By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
26 June 2018
Let us explore the Kalima Shahada which the Muslims consider to be fundamental to the religion of Islam, and forms part of their call to prayer and is recited in the Attahiyat which forms a necessary portion of the Muslim ritual prayer. A person is also accepted into the fold of Islam only when he recites the Kalima Shahada which according to our theologians reads as follows:
Ash-Hadu An La Ilaha Ill-Allah Wa Ash-Hadu Anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhu Wa Rasooluhu
I bear witness (testify) that there is no god except Allah, and I bear witness (testify) that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger)
Was this testimony of faith instituted by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or was it instituted several years later after his death?
Who Can Be Considered A Muslim?
Submitting to the Islamic requirement of ritual prayer and giving zakat is the proof Allah demands of a person when he claims to be a Muslim, and this is the proof Allah asks the Prophet to ensure. Allah does not ask for declaration of faith or testimony of faith. In verse 9:5, Allah says that if a person “establishes regular prayers and practises regular charity, then open the way for them (accept them in the fold of Islam)”. This is the bare minimum requirement. There are several other levels that a believer can attain which are described in the Quran, but the common denominator is as described in 9:5.
(24:53) "Swear ye not; Obedience is (more) reasonable; verily, Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do."
The testimony of faith is swearing, and Allah forbids swearing and asks instead for obedience and submission to the religion of Islam and performance of deeds
(48:10) Verily those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to Allah: the Hand of Allah is over their hands: then anyone who violates his oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and any one who fulfils what he has covenanted with Allah,- Allah will soon grant him a great Reward.
(60:12) O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter,- then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful
In all the verses, only obedience to the essential tenets of Islam is demanded and not declaration of belief or the testimony of faith.
Proof that Allah does not demand verbal assertion of faith but only obedience
There came a time when Islam was in the ascendant and people were flocking to it in large numbers without belief/faith entering their hearts. They were admitted by the Prophet to the fold of Islam. Such people, when they said "Amanna” (We believe), they were chided by Allah in verse 49:14 and told that faith had not yet entered their hearts and therefore they should not say that they believe but only say “we have submitted/accepted (Aslamna)”. They are also assured that if they obey Allah and His messenger, Allah will not belittle any of their deeds for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
What is clear from this verse is that to be considered a Muslim what is required is submission to the requirements of the faith or its tenets. Even a declaration of belief is not required, let alone the testimony of faith! What is also clear is that Allah does not expect us to utter any falsehood and remain truthful always. If all that we have done is decide to submit to the religion of Islam, that is all we should claim and not say “we believe” unless we sincerely believe. Since prayer is an essential tenet of Islam required of every Muslim, the desert Arabs were required to pray to be considered a Muslim. Can the prayer then have words to the effect “I believe” let alone “I testify”? That would be asking the desert Arabs described in verse 49:14 to utter falsehood making them hypocrites and Allah does not like hypocritical lies from anyone. The prayer being a requirement common to every Muslim starting from the neo Muslim who has only submitted to the essential requirement of ritual prayer and zakat, cannot therefore contain the words “I believe” let alone “I testify”. The Tashahhud (testimony of faith) in our prayer and in the call for prayer and made essential in our theology for every person who claims to be a Muslim to recite, are therefore clearly latter-day innovations and could not have been a part of the prayer and the call for prayer in the Prophet’s times or an essential requirement of a person to recite as proof of his/her acceptance of Islam.
We find many verses in which we are commanded to:
- “believe in Allah and His messenger” (3:179, 4:136, 7:158,),
- “believe in Allah His angels” (2:285),
- “believe in Allah and the last day” (2:62, 2:126, 2:177,)
- To believe “there is no Allah but Allah” (3:18, 37:35, 47:19,)
But in no verse are we commanded to testify to the existence or Oneness of God or to Muhammad being His messenger. It is Allah who testifies, and we are asked to believe in Allah’s testimony. Allah knows what is in our hearts and does not require us to even say “I believe” let alone testify. Allah demands obedience and submission to the tenets of Islam and not cheap signalling of our faith through verbal assertions.
