Meaning of Shahadah

How primordial and universal faith’s claim is and how crucial and fundamental its invitation – and how we are all summoned to respond, willingly or unwillingly, to the call and can’t afford indifference – is seen in a deeper penetration into the meaning ofShahadah, or Witnessing. One becomes Muslim by uttering shahadah. The dictum that “by living one religion fully one lives all religions” may be illustrated by noting the deeper meanings of the act of shahadah. But first, a few remarks on what witnessing means for metaphysicians and mystics:

The point to note is that we can’t give witness of what we don’t know or have not verified for ourselves in some sense. If we haven’t known God or Unity, how can we be asked to provide witness of the same? A clue to the answer is provided by metaphysicians-Sufis who point to the fact that one of God’s names is Shahid. It is really God who witnesses His Own Glory and Beauty or Himself. We also know that God alone is truly existing, and if there is to be some witnessing of the Truth, it must be of only what truly or really is, and that is God alone. Man isn’t an independent being who exists in his own right, separate from God or Reality. In fact, all that we see is an expression of God’s Names and Attributes. Our only job is to let go of ego that imagines an illusory identity and empire of its own and a sense of agency. The Quran is categorical that God creates us and our actions. Shakespeare has expressed the great traditional truth in describing the world as a stage and humans as only actors. Our only job is to play our part well in whatever domain we are called upon to act. That implies it is God who acts through us and explains how all craftsmen are called friends of God.

Witnessing has been read by Sufis and philosophers like Iqbal as martyrdom in the path of love. It is the overflowing of love. It is a song of love. To truly see the beauty and glory of the Real is to love it. Nothing is more difficult than selling everything in the path of love. It is laying down one’s life so that Love lives. One can imagine the difference between witnessing Beauty and sacrificing everything for it, and the ideology of martyrdom sold in the marketplace. First one must die within, and then can the martyrdom of the body be accepted.

Islam means peace through surrender. This is the essence of all religious and mystical paths. The aim is to achieve peace. Peace which passeth all understanding, peace where sorrow is not, nor any clamour, nor agitation, as all fret and fever of becoming has passed away. It is the repose of being. In beatific vision alone is obtained that eternal peace as the Quran and prophetic traditions testify. Thereafter is no more any thirst. Beatific vision is the end of all thirst, all craving. Nirvanic peace is the same thing. The ultimate state is best characterized as peace as the records of mystical experience testify. So it is clear that Islam, like other religions, promises a state of absolute peace where evil is no more. Of course, liqa-allah or beatific vision, or what Buddhism calls parinirvana, is obtainable posthumously only when the limiting condition of body that is necessarily susceptible to certain kinds of pain is also transcended. Now Islam, in consonance with all traditions, shows the way of attaining this peace. And there is only one way, only one path which has been taught by all traditions, though they have differed in adapting it to differing times and temperaments. That path is surrender and submission. Renunciation amounts to the same thing. What has to be surrendered is creaturely will, ego, putting it in tune with the will of God or Existence or Reality or Whole or Tao, or, what amounts to the same, annihilating it. Oneness with reality, or realization of tawhid (in Sufi-metaphysical perspective) is attained by abandoning the formative will. All claims of the self over and against God or Existence have to be renounced. One has to consent to be a servant, a creature, a part of the Whole, an instrument of Existence, a hollow bamboo that echoes the sound or song of Existence. It implies raza, or absolute unconditional acceptance, or rather love of fate (amor fati). It is achievable not by all and sundry but only those who are prepared to sell their souls in exchange for heaven, who can be patient under all kinds of hardship, trials and tribulations, who can say with Job under all circumstances “God gave and He took away,”  who, acknowledging their nothingness in the face of the Absolute, have nothing to claim and nothing to seek and nothing to resist – who are faqeer in the true sense of the term and thus transcend all worry as they have nothing to worry about as nothing happens against their will as their will has merged itself with God’s will, and nothing happens except by God’s will. Man’s liability to suffering and evil ends when not his but his heavenly Father’s will is done.