In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
The Shahada is the representative and embodiment and the living meaning of the message of Islam. Allah (SWT) chose Islam as the guiding code to attain nearness to Him, to realize and to find a balance in one’s life. The way of Islam is a universal message for all mankind and for all time.
Contemporary Muslim societies are in distress and are not properly deciphering the basic confirmation of the Shahada, which enables a society to proficiently realize the full potential of the Medina model, Muslim society or behavior. The Muslims ethics are at a crossroad and being challenged by a secular, globalized worldview. Muslims are being shaken by this challenged and are unable to practicalized and creatively offer solutions for many of the problems facing Muslims and humanity e.g. alternate economic models, social revolutions, etc. These concerns are being raised and to be discussed, so that Muslims can recharge and revitalize their ‘active’ Ibadah (worship) and fulfill the covenant to Allah (SWT) as his vicegerent whenever the need arises.
This paper is an attempt to clarify and understand the outer and inner meanings, which reaffirms the Shahada as the vibrant force for individuals and collective change. To attain dual happiness in this world and in the hereafter.
The verbal testimony of the Shahada is a requirement for a Muslim. Will this verbal acceptance, change the individual’s personality and meaning of life? How does he or she relate to these basic criteria as a vehicle for change? What is the intrinsic or deeper meaning of the Shahada? Will the understanding of the Shahada be the catalyst for the individual to attain the character of success when, ‘he is pleased with his Lord and his Lord is pleased with him’?
Firstly, it is essential to explore the early years of the Rasul (SAW) prophet hood and his emphasis of the Shahada as the vibrant and innate message, which shook and toppled the Meccan worldview of that era. Further, the Rasul (SAW) nourished his Shahabis (RAH), by simply breaking all the shackles of human inclinations by molding and internalizing, submission to the Shahada and compassionately developing a bond of total brotherhood. The companions became united and fortified, inwardly and outwardly through firm and sincere believe in the unity of Allah and the unity of the Last Messenger.
The example of Hadrat Bilal's (RA) sacrifice under tortures conditions by his slave master forcing him to give up this new way of life. He did not relent and his patience and resilience was purely for the submission to Allah, The Ahad (the One), the living Shahada – his and our future. His sacrifice is a clear-cut example in the early period of the birth of Islam as a worldview with a divine message and ethos for the entire human race.
Secondly, the behavior of the Muhajirin and Ansar in Medina as an example of a Shahada building society process. The Medina period emphasized understanding and focused on primary community issues e.g. education, rights of woman, and rights of orphans, spiritual training, political and military campaigns and capability, brotherhood and the unity of purpose. This society practicalized the Islamic ethos and way of life.
Thirdly, after the passing away of our Rasul (SAW) and the successive period of the Khulafa-e-Rashidun (the righteous Caliphs) experienced severe upheaval including the assassination of 3 out of the 4 Caliphs.
The message of Islam survived this phase and subsequent turbulent periods. This clearly illustrates that during the 23 years of the Rasul (SAW) Prophet hood, he had adequately developed and nourished a community of companions (RAH). These companions (RAH) in the successive periods continued and established a worldview of the Shahada. Experiencing all the frailties and challenges of the worldly realities of the era, Muslim societies experienced mostly harmony and prosperity especially for the next 600 years.
But, 1422 years hence, Islam is alive but the Muslims are unwell. In this attempt to explain the reasons for the failure to understand the message of Islam in the modern era and how the living Shahada can be a solution to change the present mindset of Muslims. To reorganize and restructure the basic methodology of transformation and change.
For the purpose of this attempt, dominant ideas as Knowledge, Unity and Leadership have been selected and I hope that I can correctly focus and make these ideas useful for our purpose.
A Hadith of Rasul (SAW) tells us that it compulsory for every Muslim male and female to seek knowledge. Another Hadith tell us we should seek knowledge as far as China. Many Qur’anic Ayahs command and point us to seeking knowledge, but the two Hadith will suffice for our discussion.