The Testimony of Faith from Our Theology
Now let us consider the Tashahhud (testimony of faith):
I bear witness (testify) that there is no god except Allah, and I bear witness (testify) that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger)
Who can testify in the manner of the testimony as above? Allah asks us to believe in Him unseen based on His signs or ayats but has not revealed Himself to us and has kept many things hidden from us. Allah only asks us to believe but never to testify because such a testimony would be a testimony from a person not fit to testify. Does the Quran ask the Muslims to testify? The clear answer is no.
Believing and testifying are two different things. We can believe in anything but to testify, we must have certain knowledge. Who can testify the existence of God and His Oneness? The answer is in verse 3:18
(3:18) There is no god but He: That is the witness of Allah, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Power, the Wise.
The Shuhuda or the witnesses are not simply people who say “I bear witness” without firm knowledge. They are people endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. While we are asked to believe, there is no demand to bear witness because only those endued with knowledge standing firm on justice who can bear such testimony. Standing firm on justice at all times as witness to Allah without discrimination and without showing favour or hatred is the only proof of a person fit to testify because only a person endued with knowledge and fully cognizant of Allah and His attributes, can render such justice. For more on the subject of justice and who are the Shuhada, please read:
The Prayer of the Modest Muslim
(5:83) “Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses (Shahideen).”
There is no immodest claim of being a witness (shahid) but an entreaty to Allah to count us among the witnesses. By the way, the Quran does not use the term “Shahid” or “Shaheed” for those slain in the path of Allah. The meaning of ‘Shahid” in the Quran, is exclusively those who can/will/do testify.
(3:52) When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: "Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the disciples: "We are Allah´s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims.(53) "Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness."
Jesus is only asked to bear witness that the helpers are Muslim (those who obey and help in the work of Allah. Even a prophet cannot bear witness regarding their faith but only to their deeds as Muslims. The helpers can only entreat Allah to include them among the Shahideen or the witnesses but make no claim that they are witnesses.
(4:69) All who obey Allah and the messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah,- of the prophets (who teach), the sincere (lovers of Truth), the witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!
Allah however assures us that all those who obey Allah and the messenger, are in the company of the prophets, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada and the Saliheen from which it is clear that not every person can be a prophet, or Siddiq or Shuhada but can join their company in Heaven if they obey Allah and His messengers. It is obedience and deeds alone that matter and not professions of faith or verbal testimony of faith. The proof of a Muslim is only in his deeds.
(The meaning of the terms used in verse 4:69 are described in my article: The Role Models in the Quran)
Giving testimony of faith is tantamount to claiming to be among the Shuhada and this is not the Sunnat of the good Muslims. It is however, the Sunnat of the hypocrites.
Who Is Quick To Testify And Utter Oaths? It Is The Hypocrite.
63:1 When the Hypocrites come to you, they say, "We bear witness that thou art indeed the Messenger of Allah." Yea, Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the Hypocrites are indeed liars. (63:2) They have made their oaths a screen (for their misdeeds): thus they obstruct (men) from the Path of Allah: truly evil are their deeds.
(3:86) How shall Allah Guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Messenger was true and that Clear Signs had come unto them? but Allah guides not a people unjust.
(35:42) They swore their strongest oaths by Allah that if a warner came to them, they would follow his guidance better than any (other) of the Peoples: But when a warner came to them, it has only increased their flight (from righteousness),-
(68:10) Heed not the type of despicable men,- ready with oaths
(5:53) And those who believe will say: "Are these the men who swore their strongest oaths by Allah, that they were with you?" All that they do will be in vain, and they will fall into (nothing but) ruin.
(6:109) They swear their strongest oaths by Allah, that if a (special) sign came to them, by it they would believe. Say: "Certainly (all) signs are in the power of Allah: but what will make you (Muslims) realise that (even) if (special) signs came, they will not believe."?
In the Quran, we do not find a single example of the good Muslims swearing oaths or testifying but only examples of the hypocrites doing so.
