The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith

by Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo


On the following article Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo looked closer at The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith. This article appeared in two parts in AL-BASHEER magazine (Vol.7, No.5 January-February, 1994).

THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART I
[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

    Every Muslim knows that the key to Paradise is the statment, "There
is none worthy of worship except Allah."  Yet too many Muslims simply
rely upon this statment and believe that as long as they have made this
statment, nothing will harm them. They think will be granted Paradise
because of this mere verbal statment of the Shahadah.
    There is no question that the mere saying of," I bear witness that
there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that
Muhammad is His servant and messenger," is not sufficient for salvation.
In fact, the hypocrites used to make this statment quite often yet Allah
describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest abyss
of the Hell-fire.

    As many scholars state, though, this statment or testimony is the key
Paradise. The famous Follower Wahb ibn Munabbih was once asked, " Isn't
the statment of la ilaha illa-llah 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."  That is, it is saying must meet certain
conditions. These conditions are what will differentiate the person who
will benefit from his making of that statment from the one who will not
benefit from that statment, no matter how many times a day he may have made
that statments.

    Before discussing the conditions of the Shahadah, there is one more
point that I feel compelled to make. That is, some people have a tendency
to take one hadith or one verse and then based on that one text, they will
make some conclusion that, for example, whoever simply says," There is no
God except Allah," will enter Paradise. But, actually, we should all realize
that all of the Quran and Hadith complement each other and explain one
another. To find the correct position on any one question, one must bring
together all of the related verses and hadith and see what the true Islamic
postion is of that question. The same is true for the conditions of the

    If we study the verses of the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet (peace
be upon him), we will find that the conditions of the shahadah are seven,
eight or nine in number depending on how we look at them. It is important
that all of us make sure that we are meeting these conditions in our own
lives and in our own testimony of faith. We must do our best to satisfy
these conditions before it is too late and our testimony will be no avail
whatsoever. It is not simply  for the sake of teaching these conditions.
Indeed, there is no benefit to that. But it is, instead, for all of us to
look to ourselves and to make sure that we are actually meeting these
conditions so that, by Allah's mercy, the doors to Paradise will be open
for us by our key of la ilaha illa-llah.


THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART II
[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

    The FIRST of these condition is KNOWLEDGE. That is , one must have the
basic and general knowledge of what is meant by the shahadah. One must
understand what tha shahadah is affirming and what the shahadah is denying.
Allah says in the Quran, "So know that there is no God save Allah, and ask
forgiveness for your sin" (Muhammad 19). Similarly, the Prophet (peace be
upon him) said, "Whoever dies knowing that there is no one worthy of worship
except Allah shall enter Paradise." (Recorded by Muslim.)
    In fact, the shahadah itself is a 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
about is absolutely unacceptable. Allah says in the Quran," Save him who
bears witness unto the truth knowingly" (al-Zukhruf 86).
    Now this condition probably sounds obvious. If someone said to you,
"There is no God except Allah," and then said that what he meant by Allah
was Jesus, you would immediately tell him that this shahadah is nonsense. Yet
can you imagine that there is a Muslim country in the world that until
recently used to have a yearly week-long celebration to "the Gods of the
Sea"! All along they call themselves Muslims and they make shahadah numerous
times a day. This clearly shows that they have no idea what the meaning of
their shahadah is. Do you think that this kind of shahadah will open the
doors to Paradise for them?
    Today, there are many Muslims who wonder why we should not accept
secularism. They think that there is nothing wrong with secularism! Many of
these Muslims pray five times a day and utter the shahadah repeatedly. Yet
they see nothing wrong with accepting a Lawgiver other than Allah? What kind
of shahadah are these people making.

    all of us do our best to laern at least the basics of Islamic beliefs.
The basics of what shahadah means. In this way, Allah willing, we will be
making the correct shahadah. We will be witnessing to the truth as we are
supposed to be witnesses to it.

