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The Shahada (Arabic: ?a?-?ah?dah [a?.?a.ha:.dah] , "the testimony"),[note 1] also spelled Shahadah, is an Islamic creed, one of the Five Pillars of Islam and part of the Adhan, declaring belief in the oneness (tawhid) of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's messenger, as well as the wilayat of Ali according to Shia Islam.[1]

The Testimonies

The declaration reads:[2][3][4][5]

l? ?il?ha ?ill? -ll?hu
IPA: [ ?]
There is no deity but God.
mu?ammadun ras?lu -ll?hi
IPA: [mu.?]
Muhammad is the messenger of God.

The above two statements are commonly prefaced by the phrase a?hadu ?an ("I bear witness that"), yielding the full form:

? ? ? ? ?
a?hadu ?al l? ?il?ha ?illa -ll?hu, wa-?a?hadu ?anna mu?ammadan ras?lu -ll?hi
IPA: [?a?.ha.du ?an ? wa.?a?.ha.du ? mu.?]
I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
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Shia Islam may include the third testimony of:[6]

? ?
?al?yun wal?yu -ll?hi
IPA: [?]
Ali is the vicegerent of God.

Resulting in:

? ? ? ? ? ? ?
a?hadu ?al l? ?il?ha ?illa -ll?hu, wa-?a?hadu ?anna mu?ammadan ras?lu -ll?hi wa-?a?hadu ?anna ?al?yan wal?yu -ll?hi
IPA: [?a?.ha.du ?an ? wa.?a?.ha.du ? mu.? wa.?a?.ha.du ? ?]
I bear witness that there is no deity but God, I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God, and I bear witness that Ali is the vicegerent of God.

Terminology and significance

In the English translation--"There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God."--the first, lower-case occurrence of "god" or "deity" is a translation of the Arabic word ilah, while the capitalized second and third occurrences of "God" are translations of the Arabic word Allah, meaning "the God".

The noun ?ah?dah (), from the verbal root ?ahida ([?a.hi.da] ) meaning "to observe, witness, testify", translates as "testimony" in both the everyday and the legal senses.[7][note 2] The Islamic creed is also called, in the dual form, ?ah?dat?n (, literally "two testimonies"). The expression al-?ah?d (?, "the Witness") is used in the Quran as one of the "titles of God".[11]

In Sunni Islam, the Shahada has two parts: l? ?il?ha ?ill? ll?h (There is no deity except God), and mu?ammadun ras?lu ll?h (Muhammad is the messenger of God),[12] which are sometimes referred to as the first Shahada and the second Shahada.[13] The first statement of the Shahada is also known as the tahl?l.[14]

In Shia Islam, the Shahada also has a third part, a phrase concerning Ali, the first Shia Imam and the fourth Rashid caliph of Sunni Islam: ? (wa ?al?yun wal?yu ll?h [wa.?]), which translates to "Ali is the wali of God".[15]

In the Quran, the first statement of the Shahadah takes the form l? ?il?ha ?ill? ll?h twice (37:35, 47:19), and ?all?hu l? ?il?ha ?ill? huwa (God, there is no deity but Him) much more often.[16] It appears in the shorter form l? ?il?ha ?ill? huwa (There is no deity but Him) in many places.[17] It appears in these forms about 30 times in the Quran, and never attached with the other parts of the Shahada in Sunni or Shia Islam or "in conjunction with another name".[18]

Islam's monotheistic nature is reflected in the first sentence of the Shahada, which declares belief in the oneness of God and that he is the only entity truly worthy of worship.[13] The second sentence of the Shahada indicates the means by which God has offered guidance to human beings.[19] The verse reminds Muslims that they accept not only the prophecy of Muhammad but also the long line of prophets who preceded him.[19] While the first part is seen as a cosmic truth, the second is specific to Islam, as it is understood that members of the older Abrahamic religions do not view Muhammad as one of their prophets.[19]

The Shahada is a statement of both ritual and worship. In a well-known hadith, Muhammad defines Islam as witnessing that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God's messenger, giving of alms (zakat), performing the ritual prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to the Kaaba: the Five Pillars of Islam are inherent in this declaration of faith.[13][20]


Recitation of the Shahadah is the most common statement of faith for Muslims. Sunnis,[11] Shia Twelvers, as well as Isma'ilis[21] consider it as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is whispered by the father into the ear of a newborn child,[11] and it is whispered into the ear of a dying person.[22] The five canonical daily prayers each include a recitation of the Shahada.[19] Recitation of the Shahada in front of witnesses is also the first and only formal step in conversion to Islam.[11] This occasion often attracts more than the two required witnesses and sometimes includes a celebration to welcome the convert into their new faith.[13] In accordance with the central importance played by the notion of intention (Arabic: ‎, niyyah) in Islamic doctrine, the recitation of the Shahada must reflect understanding of its import and heartfelt sincerity.[23][24] Intention is what differentiates acts of devotion from mundane acts and a simple reading of the Shahada from invoking it as a ritual activity.[23][24]


Though the two statements of the Shahada are both present in the Quran (for example, 37:35 and 48:29), they are not found there side by side as in the Shahada formula.[12] Versions of both phrases began to appear in coins and monumental architecture in the late seventh century, which suggests that it had not been officially established as a ritual statement of faith until then.[12] An inscription in the Dome of the Rock (est. 692) in Jerusalem reads: "There is no god but God alone; He has no partner with him; Muhammad is the messenger of God".[12] Another variant appears in coins minted after the reign of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the fifth Umayyad caliph: "Muhammad is the servant of God and His messenger".[12] Although it is not clear when the Shahada first came into common use among Muslims, it is clear that the sentiments it expresses were part of the Quran and Islamic doctrine from the earliest period.[12]

