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Meaning of ‘La ilaha illAllah’ & its Conditions

By Bint Mohamoud

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The Meaning Of La ilaha illAllah And Its Conditions

Part 1

LA ILAHA ILL-ALLAH – the shahadah or declaration that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah – is a profound statement that has a huge implication in Islam.

While the majority of us today can utter and live by the statement without the fear of being imprisoned, expelled or executed, many of those who came before us had to pay with their lives for believing in it.

It is thus a blessing and a duty that requires us to not just defend and honour it, but also sincerely live our lives according to it.

But how can we if we do not know what it means or know what its obligations and conditions are?

The statement has two pillars:

1- NEGATION 2- AFFIRMATION
La ilaha…

No god is worthy of worship…

To negate, deny or refuse anything and everything that is worshipped besides Allah because all other gods neither own nor have power over good and bad. They simply do not deserve our worship.

How can another god be worthy of worship when it is only Allah who provides, shelters, aids, sends down rain, gives life, decrees death, and directs the affairs of what is between the heavens and the earth?

…ill-Allah

…Except Allah

To affirm that only Allah has the right to be worshipped because He, the Creator and Lord of everything that exists, alonedeserves our worship and is worthy of our submission.

This is Tawheed, an obligation upon mankind to believe in and the message every prophet of God throughout human history has brought.

The Qur’an expresses this primary subject in innumerable instances:

And verily, if you ask them: “Who created the heavens and the earth?” Surely they will say: “Allah (has created them).”

Say: “Tell me then, the things that you invoke besides Allah – if Allah intended some harm for me, could they remove His harm? Or if He (Allah) intended some mercy for me, could they withhold His Mercy?”

Say: “Sufficient for me is Allah; in Him those who trust (i.e. believers) must put their trust.” (Quran: 39: 38)

“That is Allah, your Lord!. There is no god but He, the Creator of all things. Then worship Him, and He has power to dispose of all affairs.” (Qur’an, 6:102)

“And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) all false deities” (Qur’an, 16:36)

To worship, make du’a, attribute divine powers, or place full hope and trust on anyone else, including (but not limited to) prophets, angels, saints, and the dead, is Shirk – the greatest transgression against the right of our Lord.

“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives anything else to whom He wills; and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin” (Qur’an, 4:48)

Allah is not in need of our worship. Even if every human were to disbelieve, His majesty would not be affected in the least. Rather it is we who will be affected by our actions and questioned.

The Seven Conditions

Scholars have identified seven conditions in the Qur’an and Sunnah for our Laa ilaha illAllah to be sound. Sheikh Hafidh Ibn Ahmad Al-Hakami said in his book The Ladder to Reach the Fundamentals of Tawheed and the Following of the Prophet (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) in the style of a poem:

92. And in seven conditions that it’s dependent upon    And that have been mentioned in the revelations

93. For verily it will not benefit the one who says it       By (simply) uttering it except by fulfilling them

94. Knowledge and certainty and acceptance          And submission for I know what I say

95. And truth and sincerity and love                        May Allah facilitate for you what He loves

1. Knowledge

To know or have knowledge of what the statement ‘La illaaha illa Allaah’ means. Allah says:

“And know that there’s no god worthy of worship but Allah and ask forgiveness for your sins.” (Qur’an, 47:19)

Imam Bukhari said regarding this verse, “Knowledge comes before speech and action.”Without knowledge, one’s actions could be in vain for he does not know what he should be doing despite a sincere intention.

Regarding learning Tawheed, Al-Sa’di said in his tafseer of this verse: “This is Fard Ain (obligatory on every Muslim) and no one is exempt from it.’’

The Prophet (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) said,

“He who dies knowing La illaaha illa Allah enters Jannah.” (Sahih Muslim)

Tawheed focuses on knowing Allah as He deserves, not as we deem appropriate. Knowing Allah means knowing His Names, Attributes and what He expects from us in regards to worship.

2. Certainty

After knowledge comes certainty. Whoever utters the shahadah should do so with certainty and without having doubts. Certainty can only come with knowledge because without knowledge, one cannot be certain of what he believes.

Allah says:

“Indeed the true believers are those who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and do not doubt.” (Qur’an, 49:15)

Those who have doubts are like the hypocrites who asked the Prophet (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) for exemption during the battle of Tabuk. It revealed their uncertainty and lack of faith. Allah said:

“Verily those who ask you for a leave are those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and their hearts are in doubt, so in their doubt do they waver.”(Qur’an, 9:45)

Mere utterance of this statement hence will not suffice if we have doubts in our hearts regarding what it means and represents. This is why it’s highly recommended to regularly renew one’s faith by sincerely saying ‘La illaaha illa Allaah’ and the following adhkar, ideally during or after every prayer.

Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) said: ‘Verily the hearts of all the sons of Adam are between the two fingers out of the fingers of the Merciful Lord as one heart. He turns (them) to any direction He likes.’ Then Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) said:

 

 

‘Allahuma Al-Musarif Al-Quloob, Isrif Qalbi Alaa Daa’atik’

‘O Allah, Director of hearts, direct my heart to your obedience’  (Muslim, Book 33, Hadith #6418)

Umm Salamah narrated that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) would frequently supplicate:

‘Ya Muqalib Al-Quloob, Thabbit Qalbi Alaa Deenik’

O turner of the hearts, keep our hearts firm on Your religion

(Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Dua, Hadith #3834)

3. Acceptance

One must fully accept what the shahadah symbolizes with regards to the worship of Allah alone and abandoning the worship of others besides Him. Knowledge and certainty will not be sufficient if one is not willing to accept this statement in its entirety with his tongue, heart and limbs.

