That is Allah, your Lord! There is no god but He, the Creator of all things: Then worship you Him: and He has power to dispose of all affairs. (Quran 6:102)
Although all practising Muslims repeat the shahadah many times every day, only few understand its profound meaning, and appreciate its implications. For example, how many Muslims understand why the shahadah uses the negative form La Ilaha illa Allah (There is no Ilah except Allah), instead of the affirmative form Allah is one; and why did the Quranic revelations stress this concept for the thirteen years which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent in Mecca before migrating to Medina? To help us in understanding the answer to these questions, and in better appreciating the implications of La Ilaha illa Allah, the Quran provides us with the following two facts:
All the prophets and messengers of Allah were principally teaching the same thing: La Ilaha illa Allah: O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him. Holy Quran 7:59.
This is precisely what Noah said; Hud declared (Quran 7:65); and Saleh affirmed (Quran 7:73). Shuaib gave the same message (Quran 7:85). The same doctrine was repeated and confirmed by Prophets Moussa, Issa, and Muhammad PBUH)
Say; Truly I am a warner: no god is there but Allah, the One, Supreme, and Irresistible. Holy Quran 38:65. Say: Verily, I am commanded to serve Allah, and follow with sincere devotion his deen (religion). Holy Qur an 39:11.
Many of the unbelievers who opposed the prophets did not deny the existence of Allah, nor was that He the sole creator of heavens and earth; and of human beings. If you were to question them, Who created the heavens and earth? they would be sure to reply, they were created by (Him), the exalted in power, full of knowledge . Holy Quran 43:9. If you ask them, who created them, they will certainly say, Allah: how then are they deluded away from the truth)? Holy Qur an 43:87.
The Muslim scholar Abul Ala Maududi explains La ilaha illa Allah by using four basic terms from the Quran: Ilah, Rabb, Ibadah, and deen (see the table below). The four words, and their derivatives, are repeated many times in the Quran; the word Ilah (147 times), Rabb (975 times), Ibadah (275 times), and deen (94 times). Note that the word deen is an all-encompassing concept dealing with life as an integrated whole. It is not restricted to the so called religious observances, practices, and rituals.
In the light of these four basic terms, La ilaha illa Allah means:
Allah is our Rabb and our Ilah; there is no Rabb and no Ilah except He. To Him alone we make Ibadah; and only His deen we adopt and sincerely follow.
In the light of this definition, it is clear that the whole dispute between the unbelievers and the Prophets centred around the uncompromising demand of the prophets that the unbelievers should recognize the very being whom they acknowledged as their creator, as their Rabb and Ilah (as defined in the table) , and should assign this position to none else.
There are many important consequences for appreciating the full meaning and implications of La ilaha illa Allah, including the following three:
Absolute freedom of the human conscience from servitude to, or subjection by, anyone or anything; and realization that ones life, livelihood, and sustenance are all in the hands of Allah and Allah alone.
The natural urge for making ibadah to an ilah will be directed towards the true Ilah (Allah), rather than towards one or more false ilahs (false gods), whether they be humans, or material things.
Following the true deen of Allah gives a sense of direction, and a meaning to ones life in the present world, and leads to success in the Hereafter.
We pray to Almighty Allah to help us in appreciating the meaning and implications of La ilaha lIla Allah, and in translating its meaning in our daily lives. Ameen.