    The SECOND condition of the shahadah is CERTAINTY (or al-yaqeen). This
is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty. In Islam, in fact, any kind of
doubt is equivalent to Kufr or disbelief. We must, in our hearts, be
absolutely certain of the truth of the shahadah. Our hearts must not be
wavering in any way when we testify to the truth of, "There is none worthy
of worship except Allah."
    Allah describes the believers in the Quran as those who have belief in
Allah and then their heart waver not. Allah says, "the (true) believers are
those only 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" (al-Hujurat 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 hat statement, except that he will enter Paradise." (Recorded
by Muslim.)
    Indeed, Allah describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are
wavering. For example, Allah says, "They alone seek leave of thee (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" (al-Tauba 45).
    Many scholars have stated that the diseases of the heart, or the doubt
and suspicions that one allows into one's heart, are more dangerous for a
person' faith than lusts and desires. This is because lusts and desires may
be satisfied at some time yet the person still knows them to be wrong and he
may control himself and repent and give up that evil deed. On the other hand,
the doubts and suspicions may linger in the heart, with no cure, until the
person finally leaves Islam entirely or continues to practice Islam while,
in fact, in his heart he does not have the true faith.
    The greatest cure for these doubts is seeking knowledge. It is theough
sound knowledge of the Quran and the sunnah that most of these doubts will
be removed. By study and understanding, one will attain certainty. And as
one studies and learns more, his certainty will be made firmer and firmer.
    I will give you just one example on this point. This is related to all
of the doubts, suspicions and misconceptions that are cirulating about the
authenticity of the hadith literature. For example, some Muslims even claim
that hadith were not recorded until at least 200 years after the death of
the Prophet (peace be upon him). Indeed, there are Muslims who seem to have
a great deal of doubt about hadith and very quick to reject hadith on that
basis. But, in fact, if one actually takes the time to study the history
and presevation of hadith, one will immediately recognize that all those
claims and charges against the hadith are not based on anything scientific
whatsoever. They are nothing but false claim that come from Satan and which
Muslims with poor understanding and knowledge have allowed to creep into
their hearts.
    Let me make one last point about this condition of certainty. As I
alluded to earlier, doubts and misconceptions are very dangerous for a
person's faith. Doubt and wavering are tantamount to apostasy in Islam,
as I mentioned earlier. Hence, every Muslim should do best to safeguard
himself from such doubts and remain away from the sources of doubts-
especially if they are not well grounded in the Islamic sciences and do
not have the the knowledge to refute such doubts and misconceptions. Hence
if a person has an associte or friend, even if he be a Muslim friend, who
is always making him doubt Allah or the religion, then he should remain
away from that person in order to safeguard his own religion. Many Muslims
nowadays study courses on Islam tought by Orientalists and because of their
weak backgroungs in Islamic studies, they are influenced by the nonsense
that some of these Orientalists are teaching in the name of "science".
Similarly, many brothers and sisters nowadays are spending hoursat a time
with the computer news groups and bulletin boards. A lot of nonsense and
falsehood are posted on those news groups and bulletin boards. Again, the
one who is not very knowldgeable of his religion may easily be influenced
and affected by the misconceptions and false arguments that he reads in
those bulletin boards. He should remain away from those things and get a
deeper knowledge of Islam through the authentic sources of the religion.
    Again, the greatest counterforce that can defeat doubts and
misconceptions, after the bounty and guidance of Allah, is sound knowledge
and understanding of the religion. When a person has that, he will not be
affected by the weak arguments put out by the enemies of Islam and he will
be, Allah willing, from among those described in the Quran, " It is only
those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah" (Fatir 28)


THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART III
[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

     The THIRD condition of the shahadah is ACCEPTANCE (or al-qabool).
I a person has the knowledge of and certainty in the shahdah, this must
followed by acceptance, with the tounge and heart, of whatever that
shahadah implies. Whoever refuses to accept the shahadah and its
implications, even if he knows that it is true and certain about its truth,
than he is a disbeliever. This refusal to accept is somtimes due to pride,
envy or other reasons. In any case, the shahadah is not a true shahadah
without its unconditional acceptance.
     The scholars all talk about this condition as ageneral condition in
the way that I have just stated. However, there is also a more detailed
aspect that we must all be aware of. The believer accepts whatever the
implications of the shahadah are. This also means that he 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 lifeof the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they
will be consigned to the most grievous doom" (al-Baqara 85).
     This is one aspect that the Muslims must be aware of. Although it is
not the same as the complete refusal to accept the truth, by rejecting part
of the truth that has come from Allah, one also negates his testimony of
     Unfortunately, many Muslims are doing this nowadays in various ways.
Although not all of these form may necessarily be considered apostasy, they
are still very dangerous. For example, if they do not like what is stated in
a verse in the Quran, they simply reinterpret the verse according to their
liking. If they do not like what is stated  in a hadith, they simply state
that the hadith must not be authentic although they are not scholars in that
area. This kind of behavior is the antithesis of the behavior of the true
Muslims. Whatever comes from Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), the
true Muslim believe in as the truth. This goes hand in hand with their
testimony of faith.

