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The Shahada (Arabic: الشَّهَادَةُ aš-šahādatu; Arabic pronunciation: [aʃʃahaːdatʊ], 'the testimony'),[note 1] also transliterated as Shahadah, is an Islamic oath and creed, and one of the Five Pillars of Islam and part of the Adhan. It reads: "I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

The Shahada declares belief in the oneness (tawhid) of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's messenger. Some Shia Muslims also include a statement of belief in the wilayat of Ali,[1] but they don't consider it as an obligatory part for converting to Islam.[2] So a single honest recitation of the Shahada is all that is required for a person to become a Muslim according to most traditional schools.[3]

The testimonies[edit]

The declaration reads:[4][5][6][7]

The above two statements are commonly prefaced by the phrase ašhadu ʾan ('I bear witness that'), yielding the full form:

Or, rendered in the International Phonetic Alphabet,

IPA: [ʔaʃ.ha.du ʔan laː ʔi.laː.ha ʔil.la‿ɫ.ɫaː.hu wa.ʔaʃ.ha.du ʔan.na mu.ħam.ma.dan ra.suː.lu‿ɫ.ɫah]

Terminology and significance[edit]

The Shahada can be translated into English as "There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God."[8] In English, capitalization of a word's initial letter indicates that it is a proper noun; that is, the name of a unique entity. If it is a noun with a lower case initial letter it is a "common noun"; that is a name which is not unique to an entity, but, instead, could apply to a number of members of a set.[9] The orthography of the translation therefore replicates the original Arabic meaning so that god is a common noun and God is a unique proper name.[10]

The noun shahādah (شَهَادَة), from the verb šahida ([ʃa.hi.da] شَهِدَ), from the root š-h-d (ش-ه-د) meaning "to observe, witness, testify", translates as "testimony" in both the everyday and the legal senses.[11][note 2] The Islamic creed is also called, in the dual form, shahādatān (شَهَادَتَان, literally "two testimonies"). The expression al-šahīd (ٱلْشَّهِيد, "the Witness") is used in the Quran as one of the "titles of God".[15]

In Sunni Islam, the Shahada has two parts: 'lā ʾilāha ʾillā -llāh' ("There is no deity except God"), and 'muḥammadun rasūlu llāh' ("Muhammad is the Messenger of God"),[16] which are sometimes referred to as the first Shahada and the second Shahada.[17] The first statement of the Shahada is also known as the tahlīl.[18]

In Shia Islam, the Shahada also has an optional third part, a phrase concerning Ali, the first Shia imam and the fourth Rashidun caliph of Sunni Islam: وَعَلِيٌّ وَلِيُّ ٱللَّٰهِ (wa ʿaliyyun waliyyu llāh [wa.ʕa.lijːun wa.lijːu‿ɫ.ɫaː.h]), which translates to "Ali is the wali of God".[1]

In the Quran, the first statement of the Shahadah takes the form lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh twice (37:35, 47:19), and ʾallāhu lā ʾilāha ʾillā huwa (God, there is no deity but Him) much more often.[19] It appears in the shorter form lā ʾilāha ʾillā huwa (There is no deity but Him) in many places.[20] It appears in these forms about 30 times in the Quran. It is never attached with the second part, and any mention of Ali, who is particularly important to Shia Muslims, is absent from the Quran.[21]

Islam's monotheistic nature is reflected in the first sentence of the Shahada, which declares belief in the oneness of God and that he is the only entity truly worthy of worship.[17] The second sentence of the Shahada indicates the means by which God has offered guidance to human beings.[22] The verse reminds Muslims that they accept not only the prophecy of Muhammad but also the long line of prophets who preceded him.[22] While the first part is seen as a cosmic truth, the second is specific to Islam, as it is understood that members of the older Abrahamic religions do not view Muhammad as one of their prophets.[22]

The Shahada is a statement of both ritual and worship. In a well-known hadith, Muhammad defines Islam as witnessing that there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is God's Messenger, giving of alms (zakat), performing the ritual prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to the Kaaba: the Five Pillars of Islam are inherent in this declaration of faith.[17][23]


Recitation of the Shahadah is the most common statement of faith for Muslims. Sunnis,[15] Shia Twelvers, as well as Isma'ilis[24] consider it as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is whispered by the father into the ear of a newborn child,[15] and it is whispered into the ear of a dying person.[25] The five canonical daily prayers each include a recitation of the Shahada.[22] Recitation of the Shahada is also the only formal step in conversion to Islam.[15] This occasion often attracts witnesses and sometimes includes a celebration to welcome the converts into their new faith.[17] In accordance with the central importance played by the notion of intention (Arabic: نِيَّة, niyyah) in Islamic doctrine, the recitation of the Shahada must reflect understanding of its import and heartfelt sincerity.[26][27] Intention is what differentiates acts of devotion from mundane acts and a simple reading of the Shahada from invoking it as a ritual activity.[26][27]


