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This article is about the Islamic creed. For other uses, see Shahada (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Shahid.

The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادةaš-šahādah About this sound audio , "the testimony"; aš-šahādatān (الشَهادَتانْ, "the two testimonials"); also Kalima Shahadat (كلمة الشهادة, "the testimonial word")), 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, muḥammadur 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, the shahada may be considered 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 Ramadan and make a pilgrimage to the 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] Islam's monotheistic nature is reflected in 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 the "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]


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 Fatimid Cairo showing the Shi'i Kalima with the phrase ʿalī walī allāh at the end.

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][verification needed] 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 Testimony of Faith inscribed as calligraphy on top of the Babussalam gate of the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

In Shia Islam, the shahada is expanded with the addition of a phrase concerning Ali (the fourth Sunni caliph and the first Shia imam) وعليٌ وليُّ الله (wa ʿalīyyun walīyyu-llāh) which translates to "Ali is the wali (friend) of God.[11]


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 also contain the shahada as amongst their pillars of faith.[12] Fathers whisper the shahada in the ears of the newborn child so that the first thing heard by them is a "strict monotheist faith".[7] Reciting it loudly in front 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 party-like 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 "testif[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 [13] and in the Garissa University College attack in Garissa, Kenya in 2015.[14] To Associated Press, the al-Shabab called it "a meticulous vetting process ... to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar". Associated Press (26 September 2013).[15]

Use on flags[edit]

Further information: Islamic flags and Jihadist flag

The shahada is found on Islamic flags. The Wahhabi religious movement used the shahada on their flags from the 18th century.[16] 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.[16] The modern Flag of Saudi Arabia was introduced in 1973.[17] The Flag of Somaliland has a horizontal strip of green, white and red, with the shahada inscribed in white on the green strip.[18]

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[edit]


  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. doi:10.2307/1051182. JSTOR 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. ^ The Later Mughals by William Irvine p.130
  12. ^ "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  13. ^ "Explosions inside mall as stand-off nears end". The New Zealand Herald. Agence France-Presse. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  14. ^ "Kenya Attack: Al Shabab Targets Christians at Garissa University College". NBC news online. 2 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Al-Shabab: foreigners in Kenya mall were 'legitimate target;' let Muslims leave after vetting". Washington Post.[dead link]
  16. ^ a b Firefly Guide to Flags of the World. 2003. p. 165. ISBN 978-1552978139. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  17. ^ "Saudi Arabia Flag and Description". World Atlas. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  18. ^ James B. Minahan. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World A-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 806. ISBN 9780313076961. 


External links[edit]