بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
What is the shahada?
The Shahada in the Quran
The shahada that that the Quran teaches us, is simply testifying that: there is no god except God.
God testifies that indeed, “There is no god except He” and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge; this is standing up for justice. There is no god except He, The Almighty, The All Wise.¶ Indeed the religion at God is islam … (3:18-19)
There is no other name attached to it. This is testimony of God, the angels and those who possess knowledge. This is the foundation of the religion at God – islam. This statement of the shahada is repeated in its variations, about 30 times in the Quran. Every single time, it stands by itself, without joining other names besides God. For example, the famous ayatul kursi begins with this statement.
God, there is no god except He, The Living, The Self-Existing. … (2:255)
Therefore, you shall know that there is no god except God and ask forgiveness for your sins and for that of the faithful men and the faithful women. And God fully knows your path and your final destiny. (47:19)
This is indeed because when they were told; “There is no god except God“, they turned arrogant. (37:35)
The Shia and Sunni versions of the shahada, with Muhammad’s and Ali’s names joined with it [see samples in links below], does not appear anywhere in the Quran.
- Sunni shahada
- A Sunni explanation for mentioning Muhammad in the shahada
- Sunni shahada on flag of Saudi Arabia
- Shia shahada
- A Shia explanation for mentioning Ali in the shahada
- Shia shahada at Bab al Nasr, Cairo Egypt
Is Muhammad a messenger now?
Muhammad was a messenger when he was alive. Since he is dead and not living among us any more, he is no more a messenger. It is not logical to testify that Muhammad is a messenger, just like it would not be logical to testify that Abraham is a messenger of God. If we really wanted to testify to his status as a messenger, the correct statement should have been ‘Muhammad was a messenger’ (محمد كان رسول الله).
When God alone is mentioned …
God gives us a criterion to test ourselves, whether we truly believe in the hereafter ….
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ فَاطِرَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأرْضِ عَلِمَ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ أَنْتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِي مَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ
And when God alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter sicken but when others are mentioned besides Him, they rejoice. (39:45)
If we feel empty, upset, perturbed or disgusted when God alone is mentioned, and feel happy and satisfied only when others besides Him are mentioned, we can gauge for ourselves whether this verse would apply to us. Do we try to rationalize it anyway? Do we think it cannot refer to us, and can only apply to those other people who are unsatisfied when God alone is mentioned, without mentioning others besides Him?
Make no distinction between the messengers
God commands us to make no distinction between the messengers of God (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:150,152). We have to treat all messengers the same, without elevating one messenger above others. All of them delivered the same message from God. If we consistently include one messenger in the testimony of faith to the exclusion of the others, that would amount to violation of this crucial commandment. And this listed among the fundamental qualities about being a believer.
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْ رُسُلِهِ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
The messenger believes in what was revealed to him from his Lord and so do the faithful. They all believe in God and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers; we make no distinction among any of His messengers. Moreover they say, we hear and we obey. Forgive us our Lord and to You is our final return. [2:285]
Messengers did not join their own name to the shahada.
The shahada of all the messengers are one and the same – لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ (la ilaha illallah). They did not compete with each other to modify, remove the names of others and add their own name to it. This is the timeless, universal shahada valid for all time.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ
And We did not send any messenger before you except with the inspiration that indeed; “there is no god except Me; therefore, worship Me”. (21:25)
Who testified that Muhammad is a messenger?
The act of testifying that Muhammad is a messenger is mentioned only once in the Quran. In sura 63, the title of which is al munafiqoon (The Hypocrites). And it is described as the act of the hypocrites. Not the ideal role models to follow.Despite the fact that they testified to the truth, God knew that they were liars. And it is telling that despite being conspicuously absent in all the verses that do mention the Quranic shahada (لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ), God still mentions testifying that Muhammad was a messenger in the Quran, as coming from the mouths of hypocrites.
إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُنَفِقُونَ قَالُوا نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَفِقِينَ لَكَذِبُونَ
When the hypocrites come to you, they insist upon saying, we bear witness that you are indeed the messenger of God. And God knows that you are indeed His messenger, and God bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars. (63:1)
What about the statement مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ – Muhammad is God‘s messenger? It also appears once in the Quran. In the last verse of sura 48. It continues from the previous verse, which tells us that God suffices as a witness to it.
مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ ο هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَى وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا
He is the One who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, in order to overcome all religions. And God suffices as a witness, Muhammad is God’s messenger. And those with him are stern against the unfaithful, and compassionate amongst themselves. … (48:28-29)