What is it to be a Muslim?

The answer is not as complicated as you may think.

To be a Muslim you must sincerely believe in the absolute oneness or uniqueness of God, this is an Islamic concept known as Tawhid. A true believer sees Allah as the only entity worthy of worship, there’s no other, no partnership, nor idols that is deserving of praise.

Allah is the ultimate creator, there’s no close second. It is only through his will that things happen.

The other condition of being a Muslim is the belief in his messenger, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

That’s all there’s to it.

At the heart, this is what Islam is about.

This concept is known as Shahada and is emodied by the saying “la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasulullah”.

In Business, there’s something called a north star metric, this is used by a company to make sure all employees understand what’s most important to the success of the company. For Quora, it’s the number of questions a user answers. For a company like Facebook, their north star is the number of monthly active users (MAU).

In Islam, for a Muslim believer, the guiding principle is the Shahada or declaration of faith. It’s embodied in the recitation of, la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasulullah.

This is why the Shahada is also called the first pillar or tenet of Islam. It’s the basis for which the foundation of Islam is built. Built on-top of this foundation is zakat (charity), daily prayers, fasting during month of Ramadan, pilgrimage to hajj, and other practices. But the whole building is compromised if you don’t believe in the basic tenet.

In Surah Imran, ayat 19 Allah says,

“Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.”

la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasulullah in arabic

In Arabic la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasool allah is written,

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ‎

As mentioned before this encompasses two concepts:

  1. There is no deity but Allah.
  2. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is his messenger.

The Shahada is a declaration, it adds the phrase ashadualla which means “I bear witness”. In Arabic the complete Shahda is written as:

أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ‎

The transliteration: Ashhadu alla ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadarrasulullah

Translation in English:

The exact translation of the saying is, “I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”