Lesson 1 (The Holy Kalima)

Chapter No.: 

The Holy Kalima

لا إله إلّا الله محمد رسول الله

‘Laa ilaaha illal-laahu Muhammadur rasu-lullaah’

There is no deity (who is worthy of worship and obedience) save One Allah, and Muhammad is His Apostle.

Brothers, - this confession is the gateway to Islam, the arch-stone of the faith. By affirming it and reciting it with sincerity and conviction even, a lifelong heathen or a polytheist can become a Muslim, a man of faith, and earn his title to salvation. The condition, however, is that he should have accepted conscientiously and with full understanding the declaration of the Oneness of Allah and the Apostleship of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) contained in it. Thus, any one who repeats the confession mechanically, without understanding it and without knowing what the concepts of Divine Unity and Apostleship and Prophecy mean, will not gain recognition in the sight of Allah as a Muslim. It is, therefore, necessary to study its meaning and implications carefully.

The confession consists of two parts. The first part contains that no one except the Almighty is worthy of worship and obedience. Worship and obedience should be offered to Him alone because He and no one else is our Lord and Creator, Nourisher and Sustainer and the Dispenser of Life and Death. Sickness and health, poverty and riches, in short, all manner of Allah and evil, gain or loss, lies solely in His control. Apart from Him, whatever living things exist on the earth, or in the heavens, be they men or angles, are all His creatures and slaves. He is partnered by no one, no one has a share in His Divinity nor can any one amend or alter His Will, or interfere with His affairs. Hence, He and He alone is worthy of devotion and worship. He alone is the Supreme Being, the Almighty, to whom all our prayers and supplications should be addressed. He alone is the real Owner of the heavens and the earth, the Monarch of all monarchs, the Lord Sovereign. It is, therefore, necessary that all His commands and injunctions are strictly obeyed and faithfully carried out. As against His commands the commands of no one should be heeded to no matter whether they are of our parents or rulers or of the head of the community or a dear friend, or the biddings of our own heart. In a nutshell, when once we have realized and confessed the truth that Allah alone, and no one besides Him, is worthy of worship and obedience our conduct should also be in conformity with it, so much so that any one who sees us should know by our behaviour that we are the devoted servants of the Lord who carry out His commands dutifully and live and die for His sake alone.

Brothers, - this kalimah is the keystone of Islam and the first and foremost item in the teachings of all the Prophets. It commands the highest, the most important place in the religious scheme of things. A famous Tradition of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) reads: "There are more than seventy departments of the faith and among them the most superior and exalted is belief in the Kalima of. For this reason, among the dhikr [(prayer – formulas), the word ‘dhikr’ literally means a special phrase meant for recitation by the devote] also it is the best. States the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam): "Of all the prayer-formulas the best and most excellent is that of".

In another Tradition it is related that once Allah gave this reply to a question put to Him by Prophet Moses:

"O Moses, if the seven heavens and the seven earths and all that is contained in them are placed on one side of the balance and on the other, the side on which placed will turn out to be heavier.

Brothers, this unique virtue and excellence of is due solely to the fact that it contains to solemn affirmation of Divine Unity, the assertion, the pledge and the declaration that we shall worship Him alone and offer our homage and obeisance to no one apart from Him, and shall make Him the sole pivot of our existence. It, indeed, is the life-breath of Islam. That is why, the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has advised Muslims to refresh and to reinvigorate their faith by repeating the Kalima frequently.

It is narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once said, "O men! Keep on refreshing your faith". Upon this the Companions enquired, "O Prophet of Allah! How are we to do so?" The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) replied, "By reciting the Kalima frequently”. (Musnad Ahmad, Jam’ul Fawaa-id)

The Kalima ‘Laa ilaaha illal-laah’ holds the power to restore and revitalize the faith for the simple reason that it embodies the affirmation of Divine Unity and the covenant to worship Him alone, to do allegiance to none besides Him and to hold Him dearer and nearer to the heart than anything or anybody else in the world. As we have said earlier, it is the essence, the sustaining principle of Islam. So, the more we will utter it attentively, concentrating duly on what it stands for, the more will our faith gain in vitality and our covenant in strength and our whole life will, Insha Allah, get cast in the mould of ‘Laa ilaaha illal-laah’.

The Second Part

The second part of the Kalima consists of ‘Muhammadur rasu-lullaah’. In it the affirmation is made of the Divine Apostleship of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). That Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is the Apostle of Allah means that he was raised up by the Almighty for the guidance of the world and whatever he taught, preached or revealed like the Divinity of the origin of the Quran, the existence of the angels, the certainty of the Last Day, the Resurrection, the Judgment, the award of heaven and hell according to one's deeds on the earth was hundred percent true and authentic. Indeed, the Apostleship of the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) denotes nothing more and nothing less than this that all the things he taught to the world, all the truths he revealed to mankind, were based on Divine inspiration, that they were based on special and authoritative knowledge vouchsafed to him by Allah, and so they were absolutely correct and beyond dispute. There is not the least excuse, the slightest reason, for doubting or questioning his word. The guidance he gave to men, the laws he laid down, was Divine guidance and Divine laws which had been inspired to him by the Almighty. You would have realized that the acceptance of any one as a Divine Apostle automatically implies that each and every precept and command of his should be whole heartedly believed in and obeyed for Allah raised up His Apostles in the world solely to convey through them to mankind the commands and precepts He wants it to follow. Says the Quran:

We sent not an Apostle, but to be obeyed in accordance with the Will of Allah. (4:64)

To believe in anyone as an Apostle and to accept him as such, thus, means simply to hold every word of his as true, to regard his teachings and guidance to be the teachings and guidance of Allah, and to decide, once for all, to lead one's life according to the precepts he taught. So, if a person recites the Kalima but does not, as a logical consequence of it, resolve firmly to hold all the teachings of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) to be wholly true and all that may run counter to them to be wholly false, and to abide by his Shariat (holy law) and his commands faithfully, he, of course is not a man of faith and a Muslim. He, probably, has not even understood what it means to be a Muslim. It is obvious that once we have recited the Kalima and accepted the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as the true Apostle of Allah, it becomes obligatory for us to believe in his guidance, to adhere to his commands and to observe faithfully the Shariat he brought.

A Covenant

From the meaning and interpretation of the holy Kalima given above, you will have realized that it is a covenant. It embodies the pledge and the vow that we believe in Allah as the One and Only Lord Sovereign, Master and Creator, and regard everything that exists in this world and the Hereafter to be exclusively in His control, and that, since we do so, we will worship Him alone and carry out His commands the way a servant and a slave carries out the commands of his master, and love Him and adore him above all else, and, further, that we accept Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as the true Apostle of Allah, and will abide by his guidance as a loyal follower and fashion our lives according to the holy law laid down by him. In fact, faith denotes nothing except this pledge and covenant and this is precisely what the affirmation of Divine Unity and Apostleship means.

A Muslim should, therefore hold himself bound by this covenant and try his level best to shape his conduct in its light so that he may earn recognition in the eyes of Allah as a genuine man of faith and attain his salvation and place in the paradise.

Those who are blessed enough to bear faith honestly in both the parts of the holy Kalima and to give proof of it by word as well as by deed are the recipients of countless glad tidings like the one reproduced below:

It is related by Hazrat Anas that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once said to Hazrat Ma'ad, "Allah has declared as forbidden the fire of the Hell for him who affirms the Kalima of with a true heart". (Agreed Upon)

Brothers, affirm with a true heart and with a full knowledge and awareness of its implications and importance and resolve now and forever to lead your lives according to it in order that your attestation may not turn out to be false. On this very attestation depends your faith and your salvation.