Kifah MustaphaI Bear Witness
Al Shahadah[1] means that a person has witnessed through knowledge and faith the truth behind life. It is the conclusion about what identifies you as a human in your notions about life and the purpose of existence. It is of two parts; one is to believe that there is no god but Allah, and the second is to believe that Mohammad (PBUH) is the messenger of Allah.
The first part:
It is a statement of submission to the fact that behind all that exists is a Lord Who created everything, and that He (SW) is One in His entity, the only One worthy of worship alone, and that He (SW) is described in names and attributes of ultimate perfection.
Shahadah is the demonstration of the articles of faith[2] as being part of someone’s belief reflecting on his character.  When someone looks around and sees everything as a sign of the One God (Allah SW), it will be a witness on such a fact settling in the heart; the declaration of Shahadah would then mean that this person acknowledged the truth and became among those recognizing and believing in it.
Shahadah is originated in one’s conscience; the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Never a born (baby) but is born on (Fitra.)” [3]  Everyone can testify to the feeling of right or wrong felt within when encountering choices in life. This is part of our creation; Allah (SW) said: {and (by) the soul and Him who fashioned it and informed it with (consciousness of) its wickedness and its righteousness} 91:7/8. Shahadah being the ultimate truth is a natural feeling that God has made part of our creation; Allah (SW) said: {now, behold! Your Lord took from the Children of Adam- from their loins- (all the souls that would become) their posterity. And He made them bear witness to their own souls- (saying to them :) Am I not your Lord? They said: Oh yes, indeed} 71:172.
Shahadah is a statement of rejection of all false deities that are worshipped other than Allah (SW). No one can settle on the truth that God is God unless he sees there is no other god at all. In other words, you have to reject all the false deities as part of accepting faith in God the One. That is why Allah (SW), just after the greatest verse in the Quran (Ayah Al Kursi), said: {there shall be no compulsion in religion! For truly rectitude has been made clearly distinct from perversity. Thus whoever disbelieves in false deities and believes in God (alone) has truly grasped the firmest handhold, which is forever unbreakable} 2:256.
Shahadah means that all acts of worship are to be to God alone. It is not enough to believe that there is God! Pagans at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) did accept that fact but they fell into (shirk) associating other deities with God through their acts of worship; Allah (SW) made it clear that all acts of worship are for Him alone and that the claim of praying to idols or individuals, even if only to reach out to God, is an act of (Kufr) disbelief; Allah (SW) said: {For, most surely, it is God (alone) that the (true) religion of purity belongs. For those who have taken patrons apart from Him (say): We do not worship them for (any) other (reason) than (that through their intercession) they draw us nearer to God in (spiritual) station. Indeed, God will judge between them (all) about that which they dispute. Indeed, God does not guide one who is a liar (and) a relentless unbeliever} 39:3.
Associating other deities in worship with Allah (shirk) include many other forms like: making supplications to someone else other than God; making an oath by someone other than Allah; believing that someone controls your life other than Allah; accepting the idea of God being more than one entity; and many other different forms.
Shahadah should be based on the true knowledge that transforms into a belief in the heart and mind, not just seen as a piece of information! Many people who study Islam are not Muslims, and they learn about this truth yet it is just information for them, not a belief that shapes their lives. Allah (SW) used the term (to witness) in a different verse relating it to the true knowledge that represents faith and belief when He (SW) said: {so all those that they call upon apart from Him hold no (power of) intercession. Excepted are those (of God’s servants, whom He permits to intercede, and) who bear witness to the truth- and they know well (from Him for whom it may be made)} 43:86. Those who say words that they do not know what it really means or did not accept the truth it brought with it will not benefit from such statements.
Shahadah should reach a level of knowledge that is of certainty with no place of doubt. Abu Hurayrah (RAA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) told him: “Whoever you meet behind this wall who bear witness that there is no god but Allah with certainty in his heart, give him the glad tiding (that he is promised) Heaven.”[4] Allah (SW) conditioned certainty to faith because what people are reminded of is the ultimate truth that should leave no trace of doubts whatsoever! Allah (SW) said: {as for the (constant) believers, they are those who believe in God and His messenger, and who do not have any doubt (about their faith), and who strive with their wealth and their persons in the path of God} 49:15.
