Shahada (meaning Testimony) is the testimony that every Muslim has to make in order to be a Muslim, it is the first and most important of all pillars of Islam. Although there are several versions of Shahada, the most common one is also my favourite. And the reason it is my favourite is the reason it breaks down the person of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to his absolute deserving position
The first part deals with bearing witness that there is no Ilah, better translated as worship-able or worthy of worship except Allah the One Almighty God that everyone believes and worships. I had written an Article on this several years ago, but it still is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Reading this file will explain definition of Allah, His Rights and Misconceptions about Him, hence kind of explaining not worshipping any other Ilah and worhipping Allah alone. You can Download it here as well
The second part deals with the testimony of Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And the reason why this Shahada version is my favourite option is because it mentions Prophet’s status as a slave of Allah before being a messenger. And that I think this is core to Islam, that every person is a slave of Allah, before anything else. The testimony says “And, I bear witness that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger”
- Is His Slave: Truly Prophet is a slave of Allah (The Almighty God), and slave is a better word to use than Servant that many translations use. We Muslims should have no inhibitions in saying that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) like all of us was a slave of Allah. There is nothing shameful in saying that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a slave of Allah. This is so central to Islam, the belief that Prophet is a slave to Allah also means that he can not be someone who could be taken for worship.
- And Messenger: Of course He is Messenger of Allah, which basically makes him a prophet as well because of the general rule that all Messengers are Prophets but all Prophets are not messengers. The two basic differences between a Messenger and Prophet are: a Messenger comes with a Message which if ignored will be followed by a punishment on earth, a Prophet can be ignored without consequences on earth; Messenger is prohibited to be killed, while Prophets can be killed.