Those who lack acceptance refuse to submit to Allah wholeheartedly. Allah says:

“For if they were told that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, they would behave proudly. And would say; shall we indeed give up our gods for the sake of a mad poet.”(Quran: 37: 35-36)

Arrogant people with diseased hearts refuse to accept Tawheed despite knowing with certainty that Allah alone is worthy of all worship. Most disbelievers knew the truth with certainty. Allah says:

“Say: ‘’To Whom belong the earth and all being therein, if you but know. They will say; ‘Allah’ say; ‘Will you then not take heed. Say; ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the supreme Throne. They will say; ‘They belong to Allah.’’ Say: ‘Will you then not revere. Say; ‘In Whose Hand is the dominion of all things, and He protects, while against Whom there is no protector, if you but know. They will say; All that belongs to Allah. Say; ‘How then are you deluded” (Quran, 23:84-89)

But their knowledge didn’t benefit them in the least.

4. Submission/Compliance

This condition truly puts our submission to test for it requires us to be true to what we claim to believe in. We all know that “Muslim” means “someone who submits to the will of Allah”.

This condition expects us to fulfil that requirement by living our lives according to what we assert. It’s not enough to be a Muslim by lip service while our actions negate what we utter.

What is required of us is to submit with our tongues, hearts and limbs completely and wholeheartedly. When Allah told Prophet Ibraheem (alayhi-salaam) to submit, he didn’t hesitate and immediately submitted to the will of Allah.

“When His Lord said to him submit to Me, he said; ‘I have submitted to the Lord of the universe” (Quran: 2: 131

“And who is better in religion than the one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good and follows the way of Abraham, the upright one” (Quran: 3: 125)

“And whoever submits himself wholly to Allah and he is the doer of good, has indeed grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold” (Quran: 31: 22)

Abu Bakr Al-Jaza’iri (May Allah Have Mercy on Him) in his tafseer referred to the most trustworthy hand-hold as being the shahadatayn (La illaha illaa Allaah Mohamadu Rasuul Allah). In the tafsir of Ibn Kathir (May Allah Have Mercy on Him), this is referred to as the one who has grasped a strongly governed rope that doesn’t break. He also mentions in his tafsir that Saed Ibn Jabir and Dhahaak said this trustworthy hand-hold refers to the statement ‘La illaha illa Allah’.

This condition should encourage us to fully submit whenever we come across a clear matter in our religion. We should not be like those who claim to submit but refuse a religious matter that is not to our liking or that does not give us the freedom to do as we wish.

Allah says:

“It’s not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger Have decreed a matter that they should have a choice in their decision, and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed strayed in to a plain error” (Quran: 33:36)

5. Truthfulness

The shahadah must be uttered truthfully. Only by truthfully uttering it, can one be faithful to the other conditions. Islam is a religion of truth and it rewards those who are truthful in speech, action and intention. The Prophet (salAllahu alaihy wasallam) said:

‘’Whomsoever dies and has truthfully testified from his heart that there’s no God worthy of worship except Allah and Mohammed is His slave and Messenger, except that Allah makes hell prohibited for him’’ (Bukhari & Muslim)

This condition distinguishes between those who are truthful and those who claim to be so. And although Allah is well aware of their differences, He tests people in order to see how truthful they are in what they claim to believe in.

“Do people think they will be left alone because they say we believe and will not be tested” (Quran:29:2)

6. Sincerity

The definition of Sincerity or Ikhlaas is the act of guarding one’s deeds from the impurities of Shirk. And one shouldn’t utter this statement only to seek worldly rewards. Hypocrites seek worldly gains by declaring the shahadah. And so do those who engage in acts of major or minorshirk. Allah says:

“And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, sincerely in obedience” (Quran: 98:5)

Likewise, Allah Has prohibited hell from those who sincerely declare and live by this statement, not seeking any worldly gains or associating partners with Him in the process.

‘’Allah Has prohibited from hell the one who says there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, only seeking Allah’s pleasure.’’ (Bukhari & Muslim)

7. Love

The final condition is to love and adore what this statement represents in its entirety. This means to love Allah as the One God worthy of all worship and to love none besides Him. And if you live your life according to this statement and the love you claim to have for Allah is true, then you should obey His messenger by following his sunnah and staying away from what has been prohibited.

“Say; if you love Allah, follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you your sins” (Quran: 3: 31)

Love for this statement also means to love its people, especially those who act according to its teachings. This is the true brotherhood that Islam cultivates because if we truly love this statement, we will naturally love everyone who believes in and acts on this statement. This love has no rivals, as it is based on something superior – love for the sake of Allah.

The love that believers have for Allah is far greater than any other love. It is based on unconditional terms because we love, worship, fear and glorify Allah without having ever seen Him. And to genuinely love Allah means to love what He loves, hate what He hates and find pleasure in what earns His pleasure. It’s about complete surrender and sacrifice because to love unconditionally means to go to great heights for the one you love. And He alone deserves such love.

“And from among men are those who take for themselves besides Allah equals, whom they love as they love Allah, and those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah” (Quran: 2:165)

May Allah make us from those who love and worship Him with knowledge, act upon what they know and live their lives according to the conditions of this noble statement. Ameen.

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