“We’ve been saying it our entire lives, but no one actually explained to us what it means, the way you did.”
Said the old man, after the Friday sermon I delivered on the meaning of La ilaha illa Allah, the Muslim testimony of faith.
In a time where celebrity preachers routinely rubbish the study of Islamic creed, is it any wonder religious literacy among the Muslim masses is trash? Instead, these same preachers will do advanced Quran Studies with an audience, many of whom don’t know the basic fundamentals of their religion.
This is the opposite of what the Companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would do.
It was narrated that Jundub bin ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “We were with the Prophet ﷺ, and we were strong youths, so we learned faith before we learned Qur’an. Then we learned Qur’an and our faith increased thereby.” – Source
First half of the Jumuah Khutbah (Friday Sermon)
Indeed, all Praise belongs to Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid, and ask His forgiveness. And we take refuge with Allah from the evil within ourselves and the evil of our actions.
Whosoever Allah leads aright, none can lead astray. And whosoever He leads astray, none can lead aright.
We bear witness that nothing and no-one is worthy of worship except Allah, alone, without partners. And we bear witness that Muhammad ﷺ is His slave and Messenger. He conveyed the Message, he fulfilled his mandate and he did so in complete sincerity to his people.
So, may Allah exalt the mention, and grant blessings and peace to our Prophet, our Beloved, Muhammad ﷺ, his family and all his companions.
Warning and Exhortation
O you who have Believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims.
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah in Whose name you make demands of one another and also in respect of your families. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an observer.
O you who have Believed, fear Allah and speak words which hit the mark. He will then amend for you your deeds and forgive you your sins. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained something truly great.
Thereafter, the best speech is Allah’s Book and the best guidance, that of Muhammad ﷺ. The greatest evils are those baseless religious innovations, since all such innovation is misguidance and all misguidance is destined for Hellfire.
O slaves of Allah I enjoin upon you and I at-taqwa, conscious fear of God. Taqwa comes from the word wiqaya, which means to shield or protect oneself from something. In a religious context it means shielding oneself from the anger and punishment of Allah. Achieving taqwa is very simple in our religion; do what Allah has commanded and refrain from what He prohibited.
Simple, but not easy.
Rather, it is a lifelong struggle with our souls that only ends when we return to our Lord. How few of us even try.
When Musa (Moses) met Allah (God Almighty)
O slaves of Allah, let us remind ourselves of our Lord’s conversation with Musa عليه السلام that we might reflect upon it and derive lessons for our lives. Allah mentions the story of Musa عليه السلام becoming a Messenger, a Rasool, in Surat Ta-ha and there’s one verse in particular I want to draw your attention to.
A’uthu bi l-laahi min ash-shaytaani r-rajim (I take refuge with Allah from Satan the Accursed,)
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.
This verse summarizes the entirety of a Muslim’s relationship with Allah. It is a cause-and-effect relationship.
The cause is the human being’s realization and understanding of who exactly Allah is. The effect is his or her complete, absolute, unquestioning submission and obedience to Him.
Who is this being, Allah? What does the word Allah mean?
Allah is a proper noun. It has no gender or plural. It denotes the Supreme Being that possesses all qualities of perfection, majesty, beauty, power, magnificence etc.
It is the name of the Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists.
A name that existed pre-eternally before He created any language. Through all cultures and times, mankind has believed in such a being. Whatever word they use to refer to Him, they always speak of Him in terms of perfection, awe and reverence.
The First Meaning of Allah
The majority of scholars say that the word Allah is derived from the verb alaha, which has the same meaning as the word abada, to worship.
An ilah or a ma’bud is anything that is taken as an object of worship. Worship here encompasses much more than directed ritual acts; it includes reverence, humility, love, glorification, obedience, hope, fear, reliance and other actions of the heart. That’s why for example people can make something like money an object of worship.
When we worship something, implicit is a belief that this object is something worthy of being worshiped. That is, this object has qualities or characteristics that make it worthy of being worshiped. For example, the ability to cause benefit or bring harm.