Shahadah should be a sincere and honest statement that separates believers from hypocrites. When a person asked about another (person) by the name of Malek Ibn Al Dakhshen, a third said: “That is a hypocrite who does not love Allah and his Prophet! The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Don’t you (hear him) say that he says: there is no god but Allah with a sincere intention for the sake of Allah!” They said: “Yes.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “No one meets Allah at the Day of Judgment with this but Allah will prohibit fire on him.”[5] From this Hadith we can see that the condition needed for the statement of truth (Shahadah) that will enable people to enter Heaven is sincerity. Allah (SW) also spoke about those who embraced Islam publically while their hearts kept rejecting it, and for that they were true hypocrites. Allah (SW) said: {now, there are (also) among humankind those who say: We believe in God and in the (coming Judgment of the) Last Day! But they do not truly believe. They seek to deceive God and those who believe. Yet they deceive non but themselves, though they do not perceive (it)} 2:8/9.
The second part:
Shahadah is a statement of believe in the mercy of God that He (SW) did not leave humanity without guidance. He (SW) sent messengers to teach people their purpose in life[6] and that the last one was messenger Mohammad (PBUH.)
Mohammad (PBUH) had to be the last messenger for his message is the final one that humanity is in no need for any new revelation. Allah (SW) said: {this day: I have perfected for you your religion! And I have completed My grace upon you! And I am well-pleased for you with Islam- (The Peace)-as your religion} 5:4. The revelation be it Quran or Sunnah introduced humanity to everything needed to live honorably in this life and the Hereafter.
The name Mohammad (PBUH) is referred to a human being with no divine entity whatsoever.  He was a man well known for being honest and trustworthy who grew up in Mecca from the tribe of Hashem, married to Khadijah and engaged in some business before receiving revelation at the age of forty.  Allah (SW) spoke on his behalf identifying the Prophet (PBUH): {Say to all people, O Prophet): Indeed, I am only a human being like you. It is revealed to me that, indeed, your God is (only) One God} 18:110.
Shahadah means to recognize Mohammad’s message (PBUH) and that he is the chosen one as the final messenger. When people questioned why it was Mohammad (PBUH) to receive revelation, Allah (SW) answered back by saying: {(yet it is ) God (who) knows best where to place His message} 6:124. Since Allah (SW) is the creator then He can choose whomever He wishes. The Prophet (PBUH) was the true respondent to the orders of Allah, and his main mission in life was to deliver the message sent to him and he (PBUH) did that and fulfilled the responsibility given to him; Allah (SW) said: {O Messenger! Proclaim all that has been sent down to you from Your Lord. For if you do not, then you will not have conveyed His message} 5:67. With the Quran being the miracle that came with him (PBUH,) it was indeed a clear indication of the choice and the proof that Muhammad (PBUH) was His last messenger.
Shahadah means to believe that Mohammad (PBUH) came speaking the truth and that all his words and actions were immune from any defect. The term (Ismah) or immunity was part of his character, and Muslims believe that all his words and actions were secure; Allah (SW) said: {nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed} 53:2/3. That is why Shahadah means to follow Mohammad (PBUH) in all he did for he (PBUH) is the one representing the path of truth from Allah (SW) and demonstrating it through his lifestyle. If the Quran was the word of God that represented the guidance in text, Mohammad (PBUH) was the guidance through his actions implementing the Quran in reality. Allah (SW) said: {yet, very truly, in the Messenger of God there is an excellent model for you- for whoever has hope in God and (for salvation on) the last day and, (therefore), remembers God much} 33:21.  Allah (SW) made clear that the love of Allah is conditioned by following the path of Muhammad (PBUH); Allah (SW) said: {(O Muhammad,) say (to the believers): If you love God, then follow me. God will love you and forgive you your sins} 3:31. Allah (SW) also reminded us about the liability of being astray from his path (PBUH); Allah (SW) said: {then let those who go against His command (or that of His messenger) beware! For a trial may well afflict them (in this world). Or a most painful torment may afflict them (in the Hereafter)} 24:63.
Shahadah, with its two parts, represents the declaration of Islam by the individual. It is the verbal statement that brings a person into the world of submission to Allah (SW) and makes him a true follower of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is not just a phrase to be uttered, but a commitment of all that comes with it. People at the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) knew this fact and no one committed to Islam by saying such a phrase until he knew what it meant and what it required. Unfortunately many Muslims now want to claim the faith but not act on what it means! I hope that Muslims can see the beauty of the truth they carry in their hearts and make sure it echoes on all that they do, say or act upon.
Sh. Kifah Mustapha
[1] It is when a Muslim believes and declares that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad (PBUH) is His messenger.
[2] It is to believe in God, Angels, Books, Messengers, Day of Judgment and Divine pre-destiny.
[3] Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari
[4] Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim
[5] Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari
[6] Allah (SW) said: {and (know that) I have not created (either) jinn or human beings (for any other end) but to (know and) worship (Me) alone} 51:56.