Kalima-e-Shahadah, The Declaration of Islamic Faith

arabic-islamic-tattoo-calligraphy-i-fancytattoo-blogspot-com

by Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Surrey

 Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?[1]

These words are a nostalgic poetic rendering of the deeper subtleties of the soul that manifest themselves as the spiritual challenges that man must overcome before he may reach that exalted station wherefrom a spring of spiritual blessings flow. The epitome of this spiritual station was the life and character of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) – who descended into this world when humankind’s spiritual cup had run dry, and the barren fields of man’s soul craved the water of true salvation. A spiritual draught of alarming magnitude had enveloped Arabian lands, such that an uncanny darkness prevailed over everything. Man was akin to a barbaric existence, with all propensities for morality and spirituality having been buried.

Perhaps the gravest of sins plaguing mankind in the pre-Muhammadan period was the ritual of idol worship and polytheism that had rendered the notion of the Unity of God as something fanciful or illusory. To profess in those pre-Islamic times that God was one and had no partner was analogous to blasphemy or even apostasy of the modern day. It was considered to be sacrilegious if not a complete renouncement of one’s faith. Thus, it was within this polytheist fabric of Arabian society that Muhammad (saw) the Servant and Messenger of Allah was sent to light the world with the spirit of Tauhid (Oneness of God) and God’s final teachings in the form of the Holy Quran.

Juxtaposed against this backdrop of spiritual annihilation and moral impotency, the significance of the words of the Kalima-e-Shahadah, which read, I bear witness that (there is) no god except Allah; One is He, no partner hath He, and I bear witness that Muhammad (saw) is His Servant and Messenger are profound and powerful. They epitomise the spiritual awakening and rebirth of mankind at the hand of God’s chosen one, the Seal of the Prophets (saw). Writing in his treatise, “Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya”, the Promised Messiah (as) succinctly portrays the advent of the Holy Prophet (saw) in the following words,

“…the age in which the Holy Prophet (sa) appeared stood in dire need of a great heavenly reformer and spiritual guide, and that the teachings he brought were certainly true and met all the needs of the time and encompassed all the requirements of the age. So effective and forceful was his teaching that thousands were drawn towards the truth, and the words [There is none worthy of worship but Allah] were engraved upon their hearts. The ultimate purpose of Prophethood – which is to impart teachings that lead to salvation – was accomplished to perfection [by the Holy Prophet (sa)][2].”

Therefore, to espouse upon the worshippers of idols and false deities of those times that their beliefs were inherently misguided and held no rational basis was a grievous calumny. It followed that the challenger of what he declared as the mother of all evils – idolatry – was to present himself as the greatest benefit to mankind, reinstating the providence of One God over His creation. Thus, it was also natural that this torchbearer of God Almighty would exhibit the most perfect qualities of truth and wisdom, such that man’s journey on earth would be forever transformed into a struggle to emulate this archetype of virtue. The Holy Quran itself testifies to having rejuvenated the earth with Divine Guidance and Wisdom at the hands of the Holy Prophet (saw), God states,

“And Allah has sent down water from the sky, and has quickened therewith the earth after its death. Surely, in that is a Sign for a people who would hear[3].”

 The Promised Messiah (as), writing in his seminal work, “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” explains that God Almighty calls to witness the laws of nature to testify for the hidden law of Divine Revelation. In a beautiful narrative, the Promised Messiah (as) expounds that just as the vegetation on earth cannot survive without rain, human reason, which is akin to earthly water, cannot survive without the heavenly water of Divine Revelation[4]. God says in the Quran and the Promised Messiah (as) explains,

“We call to witness the heaven that sends down rain and the earth that sprouts diverse types of vegetation with the help of such rain, that the Quran is God’s word and His revelation, and that it decides between truth and falsehood and is not vain talk, that is to say, it has not been revealed out of time and has come like seasonable rain.[5]

Thus, since six hundred years had passed since the time of Jesus (as) and the advent of the Holy Prophet (saw), earthly water had become corrupted and dried up[6]. The Holy Prophet (saw) brought with him the heavenly water of Divine Revelation that was to provide sustenance to the earthly water of human reason such that with his coming the teachings of the Lord Almighty would be rendered complete for all times to come.

Therefore, just as God calls to witness the obvious law of nature for the hidden law that governs Divine Revelation[7], the pledge of oath taken at the recitation of the Kalima-e-Shahadah is a manifestation of the oath-taker being called to witness the Unity of God and the Holy Prophet (saw) as His Servant and Messenger. The word “shahādah” is a noun derived from the verb “shahada”, which means, “He observed, witnessed, or testified[8].” Within a legal context, the term “shahādah” connotes testifying to the occurrence of certain events such as debt, adultery or divorce[9]. Testifying in a court of law thereby entails validating the proof of claims being submitted as evidence during trial. The word of the witness who renders such testimony must conform to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. It follows, then that when a Muslim bears witness to Muhammad (saw) as Allah’s Servant and Messenger, the requirements of truth and sincerity need to fulfill the most stringent criteria since man is being called to witness God’s word.

The Kalima-e-Shahadah is then a profoundly symbolic testimony to the truth of the Unity of God and of his greatest and final law-bearing Prophet, Muhammad (saw). The recitation of the Kalima-e-Shahadah is thereby a powerful oath to the truth of the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet (saw) and a powerful pledge of allegiance to live one’s life in full conformity with them. In this latter sense, this testimony is unique, for not only Muslims are called to witness the truth of its claims but commands that they must surrender their lives with utmost sincerity to the Word of God and His Messenger. Thus, as we recite these words as Ahmadi Muslims, we must remain cognizant of the spiritual significance of this oath and pledge. As the Promised Messiah (as) illuminatingly writes:

Muhammad is the most magnificent imprint of the divine light;

None like him can ever be born on the face of the earth.

God sent him and spread the truth;

A new life was breathed into the earth by the advent of that leader.

He is a flourishing and productive tree of the garden of purity and perfection,

And all his progeny are like red roses[10].

Thus, we as roses of the Holy Prophet (saw’s) legacy must strive to discharge the burden of this example of pristine spirituality and war with our souls to crush its thorns. Our recitations of the Kalima-e-Shahadah must be an embodiment of this struggle such that we, too, may drink from that holy fountain that many go in search for, but only few find.

 

[1] Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet Collection,” Axiom Publishing (2001), p.46

[2] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, “Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya,” Islam International Publications Ltd., (2012), pp. 131-6

[3] Al Quran, Chapter 16, Verse 66

[4] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” Islam International Publications Ltd., (1996), p. 120

[5] Al Quran, Chapter 86, Verses 12-15 as explained in “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” Islam International Publications Ltd., p.186

[6] See supra note 4

[7] See supra note 4, at p. 121

[8] See, generally, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada#cite_note-3

[9] The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril hi tom Alta Mira Press, (2001), p.416, cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada#cite_note-NewEncycle-1

[10] See supra note 2, at p. 103