This article is about the Islamic creed. For other uses, see Shahada (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Shahid.

The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادة aš-šahādah  audio , "the testimony"; aš-šahādatān (الشَهادَتانْ, "the two testimonials"); also Kalima Shahadat [كلمة الشهادة, "the testimonial word"]), is an Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet. The declaration, in its shortest form, reads:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadur-rasūlu-llāh
There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.[1][2][3][4]
Audio (prefaced by the phrase (wa) ašhadu ʾan —"(and) I testify, that")  audio 

Terminology and significance

The noun šahāda (شَهادة), from the verbal root šahida (شَهِدَ) meaning "to observe, witness, testify", translates as "testimony", in both the everyday and the legal senses.[5][note 1] The Islamic creed is also called, in the dual form, šahādatān (شَهادَتانْ, literally "two testimonials"). The expression al-šahāda (the Witnessed) is used in Quran as one of the "titles of God".[9]

The statement has two parts: la ilaha illa'llah (there is no god but God), and Muhammadun rasul Allah (Muhammad is the messenger of God),[10] which are sometimes referred to as the first shahada and the second shahada.[11] The first statement of the shahada is also known as the tahlīl.[12]

Islam's monotheistic nature is reflected in the first shahada, which declares belief in the oneness of God and that he is the only entity truly worthy of worship.[11] The second shahada indicates the means by which God has offered guidance to human beings.[13] The verse reminds Muslims that they accept not only the prophecy of Muhammad but also the long line of prophets who preceded him.[13] While the first part is seen as a cosmic truth, the second is specific to Islam, as it is understood that members of other Abrahamic religions do not view Muhammad as one of their prophets.[13]

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.[11][14]

In Shia Islam, the shahada is expanded with the addition of a phrase concerning Ali, the fourth Rashid caliph of Sunni Islam and the first Shia Imam: وعليٌ وليُّ الله (wa ʿalīyyun walīyyu-llāh), which translates to "Ali is the wali of God.[15]


Recitation of the shahādah is the most common statement of faith for Muslims. In Sunni Islam, it is counted as the first of the Five Pillars of Islam,[9] while the Shi'i Twelvers and Isma'ilis also have the shahada as among their pillars of faith.[16] It is whispered by the father into the ear of a newborn child,[9] and it is whispered into the ear of a dying person.[17] The five canonical daily prayers each include a recitation of the shahada.[13] Recitation of the shahada in front of witnesses is also the first and only formal step in conversion to Islam.[9] This occasion often attracts more than the two required witnesses and sometimes includes a party-like celebration to welcome the convert into their new faith.[11] In accordance with the central importance played by the notion of intention (Arabic: نیّة, niyyah) in Islamic doctrine, the recitation of the shahada must reflect understanding of its import and heartfelt sincerity.[18][19] Intention is what differentiates acts of devotion from mundane acts and a simple reading of the shahada from invoking it as a ritual activity.[18][19]


Though the two phrases of the shahada are both present in the Quran, they are not found there side by side as in the shahada formula.[10] 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.[10] 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".[10] Another variant appears in coins minted after the reign of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the fifth Umayyad caliph, in the form "Muhammad is the servant of God and His messenger".[10] 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.[10]

In Sufism

The shahada has been traditionally recited in the Sufi ceremony of dhikr (Arabic: ذِکْر , "remembrance"), a ritual that resembles mantras found in many other religious traditions.[20] During the ceremony, the shahada may be repeated thousands of times, sometimes in the shortened form of the first phrase where the word Allah is replaced by huwa (He).[20] The chanting of the shahada sometimes provides a rhythmic background for singing.[21]

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.[10][22][23]

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.[24][25] In his San Giovenale Triptych, the Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio has copied the full shahada on the halo of the Madonna, written backwards.[25][26]

Use on flags

The shahada is found on Islamic flags. Wahhabism used the shahada on their flags since the 18th century.[27] In 1902, ibn Saud, leader of the House of Saud and the future founder of Saudi Arabia, added a sword to this flag.[27] The modern Flag of Saudi Arabia was introduced in 1973.[28] The Flag of Somaliland has a horizontal strip of green, white and red with the shahada inscribed in white on the green strip.[29]

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.[30]

See also


  1. The related noun šahīd (شَهيد), which is used in the Quran mainly in the sense "witness", has paralleled in its development the Greek martys (Greek: μάρτυς) in that it may mean both "witness" and "martyr".[6][7] Similarly, šahāda may also mean "martyrdom" although in modern Arabic the more commonly used word for "martyrdom" is another derivative of the same root, istišhād (إسْتِشْهادْ).[8]



  1. Malise Ruthven (January 2004). Historical Atlas of Islam. Harvard University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-674-01385-8.
  2. Richard C. Martín. Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World. Granite Hill Publishers. p. 723. ISBN 978-0-02-865603-8.
  3. Frederick Mathewson Denny (2006). An Introduction to Islam. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-13-183563-4.
  4. Mohammad, Noor (1985). "The Doctrine of Jihad: An Introduction". Journal of Law and Religion. 3 (2): 381–397. doi:10.2307/1051182. JSTOR 1051182.
  5. Wehr, Hans; J. Milton Cowan (1976). A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (PDF). pp. 488–489.
  6. David Cook, Martyrdom (Shahada) Oxford Bibliographies
  7. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume IX, Klijkebrille, 1997, p. 201.
  8. John Wortabet; Harvey Porter (1 September 2003). English-Arabic and Arabic-English Dictionary. Asian Educational Services. p. 238.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Cornell, p. 8
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Lindsay, p. 140–141
  11. 1 2 3 4 Cornell, p. 9
  12. Michael Anthony Sells (1999). Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. White Cloud Press. p. 151.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Cornell, p. 10
  14. Lindsay, p. 149
  15. The Later Mughals by William Irvine p. 130
  16. "Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim". Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  17. Azim Nanji (2008). The Penguin Dictionary of Islam. Penguin UK. p. 101.
  18. 1 2 Andrew Rippin (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. pp. 104–105.
  19. 1 2 Ignác Goldziher (1981). Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton University Press. pp. 18–19.
  20. 1 2 Ian Richard Netton (19 December 2013). Encyclopaedia of Islam. p. 143.
  21. Jonathan Holt Shannon (2006). Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 110–111.
  22. Doris Behrens-Abouseif (1989). Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction. Brill. p. 54.
  23. Oleg Grabar (ed.) (1985). An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture. Brill. p. 110.
  24. Eva Baer (2013). The Renaissance and the Ottoman World. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 41–43.
  25. 1 2 Anna Contadini, Dr. Claire Norton (1989). Ayyubid Metalwork With Christian Images. Brill. p. 47.
  26. Graziella Parati (1999). Mediterranean Crossroads: Migration Literature in Italy. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 13.
  27. 1 2 Firefly Books (2003). Firefly Guide to Flags of the World. Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-55297-813-9.
  28. "Saudi Arabia Flag and Description". World Atlas. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  29. James B. Minahan. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World A-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 806. ISBN 9780313076961.
  30. McCants, William (22 September 2015). "How ISIS Got Its Flag". The Atlantic. Retrieved 23 November 2015.


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