     The FOURTH conditionof shahadah is SUBMISSION and COMPLIANCE (or
al-inqiyad). This implies the actual physical enactment with our deeds of
our shahadah. In fact, this is one of the main meaning of the word Islam
itself, "the submission to the will and commands of Allah." This is what
Allah commands in the Quran, "Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unot
Him" (al-Zumar 54).
     Allah has praised those who submit to His command by their actions.
Allah says, "Who is better in religion than he who surrenders his purpose
to Allah while doing good" (al-Nisa 125).
     Actually, Allah has clearly 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 which you decide, and submit with full submission" (al-Nisa 65)
     Unfortunately, there are many claim that there is no relationship
between faith and deeds. You can even hear one Muslim saying about another,
"That is the best Muslim I have ever met." yet the other person performs
scarcely any of the deeds of Islam whatsoever. This incorrect understanding
of faith has spread throughout the Muslim world.
     Indeed, our shahadah or testimony of faith must be implemented or
realized in our hearts, tounges and actions. In our hearts, we must have love
for Allah, fear Allah and hope in Him. With our tongues we must testify to
the shahadah. And with our actions, we must implement waht the testimony of
faith requires from us. Anyone who claim to be a Muslim and yet does no
deeds, either does not understand Islam whatsoever or is bearing testimony
against himself that his testimony of faith is not a true and correct
testimony of faith.
     This does not mean that the true believer never commits a 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 soudness of their testimony or
shahadah .But, do not forget, they are still sinners.
     And what is the minimum of submission that is required from a person
beyond which there can be no claim to faith?  For those scholars who say that
the abandonment of prayers is infidelity, it is the five daily prayers.
Whoever does not perform, at least, the five daily prayers has gone beyond
the limit that is acceptable for lack of deeds. Allah knows best.

     The FIFTH condition is TRUTHFULNESS, as opposed to hypocrisy and
dishonesty. This means that when we say the shahadah, we are saying it
honestly. We actually mean it. We are not lying when it comes to our
testimony of faith.
     The Prophet (peace be upon his) said, "No one bears testimony to there
being no one worth of worship save Allah, sincerely from his heart, except
that Allah makes the Hell-fire forbidden for him." (Recorded by al-Bukhari
and Muslim.)
     We are all familiar with those who say the testimony of faith yet they
are not saying it honestly. They do not believe in it but they are simply
saying it in order to protect themselves or to get some gain from doing so.
These are the hypocrites. Allah has described them in the opening of the
Quran with the following words, "And of mankind are some who say, 'We
believe in Allah and the Last Day,' when they believe not. They think to
beguile Allah and those who believ, and they beguile none save themselves,
but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increases
their disease. A painful doom is their because they lie" (al-baqara 8-10).
     Obviously, the shahadah of thse who become Muslims simply to benefit
from being Musim and not because they believe in Islam will be rejected
by Allah in the Hereafter. They will face a painful punishment due to
their lying.

     The SIXTH condition is SINCERITY (or ikhlas). That is, when we make
the sahahadah, we must do so solely for the sak of Allah. We must not do
it for any other reason. And we nust not do it for anyone else's sake. In
this manner, the meaning of sincerity is opposite of Skirk or ascribing
partners with Allah. We became and remainMuslims solely for Allah's sake.
Allah says in the Quran, "Worship Allah, making religion pure for him"
(al-Zumar 2). And Allah also says, "And they are ordained not else than
to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him, as men by nature upright
and to establish worship and to pay the poor-due. That is true religion"
(al-Bayyinah 5).  And the Prophet (peace be upon him) added, "Allah has
forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, 'There is no one worthy of
worship except Allah,' and say so desiring the face [and pleasure] of
Allah." (Recorded by Muslim).
     This is something that we should think about. But especially those
of us who grew up in Muslim families and were born Muslim. We should make
it very claer to ourselves that we are Muslims only for the sake of Allah.
We are not Muslims for the sake of our parents, friends, family or
community. It must be claer in our minds that we are Muslims for the sake
of Allah first, last and only.
     One of the signs that we are Muslims for the sake of Allah is that we
do whatever Allah asks of us, regardless of what anybody else desires or
wants from us. That is, in the same way that we are Muslims solely for the
sake of Allah, all of our acctions are done for the sake of Allah.
     However, sometimes one begins to wonder whether this condition is met
by some people. Some people from the Muslim world practice Islam to the
extent that it is pleasing to their families. If there is anything in
Islam that their families do not like- although their families are Muslim
and therefore they actually should like all of Islam- then they do not
practice that aspect of Islam. One common example of that nature is mixing
between men and women. Sometimes a brother, here in the U.S., will not
mix with women and his wife will remain separate from the men. Yet, when
they return to their homes, because this is not pleasing to their families
who want to mix between men and women, they easily, simply and happily
compromise their religion for the sake of their parents. These people
must sincerely ask themselves why they are Muslims. Are they Muslims for
the sake of their parents and therefore whatever thei parents like they
will do and whatever their parents do not like they won't do? Or are they
Muslims for the sake of Allah and therefore whatever Allah dislike they
will not do and whatever Allah is pleased with they do?


