Shahadah: The sign of conversion to Islam and its oppressive impact
When a Christian prays for the first time, repents of their sins, and surrenders their life over to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, their life changes forever! This has historically been called “The Sinner’s Prayer” or “The Salvation Prayer.” Some people follow a simple outline, while others say what is on their heart. The Bible is clear that it is not important what a person says, but instead what their heart believes:
“... if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Islam has its own version of this “salvation prayer” or confession of faith. A person’s life changes forever once they utter specific two sentences. They become followers of Islam, trapped into a life of rules and rituals they must follow strictly to be “good enough” for Allah, and if they ever consider denouncing Islam, the penalty is death.
What is Islam’s confession of faith?
The first pillar of Islam is the Confession of the Creed, the Shahadah. The following two sentences must be declared in Arabic with a sincere voice or else the confession is not accepted:
“Ashhadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammad rasula Allah.”
“I testify there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
If the speaker does not speak Arabic, it will be translated for them so they can understand what they are saying. This confession must be honored until a Muslim dies, or else they are prohibited from entering janna (paradise), and are punished with death.
Muslims repeat the Shahadah thousands of times throughout their life. They are taught that saying this phrase brings rewards and favor from Allah. Muslims say it often during their five daily prayers, during their everyday conversation, and any time they want to feel closer to Allah.
In addition, since the dawn of Islam, the Shahadah was a sign for Muslims to discover whether the person in front of them was a true Muslim or not. When someone leaves Islam, their family and the religious leaders in their community try to force them into saying the Shahadah to make them return to their forfather’s religion and to save them from persecution and even death. Throughout the 14 centuries of Islam, countless converts who believed in Christ died as martyrs after refusing to say the Shahadah. This continues till today in Islamic countries.
Why should the Shahadah concern us
There are many layers to the confession of Islam’s creed. Understanding the way a person is locked into Islam once they confess it should invoke compassion in us Christians. Many westerners who convert to Islam do not understand the daunting impact of what they are doing. In addition, all children born to Muslim parents inherit their faith from them and do not have the opportunity to think for themselves before they are ushered to perform the Shahadah (usually between the ages of 5 and 8). There are many dynamics in this “inheritance of faith” that are dangerous and lead to pain and brokenness, which you can read about in this blog.
Islamic prayers and recitation of the Quran must be performed in Arabic, and the Shahadah is no different. This is important for Christians to know, because this is a tool used to conceal the truth of Islam from Muslims, especially those whose first language is not Arabic. In fact, the Quran is only considered in its “truest form” when it is spoken or read in Arabic, and any translations into another language are not considered the real Quran but called “the meaning of the Quran.” Read more about this language barrier in this post.
The Shahadah is a tool that is used to trap Muslims into a life of fearful and uninformed devotion to their religion. As Christ-followers, we should recognize this issue and have sympathy for these people who are often victims of the religion they grew up in.
How to talk about this with your Muslim friend
Do not hesitate to ask your Muslim friend about their faith story, just as you would ask a Christian friend! You can learn important things about how they were raised and what they believe about Allah. For example, you can ask them:
- What does the confession of faith mean to you?
- Why do you have to say the confession of faith in Arabic?
- Does saying the shahadah mean you’re saved?
These questions will help you understand your Muslim friend and show you where they might need truth in their life. Starting such a conversation may also encourage your Muslim friend to ask you about your own faith journey ! We have a resource to help you prepare to share your testimony with your Muslim friend, with questions to help you reflect on your story before sharing.
Whenever you have the opportunity to share your faith and who Jesus is to you, remember to, focus on the ways that your life has changed for the better after surrendering your life to Christ. Your Muslim friend entered a life of legalism and unreachable standards, while you entered into the Lord’s family through grace and complete love! Share this love and grace with them by sharing what God has done in your life.
Dear Jesus, thank you for a loving relationship with you through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for being gracious with me and forgiving my sins. Please give me the opportunity to introduce my Muslim friend to the freedom they can have through a relationship with you! Amen.