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Why State the Shahadah in Public?

Why State the Shahadah in Public?
By stating the Islamic testimony, not only do you become a Muslim for yourself, you are now also engaging in a commitment to the Islamic community.

Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, with thousands of new converts accepting Islam each year in America and Western European countries.

The reasons why people accept Islam – or the road they took to get there – may be different from person to person.

A research in the Netherlands (conducted by Vanessa Vroon) has debunked the common idea that most women accept Islam due to romantic relationships with a Muslim man.

Contact with friends, neighbors or co-workers who are practicing Muslims and at the same time positive minded and successful people is often a reason for non-Muslims to become interested in the religion.

For many of them, this path eventually leads to the acceptance of the religion by stating the Islamic testimony of faith, the ‘shahadah’.

To become a Muslim, one only needs to recite the shahadah (Islamic testimony of faith): “Ash hadu an la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash hadu anna Mohammadan rasoolu Allah”. This means: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger.

The person who states this testimony should do this without being forced to, while understanding the implications of it, and being sincere in his heart about the words than cross his lips. From this moment on, one is considered to be a Muslim.

Even though it is not a strict prerequisite, it is highly recommended for someone to state his testimony of faith in public, for instance in a mosque or community center, or at least in front of other Muslims.

For some, this might feel a bit contradicting to what is part of the beauty of Islam: It teaches you that you can have a direct and personal relationship with Allah, the Creator, without the interference of people, objects or Prophets. You ask Allah for forgiveness directly, not via a priest or someone else. You worship Allah directly, not via a prophet. You ask Allah for protection directly, not through objects or talismans.

Allah says in the Quran:

{You (Alone) we worship, and you (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).} (1:5)

The Islamic testimony of faith is one of the five pillars of Islam and a great act of worship, so why are we being recommended to do this publicly, not privately?

This is where you will find Islam to be different from the contemporary Western-European or American culture. In this region of the world over the last decades, a strong individualistic approach to society has evolved, changing the way people view their own role within their surroundings.

On one end, this in fact makes Islam more appealing, with its strong message of a personal and unique relationship with Allah without any interference. But at the same time, there is a major gap between the individualistic mindset and the Islamic principles of a universal brotherhood between mankind as a whole, between families, between neighbors and between Muslims.

Frankly, Islam teaches a greater importance for the welfare of the community than of the individual. This does not mean the individual must suffer for the good of the group, but that the individual must not prosper at the expense of the group. There should be a balance.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

He also said:

“The Believers, in their mutual love, mercy and compassion, are like one body: if one organ complained, the rest of the body develops a fever.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Rights of New Muslims

By stating the Islamic testimony, not only do you become a Muslim for yourself, you are now also engaging in a commitment to the Islamic community and vise versa. By stating the shahadah, not only do you now have responsibilities towards others, they also have responsibilities towards you.

After stating the shahadah, the Islamic community around you has a responsibility to look after you and your wellbeing, to visit you when you are sick, to help you in times of need or distress, to help you among your first steps into the life of Islamic worship, to help you find and learn sound knowledge, to help you to remain steadfast on the path of Islam, to advise you kindly when you make mistakes, to join in prayer, to share the meals at the end of a day of fasting, to come together to celebrate Islamic feasts.

For those of us who live in areas with strong anti-Islamic (sometimes violent) sentiments, we also need to protect each other. In order to be able to fulfill these requirements, the Muslims around you need to know that you have accepted the faith.

The Prophet, peace upon him, said:

“The Devil is like a wolf among humans as a wolf is among sheep; it snatches the stray sheep. So beware of the paths which branch off and adhere to the Jama’ah (‘group’), the masses and the masjid.” (At-Tirmidhi)

So as Islam teaches that you have an individual and personal relationship with Allah, at the same time it teaches the importance of the community. These two teachings do not contradict each other, in fact, they make each other stronger. Your individual relationship with Allah allows you to be a full part of society as a whole and the Muslim community specifically without having the risk of having to serve anybody in the context of worship. You are all equal amongst each other.

If you are contemplating to become a Muslim and you cannot directly find a Muslim gathering in which you can state your shahadah, this is not a problem. Islam is a realistic religion; it never requires something which is impossible to do for a person. Again, to state the shahadah in public is highly recommended, but not a prerequisite.

If you wish to state the shahadah and it is not possible for you to find a gathering of Muslims, then say the shahadah by yourself; “Ash hadu an la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan rasoolu Allah”. Directly after that, put it on the top of your list of priorities to find a gathering of Muslims. Inform them of your shahadah so they can welcome you within the Islamic community.

Don’t be the sheep, walking all by itself, in a world full of wolves. Let’s be honest, we all know how that story ends, don’t we? The individualistic society is not the ideal society Allah wants us to be.

May Allah accept your shahadah and keep you firm and steadfast on His Path, among your brothers and sisters in Islam, up until you enter the gates of Paradise.

Ameen.


About Nourdeen Wildeman

Nourdeen Wildeman is born and raised in the Netherlands. He converted to Islam in 2007 and is active in the field of dawah and supporting New Muslims. He is board member for the Dutch 'National Platform for New Muslims', writer and public speaker at gatherings in his country and abroad.

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