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The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادةaš-šahādah About this sound audio  "the testimony"; also aš-šahādatān (الشَهادَتانْ, "the two testimonials")) is an Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet. The declaration, in its shortest form, reads:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh
There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.[1][2][3][4]


The noun šahāda (شَهادة) translates to "testimony", from the verbal root šahida (شَهِدَ) meaning "to observe, witness, testify"; in legal contexts, šahāda is a testimony to the occurrence of events, such as debt, adultery, or divorce.[5] The Islamic creed is also called, in the dual form, šahādatān (شَهادَتانْ, literally "two testimonials"). The person giving the testimony is called a šāhid ( شاهِد). The first statement of the shahada, lā ilāha illā-llāhu, is also known as the tahlīla. In another meaning, šahāda or, more commonly, istišhād (إسْتِشْهادْ), means "martyrdom." The noun šahīd (شَهيد) may mean "martyr."[6] The word Shahada has been used in Quran as one of the "titles of God" - one is al-Ghayb (the knower of the unseen) and al-Shahada (witnessed).[7]

Shahada is a statement of both ritual and worship. The statement has two parts - la ilaha illa'llah (there is no god but God) and Muhammadun rasul Allah (Muhammad is the messenger of God).[8] Though these statements are both present in the Quran but not present "side by side as in the shahada formula". It neither also treat as a "defining statement of what it means to be a Muslim".[8] In the Hadith, Angel Gabriel defines Islam to Muhammad that he should "witness there is no god but God" and he is God's messenger. He was also asked to pay the "purification tax", performing the ritual prayer, fast during the month of Ramzan and make a pilgrimage to Kaaba - these five pillars "are inherent" in this "declaration of faith".[9]

The two parts of the shahada are sometimes referred to as the first shahada and the second shahada.[9] The first one is a symbol of the concept of Tawhid which means the belief in the oneness of God.[9] Thus, Islam's root to monotheist belief is due to the first part of the shahada which declares God "is the only entity truly worthy of worship".[9]

The second part of the shahada is a revelation which means "God has offered guidance to human beings".[10] This verse "reminds Muslims" that they accept not only the "prophecy of Muhammad" but also "long line of prophets" that preceded Islam.[10] While the first part is seen as a "cosmic truth", the second one is something limited to Islam only, as it is believed that members of other Abrahamic religions don't "view Muhammad as one of their prophets".[10]


File:Kalema at Bab al Nasr, Fatimid Cairo.jpg
Photo of a variation of the shahādah at Bab al-Futuh/Bab al-Nasr Fatimid Cairo with the phrase ʿalī walī allāh.
File:Offa king of Mercia 757 793 gold dinar copy of dinar of the Abassid Caliphate 774.jpg
A mancus gold dinar of king Offa of Mercia, copied from the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774); probably unintentionally, it still includes the Arabic text "Muhammad is the Apostle of God".
Qiblah of Imam Mustansir in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun of Cairo showing the Shi'i Kalima.

Shahada first appears in coins in the late seventh century. It then appears in the end of the first Islamic century which signifies the fact that it was not "officially established as a ritual statement of faith" till the mentioned time.[8] In the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, there is inscription of "early sentiments" of shahada, with the writing "There is no god but God alone, He has no partner with him".[8] It also appears in coins minted during the reign of Abd Al-Malik (the fifth Umayyad caliph), with the inscription "Muhammad is the servant of God".[8]

The tahlila (the phrase lā ilāha illā-llāh) is Quranic, but its combination with the additional "Muhammad is the messenger of God" is of uncertain origin. It seems to have been in use by the beginning of the 8th century, based on the occurrence in the fragment of a bilingual papyrus dated to the reign of al-Walid I (86–96 AH, 705–715 CE). In this document, the Greek is given first:

Οὐκ ἔστιν [θεός εἰ μὴ ὁ θεὸς μόνος], Μααμε[τ ἀπόστολος θεοῦ]
Ouk estin theos ei mē ho theos monos; Maamet apostolos theou,

followed by the Arabic equivalent.[11]

The 9th-century Sahih al-Bukhari attributes a longer variant of the statement to Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, who upon hearing the muezzin is said to have uttered:[12]

Ašhadu an lā ilāha illā-llāh waḥdahu lā šarīka lahu, wa ašhadu anna muḥammadan ʿabduhu wa rasūluhu.
"I testify that (there is) no god except God; One is He, no partner has He, and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger."

This longer version is also known as the kalimat ash-shahādah ("word of testimony") and counted as the second of the Six Kalimas in modern Pakistani tradition.

This longer variant, i.e. inserting the claim that God is "alone, without partner", is also found in Arabic writing on the Anglo-Saxon gold dinar coined by Offa, copied from a non-extant Abbasid dinar dated AH 157 (AD 773/4), indicating that by that time this longer phrase had risen to the status of a kind of standard "creed". The coin faces read:

obverse: lā ilāh illā-llāh waḥdah lā šarīk lahu
reverse: muḥammad rasūl llāh; interspersed with the inscription OFFA REX.[13]

In Twelver Shia Islam, the shahada is expanded with the addition of a phrase concerning Ali:

وعليٌ وليُّ الله
wa ʿalīyyun walīyyu-llāh
"and Ali is the wali ("friend", "viceregent") of God".

