.أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله
Transliteration: Ashadu an la ilaha illa (A)llah, wa ashadu anna Muhammadan rasulu (A)llah
English: I bear witness that (or I testify that) there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
After openly declaring the Islamic Creed (The Shahada) what next? What changes? What does the above statement encompass? How much does your life change?
A single honest recitation of the Shahada in Arabic is the only initial requirement to become a Muslim. [Refer to The Five Pillars of Islam, of which the Shahada is the first.] Now that you have become a Muslim, how do you go about living as a Muslim?
Although the Shahada can be recited in private, reciting the Shahada in public is perhaps one of the single most memorable moments in a reverts life. The sheer power of those words and the welcome one receives from the other Muslim’s who witness the recitation can be quite overwhelming.
Reciting the Shahada is the first Pillar of Islam. Coming from a Christian background, the Imam who recited the Shahada for me to repeat, made me also say the following in Arabic, after reciting the Shahada above; "I testify that there is no god but God, and Jesus is the slave and the messenger of God."
To be clear, I didn't voice these words because I was compelled to do so. I truly believe that. Islam teaches that Allah has no partner, He is without equal, He is not born nor does he give birth to; He simply says the word "Be" and it is. In my case, coming from a Christian background, the Imam did ask me before hand what my beliefs were – and on what I based my beliefs on. In other words, he was inquiring about when and where I had come to the realisation that Jesus is, in fact, NOT the son of God or a member of the fictitious Trinity (as Christianity teaches). I say "fictitious" because the word "Trinity" does not exist in the Christian Bible - a good explanation can be found here. The only place the word "Trinity" seems to exist is in the Vatican Catholic Doctrine. Also refer to the Good News Bible [2nd Edition 1994] (The Bible Societies / HarperCollins) on the Son of God - Matthew 3:17, Matthew 14:33, Luke 1:32 & 35, Luke 4:3, Luke 8:28 and so on. There are many more than these. See Wikipedia for a comprehensive list of Verses in the Holy Bible.
Each person’s life journey is unique to him or her as is their core reason for embracing Islam. Allah guides you in your own way and once your Shahada has been publicly declared, what do you do next?
For me - as explained by the Imam on the very same day I recited the Shahada – the first most important thing to learn – and perfect – was the five daily prayers (Salat – the second of the Five Pillars of Islam) and the accompanying ablution or Wudhu.
In Islam, performing Salat (Silent "T", so pronounced Salah) is obligatory. It is performed five times per day, every day and it is the only single Pillar of Islam that is required to be done the most (in comparison to fasting (Sawm) and the paying of Zakat (alms or charity).
Qur'an: Al-Baqarah 2:238 - Guard strictly your prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before Allah devoutly.
Qur'an: Ta Ha 20:14 - Verily, I am Allah: there is no god but I: so serve you Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise.
Performing regular Salat goes hand in hand with the memorising and reciting of the Holy Qur'an. Read it daily in your language to gain an understanding of the Holy Message.
And here, no doubt, is the first point of heated discussion! How does one pray in Arabic when one does not speak a word of Arabic?
And that very same question I posed to the Imam – I don’t speak, read or write a single letter in Arabic. The only Qur'an that I have read is the English translation by Yusuf Ali.
Without going into too much detail here – Insha’Allah I will discuss this in another article – I was advised to do two things. 1). Memorise some short chapters from the Qur'an in English to begin with and 2). When I feel that I am able to, learn how to recite those same chapters in Arabic. Read the article: Qur'an: In your language or in Arabic?
The logic and the argument behind this advice was clear enough to me – don’t learn the Arabic verses blindly because it is important to know what you are reciting. Learn their meaning first and foremost and when the time is right, learn how to recite them in Arabic. I am still using this approach and it works well for me. My advice to any reader in the same situation as me is to seek the advice of an Imam at your local mosque.
