Shahada (1): there is no god or deity except Allah

One side of the Holy Kaba with black cloth and gold banners

Executive Summary

 

This is a translation of a chapter from Part 1 in Volume 1 of Kitāb al-Tawḥeed by Professor Muḥammad bin Abdallah al-Massari

It unpicks the precise meaning behind the first portion of the testimony of faith, al-Shahāda, that there is no god or deity except Allah.  Examining why the testimony of faith begins with a negation (there is no god/deity) before an affirmation (except Allah), is spelt out, together with attributes of divinity that are implied.


The meaning of – there is no god except Allah

The meaning of La ilaha illallah – ‘there is no god except Allah’ is that there is nothing whatsoever that has the attributes of alUluhiyah (divinity).  It relates to Him, Allah, having the ability by His divine-self for action; acting independently in an absolute way, without need or recourse to others.  In particular, this can be said of acts such as the initiation of creation from nothing, with its resultant follow-on of fashioning, imaging, configuring, managing, not least to say compelling this into existence through divine will.  He alone has the prerogative of command, in origin to command and prohibit.  Such action is by way of complete freedom, without any condition.  There is nothing by necessity or by the necessity of reason compelling Him to act, for in truth He is the only deity.  He is the self-subsistent, or stated alternatively, the necessarily existent; acting by His express will and self, rich without any dependence.  His knowledge is complete, all-encompassing; whatever He desires to be, that is what will be.  Whatever He doesn’t wish to be, will not therefore come to pass, for there is nothing that is characterised by such qualities except Allah.  Even if anyone attributes any of these qualities to other than Allah, it will be a manifest lie, slander, false imagination, or an illusion that has nothing to do with the actual reality.  Allah the Exalted and Majestic states:

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ الْبَاطِلُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ

This is because Allah is the truth, and what they invoke besides Him is false, He is the Most Hight, the most Great.[1]

فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ

So, bear in mind that there is no god but Allah, and ask forgiveness for your sins and for the sins of believing men and women. Allah knows whenever any of you move, and whenever any of you stay still.[2]

Moreover, the meaning behind ‘there is no god except Allah’ is illustrated by His words where He states:

أَلاَ لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالأَمْرُ تَبَارَكَ اللّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ

All creation and command belong to Him. Exalted be Allah, Lord of all the worlds![3]

There is also the statement which Allah informs us that in relation to the Prophet Yusuf, Joseph peace be upon him, conveying the meaning behind ‘there is no god except Allah’ in the following verse:

مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلاَّ أَسْمَاء سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَآؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلّهِ أَمَرَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُواْ إِلاَّ إِيَّاهُ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ

All those you worship instead of Him are mere names you and your forefathers have invented, names for which Allah has sent down no sanction. Authority belongs to Allah alone, and He orders you to worship none but Him: this is the true faith, though most people do not realise it.[1]

Pillars underpinning al-Shahāda – the testimony of faith

Firstly, this entails to completely reject the notion that any particle, substance, be that referred to as nature or the universe, holds any of the characteristics of divinity, except Allah the Exalted.  Specifically relating to the acts of creation, configuring, fashioning; apportioning the correct measure, benefit, harm and the like.  Coupled together with the complete free will and ability of choice in determining these matters, as well as the knowledge of its proportionality.  The proof of all these attributes, in totality, to the utmost beauty and perfection belongs to Allah the Exalted.  At the apex of this together with al-Ḥākimiyyah: the ultimate, final supreme sovereignty.  In other words, only He – the Exalted and Magnificent, has prerogative of command, the ultimate choice in determining what is to be commanded or prohibited.  He alone retains this by his very self or essence, with no partner whatsoever.

Secondly, is the absolute, complete rejection and denial that anything from divinity can be given to other than Allah.  That rejection is for all perceived gods/deities besides Allah, or for that matter, every Rabb – lord, beside Allah.  There must be complete disbelief in all that, because that disbelief here also encompasses disavowal and rejection.  Allah the Exalted and Majestic has expressly stated:

لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىَ لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in Allah has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. Allah is all hearing and all knowing.[2]

And he has said of Ibrāhim, Abraham peace be upon him while praising him specifically that:

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ إِنَّنِي بَرَاء مِّمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ ، إِلَّا الَّذِي فَطَرَنِي فَإِنَّهُ سَيَهْدِينِ

Abraham said to his father and his people, ‘I renounce what you worship.  I worship only Him who created me, and it is He who will guide me.[3]

There is also what has been authentically reported from the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him, where he said:

من قال لا إله إلاّ الله، وكفر بما يُعبد من دون الله، حَرُمَ ماله وَدمُهُ، وحِسابه على الله عزّ وجلّ

Whoever said that there is no god except Allah, and he disbelieves in whatever is worshipped besides Allah, his property and blood become inviolable, and it is for Allah the Mighty and Sublime to call him to account.[4]

Consequently, al-Shahāda – the testimony of faith, has two aspects: an affirmation that all qualities and characteristics which pertain to divinity belong solely to Allah, the Almighty.  The negation is to categorically deny that any of these divine qualities and characteristics reside anywhere else.  There is no ‘other being’ in existence other than Allah to whom these apply.  Furthermore, it is to disbelieve in every ṭawāgheet – in every false deity, evil, and exorbitant tyranny.  Without this specific affirmation and rejection, there is no Islam and no salvation in the hereafter.

Endnotes

[1] Qur’ān 12: 40

[2] Qur’ān 2: 256.  Abdel Haleem’s translation renders the term ‘Ṭāghut’ here as being ‘false gods.’

[3] Qur’ān 43: 26/27

[4] As per the ḥadith in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, with the isnād: And Suwayd ibn Sa’eed and Ibn Abi Umar narrated to us, they said Marwān, meaning al-Fazāri narrated to us from Abu Malik from his father, he said I heard the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him say.

You may also like...