I could say that this microphone is my ilah, my ma’bud, maybe even direct some acts of worship to it. Does that mean that the microphone is worthy of worship? Is it truly an ilah? Can it benefit me or harm me? Did it create me? Does it provide for me? Does it have power and control over the universe?
Of course not.
When we use the definite article, Al in Arabic, we get Al-ilah; Allah is a contraction of the word Al-ilah. Therefore, Allah is the true deity, the one and only being that possesses those qualities by which worship is deserved.
The Second Meaning of Allah
Another opinion is that it is derived from the verb aliha, which means to become confused or perplexed by something. The implication here is that when one ponders the magnificence and perfection of Allah one becomes confounded and stupefied by this being.
The Third Meaning of Allah
Another opinion is that is derived from the verb aliha, whose root letters are different to the former, which means to protect, grant refuge, aid, rescue, deliver from evil, render safe and secure etc. Again, the implication is that Allah is that being whom one turns to for refuge, safety and protection.
The Fourth Meaning of Allah
Another opinion is that the name Allah is not derived from any other word at all. That is simply His name since pre-eternity. All of these meanings point back to Allah’s perfection and supremacy.
Back to our verse.
Look at how Allah introduces himself. Ponder the emphasis and hyperbole. This is why we need to learn Arabic. When I translate I can’t use strong enough words to convey the gravity of this statement. He says,
“Verily I, I, am Allah! There is no true deity, no thing, no one, whatsoever, in existence, worthy of worship other than Me!”
This emphasis is even conveyed through the recitation of the verse.
You heard me extend the alif in la for four beats. I don’t extend this category of alif in any other place in the Quran except in this phrase. This extension is called the extension of exaltation. It’s applied in a certain styles of recitation wherever Allah affirms His Oneness with the phrase “la ilaha illa ‘llah” or its variants.
The moment Musa became a messenger
Musa عليه السلام hears this and he’s from Bani Israil; he realizes who’s speaking to him. That Supreme being we just described?
HE is speaking to him.
Musa’s عليه السلام emaan goes into overdrive in an instant. In a few moments he was transformed from an ordinary human being into a Messenger.
So what’s the point?
The point is that when you come to the realization that such a being exists, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Allah says,
“So worship me and establish prayer for my remembrance.”
Believing in such a being absolutely necessitates that we worship Him in a manner that befits Him. How is it that we can believe, or claim to believe in Allah, that Supreme being we described, who possesses all the attributes of perfection, power, glory and beauty, and not act on the logical conclusion of that belief?
Why did the pagans of Arabia refuse to say la ilaha illa Allah?
They could have easily lied and just said it to get Rasulullah ﷺ off their backs. So why didn’t they? It’s because they knew exactly what it meant, its implications.
And it’s well known that the Arabs of that time never used to lie and that they were people of their word. So they weren’t about to make such a declaration and not follow through.
Why do you think atheists claim they don’t believe in God?
It’s not really because they don’t understand or can’t believe in this concept of a Supreme Being who is the Lord of all creation. This isn’t their problem with God.
Their real problem is the implications of believing in such a Being. They understand what believing in such a being necessitates.
When you think about it, the pagans of Arabia and the atheists have a better understanding of the implication of la ilaha illa Allah than the vast majority of Muslims alive today!
Empty Words and Lip Service
Where is our claim of la ilaha illa Allah when our manners and conduct are arrogant, brutish and malicious?
Where is our claim of la ilaha illa Allah when our business dealings are usurious, fraudulent and deceitful?
Where is our claim of la ilaha illa Allah when the our speech is filth, vanity, gossip, and slander?
Where is our claim of la ilaha illa Allah when our gazes are lustful?
Where is our claim of la ilaha illah Allah when our Mushafs are gathering dust in our homes while they’re sat on the high shelf? And on the off chance that we actually read it, we read it like we’re reading the newspaper without any care for correct pronunciation according to the rules of recitation.
Where is our claim of la ilaha illa Allah when we barely fulfill our obligatory worship, where for many of us this is the only time during the week we come to the masjid or worse, the only time during the week that we pray?
Our Sense of Entitlement
And after all that we feel entitled to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. We feel entitled to Paradise.
