-Tauheed (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, 1983), vol. 1, pp. 307-315; Abdullah ibn Jibreen, al-Shahadataan (no city or publisher given, 1990), pp. 77-86; this author also presented most of this material on the two parts of the shahaadah in his The Friday Prayer: Part II: Khutbahs (I) (Aurora, CO: IANA, 1994), pp. 4-19; The Friday Prayer: Part III: Khutbahs (II) (Ann Arbor, MI: IANA, 1995), pp. 35-42.

77 An exception to this is related to the case of ignorance where one is doubtful about something and is not aware that it is proven in the Quran and Sunnah. Once the person then knows that something is definitively confirmed in the Quran or Sunnah, there is no excuse for him to have any doubt about it.

78 Recorded by Muslim.

79 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

80 Recorded by Muslim.

81 In a hadith, some people embraced Islam by saying, Saba`na, meaning they had entered the faith of those who were called Sabi`ah, which was a term of the people of Ignorance for the Muslims.