That said, I have, in the past, related the above to other Muslims and I have received a very mixed bag of advice along with agreement and disagreement. I made my own mind up to follow the original advice I received and Alhamdulillah it has worked out. Allah guides us how He Wills and perhaps this is my guidance.
To summarise, immediately following the Shahada, learn to perform and perfect your Salat and wudhu. Read and memorise the Qur'an. And may Allah (SWT) guide you the straight path.
Everything! Insha’Allah your whole life will now change for the better.
Islam imposes no hardships on anyone. It is repeated often enough in the Holy Qur'an that no person shall bear a burden more than they can handle.
Let us assume the following – like me, you have come from a Christian background and are living in a Western society where life is a free for all! You are permitted to drink alcohol, gamble, eat what you like, do what you like, date people of the opposite sex, cohabitate with them outside marriage and so on.
Let me put it this way, your life, outside of Islam, is like the Wild West! No rules, no laws, nothing to keep you on the straight and narrow. Do you disagree? I ask then; how easy is it today in any western country to do the "wrong" thing? And how difficult is it to do the "right" thing? Think about this for a minute.
We all know (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Atheist) how the excessive consumption of alcohol destroys lives. Look around you. The whole western culture and society is almost pivoting around alcohol; it is everywhere. The catch-phrase of the day in the UK is "binge-drinking" a phenomenon of downing as much alcohol in as little time as possible to take advantage of the so called "happy hour". Enough said.
Gambling is not permitted. [Al-Ma'idah 5:90 & Al-Baqarah 2:219, as above] That includes playing the Lotto.
Can you give up these things? The giving up of alcohol and gambling should not need an in-depth explanation. Excessive alcohol is bad for you (the whole medical community will agree with this statement) and gambling is equally bad for you. If you still need to be convinced on the effects of alcohol and gambling, please feel free to visit the following two websites - www.gambleaware.co.uk and www.drinkaware.co.uk
I might add that they are non-Islamic websites put in place to assist with these two secular social ills. It is now law in the UK that any advert of alcohol should display the link to Drink Aware and any gambling advert/website should likewise display the link to Gamble Aware. For an example of this, take a look at the bottom of the Lotto website and follow the link responsible play
The eating of pork is not permitted.
I am not entirely sure why pork is not permitted. Perhaps someone can enlighten me with adequate references to theories. I do know this:
Therefore my reasoning does not require a further explanation on why pork is not permitted, because no where in the Qur'an or the Bible is an explanation given on why pork is not permitted. I am happy in the prohibition without reason for Allah knows best the reason.
Your new life after the Shahada will not always be brick-paved highway. To quote a typically Christian saying, "The road to Paradise is a thorny one."
My advice to anyone reading this article is simple: take things slowly. Do not dive into the deep end because you will be overwhelmed. I truly believe that there is no sin on me if I cannot read Arabic – I must however make the intention to learn it, Insha’Allah. I truly believe that there is no great sin on me if I miss a few daily prayers in the weeks and months after accepting Islam – I must however make the heartfelt intention to observe all five daily prayers, Insha’Allah.
I will admit here and now that I missed quite a lot of prayers in the weeks and months following my Shahada. There is no excuse for it other than a basic lack of understanding of the importance of them. And that understanding developed over time and with a little extra effort. The effort (among other things) was ensuring I used a super-loud alarm clock for the Fajr (dawn) prayer!
On that point, during this time, I was heavily berated by some other Muslims for missing prayers. To them, I say thank you.
I prefer a different approach to them… To anyone having difficulty observing the five daily prayers (and indeed, having difficulty with any Islamic duty), I say this:- it is absolutely wrong for anyone to scold and chastise you. Here is a little somewhat friendlier advice - persevere, persevere, persevere. As you are assured by Allah in His Glorious Qur'an:
Al-Baqarah 2:155 - Not so do those who show patience and constancy, and work righteousness; for them is forgiveness (of sins) and a great reward.
And Allah knows best.