Though the two statements of the Shahada are both present in the Quran (for instance, 37:35 and 48:29), they are not found there side by side as in the Shahada formula,[16] but are present in the Hadiths.[28][29][30][31] Versions of both phrases began to appear in coins and monumental architecture in the late seventh century, which suggests that it had not been officially established as a ritual statement of faith until then.[16] An inscription in the Dome of the Rock (est. 692) in Jerusalem reads: "There is no deity but God alone; He has no partner with him; Muhammad is the Messenger of God".[16] Another variant appears in coins minted after the reign of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the fifth Umayyad caliph: "Muhammad is the Servant of God and His messenger".[16] Material evidence from the 690s documents the existence of differing versions of the Shahada in different regions as opposed to what would standardize into a uniform version in later periods.[32] Although it is not clear when the Shahada first came into common use among Muslims, it is clear that the sentiments it expresses were part of the Quran and Islamic doctrine from the earliest period.[16]

In Sufism[edit]

The Shahada has been traditionally recited in the Sufi ceremony of dhikr (Arabic: ذِکْر, "remembrance"), a ritual that resembles mantras found in many other religious traditions.[33] During the ceremony, the Shahada may be repeated thousands of times, sometimes in the shortened form of the first phrase where the word 'Allah' ("God") is replaced by 'huwa' ("Him").[33] The chanting of the Shahada sometimes provides a rhythmic background for singing.[34]

In architecture and art[edit]

The Shahada appears as an architectural element in Islamic buildings around the world, such as those in Jerusalem, Cairo, and Istanbul.[16][35][36]

Late-medieval and Renaissance European art displays a fascination with Middle Eastern motifs in general and the Arabic script in particular, as indicated by its use, without concern for its content, in painting, architecture and book illustrations.[37][38]

Usage on flags[edit]

Jihadist variation of the Black Standard as used by various Islamist organisations since the late 1990s, which consists of the Shahada in white script centered on a black background

The Shahada is found on some Islamic flags. For an example Wahhabis have used the Shahada on their flags since the 18th century.[39] In 1902, Ibn Saud, leader of the House of Saud and the future founder of Saudi Arabia, added a sword to this flag.[39] The modern Flag of Saudi Arabia was introduced in 1973.[40] The Flag of Somaliland has a horizontal strip of green, white and red with the Shahada inscribed in white on the green strip.[41]

The flag of Afghanistan under the Taliban is a white flag with the Shahada inscribed in black. The various jihadist black 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.[citation needed] The 2004 draft constitution of Afghanistan proposed a flag featuring the Shahada in white script centered on a red background. In 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq designed its flag using the Shahada phrase written in white on black background. The font used is supposedly similar to the font used as seal on the original letters written on Muhammad's behalf.[42]

National flags with the Shahada[edit]


A mancus gold dinar of king Offa of Mercia, copied from the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774); it includes the Arabic text "Muhammad is the Messenger of God".
The Qibla of the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir Billah in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo showing the Shia shahada that ends with the phrase "'Aliyyan Waliyyullah" ("Ali is the vicegerent of God")
The first phrase of the Shahada in kufic calligraphy (1309), Kashan, Iran
The Shia Shahada on the mausoleum of Attar of Nishapur, Iran. The first phrase is in white, the rest in blue.
Tile panel in the Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan. The Shahada is on the top half of the panel.
Shahadas written in the style of a Mamluk tughra on the bottom right and in mirror image on bottom left
The Shahada written in square Kufic script, shown as buildings topped with domes and minarets, with its mirror image on the left
Shia Shahadah at Bab al-Futuh/Bab al-Nasr, Fatimid Cairo with the phrase ʿAlīy walīy Allāh ("Ali is the vicegerent of God") at the end

See also[edit]


  1. ^ aš-šahādatāni (الشَّهَادَتَانِ, "the two testimonials"); also kalimatu š-šahādati (كَلِمَةُ ٱلشَّهَادَةِ, "the testimonial word")
  2. ^ The related noun Shahīd ([ʃaˈhiːd] شَهِيد), which is used in the Quran mainly in the sense "witness", has paralleled in its development the Greek martys (μάρτυς) in that it may mean both "witness" and "martyr".[12][13] Similarly, shahāda may also mean "martyrdom" although in modern Arabic the more commonly used word for "martyrdom" is another derivative of the same root, istišhād (ٱسْتِشْهَاد).[14]



