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The Ramifications of the Sincere Shahādah

Imām Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī

To take the Shahādah is to recognize Allāh’s oneness and power. It purifies the heart and prevents the blind following of desires. For the Shahādah to be accepted, it must be expressed sincerely.

True fulfillment of the meaning of the testification that:

«لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ» وأن «مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ»

‘There is nothing deserving of worship in truth except for Allāh’

  • in one’s heart,
  • belief in the truthfulness of these words
  • and bearing witness to this with sincerity

all stipulate that one worships Allāh alone. His worship will be out of recognition of His extreme sublimity, in a state of awe, fear of His punishment, love of Him, hope for His reward, seeking to exalt Him while putting one’s complete trust in Him. His heart must be filled with this to the extent that he possesses no room for the worship of any created being. If such a state is achieved, you will find that he possesses no love or desire, nor does he seek other than what is beloved or wanted by Allāh. His heart becomes devoid of personal desires, wants, or that which is instated through the whispers of Shayṭān. For whoever loves and obeys something to the extent that he loves and hates others because of it, that thing becomes an object of reverent worship for him. Thus, whoever does not love or hate except for Allāh, to where he takes close allies and defines his enemies based on Him alone, then he has taken Allāh to be his true God.

Whoever loves, hates, makes friends, and defines enemies based completely on his own desires, then he has made his desires his true god. As the Most High said:

أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ

Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire.
[Jāthiyah, 45:23]

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (رحمه الله) said: He is the one who mounts whatever he desires.

Qatādah (رحمه الله) said: He is the one who mounts whatever he desires, fulfilling whatever he lusts for; he is neither impeded by piety nor taqwá.

As for the one who obeys Shayṭān in disobedience to Allāh, then he has worshipped Shayṭān. As Allāh, the Exalted in Might, said:

أَلَمْ أَعْهَدْ إِلَيْكُمْ يَا بَنِي آدَمَ أَن لَّا تَعْبُدُوا الشَّيْطَانَ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

Did I not enjoin upon you, O children of Ādam, that you should not worship Satan – [for] indeed, he is to you a clear enemy
[Yāsīn, 36:60]

It becomes clear from this that one has not truly fulfilled the meaning of the testification: ‘There is nothing worshipped in truth except for Allāh’ except if his heart is free of continuous love for that which is hated by Allāh, or desire for that which is not desirable with Allāh. Whenever there exists within one’s heart a form of this, it represents a deficiency in his tawḥīd; a type of obscure, hidden shirk. It is because of this that Mujāhid (رحمه الله) said concerning the verse:

وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا

Associate nothing with Him
[Al-Nisāʾ, 4:36]

It means: Do not love anyone other than me. In Ṣaḥīḥ al-Ḥākim, Āʾishah (رضي الله عنها) narrates that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Shirk may be more obscure than the scattering of tiny specks on the surface of a stone in the dead of night. Its smallest form is that you possess love for that which is oppression, or that you hate that which represents justice. For is religion itself not fundamentally built upon love and hate?

Allāh, the Exalted in Might, said:

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ

Say, [O Muḥammad], “If you should love Allāh, then follow me, [so] Allāh will love you[1]
[Āli-ʿImrān, 3:31]

This passage clearly proves that loving that which is hateful to Allāh, or detesting that which is loved by Allāh, while following one’s desires to the extent that one chooses his friends and defines his enemies based on this—is a form of hidden shirk. Ibn Abī al-Dunyá narrated from the ḥadīth of Anas to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “‘There is nothing worshipped in truth except for Allāh’ continuously prevents the slaves from the anger of Allāh in so long as they do not prioritise their worldly affairs over the pact of this dīn. For if they were to prioritise their worldly engagements over their dīn and then say: ‘There is nothing worshipped in truth except for Allāh’ their testimony would be rejected by Allāh. Allāh will say: ‘You have lied.’”[2]

From this, the meaning of his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying: “Whoever says ‘There is nothing worshipped in truth except for Allāh’ truthfully and wholeheartedly, Allāh will make the Fire ḥarām upon him.”[3] As for the ones who enter the Fire from among the ones who have made this testimony, it is because of the lack of truthfulness they possess in saying it. This is because this testification if said truthfully, purifies the heart wholly from everything besides Allāh. Such that whoever truthfully testifies that ‘There is nothing worshipped in truth except for Allāh’ cannot love other than Him, nor will he hope for reward from other than Him. Just as he would not possess fear of others, or put his trust except in Him. The effects of his own self and desires will have ceased completely. Whenever there exists within the heart effects from other than Allāh, it is borne from a deficiency in actualisation of the truthfulness of this testification.


[1] Weak: narrated by al-Ḥākim in al-Mustadrak 2:291. Graded very weak by Shaykh al-Albānī in ‘Ḍaʿīf al-Targhīb wa al-Tarhīb’: 1787.
[2] Weak: narrated by al-Haythamī in al-Majmaʿ 7:277. Graded weak by Ibn Ḥajar in ‘al-Maṭālib al-ʿĀliyah’ 13:663-664.
[3] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 128 and Muslim: 32.

Source: Jāmiʿ al-ʿUlūm 2: 624-626
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 3, 2023
Edited: June 28, 2023


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