Extended shahada is not a requirement to be or become a Muslim

(Reason 13 of22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s’)

extended shahada is not a requirement

Traditional Muslims believe that both parts of the dual shahada – La Ilaha Illa Allah and Muhammadur rasulullah – are so vitally interconnected and hence so much mutually interdependent that one must declare this ‘full’ testimony, even verbally and publicly1, in order to be or become a Muslim.

But if this extended shahada was meant to be one’s key to Islam, why cannot we find it anywhere in the Quran? Why does the original, Quranic shahada (La Ilaha Illa Allah) never contain any such extension, or any name except God’s – not in a single occasion out of its 38 plus appearances in the Quran?

Please observe how the Quran defines shahada, while parallelly defining the terms Islam (submission) and Muslim (submitter):

God bears witness (shahada) that there is no god but He (La Ilaha Illa Allah), and so do the Forces and those of knowledge, upright with equity: there is no god but He, the Almighty, the Wise. 3:18/ The system with God is submission (Islam), and those who received the Book differed, after the knowledge had come unto them, only out of rivalry among themselves. And whoever rejects God’s messages, then God is swift in reckoning. 3:19/ If they debate with you, then say: I have submitted myself to God, as well as those who follow me. And say to those who have received the Scripture and the Gentiles: Have you submitted? If they have submitted then they are guided, and if they turn away, then you are only to deliver, and God is watcher over the servants. 3:20 …/ Say: O People of the Book! Come to a statement common between us and you: That we serve none but God; that we associate none with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords other than God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are submitters (Muslims). 3:64/ O People of the Book! Why do you argue about Abraham, when the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Do you not reason? 3:65 …/ Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but was a truth-seeker, a submitter (Muslim); and was not of those who set up associates. 3:67 …/ It is not for a human that God has given him the Book, the wisdom and the prophethood, then he would say to the people: “Worship me beside God”; instead of saying “Be Lord servers by spreading the knowledge of the Book, and by your deep study thereof.” 3:79/ Nor would he instruct you that you take angels and prophets for lords. Would he bid you to reject after you have become submitters (Muslims)? 3:80 …/ Do they seek a system other than God’s, while to Him submits whoever is in the Heavens and the Earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they are returned? 3:83/ Say: We acknowledge God and what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Patriarchs, and what was given to Moses, Jesus and all the prophets from their Sustainer: We make no distinction between them, and unto Him alone we are submitters (Muslims). 3:84

Thus the shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the oneness of the Divine. A Muslim is one who seeks peace through submission to the Truth of Oneness. And Islam is peace-seeking through this submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws. Only a continuous journeying along the path of Islam – through acquiring knowledge (to find the Truth) and doing justice (to submit to the Truth) – can free our mind from all idols and fallacies and lead us towards the desired Peace (salam).

These concepts are further expounded by the Quranic assertion that – while everything in the Universe is muslim (submitter), i.e., submits, willingly or unwillingly, to the divine laws that govern the Universe (3:83; cf. 13:15, 16:48-49, 19:93, 41:11; cf. 10:90) – humans have been made responsible, due to their God-given ability to choose, for their conscious acceptance or rejection of God’s messages in nature (3:19, 3:4-7, 3:21, 3:83; cf. 6:39, 22:18).

Now the Quranic shahada, as witnessing of God’s absolute oneness, cannot have in it, by definition, any name except God’s (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18). As the sole key to Islam, therefore, its message and purpose is clearly very different from that of the sectarian credos, which, with names of sanctified humans, are formulae to enter sectarian versions of Islam.

Please note how the long passage above2 desperately calls to various religious groups to unite around a common ground, the unadulterated monotheism of Abraham, the spiritual father of all monotheists (3:64-65). And note how, in line with depiction of the true shahada (3:18-19), it obliquely condemns adding any prophet’s name to it, as it insistently disapproves of exaltation of prophets and humans to lords (3:64, 3:79-80; cf. 2:135-136, 6:164).

In serious violation of this Quranic call to serve none but one God alone – without sanctifying any prophet as lord or divine associate – traditional Muslims idolized Muhammad to the extent parallel to that of Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha and Lord Jesus as they elevated him to the status Our Lord Muhammad (‘Sayyiduna Muhammad’).

It is important to understand that the Quran contains clear instructions on how to become a Muslim3. For example, when Muhammad was about to become the leading Muslim of his time, he was inspired to submit to one God alone without associating anything in his submission (6:14; cf. 6:71, 40:65-66). And this is how Abraham himself became a Muslim (2:131). And this is how Abraham’s sons and Jacob became Muslims (2:132) and also how the children of Israel became Muslims (2:133; cf. 12:38-40). And this is precisely how the Queen of Sheba became a Muslim (27:44). And this is exactly the same way the disciples of Jesus became Muslims (3:52; cf. 5:111). And even Pharaoh, when he was certain to drown, admitted that he was submitting to one God alone (10:90).