An early variation of this phrase is found inscribed at Bab al-Futuh built by the Fatimid minister Al-Afdal Shahanshah (d. 975). The inscription reads:

لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له محمد رسول الله
bismi-llāhi-r-rahmāni-r-rahīm lā ʾilāha ʾilā -llāh waḥdahu lā sharīk lahu muḥammad rasūlu-llāh
"In the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate, there is no god but God the One, no partner has he, Muhammad is the Messenger of God.").


audio recording of the shahada
prefaced by the phrase ašhadu ʾan "I testify, that"

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Recitation of the shahādah is the most common statement of faith for Muslims. In Sunni Islam, it is counted as the first of the Five Pillars of Islam,[7] while the Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a connect it to their respective lists of pillars of the faith.[clarification needed][14] Fathers whisper the shahada in the ears of the newborn child so that the first thing heard by them is a "strict motheist faith".[7] Reciting it loudly infront of witnesses is the first step for a non-Muslim to convert into Islam.[7]

For Muslim people reciting the shahada, it is a matter of expressing "what is in the heart"[7] as well as it reflects the "commitment to worship our creator".[9] The community recite it while during their five times prayer during the day.[10] For Non-Muslims, after they recite it, they became a member of Umma or the Muslim community which is followed by "a partlike atmosphere" with celebration.[9] The new convert "witnesses" when he takes the vow is the belief that "of one God" and agrees to submit to Him.[9] He also "testify"ies that "Muhammad is the messenger of God".[9]

The shahada has been used as a shibboleth in Islamic terror attacks to separate Muslim from non-Muslim civilians (in order to kill the latter but not the former), e.g. in the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya [15] and in the Garissa University College attack in Garissa, Kenya in 2015.[16] To Associated Press, the al-Shabab called it "a meticulous vetting process ... to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar". Associated Press (26 September 2013).[17]

Use on flags

Further information: Islamic flags and Jihadist flag

The shahada is frequently found on modern Islamic flags. The Wahhabi religious movement used the shahada on their flags from the 18th century.[18] In 1902 Abdulaziz Abdulrahman Al-Saud, leader of the Al Saud and the future founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, added a sword to this flag.[18] From this derives the modern flag of Saudi Arabia, introduced in 1973. The Flag of Somaliland (introduced in 1991, current design 1996) bases its design on the Saudi flag.

Between 1997 and 2001, the Taliban used a white flag with the shahada inscribed in black as the flag of their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The various jihadist flags used by Islamic insurgents since the 2000s have often followed this example. The shahada written on a green background has been used by supporters of Hamas since about 2000. The 2004 draft constitution of Afghanistan proposed a flag featuring the shahada in white script centered on a red background.

See also



  1. ^ Malise Ruthven (January 2004). Historical Atlas of Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-674-01385-8. 
  2. ^ Richard C. Martín. Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World. Granite Hill Publishers. p. 723. ISBN 978-0-02-865603-8. 
  3. ^ Frederick Mathewson Denny (2006). An Introduction to Islam. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-13-183563-4. 
  4. ^ Mohammad, Noor (1985). "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction". Journal of Law and Religion 3 (2): 381–397. JSTOR 1051182. doi:10.2307/1051182. 
  5. ^ The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril Glassé, Alta Mira Press, 2001, p. 416.
  6. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p. 201.
  7. ^ a b c d e Cornell, p.8
  8. ^ a b c d e Lindsay, p.140
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Cornell, p.9
  10. ^ a b c d Cornell, p.10
  11. ^ A. Grohmann, Arabic Papyri In The Egyptian Library, Volume I, 1934, Egyptian Library Press: Cairo, No. 2, pp. 10-11. "A Bilingual Papyrus Of A Protocol - Egyptian National Library Inv. No. 61, 86-96 AH / 705-715 CE". 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  12. ^ [page needed] المستدرك على الصحيحين[clarification needed]
  13. ^ Dīnār Minted By King Offa Full inscription:
    • obverse field: lā-ilaha illā-llāh waḥdahu la sharīkalahu
    • obverse margin: Muḥammadun rasūlu llāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn ("Muhhammad is the messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse""
    • reverse field: Muḥammad rasūlu llāh
    • reverse margin: bismi llāhi ḍuriba hadhā al-dīnār fī sanat mi' khamsa wa sabaʿun "in the name of God, this dinar was struck in the year 157"
  14. ^ "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  15. ^ "Explosions inside mall as stand-off nears end". The New Zealand Herald. Agence France-Presse. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "Kenya Attack: Al Shabab Targets Christians at Garissa University College". NBC news online. 2 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Al-Shabab: foreigners in Kenya mall were 'legitimate target;' let Muslims leave after vetting". Washington Post.[dead link]
  18. ^ a b Firefly Guide to Flags of the World. 2003. p. 165. ISBN 978-1552978139. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  19. ^ The classical calligraphy is replaced by more artless and emphatically archaic Kufic script and the second part of the shahada is given in the form of the (supposedly) historical seal of Muhammad to express the fundamentalist aim of returning to the foundational principles of the caliphate.

External links