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To Reflect On The Shahada

"That is Allah, your Lord! There is no god but He, the creator of all things: Then worship you Him: and He has power to dispose of all affairs." (Quran 6:102)

Although all practicing Muslims repeat the shahadah many times every day, only few understand its profound meaning and appreciate its implications. For example, how many Muslims understand why the shahadah uses the negative form - La Ilaha ha Ila Allah (There is no Ilah (God) except Allah), instead of the affirmative form - Allah is one, and why did the Quranic revelations stress this concept for the 13 years which the Prophet (peace be upon him) spent in Mecca before migrating to Medina? To help us in understanding the answer to these questions and in better appreciating the implications of La Ilaha Illa Allah, the Quran provides us with the following two facts:

1. All the prophets and messengers of Allah were principally teaching the same thing: La Ilaha lila Allah:
"O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him" (Quran 7:59)
This is precisely what Prophet Nuh said; Prophet Hud declared (Quran 7:65); and Prophet Salih affirmed (Quran 7:73). Prophet Shuaib gave the same message (Quran 7:85). The same doctrine was repeated and confirmed by Prophets Moussa, Issa, and Mohammad (peace be upon them):
"Say; Truly I am a warner: no god is there but Allah, the One, Supreme, and Irresistible." (Quran 38:65)
"Say: Verily, I am commanded to serve Allah, and follow with sincere devotion his deen." (Quran 39:11)

2. Many of the unbelievers who opposed the prophets did not deny the existence of Allah, nor that He was the sole creator of heavens and earth, and of human beings.
"If you were to question them, 'Who created the heavens and earth?' They would be sure to reply, 'They were created by (Him), the exalted in power, full of knowledge.'" (Quran 43:9)
"If you ask them, who created them, they will certainly say, 'Allah': how then are they deluded away from the truth)?" (Quran 43:87)

The Muslim scholar Abul A'la Maududi explains La ilaha illa Allah by using four basic terms from the Qur'an: Ilah, Rabb, Ibadah, and deen (see the table below). The four words, and their derivatives, are repeated many times in the Quran: the word Ilah 147 times; Rabb 975 times; Ibadah 275 times; and deen 94 times. Note that the word deen is an all-encompassing concept, dealing with life as an integrated whole. It is not restricted to the so-called "religious" observances, practices, and rituals.

In the light of these four basic terms, La ilaha illa Allah means:
Allah is our Rabb and our Ilah; there is no Rabb and no Ilah except He. To Him alone we make Ibadah; and only His deen we adopt and sincerely follow.
In the light of this definition, it is clear that the whole dispute between the unbelievers and the prophets centered around the uncompromising demand of the prophets that the unbelievers should recognize the very being whom they acknowledged as their Creator, as their Rabb and Ilah (as defined in the table) , and should assign this position to none else.
There are many important consequences for appreciating the full meaning and implications of La ilaha illa Allah, including the following three:
- Absolute freedom of the human conscience from servitude to, or subjection by, anyone or anything; and realization that one's life, livelihood, and sustenance are all in the hands of Allah and Allah alone.
- The natural urge for making ibadah to an ilah will be directed towards the true Ilah (Allah), rather than towards one or more false ilahs (false gods), whether they be humans, or material things.
- Following the true deen of Allah gives a sense of direction, and a meaning to one's life in the present world, and leads to success in the Hereafter.

We pray to Almighty Allah to help us in appreciating the meaning and implications of La ilaha lIla Allah, and in translating its meaning in our daily lives. Ameen.

Four terms needed to understand La Ilaha Illa Allah:

Deity, God
One to be worshipped
One who has power to satisfy your needs and answer your prayer
One who is in control of your affairs
One who can comfort you; provide protection and support for you

Lord, Master and Owner
Sustainer, Provider and Guardian
Sovereign, Ruler and Administrator

Worship and devotion
Submission and obedience
Subjection and servitude

Government and constitution
Complete system (way of life)

Allah is the Rabb and the Ilah. There is no Rabb and no Ilah except He. To Him Alone we make Ibadah. Only His Deen we adopt and sincerely follow.

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