THE CONDITIONS OF La ilaha illa-llah..........PART IV
[The Prerequisites of the Declaration of Faith]

Br. Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo wrote:

     The SEVENTH condition is LOVE. That is, the believer loves this
shahadah, he loves in accordance with the shahadah, he loves tha
implications and requirements of the shahadah and he loves those who act
and strive for the sake of this shahadah. This is a necessary condition of
the shahadah. If a person makes the shahadah but does not love the shahadah
and what it stands for, then, in fact, his faith is not complete. It is not
the faith of a true believer. And if he loves something more that this
shahadah or if he loves something more than Allah, then he has negated his
shahadah. The true believer, the one meeting the conditions of the shahadah
puts no one whatsoever 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" (al-Baqara 165).  And
elsewhere Allah says' "Say: If your fathers, or your sons, or your brethren,
or your wives, or your tribe, or the wealth you have acquired, or 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"
(al-Tauba 24). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever has three
characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith. [The first of these] is
that he loves Allah and His Messenger more than he loves anyone else..."
(Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.).
     This is one of the most important aspects of Islam yet, for some reason,
it is missing from the lives of many Muslims. They act in Islam as if Islam
were a chore instead of doing things out of the love of Allah. When Allah
orders us to do something, like bear witness to the faith, we should realize
that that thing is plaesing to Allah and, therefore, out of our love for
Allah, we should be very pleased to do the acts that are pleasing to Allah.
But, as I said, this feeling is missing from many, many Muslims today.

     The EIGHT condition of the shahadah is that the person who makes the
shahadah must DENY EVERY OTHER OBJECT OF WORSHIP. Although that is claer in
the words of the testimony of faith, it does not seem clear to everyone who
makes that testimony. Therefore, I am mentioning it explicity here.
     In Surah al-Baqara, Allah clearly reminds us of this important aspect
of the shahadah, the shahadah is not merely an affirmation but it is both
and 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" (al-Baqara 256).  Perhaps the Prophet (peace be upon him) made this
point even clearer when he said,  "Whoever says there is no one worthy of
worship except Allah and denies whatever is worshipped besides Allah, then
his wealth and blood are protected and his accounting will be with Allah."
(Recrded by Muslim.)
     Although this condition sholud be obious to everyone who says the words
of shahadah, you can still find Muslims who say the shahadah and then make
acts of worship for beings or things other than Allah. You will find them
going to the graveyards and worshipping those in the graves. They will
perform acts of worship, not for the sake of Allah, but for the sake of the
dead "saints" in the grave. What kind of shahadah have these people made? Do
you realy think that their shahadah will mean anything on the Day of Judgment
as long as they believe that acts of worship may be done for other
than Allah?

     The NINTH condition of the shahadah is that the Muslim ADHERS to the
shahadah until he dies. This is must if the shahadah is to mean anything
for you in the Hereafter. You ca not rest on your laurels of what you amy
have done in the past. No, indeed, the shahadah must be your banner until
your death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, " A man spends a long time
doing the deeds of the people of Paradise and then he ends his deeds with
the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire. And a man spends a long time doing
the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire and then he ends his deeds with
the deeds of the people of Paradise." (Recorded by Muslims) In another
hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,  "By the One whom there is no
other God, one of you does the actions of Paradise until there is just a
handspan between him and Paradise and then the book [preordainment] overtakes
him and he does tha actions of the people of Hell and he enters into it"
(Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
     And 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]" (ali-Imran 102).

     Dear brothers and sisters, these are the conditions of the shahadah.
These are the aspects of the shahadah that each and every one of us should
look to in ourselves and ask ourselves, "Is my shahadah meeting those
requirements?  Am I saying it sincerely, honestly and out of love for Allah?
Am I saying it based on what it really means?  Am I denying all other false
objects of worship?..."

     These questions we should ask ourselve now before we meet Allah. Allah
willing, we shall ask ourselves these questions now and we shall find that
we have all the right answers for them. Or, if we find we have some
deficiency, we shall work to remove that deficiency. Such that, by Allah's
mercy, in the Hereafter, our shahadah will be the key to Paradise for us and
the gates of Paradise will swing wide open for us and we will be able to live
forever in the bounties of Paradise, with Allah being pleased with us.

     Again, it is not simply a matter of knowing these conditions. Indeed,one
can meet many Muslims who have these conditions memorized, yet when one looks
to their deeds and behavior, one can see that these conditions have no effect
on them. This means, in fact, no matter how well he konws and can rattle off
these conditions, he, in fact, is not fulfilling tham. In the Hereafter,
his knowledge of these conditions will be of no avail to him. Indeed, his
knowledge will be a proof against hin as he clearly knows what the conditions
are that he mut satisfy yet he has shown that he is not willing to satisfy
them in his life.