While it is incumbent to study and learn the tenants of Islam to worship Allah (SWT) e.g. Salaah, Zakah, Fasting etc, but it is with our Nawafil Ibadah that we achieve closeness to Allah (SWT). It is therefore paramount that we understand how we look at other forms of knowledge, which enhances our Ibadah. Further our analyses, evaluation and challenges, deals with solving life issues and always proclaiming the Shahada in everything that we do.
The very fact that Rasul (SAW) commanded the Muslims to seek knowledge as far as China, set a broad standard relating to the principles of seeking knowledge. It did not mean that all Muslims should pack up and go to China, but it challenged Muslims to seek knowledge wherever they found it. To live the Shahada, acknowledge and recognized Allah (SWT) and the Rasul (SAW) within the order of creation. Not to be afraid to seek other forms of knowledge beyond the existing knowledge that one possessed.
It is with this attitude and with this understanding of the Shahada that Muslims studied and analyzed Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) philosophy. During the early period of Islam many thinkers and scholars used many Greek ideas and philosophy to reorganized and revitalized Muslim ideas. Armed with the legacy of the Qur`an and the Way of the Rasul (SAW) and using creative methodology, set the time frame for the expansion and impending of great minds as Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Rusd, Ibn Al-Arabi, Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Hazm, and many others too numerous to mention. In this environment, Islam became a way of life, a dominant worldview and the ethos of the day.
The path of the Living Shahada ensures discipline in the adhering to the Shariah. The Shahada develops our faculties and capabilities creatively and the flourishing of knowledge not available during the life of the Rasul (SAW). The foundation set by the Shahada, blossomed into various branches of knowledge e.g. Fiqh as science of Law, Philosophy, Sufism, History, Science, Literature, Architecture, Medicine etc.
‘O Lord increase me in Knowledge.’ was the inner and outer meaning of seeking knowledge.
Most of these sciences developed vibrantly and forcefully and reach their heights in the 10 to 12 century A.D.
Muslims must alleviate their acquiring of knowledge with the ‘Rahma’ of the Shahada they carry in their breast. Find solutions e.g. cure for cancer and the aids virus or to the relieve the condition of poverty, or to develop better food producing techniques, relieving ignorance and illiteracy, and to spearhead science and technology etc, as a blessing for mankind and a better life for humanity.
To believe and the acceptance of Allah (SWT) as the one Creator, sustainer and protector is the conviction in the Unity of Allah.
To further believe in the unity of the Last messenger as the seal of prophet hood, that is the unity of the Risa-allah. Unity is ingrained in the Shahada and division is the same as Shirk, i.e. associating partners with Allah (SWT).
Allah (SWT) tell us in the Qur’an in Surah 3 verse 103
Wa’ tasimu bihab lillah jami’an wa laa tafar- raku…
‘To hold onto the rope, covenant, criterion, of Allah (SWT) and do not be divided’.
Rasul (SAW) warned the Muslim Ummah on numerous occasions not to shed the blood of Muslims, as this will divide us. The view of the Noble Qur`an and Hadith of our Rasul (SAW) tells us to adhere to unity, a guiding injunction that is incumbent for our success. We seam to concentrate and conform to the ritual aspects, which are necessary, but the full message of the Qur`an and Sunnah remains illusive.
Who has the right to call himself a Muslim and who does not? To whom does Islam belong? Does it belong to one sect more than to another? A person may say he belongs to one of the five Imams: Imam Malik, Imam Shafii, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Ibn Hanbal or Imam Jaffer as Sadiq, but does it matter to which family or tribe or sect he belongs, or whether he is a Arab, African or Caucasian. Allah belongs to everyone equally. Every tongue that has recited and testified the Shahada with certitude belongs to the same family and dwells within Islam. They all bear witness to the oneness of Allah (SWT) and His chosen Rasul Muhammad (SAW), the final messenger.
