Shahada: Confession of Faith



What is Shahada?

In Islam, the first of the five pillars is the shahada. Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith, expressing the two simple, fundamental beliefs that make one a Muslim:

La ilaha illa Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah.

There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.

Sincere recitation of this confession of faith before of two Muslims is the sole requirement for those who wish to join the Muslim community. It represents acceptance not only of Allah and his prophet, but of the entirety of Islam. As one of the Pillars, the shahada must be recited correctly aloud with full understanding and internal assent at least once in every Muslim's lifetime.

The shahada is also recited in the muzzein's call to prayer, included in the salat (daily ritual prayer) and incorporated in Sufi contemplative prayer. It is also recited in the moments before death. From the shahada are derived the other fundamental doctrines of Islam: angels, the Quran and the Bible, the prophets, and the Day of Judgment.


More on the five pillars:

Daily ritual prayer (salat)

The second of the five pillars is called salat, Muslim prayer. Salat is performed five times a day: at dawn (al-fajr), midday (al-zuhr), afternoon (al-'asr), sunset (al-maghrib) and evening (al-'isha). It's always directed in the direction (qibla) of the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca. A prayer mat, sajjada, is commonly used during salat. Salat may be performed individually, but it carries special merit when done with other Muslims. The focal prayer of the week is the midday prayer at the mosque on Fridays.

Paying the alms tax (zakat)

Almsgiving is a central activity in Islam. The Quran explicitly requires it (9:60) and often places it alongside prayer when discussing a Muslim's duties. ("Perform the prayer and give the alms." 2:43, 110, 277)

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm)

Sawm (also siyam), fasting, commemorates the revelation of the Quran to humanity during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. During Ramadan, all adult Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse during daylight hours. Exceptions are made for travelers, soldiers, menstruating women, and the ill, although such persons are expected to fast later when they become able.

Pilgrimmage to Mecca (hajj)

At least once in his or her lifetime, each Muslim is expected to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca, the sacred city of Islam. This holy journey is called the hajj in Arabic. While a visit to Mecca is beneficial any time of the year, it must take place during the month of Dhu al-Hijja (the last month of the Islamic year) to fulfill the requirements of the hajj.

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References
  1. "Islam." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service
    <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=69150>.
  2. "Shahadah." John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford UP, 2000), p. 531.
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