Shahada

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Allah
Allāh - (الله)

Islamic God

Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar with inscriptions of the Islamic declaration of faith, the declaration reads: "There is none worthy of worship but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God."

The shahada (Arabic: الشهادةaš-šahādah About this sound audio) (from the verb شهد šahida, "he witnessed"), means "to know and believe without suspicion, as if witnessed, testification"; it is the name of the Islamic creed. The shahada is the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet. The declaration in its shortest form reads:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله (lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh, Muḥammad rasūlu l-Lāh) (in Arabic)
There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. (in English)

In Shia Islam, the creed is expanded with the addition of a phrase concerning Ali at the end:

وعليٌ وليُّ الله (wa ʿAliyyun waliyyu l-Lāh) ["and Ali is the wali (friend; viceregent) of God"].[1]

Contents

Overview

The word shihādah (شِهادة) is a noun stemming from the verb shahadā (شَهَدَ) , meaning "he observed, witnessed, or testified"; when used in legal terms, shihādah is a testimony to the occurrence of events, such as debt, adultery, or divorce.[2] The shihādah can also be expressed in the dual form shihādatān (شِهادَتانْ, lit. "two testimonials"), which refers to the dual act of observing or seeing and then the declaration of the observation.The person giving the testimony is called a shāhid (شاهِد), with the stress on the first syllable. The two acts in Islam are observing or perceiving that there is no god but God and testifying or witnessing that Muhammad is the messenger of God. In a third meaning, shihādah or more commonly istishhād (إسْتِشْهادْ), means "martyrdom", the shahīd (شَهيد) pronounced with stress on the last syllable ("martyr") demonstrating the ultimate expression of faith.[3] Shahīd can also be used in a non Moslem religious context. Long before the advent of Islam, Christian Arabs of the Middle East used the word shahīd referencing to someone that was wrongly killed or someone that died for his family, his Christian faith or his country. The two words shāhid (شاهِد, "witness") and shahīd (شَهيد, "martyr") are pre-Islamic. Both are paradigms of the root verb (شَهَدَ, shahadā, "he observed").

A single honest recitation of the shihādah in Arabic is all that is required for a person to become a Muslim. This declaration, or statement of faith, is called the kalimā (كَلِمة, lit. "word"). Recitation of the shihādah, the "oath" or "testimony", is the most important article of faith for Muslims. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam do so by a public recitation of this creed.[4] Sunni Muslims count it as the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, while the Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a connect it to their respective lists of pillars of the faith.[5] The complete shihādah cannot be found in the Quran, but comes from hadiths.[6]

Recitation

A single honest recitation of the shahadah in Arabic is all that is required for a person to convert to Islam according to most traditional schools (madh'hab). In usage, the two occurrences of ašhadu ʾanna or similar (Arabic: اشهد أن‎, "I testify that" or "I bear witness that...") are very often omitted. The recitation of the shahadah is usually done with an Imaam and others to witness.

History

A mancus / gold dinar of the king Offa of Mercia, copied from the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774); probably unintentionally, it still includes the Arabic text Muhammad is the Apostle of God.
Qiblah of Imam Mustansir in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun of Cairo showing the Shi'i Kalima

Another of the earliest surviving translations of the shahadah into a foreign language is in Greek, from the reign of al-Walid I (86–96 AH, 705–715 CE): Ούκ Έστι[ν θεός εἰ μὴ ὁ θεὸς μόνος·] Μααμὲ[τ ἀπόστολος θεοῦ] (Ouk esti[n theos ei mē ho theos monos;] Maame[t apostolos theou]).[7] "There is no god except for the God alone; Muhammad is the Apostle of God."; i.e., "Allah", the Arabic word for "the God", is translated as "ὁ Θεός" and Muhammad is transliterated as "Μωάμεθ".

Photo of the Kalima at Bab al-Futuh/Bab al-Nasr Fatimid Cairo with phrase ʿAliyyun waliyyu l-Lāh.

The Kalimah in its complete Shi'i form also exists at the gate Bab al-Futuh built by the Fatimid minister Al-Afdal Shahanshah (952-975 A.D.), northern wall of Fatimid Cairo.

Conditions

Muslims believe that the shahadah is without value unless it is earnest. Islamic scholars have therefore developed, based on the data of the Quran and hadith, essential criteria for an expression of the shahadah to be earnest. These criteria are generally divided into seven to nine individual criteria; the varying numbers and orderings are not due to disagreements about what the criteria actually are, but rather different ways of dividing them.[8]

One such list of seven critical conditions of the shahadah, without which it is considered to be meaningless, are as follows:[citation needed].

The second part of the Shahada carries several conditions as well:

Flags

National flag

The flag of Saudi Arabia, displaying the shahadah.
The flag of Afghanistan also contains the shahadah, above the mosque.
The flag of Somaliland, featuring the shahadah

The flags of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are the only flags of internationally recognized sovereign states which display the shahada.

The design from the Saudi flag has been used in the flag of the unrecognized state of Somaliland (1996).

The 2004 draft constitution of Afghanistan proposed a flag with the shahada in white script centered on a red background.

An analysis of the calligraphy used in the flags of Saudi Arabia and Hamas is presented below:

It can be seen in the second flag that the name of God (الله) is written in a higher position. The name for God is written twice in each flag, but the first ʾalif (ا) is written after the second lām (ل) only once in the first instance of Allah in the flag of Hamas (pink), and only once in the second appearance in the flag of Saudi Arabia (green). This overwriting is also visible for the lam of rasul(u) (light blue), but only in the Saudi Arabian flag. The ligature lām + ʾalif (لا) is always written the same way in the Saudi Arabian flag, but calligraphy is changed in the case of the second لا (red) of the Hamas flag at the left.

Islamic flag

Flags reported as in use in Islam have been frequently displaying the shahada, usually on a black background, the time of Muhammad. The Taliban used a white flag with the shahada inscribed in black from 1997, until 2001 as the flag of their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Flags showing the shahadaa, often written on a green background, have also been displayed by supporters of Hamas in rallies during the 2000s.

Turkish national anthem

The shahadah is referenced in the eighth stanza of the Turkish national anthem, which can be translated as:

Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,

No heathen’s hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These ʾaḏāns, whose shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,

May their noble sound last loud and wide over my eternal homeland.

See also

References

  1. ^ "The Origin of the Sunni/Shia split in Islam". Islamfortoday.com. http://www.islamfortoday.com/shia.htm. Retrieved 2011-05-23.[dead link]
  2. ^ The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril hi tom Alta Mira Press, 2001, p.416.
  3. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p.201.
  4. ^ Farah (1994), p.135
  5. ^ "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". http://www.al-islam.org/reflectionsnewmuslim/8.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  6. ^ "Shahadah". Albalagh.net. http://www.albalagh.net/kids/understanding_deen/Shahadah.shtml. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  7. ^ "A Bilingual Papyrus Of A Protocol - Egyptian National Library Inv. No. 61, 86-96 AH / 705-715 CE". Islamic-awareness.org. 2005-12-20. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Papyri/enlp1.html. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  8. ^ "9 Point Shahadah". Islamtomorrow.com. 2002-08-06. http://www.islamtomorrow.com/9points.htm. Retrieved 2011-05-23.

External links