You know, as creations of Allah we’re not all that. With the exception of Rasulullah ﷺ, who is the greatest of all of creation, we are not the most impressive creation of Allah. Allah says in Surat An-Nazi’at,
أَأَنتُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَمِ السَّمَاءُ ۚ بَنَاهَا
Are you a more difficult creation or is the heaven? Allah constructed it.
He also says in Surat Fussilat,
ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ وَهِيَ دُخَانٌ فَقَالَ لَهَا وَلِلْأَرْضِ ائْتِيَا طَوْعًا أَوْ كَرْهًا قَالَتَا أَتَيْنَا طَائِعِينَ
Then He directed Himself to the heaven while it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, “Come [into being], willingly or by compulsion.” They said, “We have come willingly.”
He didn’t give them a choice. He said come together whether you like it or not. Yet look at their response; complete submission.
There are only two possibilities to the disparity between our claims of la ilaha illa Allah. Either we have no clue what we’re saying or we are lying hypocrites.
I have said my piece and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for myself and you all. Seek his forgiveness for you will certainly find Him ever Forgiving, ever Merciful.
Second Half of the Jumuah Khutbah
I begin by invoking Allah’s name, the Epitome of Mercy, the Bestower of Mercy. All praise belongs to Allah alone.
May Allah exalt the mention and grant blessings and peace to the Master of the First and the Last, our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and upon his family and all of his companions.
So how do we solve this conundrum?
First, we have to get a clue.
Allah says in Surat Muhammad ﷺ,
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ
So know, [O Muhammad ﷺ], that there is no deity except Allah…
Knowledge precedes understanding and belief. Imaan (faith) is knowledge that is so firm and certain that it enters the heart and becomes belief. So we need to seek out information about Allah before we can know Him and believe in Him.
I know of no better source for learning about Allah than the Quran. O slaves of Allah, read the Quran in a language that you understand. Make it a consistent, daily ritual.
If you’re not accustomed to it, start off small and build up. The key is to be consistent. By Allah, I swear that you will see an immediate difference in your lives.
Second, we need to walk the walk.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.
The word maqt is the most intense word for dislike in the Arabic language; it is much more than hatred. This utter loathing and despising is amplified exponentially by adding the verb kabura in front of it.
All this for what? Saying what we don’t do.
So imagine how much he hates the fact that we say la ilaha illa Allah and don’t act on it. And Allah is our only refuge.
Islam is not a Religion for Lazy People
O slaves of Allah, there is no other solution to this other than putting in the work. Islam is not a religion for lazy people. It requires hard work and constant effort.
Here also, the key is to start small and work our way up.
Iman has a linear relationship with deeds. The lower our iman the lower our motivation and stamina in doing good deeds. The higher our iman the higher our motivation and stamina for doing good deeds. But the only way to get from low iman to high iman is through doing good deeds.
We just need to take it one deed at a time.
O Allah make us of those who have knowledge of you and believe in you with absolute certainty.
O Allah make us of those who understand the implications of believing in you.
O Allah make us of those who act on our belief in you.
O Allah make us of those who walk the walk and talk the talk.
O Allah, we seek refuge in your from your wrath and punishment, you are the only one we can turn to for help and our only source of refuge.
O Allah forgive the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the living amongst them and the dead amongst them.
O Allah purify our hearts from hypocrisy, our deeds from boastfulness, our tongues from lies and our eyes from treachery. Indeed you know the treachery of the eyes and what the breasts conceal.
O Allah you are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.
O Allah, we are the Umma of Your beloved ﷺ and he is our beloved too O Allah. O Allah grant us the intercession of Rasulullah ﷺ.
O Allah, we beg You to have mercy on us.
O Allah lift the suffering of the Muslims in every place where they are suffering.
O Allah lift the oppression of the Muslims in every place where they are oppressed.
O Allah grant victory to the Muslims in every place where they are striving for your sake alone.
O Allah rectify the affairs of the rulers of the Muslims and guide them to that which pleases you.
O Allah, we worship none but You, O Allah we turn to none but You.
O Allah grant us all Al-Firdaws Al-A’la.
O slaves of Allah,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
Stand and presents yourselves for the prayer.