Evidently, the shahada, a state of awareness, was never meant to be a credo or religious formula as later misconstrued by the followers of the sectarian add-ons. Since this awareness of Oneness is the only ideological requirement to be or become a Muslim (2:177, 2:111-112, 2:130-131, 3:18-20, 6:71, 18:110, 27:44, 40:65-66), anyone from any religious/non-religious background, whoever bears it in mind and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation, with or without accepting Muhammad or converting to a sectarian version of Islam (3:20; cf. 2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14). In other words, the title ‘Muslim’ is not exclusive for followers of Muhammad. The same title ‘Muslim’ has been used in the Quran to describe many other people and groups, who lived in pre-Muhammadan times, e.g., Noah (10:72), Abraham (3:67), Jacob’s children (2:133), Joseph (12:101), Moses’s people (10:84), Pharaoh’s magicians (7:126), Lot’s house (51:36), Jesus’s disciples (3:52) and so on. On the other hand, even a sectarian Muslim or a Muslim by birth may not qualify for Islam if s/he elevates anyone as idol or lord, by associating them with God (note: “that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords other than God, 3:64”).

Some people argue that, by adding Muhammad’s name with God, one recites a ‘qualified shahada’ that allegedly connects God with His true nature as opposed to deities with anti-Islamic attributes. Well, the Quran does refer to ‘specified’ testimonies by calling God ‘the god of Moses and Aaron’ (7:120-122), ‘the god of the Children of Israel’ (10:90), ‘the god of Solomon’ (27:44) and ‘the god of Jacob, Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac’ (2:133). However, all these references appear only to specify God as the God without associate – in contrast to the supreme god among numerous gods of a polytheists’ pantheon. However, in none of these testimonies is there an authorisation of any messengership along with the name of God. Rather the Quran itself clarifies this confusion elsewhere4, as it challenges the much held notion that such a testimony as recited today is a requirement in order to be or become a Muslim (2:133; cf. 12:38-40).

Finally, in contrast to popular belief, one doesn’t need to utter any declaration whatsoever5, verbally or publicly, to enter or remain in the fold of Islam. The following reference to shahada insists that, to the Divine who knows our mind, it doesn’t really matter whether our witnessing is secret or open: He is God; there is no god but He; the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed (shahada); He is the Beneficent, the Merciful. 59:22. Since intentions are just as essential as actions (2:158), what is important is sincerity of mind and good work, not any lip service6 (35:10, 29:2-3, 59:22).

Summary

Extended shahada is not a requirement to be or become a Muslim

Traditional Muslims believe that both parts of the dual shahada – La Ilaha Illa Allah and Muhammadur rasulullah – are so vitally interconnected that one must declare this ‘full’ testimony, even verbally and publicly, in order to be or become a Muslim. This belief, however, seriously contradicts the central messages of the Quran.

The Quran in chapter 3 (e.g., 3:18-20, 64-67, 79-84) defines shahada, while parallelly defining the terms Islam (submission) and Muslim (submitter). Thus the shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the oneness of the Divine. A Muslim is one who seeks peace through submission to the Truth of Oneness. And Islam is peace-seeking through this submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws. While everything in the Universe is muslim (submitter), i.e., submits, willingly or unwillingly, to the divine laws that govern the Universe (3:83; cf. 13:15, 16:48-49, 19:93, 41:11; cf. 10:90) – humans have been made responsible, due to their God-given ability to choose, for their conscious acceptance or rejection of God’s messages in nature (3:83, 3:19; cf. 22:18).

The same ch 3 desperately calls to various religious groups to unite around a common ground, the unadulterated monotheism of Abraham, the spiritual father of all monotheists (3:64-65). Furthermore, in line with depiction of the true shahada (3:18-19), it obliquely condemns adding any prophet’s name to it, as it insistently disapproves of exaltation of prophets and humans to lords (3:64, 3:79-80; cf. 2:135-136, 6:164).

Now the Quranic shahada, as witnessing of God’s absolute oneness, cannot have in it, by definition, any name except God’s (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18). As the sole key to Islam, therefore, its message and purpose is clearly very different from that of the sectarian credos, which, with names of sanctified humans, are formulae to enter sectarian versions of Islam.

Notably, the Quran contains clear instructions on how to become a Muslim. For example, when Muhammad was about to become the leading Muslim of his time, he was inspired to submit to one God alone without associating anything in his submission (6:14; cf. 6:71, 40:65-66). And this is precisely how Abraham himself became a Muslim (2:131). And also how his children became Muslims (2:132). And this is how the children of Israel (2:133; cf. 12:38-40), the Queen of Sheba (27:44) and the disciples of Jesus became Muslims (3:52; cf. 5:111).

Because the shahada, the witnessing of the Oneness, is the only ideological requirement for being or becoming a Muslim, anyone from any religious/non-religious background, whoever bears it in mind and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation, with or without accepting Muhammad or converting to a sectarian version of Islam (3:20; cf. 2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14). On the other hand, even a sectarian Muslim or a Muslim by birth may not qualify for Islam if s/he elevates anyone as idol or lord, by associating them with God (3:64).

