The Testimony (Shahadah) to Convert to Islam is Inaccurate

People who convert to Submission (Islam) are told to say the following sentence:

أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله
I bear witness that there is no god but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger.

While it is true that Muhammad was a messenger of God, we must not forget that he was not the only messenger of God and that all messengers of God are to be treated equally (2:136). Many Submitters (Muslims) today think of Muhammad exclusively or as a superior messenger compared to all other messengers. For example, in mosques you will often find Muhammad’s name next to God’s name and nowhere will you find the names of the other messengers including Abraham, the founder of Submission (Islam). When Submitters (Muslims) pray, near the end of the prayer they often ask for blessings on both Muhammad and Abraham. However, this too seems limiting considering that true believers must treat all messengers equally. According to verse 3:13, God tells us how to bear witness in submission to Him.

شَهِدَ اللَّهُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
God witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge – [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (3:18)

This verse doesn’t mention Muhammad. This makes sense since we know from 22:78 that Submitters (Muslims) existed before Muhammad existed, e.g. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and many of their followers.

In verse 27:44, we see an example of how the ruler of Sheba converted to Submission (Islam) and become a Submitter (Muslim). All she said was, “I submit to God, Lord of the Worlds.”

قِيلَ لَهَا ادْخُلِي الصَّرْحَ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَأَتْهُ حَسِبَتْهُ لُجَّةً وَكَشَفَتْ عَن سَاقَيْهَا ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ صَرْحٌ مُّمَرَّدٌ مِّن قَوَارِيرَ ۗ قَالَتْ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
She was told, “Enter the palace.” But when she saw it, she thought it was a body of water and uncovered her shins [to wade through]. He said, “Indeed, it is a palace [whose floor is] made smooth with glass.” She said, “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I submit with Solomon to God, Lord of the worlds.” (27:44)

We also know from 49:14 that one can be a Submitter (Muslim) before being a Believer (Mu’min).

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۖ وَإِن تُطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُم مِّنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
The desert Arabs say, “We believe!” Say, “Do not say you believe; but only say, ‘We have submitted our wills to God (as Submitters / Muslims),’ as belief has not yet entered your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not deprive you anything of your deeds: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (49:14)

Therefore, becoming a Submitter (Muslim) only requires belief in one God regardless of their belief in God’s angels, messengers, and scriptures. Verse 2:285 gives us the requirements for one to be a Believer (Mu’min).

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا …
“The messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believes in God and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. …. ” (2:285)

Therefore, better testimonies that don’t violate verses 2:136 and 2:285 are:

Testimony to be a Submitter (Muslim)

I bear witness that there is no god but God.

Testimony to be a Submitter (Muslim) and a Believer (Mu’min)

I bear witness that there is no god but God.

I bear witness to the existence of God’s angels.

I bear witness that God revealed scriptures including, but not limited to, the Torah, Injil, and the Quran.

I bear witness that Muhammad and many others before him including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, were messengers of God.

Submitters (Muslims) existed before Muhammad’s time

Many Muslims today believe that Muhammad was the first Muslim (submitter). However, below is proof that many people were Muslims (Submitters) way before Muhammad was even born.

Prophet Nuh (Noah) was a Submitter (Muslim)

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ نُوحٍ ….. وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
And recite to them the news of Noah, when he said to his people, … I have been commanded to be of the Submitters (Muslims).” (10:71-72)

Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Is’haq (Isaac), Ya’kub (Jacob) and Ya’kub’s sons were Submitters (Muslims)

And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham? … When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds.” And Abraham instructed his sons [to do the same] and [so did] Jacob, [saying], “O my sons, indeed God has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims.” Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Submitters (Muslims) [in submission] to Him.” (2:130 – 133)

Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was a Submitter (Muslim)

قَالَ أَنَا يُوسُفُ …. أَنتَ وَلِيِّي فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۖ تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ
…. I am Joseph, …… My Lord …. You are my protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Cause me to die a Submitter (Muslim) and join me with the righteous.” (12:90-101)

Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) was a Submitter (Muslim)

…. وَأُوتِينَا الْعِلْمَ مِن قَبْلِهَا وَكُنَّا مُسْلِمِينَ
…. [Solomon said], “And we were given knowledge before her, and we have been Submitters (Muslims). (27:42)

Prophet Isa (Jesus) and his disciples were Submitters (Muslims)

فَلَمَّا أَحَسَّ عِيسَىٰ مِنْهُمُ الْكُفْرَ قَالَ مَنْ أَنصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ اللَّهِ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَاشْهَدْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
But when Jesus felt [persistence in] disbelief from them, he said, “Who are my supporters for [the cause of] God?” The disciples said,” We are supporters for God. We have believed in God and testify that we are Submitters (Muslims). (3:52)

People who believed in the previous scriptures (Torah, Injil) were Submitters (Muslims)

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِهِ هُم بِهِ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَإِذَا يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِهِ إِنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا مِن قَبْلِهِ مُسْلِمِينَ
Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it. And when it is recited to them, they say, “We have believed in it; indeed, it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed we were, [even] before it, Submitters (Muslims).” (28:52-53)

God named people before Muhammad’s time Submitters (Muslims)

مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۚ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَٰذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ ۚ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ ۖ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَىٰ وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ
… [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. God named you “Submitters” (“Muslims”) before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation (the Quran)] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to God. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper. (22:78)

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל)

The key part of testimony to be a submitter (Muslim) is “there is no god but God”. Note that this statement regarding the oneness of God is often found in the Quran and matches the Shema Yisrael. The Shema Yisrael is found in the Torah in Deuteronomy 6:4.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6:4)

According to Wikipedia, the Shema is a centerpiece of morning and evening Jewish prayers. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.

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