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17. Understanding Islam

4.1. PILLAR 1: The Shahada (Islamic creed)

The Shahada, or statement of faith, says that “there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah.” Note the focus on both Allah and Mohammed, interesting for a religion which claims to be absolutely monotheistic as the first part of the creed referring to faith in Allah by itself isn’t enough, and the second part which includes Mohammed (a creature) must be included. This is of course doubly interesting in light of Muslim insistence that Mohammed is not special among all of Allah’s prophets, yet he is singled out and included in the basic statement of faith.

Muslims believe the Shahada must be recited in Arabic, even though there is nothing in Islamic teachings which says this must be the case. According to Mohammed, simply reciting it is enough to save Muslims from hell. He said:

“There is none who testifies sincerely from his heart that La ilaha illa-llah wa anna Muhammad Rasul Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), except that Allah will save him from the Hell-fire.” (Sahih Bukhari)

And so this is the only thing required from someone to become Muslim.

Muslims hear the creed over twenty times every day during the call to prayers, and individual Muslims repeat it multiple times in every prayer. In practice, it is often said much more frequently than this as some Muslims use the creed to express anger, frustration, appreciation, and so on.

Mohammed said:

“I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘La ilâha illa-llah’ (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah). And if they say so, offer prayers like our Salat (prayers), face our Qiblah (Ka'bah at Makkah during prayer) and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us, and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.” (Sahih Bukhari).

Some Muslim scholars understand “people” to mean Mohammed’s tribe, while others understand it to mean every non-Muslim.

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