Some people argue that, by adding Muhammad’s name with God, one recites a ‘qualified shahada’ that allegedly connects God with His true nature as opposed to deities with anti-Islamic attributes. However, though the Quran contains references to ‘specified’ testimonies (7:120-122, 10:90, 27:44, 2:133) – which are only to specify God as the God without associate – in none of these testimonies is there an authorisation of any messengership along with the name of God. Rather the Quran itself clarifies this confusion elsewhere, as it challenges the much held notion that such a testimony as recited today is a requirement in order to be or become a Muslim (2:133; cf. 12:38-40).

Finally, in contrast to popular belief, one doesn’t need to utter any declaration whatsoever, verbally or publicly, to enter or remain in the fold of Islam. To the Divine who knows our mind, it doesn’t really matter whether our witnessing is secret or open (59:22). Since intentions are just as essential as actions (2:158), what is important is sincerity of mind and good work, not any lip service (35:10, 29:2-3, 59:22).

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Note 1

In sectarian understanding, the extended shahada must be recited by every Muslim as an attestation of their allegiance to Islam and by every new convert so as to be considered as a Muslim by the Islamic community. For example, when a non-Muslim intends to convert to Sunni Islam s/he needs to publicly declare the so-called ‘full shahada’ in front of witnesses. In some countries converts are awarded with a certificate after the shahada ceremony to confirm they have been admitted into the ‘fold of Islam’. In fact, by reciting an added, extra-Quranic shahada, a person has to tell others that s/he officially belongs to a particular club of sectarian Islam.

Note 2

We get a summary of the long passage above (3:18-20, 64-67, 79-84) in the following verses: He is the Living; there is no god but He. So call on Him while devoting the system for Him alone. Praise be to God, the Sustainer of the worlds./ Say: I have been forbidden from worshipping those whom you are calling upon besides God, since the proofs have come to me from my Sustainer. And I have been commanded to submit to the Sustainer of the worlds. 40:65-66

Note 3

When Muhammad was about to become the leading Muslim of his time, he was inspired to submit to one God alone, and not to associate anything in his submission: Say: I am commanded to be foremost among those who submit; and that: Do not be of those who associate. 6:14 (cf. Say: The guidance is God’s guidance, and we have been ordered to submit to the Sustainer of the worlds. 6:71). And this is how Abraham himself became a Muslim: When his Sustainer said to him: Submit, he said: I submit to the Sustainer of the worlds. 2:131. And this is how the Queen of Sheba became a Muslim: She said: My Sustainer, I have wronged myself; and, with Solomon, I submit to God, the Sustainer of the worlds. 27:44. And this is how the children of Israel became Muslims (2:133; cf. 12:38-40; see note 4). And this is exactly the same way the disciples of Jesus became Muslims: The disciples said: We are God’s supporters, we acknowledge God and we bear witness that we have submitted. 3:52 (cf. They said: We acknowledge, and bear witness that we have submitted. 5:111). Though they all acknowledged God and the messages of Jesus, they didn’t have to declare “la ilaha illa Allah, Isa rasul Allah” in order to become Muslims. All what they needed was to submit to one God alone. And even Pharaoh, when he was certain to drown, admitted that he was submitting to one God alone: But when he was certain to drown, he said: I acknowledge that there is no god except the One in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the submitters. 10:90

Note 4

The Quran challenges the much held notion that such a dual shahada as recited today is a requirement in order to be or become a Muslim: Or, were you then witnesses when death approached Jacob and he told his sons: What shall you serve after me?, they said: Your god, and the god of your fathers Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac; One God and to Him we are submitters. 2:133 (note: Jacob’s sons did not include any messenger’s name in shahada, 12:38-40). We cannot bear witness – because we were not witnesses – to the messengership of Muhammad, as we were also not witnesses to the messengership of Jacob or Abraham or Ishmael or Isaac or Moses or Jesus or any other prophet. What we must serve and submit to, however, is not any of the messengers but the same God whom they all served.

Note 5

While the Quran never commanded any declaration of shahada, it did command (note: SAY) Muslims to make certain declarations that accept the oneness of the message and the non-discrimination of the messengers and that end with “we are muslims”:

SAY: We acknowledge God, and that which is revealed unto us, and to … We make no difference between any of them: And unto Him alone we are submitters (muslims). 2:136

SAY: We acknowledge God and what was sent down to us and what was sent down to … We make no distinction between them, and unto Him alone we are submitters (muslims). 3:84

Note 6

Since intentions are just as essential as actions (2:158), what is important is sincerity of mind and good work, not any lip service: Whoever desires glory,- to God belongs all glory. Unto Him ascend all pure words (‘kalima tayyiba’); and all good works does He exalt. 35:10; Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, “We acknowledge”, and not be tried?/ While We tried those before them, so God knows those who are truthful and knows the liars. 29:2-3