In Sufism

The Shahada has been traditionally recited in the Sufi ceremony of dhikr (Arabic: ‎, "remembrance"), a ritual that resembles mantras found in many other religious traditions.[25] During the ceremony, the Shahada may be repeated thousands of times, sometimes in the shortened form of the first phrase where the word 'Allah' ("God") is replaced by 'huwa' ("Him").[25] The chanting of the Shahada sometimes provides a rhythmic background for singing.[26]

In architecture and art

The Shahada appears as an architectural element in Islamic buildings around the world, such as those in Jerusalem, Cairo, and Istanbul.[12][27][28]

Late-medieval and Renaissance European art displays a fascination with Middle Eastern motifs in general and the Arabic script in particular, as indicated by its use, without concern for its content, in painting, architecture and book illustrations.[29][30] In his San Giovenale Triptych, the Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio copied the full Shahada, written backwards, on the halo of the Madonna.[30][31]

Use on flags

The Shahada is found on some Islamic flags. Wahhabis have used the Shahada on their flags since the 18th century.[32] In 1902, ibn Saud, leader of the House of Saud and the future founder of Saudi Arabia, added a sword to this flag.[32] The modern Flag of Saudi Arabia was introduced in 1973.[33] The Flag of Somaliland has a horizontal strip of green, white and red with the Shahada inscribed in white on the green strip.[34]

Between 1997 and 2001, the Taliban used a white flag with the Shahada inscribed in black as the flag of their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The various jihadist black flag used by Islamic insurgents since the 2000s have often followed this example. The Shahada written on a green background has been used by supporters of Hamas since about 2000. The 2004 draft constitution of Afghanistan proposed a flag featuring the Shahada in white script centered on a red background. In 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant designed its flag using the Shahada phrase written in white on black background. The font used is supposedly similar to the font used as seal on the original letters written on Muhammad's behalf.[35]

National flags with Shahada


See also


  1. ^ a?-?ah?dat?n ( [a?.?aha:da'ta:n], "the two testimonials"); also Kalimat a?-?ah?dah [ [ka'l?mat?-], "the testimonial word"
  2. ^ The related noun ?ah?d ([?a'hi:d] ), which is used in the Quran mainly in the sense "witness", has paralleled in its development the Greek martys (Greek: ) in that it may mean both "witness" and "martyr".[8][9] Similarly, ?ah?da may also mean "martyrdom" although in modern Arabic the more commonly used word for "martyrdom" is another derivative of the same root, isti?h?d ().[10]



  1. ^ The Later Mughals by William Irvine p. 130
  2. ^ Malise Ruthven (January 2004). Historical Atlas of Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-674-01385-8. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ Richard C. Martín. Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World. Granite Hill Publishers. p. 723. ISBN 978-0-02-865603-8.
  4. ^ Frederick Mathewson Denny (2006). An Introduction to Islam. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-13-183563-4. Archived from the original on 5 August 2018. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Mohammad, Noor (1985). "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction". Journal of Law and Religion. 3 (2): 381-397. doi:10.2307/1051182. JSTOR 1051182.
  6. ^ The Later Mughals by William Irvine p. 130
  7. ^ Wehr, Hans; J. Milton Cowan (1976). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (PDF). pp. 488-489. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 December 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ David Cook, Martyrdom (Shahada) Oxford Bibliographies Archived 1 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine. ISBN 9780195390155.
  9. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p. 201.
  10. ^ John Wortabet; Harvey Porter (1 September 2003). English-Arabic and Arabic-English Dictionary. Asian Educational Services. p. 238. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 8.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Lindsay 2005, p. 140-141.
  13. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 9.
  14. ^ Michael Anthony Sells (1999). Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. White Cloud Press. p. 151.
  15. ^ The Later Mughals by William Irvine p. 130
  16. ^ Nasr et al (2015). The Study Quran. HarperOne. p. 110. (Footnote 255)
  17. ^ Nasr et al (2015). The Study Quran. HarperOne. p. 1356. (Footnote 22)
  18. ^ Edip Yuksel, et al (2007). Quran: A Reformist Translation. Brainbrow Press. Footnote 3:18.
  19. ^ a b c d Cornell 2007, p. 10.
  20. ^ Lindsay 2005, p. 149.
  21. ^ "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  22. ^ Azim Nanji (2008). The Penguin Dictionary of Islam. Penguin UK. p. 101. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  23. ^ a b Andrew Rippin (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. pp. 104-105. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  24. ^ a b Ignác Goldziher (1981). Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton University Press. pp. 18-19. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  25. ^ a b Ian Richard Netton (19 December 2013). Encyclopaedia of Islam. p. 143. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  26. ^ Jonathan Holt Shannon (2006). Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 110-111. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  27. ^ Doris Behrens-Abouseif (1989). Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction. Brill. p. 54. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  28. ^ Oleg Grabar (ed.) (1985). An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture. Brill. p. 110. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Eva Baer (2013). The Renaissance and the Ottoman World. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 41-43. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  30. ^ a b Anna Contadini, Dr. Claire Norton (1989). Ayyubid Metalwork With Christian Images. Brill. p. 47.
  31. ^ Graziella Parati (1999). Mediterranean Crossroads: Migration Literature in Italy. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 13.
  32. ^ a b Firefly Books (2003). Firefly Guide to Flags of the World. Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-55297-813-9. Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  33. ^ "Saudi Arabia Flag and Description". World Atlas. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  34. ^ James B. Minahan. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World A-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 806. ISBN 9780313076961.
  35. ^ McCants, William (22 September 2015). "How ISIS Got Its Flag". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015. Retrieved 2015.


External links

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