There are seven things which are essential for a Muslim to believe in. These are spelled out in detail in the formal declaration of Islamic faith known as Iman Mufassal. Muslims pledge:
1. Faith in God;
2. Faith in His angels;
3. Faith in all of His messengers or Prophets;
4. Faith in His revealed Books;
5. Faith in the Last Day or the Day of Judgement;
6. Faith in the doctrine of predestination, which lays down that everything good or bad is decided by God), (Taqdir) and
7. Faith in the life after death.
Without iman, the individual’s espousal of Islam as his religion would lack credibility. That is why, if he is to be a true believer, he must not only testify to his faith by word of mouth (shahaada bil lisan), but must also accept it with all his heart and soul and then staunchly adhere to it. Furthermore, he is obliged to do good works in keeping with the fundamentals of the faith. Both belief (iman), and right action (amal) are absolutely vital.
I. The Article of Faith – The Shahaadah
The Creed, or article of faith, called shahaadah, literally means ‘witness’ or ‘testimony.’ The first of the five pillars of Islam, its nomenclature derives from the word ‘Ashhadu,’ which means ‘I declare,’ or ‘I bear witness.’ As an Islamic term, it means testifying to faith in Islam. The words of the shahaadah in Arabic are: La ilaha illa Allah Muhammad ur-rasul Allah. This means: ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’ Its recital is called the ‘kalimah.’
For Muslims there are certain requirements which have to be observed regarding the recital of the articles of faith.
They are as follows:
It has to be repeated aloud, at least once in a lifetime.
Its meaning has to be fully understood.
It should be believed in “with the heart.”
It should be professed until death.
When spoken in Arabic and with sincerity, it is a commitment to obey God and follow the Prophet:
‘I bear witness that there is no god but God; I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’
These are the first words that are breathed into a child’s ear at birth. These are also the last words which a Muslim would utter with his dying breath.
Even if someone recites the shahaadah hypocritically— which is not acceptable to God—he will still, for practical purposes, continue to be regarded as a member of the Muslim community. Nevertheless, a proper understanding of the basic tenets is a prerequisite for all true believers. And sincere and heartfelt faith is a sine qua non if salvation is to be ensured in the life Hereafter.
The shahaadah consists of two parts; one, a negation, the other an affirmation. The first part— La ilaha illa Allah (there is no other God) negates the existence of each and every false god, and condemns false worship. The word ‘ilaah’ means ‘god’ or any object of worship; it could refer to any being, person, matter or concept, which is taken as an object of adoration or worship.
The second part of shahaadah—illa Allah— stresses that only God, the one and only God, the Creator and Sustainer of all being, merits our reverence. No one else is to be worshipped or turned to for help or refuge. Neither angels, nor prophets nor saints, nor any other object share in His divinity. There is only One God, One Creator, One Sustainer— the Almighty God.