The first pillar of Islam, the shahadah, is probably the most significant sentence to ever pass a Muslim’s lips. It is the declaration of faith, which sums up the bare minimum of what it means to be a Muslim:
“Ash-hadu anla elaha illa-Allah, wa ash-hadu anna Mohammadan abduhu wa Rasuluhu”
(I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad, peace be upon him, is His slave and His messenger)
It is this sentence that a person must say in the presence of two witnesses in order to officially become a Muslim – a simple process known as ‘taking your shahada’.
The Declaration of Faith
As soon as a person feels certain that they believe in Allah and believe that Islam is the true religion, they should proceed to take their shahadah as soon as possible. It can be done almost anywhere – on a bus, at the beach, in your front room… although it is forbidden to say Allah’s name in an impure place, so do avoid taking your shahadah in a bathroom or public loo.
Your two witnesses should be Muslim, and should understand and agree with the declaration you are stating. It is feasible for your shahadah to be witnessed by video call if that turns out to be more convenient. You can also go to your nearest mosque and take your shahadah with the Imam there – by doing this, you might even be presented with a nice certificate, which comes in very handy at a later date when applying to perform Umrah or Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).
Usually, one of your witnesses will say the sentence first and you will repeat after them, so you don’t need to worry about having it all memorised. You will first say the shahadah in your own language, i.e. English, just to confirm that you understand what you are saying, then you will say it in Arabic. And that’s all there is to it! Easy Peasy.
You can find some videos on YouTube if you want to practice getting the right pronunciation:
Only the person taking the shahadah knows in their heart when they are ready, and it’s not something that needs to be rushed or pressurised, but it is best to go ahead and take your shahadah as soon as you know you believe in Islam. The reason for this is of course –not to be morbid, BUT– you don’t know when you will die, and if you believe in Allah, then surely you want to make sure that you die as a Muslim!
Personal Note: When I took my shahadah, I had known for probably around 6 months that I wanted to be Muslim. I put it off for such a long time because, among other things, I felt scared that I wasn’t quite ‘good enough’ yet, and I wasn’t ready to commit to ‘all those rules’. I have since learnt that this is quite common, and really unnecessary. Don’t fall into the same trap – the reality is, you will never ever be a ‘perfect’ Muslim, and there is absolutely no pressure on you to reach such unobtainable standards! All the doors start opening once you utter that shahadah, so just go ahead and dive in!
A Little Something Extra
One of the many exciting things about taking your shahadah is that your slate is wiped totally clean – you’re like a brand new baby! Every sin you’ve ever committed prior to becoming a Muslim is forgiven by Allah, and you are given the opportunity to start fresh – what a blessing! It is therefore recommended that after taking your shahadah, you go home and give yourself a nice soak in the bath or shower, cleansing yourself and preparing yourself for your exciting new beginnings.
There is a specific purifying wash you can give yourself known as ghusl, which is described in full over here.