Possible Reasons for Our Theology Prescribing the Kalima Shahida as an Essential Requirement
In later years, there may have been political compulsions for formalizing the process for accepting a non-Muslim into the fold of Islam as it entailed exempting him from paying jiziya. The Quranic requirement for considering a person a Muslim is anyone who performs the ritual prayers and pays zakat. The article of faith is also Belief in Allah, the Angels, the Books of scriptures, the Prophets and the Day of Judgment without mentioning any names of the prophets. The Christians and the Jews may not have had any objection to comply with such requirements and technically qualify as Muslims without abandoning their faith. There appears to therefore have been a political compulsion to exclude the Christians and the Jews from being considered as Muslims. Asking them to testify that “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”, to the exclusion of all other prophets, was clearly not acceptable to them and since recitation of such a Kalima was mandated; it helped keeping them out of the fold of Islam. The call for prayer also appears to have been modified by including the Kalima Shahada to keep those who did not subscribe to it from responding to the call by coming to the mosques and praying with the Muslims. Going by the Quran, the call is invitation to faith, which it no longer is but has become an invitation to prayer exclusively to those who subscribe to the Kalima Shahida prescribed by our theologians. We find the following verse in the Quran in which the call is an invitation to faith and the faithful respond to it by going to the mosques and offering ritual prayer which even the Jews and Christians would have done but for the changes made to exclude them.
(3:193) "Our Lord! we have heard the call of one calling (Us) to Faith, ´Believe ye in the Lord,´ (Aminu bi Rabbikum) and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, blot out from us our iniquities, and take us in death among the company of the righteous.
The call to prayer is no longer an open call to faith and an invitation to prayer addressed to all the people, but a call for prayer only to those who have recited the Kalima Shahida.
The Kalima Shahida by making us name only Muhammad violates the Quran as the Quran instructs us not to make any distinction between the messengers. The political compulsion was however to make a pointed distinction to keep the Christians and the Jews from qualifying as Muslims without abandoning their faith.
The political compulsions combined with the bigotry of the scholars appear to have spawned the project of compilation of the Ahadith to help implement the politicised/bigoted version of Islam. It may not therefore be a coincidence, that all the compilers of the six books of Ahadith were contemporaries as all the six books were published in the latter half of the ninth century. The great stress on following the Ahadith to the neglect of the Quran was necessary to bend Islam to the political compulsions and to what the bigots subscribed to.
Unwittingly, our theologians have reduced Islam to cheap signalling of their faith through mere words and to adopting the Sunnat (practice) of the hypocrites and may therefore have spawned a nation of liars and hypocrites. They have also made it exclusive by shutting out the door to all those who do not explicitly testify to Muhammad as messenger of Allah to the exclusion of all other messengers.
While the status of Shahid is given by Allah only to a Muslim who through his deeds provides proof of his being a perfect Muslim in all facets of his life and especially in rendering perfect justice, our theologians, through the testimony of faith, make us a shahid through self-certification! Moreover, they also tell us that once we have uttered the Kalima Shahada, we transfer the responsibility of our being admitted to Heaven to the Prophet (PBUH)! We have seen in verse 3:52 that a Prophet cannot bear witness to anyone’s faith but only to his deeds. It is the deeds alone that matter and not profession of faith. So much for our Ahadith which have messed up with the religion of Islam even on the most basic and fundamental requirement of what it takes to be a Muslim!
(45:6) Such are the Signs of Allah, which We rehearse to thee in Truth; then in what exposition (Hadith) will they believe after (rejecting) Allah and His Signs?
The Muslims of all sects believe in the demonstrably false attributions made to the Prophet (PBUH) and published as his Ahadith in preference to the clear message of the Quran as the Mullah and the ruler appear to have conspired for their different reasons to distort the religion of the Quran. The damage done has been enormous and unless the present-day Muslims wake up to it and cleanse their religion of the bigotry and distortions, it will become a religion of a people on whom is the curse of Allah rather than on whom is His Grace and Mercy. May Allah have mercy on us all and guide us to the truth of His religion.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com