  1. ^ a b The Later Mughals by William Irvine p. 130
  2. ^ "When becoming a Muslim, is it essential to include 'Aliyyun waliullah' in the Kalima?". al-islam.org.
  3. ^ Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World. Marshall Cavendish. 2011. ISBN 978-0-7614-7929-1.
  4. ^ Malise Ruthven (January 2004). Historical Atlas of Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-674-01385-8. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  5. ^ Richard C. Martín. Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World. Granite Hill Publishers. p. 723. ISBN 978-0-02-865603-8.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Frederick Mathewson Denny (2006). An Introduction to Islam. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-13-183563-4. Archived from the original on 5 August 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  7. ^ Mohammad, Noor (1985). "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction". Journal of Law and Religion. 3 (2): 381–397. doi:10.2307/1051182. JSTOR 1051182. S2CID 159793899.
  8. ^ Rippin, Andrew (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-415-34882-9.
  9. ^ Cummings, Louise (2018). Working with English Grammar. Cambridge University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-1-108-41577-4.
  10. ^ Lewis, Franklin D. (2022). "The Spirituality of Persian Islamic Poetry". In Lawrence, Bruce B.; Cornell, Vincent J. (eds.). The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Islamic Spirituality. Wiley. p. 397. ISBN 978-0-470-67420-8.
  11. ^ Wehr, Hans; J. Milton Cowan (1976). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (PDF). pp. 488–489. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 December 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  12. ^ David Cook, Martyrdom (Shahada) Oxford Bibliographies [dead link]. ISBN 9780195390155.
  13. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p. 201.
  14. ^ John Wortabet; Harvey Porter (1 September 2003). English-Arabic and Arabic-English Dictionary. Asian Educational Services. p. 238. ISBN 978-81-206-1768-1. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 8.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Lindsay 2005, p. 140–141.
  17. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 9.
  18. ^ Michael Anthony Sells (1999). Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. White Cloud Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-883991-26-5.
  19. ^ Nasr et al (2015). The Study Quran. HarperOne. p. 110. (Footnote 255)
  20. ^ Nasr et al (2015). The Study Quran. HarperOne. p. 1356. (Footnote 22)
  21. ^ Edip Yuksel, et al (2007). Quran: A Reformist Translation. Brainbrow Press. Footnote 3:18.
  22. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 10.
  23. ^ Lindsay 2005, p. 149.
  24. ^ "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  25. ^ Azim Nanji (2008). The Penguin Dictionary of Islam. Penguin UK. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-14-192086-3. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  26. ^ a b Andrew Rippin (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0-415-34888-1. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  27. ^ a b Ignác Goldziher (1981). Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton University Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0-691-10099-9. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  28. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari 8
  29. ^ Sahih Muslim 8a
  30. ^ Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2609
  31. ^ Sahih Muslim 16c
  32. ^ Jere L. Bacharach; Sherif Anwar (1 November 2012). "Early Versions of the shahāda: A Tombstone from Aswan of 71 A.H., the Dome of the Rock, and Contemporary Coinage". Der Islam. 89 (1–2): 60–69. doi:10.1515/islam-2012-0003. ISSN 1613-0928.
  33. ^ a b Ian Richard Netton (19 December 2013). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Routledge. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-135-17960-1. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  34. ^ Jonathan Holt Shannon (2006). Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-0-8195-6798-7. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  35. ^ Doris Behrens-Abouseif (1989). Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction. Brill. p. 54. ISBN 978-90-04-09626-4. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  36. ^ Oleg Grabar, ed. (1985). An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture. Brill. p. 110. ISBN 978-90-04-07611-2. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  37. ^ Eva Baer (2013). The Renaissance and the Ottoman World. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-1-4724-0991-1. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  38. ^ Anna Contadini, Claire Norton (1989). Ayyubid Metalwork With Christian Images. Brill. p. 47. ISBN 978-90-04-08962-4.
  39. ^ a b Firefly Books (2003). Firefly Guide to Flags of the World. Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-55297-813-9. Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  40. ^ "Saudi Arabia Flag and Description". World Atlas. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  41. ^ James B. Minahan (30 May 2002). Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World A-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 806. ISBN 978-0-313-07696-1.
  42. ^ McCants, William (22 September 2015). "How ISIS Got Its Flag". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.


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