For Islam there is only one race; there is no black, white or yellow. How can we divide Islam and fight over it. Truly Islam is one. We must be one. Islam does not mean killing or attacking others. Muslim must dispel others hunger, disease, poverty and difficulties. We must live the Shahada then these qualities will spread. The Shahada brought us together to worship one Allah and to love the final Rasul (SAW). We must bring the Allah (SWT) qualities into our actions and make them an integral part of our lives.
Islam demands a united Ummah and the Qur`an implores us to inculcate a character of Taqwa (Allah consciousness) and excel in the character of Ihsan (beauty). Is this difficult to understand? Let us help each other and let time be our judge.
Muslims have lost their central leadership in 1923 with the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate. Thereafter we have been in the wilderness, rudderless and unable to plot a course for ourselves. Political aspiration has been at the forefront of our change, whether it has been the questions of the nation states, controlled by post-colonial mentality, corrupt and unfit leaders. Our image of many Muslim leaders and Muslim countries are a portrayal of unjust, dogmatic, reactionary, untrustworthy and power hungry characteristics that cling on to power with no regard to the Shahada or the message of Islam.
Muslim countries being a party to decisions of skewed institutions as the UN. The abnormal effects of globalization and the economics disparities controlled by the so-called G8 countries, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The arrogant establishment of Israel in Palestine by Zionist further destabilizing the Muslim lands.
In recent years, many Muslim politician, religious leaders and intellectuals have studied at western universities, universities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Sudan and Darul-Ulums in the Indo-Pak continent have produce very few results of excellence. Many have approached Islam ignorantly and have come back arrogant.
Our political leaders are mostly corrupt and have a diminutive aspiration for Islam. Our religious leaders are mostly far from the teachings of the Qur`an and are dreadfully under-nourished of the true character and example of the Rasul (SAW) and his Noble Companions (RAH). Our intellectuals, besides a handful who are keeping the flames burning, are mostly showing themselves to be arrogant and exclusive. Our intellectuality and scholarship cannot stand up to the examples of our great scholars, philosophers and jurist during the time of 7 to the 12-century A D.
True leaders, scholars and Reformers in the contemporary period as Muhammad Iqbal, Sayed Qutb, Dr Fazlur Rahman Ansari, and Imam Khomeini remind us of Allah (SWT) and His Rasul (SAW). They were directly involved in the affairs of the Muslims and all humanity, constantly using the best methods of guidance of the Qur`an and the way of the Rasul (SAW) as a form of worship and finding correct solutions.
Internalizing the Shahada is a necessary process for activating the character of a Muslim leader as a conduit for change.
A true principle of enlightened leadership is to acknowledge Allah (SWT) as our Sovereign Lord and to prescribe to the prophetic model of the Rasul (SAW), and then there would be hope for the Muslim Ummah.
Muslims communities’ worldwide must raise the education of our women and her worship of Allah, where the seats of future leaders rest. The education of our young is to the concentrate, inculcate and fuse the Love of the Shahada in their hearts. The men must conform to a relationship of central leadership in the home with compassion, learning, worship and love of Allah (SWT). The Qur`an must be a book of action in the home and in our lives. The message of the last prophet must be the establishment of a noble, chivalrous and virtuous character. The daily nourishment, through ‘Tazkiyah’ implementing checks and balances and aspiring to keep to the ‘middle path’ the Qiblah of success and fulfilling the ‘Ibadah’ the reason for our creation and this the natural path.
In conclusion the correct attitude that the Shahada inculcates in a Muslim is the Adab (courtesy) to our Lord, Allah (SWT) and the love the character of our Rasul (SAW). For the Muslims to gain their respectful position in the eyes of Allah and humanity is to live the Shahada, and a sincere verbal pronouncement is not enough. The message of the Shahada must be written on our hearts and translated as a living, active and righteous responsibility to Allah (SWT) and assisting and helping humanity as His vicegerent.
Nothing but the best of the best is required in every field of endeavor, to achieve success in this world and the hereafter. Let us begin by taking the first step.
I testify that there is no ilah accept Allah and I testify that Muhammad (SAW) Ibn Abdullah is the final Messenger.