بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم
In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise be to God, the Lord and Cherisher of all creation. We praise Him, we seek His guidance, we seek his forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and the evil in our deeds. Whomever God Almighty guides, cannot be misguided and whomever God Almighty allows to go astray will not be guided, except by God's mercy. I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God; alone with no partners, and I testify that Muhammad was the servant and messenger of Almighty God.
It is said these days that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the western world. Studies have shown that as many as 20,000 Americans embrace Islam each year. In Europe many community churches are becoming masajid (mosques). Indeed people have been entering the fold of Islam in droves since the time of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Islam historically has proven to be one of the fastest spreading ideologies in the history of human civilization, and today the "west", is ultimately just the next step in that evolution.
God Almighty says in the Qur'an, "When there comes to you the help of Allah, the conquest, and you see that the people are entering the religion of Allah in droves; So glorify the praises of your Lord and ask for his forgiveness. Verily, He is the one who accepts repentance and who forgives". (Surat An Nasr).
As we see these people entering Islam, by the thousands each year, what does it mean to us who are already Muslims? What does it say to us about this deen? And, what exactly are these people excepting? Are they excepting to be a Sunni or Shia? In most cases no. Are they excepting to be a Sufi or a Salafi? No. Are they excepting to become an Arab? or a Pakistani? or an African? No. By excepting Islam, do they agree with the politics of say the royal family of Saudi Arabia, or the president of Egypt, or say the Taliban of Afghanistan? No they are excepting "Islam". But what is Islam and how does it differ with all the different people, cultures, groups and ideologies I just listed? It seems like ultimately a very simple question, but the realities of the Muslim world today prove that most in our Ummah (nation) truly do not know the difference.
Many times when people learn about Islam, and they begin to consider the idea of being a Muslim, they usually find many things that they like about it. However, there are also often things that they may be apprehensive about. But, what's interesting is that many times, the things that they are apprehensive about are really not issues related to Islam. Rather, they are issues related to the cultures of the Muslims of the world. Without a doubt one of the hardest things to do when becoming a new Muslim, is navigating your way through all of the cultural fog that we find in our masajid (mosques) and in our Muslim communities. So it is imperative that when we have someone who is a new shahadah in our community, we take care and be mindful of our own cultural influences and remember what Islam really is at its fundamental core.
Of course the most fundamental belief in Islam is tawheed, or absolute monotheism. That absolutely nothing else in all that exists is worthy of worship except God Almighty, known in the Arabic of the Qur'an as Allah, and it matters not the name people call him by in different languages. In Spanish He is Dios, in German He is Gott, in Hebrew He is Elohim. All of these names refer to the same Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of all that exists, Allah, subhana wa ta'ala (God, the glorified, most high). The most fundamental principal of Islam is tawheed; to believe that only God is worthy of worship. Surprisingly not all Muslims understand this. You can find Muslims the world over who pray to and invoke their so called "saints". Who make pilgrimages to their shrines. But, nonetheless, this concept of absolute monotheism is paramount and the absolute most fundamental principle of Islam.
When someone embraces Islam, they do so by proclaiming the Shahadah or testimony of faith. That is to say, "I bear witness there is nothing worthy of worship except Almighty God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God". But, what does it truly mean to make this statement? It truly is more than a simple sentence. By saying this statement, your are actually signing a contract with God. But, just as with any contract, there is always fine print, and it's absolutely essentially that one understands every point of that fine print before signing the contract.
1. You are testifying with all your mind heart and Soul that God is the creator of the earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, trees, birds, animals, jinn (supernatural spirits), men, women, and everything that exists. That He is the organizer of all these things, and that He provides them the means to exist in the way that they do. That He is the one who provides life and death, and that only He can cause us or prevent us from harm or success. This is called Tawheed ul Rububiya (Oneness of Lordship).
2. You are testifying with all your mind heart and soul that God is the only thing worthy of worship or ibadah. That He is the only one to whom one should pray, invoke, bow, prostrate, or glorify. Nothing else not a physical form (idol), not a person, not an animal, not a place, not a celestial body, and not even an idea or one's self is worthy of any kind of worship. This is called Tawheed al Uluhiyah (Oneness of Worship).
3. You are testifying that God is the epitome of all his qualities mentioned in the Qur'an and/or in the Sunnah (example) of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. This is to say the so called "99 names of Allah". That He is Al Rahman (The Most Compassionate), Al Hafiz (The preserver), Al Hakim (Perfectly Wise), Al Mubdi (The Originator), Al Awwal (The First), Al Akhir (The Last), and Al Baqi (The Everlasting). All of these and many more are the attributes of God. God is the absolute form of every good and righteous quality. This is called Tawheed al Asma wa Sifat (Oneness of the Names and Attributes).
4. You are testifying that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was the last and final messenger of God. By testifying this you agree to the message of the Qur'an given through prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. So obeying the Qur'an is obligatory on you. Also, God says in the Qur'an, "Say (Muhammad),'If you really love Allah, then follow me". So also then, in obeying the Qur'an, one must also obey the prophet, peace be upon him, as the two go hand in hand. So, following the Sunnah, or what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is the sayings and deeds of prophet Muhammad, is obligatory with the accepting of this contract.
Most of the time when people become Muslims, other people who are raised Muslim expect that any bad habit they had as a non-Muslim should simply disappear. Often times new Muslims may have a hard time quiting drinking, or quiting being with girls/guys, many times new sisters have a very hard time with wearing the hijab, and then other Muslims are appalled by this and say, " Don't they understand this is haram???" or "Don't they understand that they have to do this and that". We forget that Islam did not come all at once. It came over the course of 23 years. It was between 10 and 12 years before the Salat (5 daily prayers) was instituted and ordered upon the Muslims. It was more than 15 years before alcohol was prohibited. At least the same amount of time for the hijab to be ordered on the Muslim women. So those of us who are with new Muslims and also those of us who are new Muslims, it is important that we understand what is minimally important to understand.
The following hadith relates what the prophet said of the basics of the Islamic faith. On the authority of Abu 'Abd al-Rahman 'Abdullah bin 'Umar bin al-Khattab, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say: "Islam has been built upon five things - on testifying that there is no god save Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan." Al-Bukhari & Muslim.
In another famous hadith, a man came to the prophet, peace be upon him, and asked him, "If I testify the Shahadah, that there is nothing worthy of worship except God, and that you (Muhammad) are the messenger of God, and I pray the 5 daily prayers, I pay Zakat (obligatory charity), I fast in the month of Ramadan, and make or have the sincere intention to make the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca); I do these things nothing more and nothing less, will I be successful?". To that, the prophet, peace be upon him replied, "Yes, if you do these things, you will be successful".
So from this we can know what someone looking to take shahadah "must" know.
Islam is to believe that there is none worthy of worship except God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God, and this first pillar is inclusive of the six pillars of faith: Believe in God, Believe in the Prophets, Believe in the Books of God, Believe in the Angels, Believe in the Day of Judgment, and to believe in Qadr (divine pre-ordainment). It is to pray the obligatory 5 daily prayers. It is to pay the Zakat (annual wealth tax to the poor), it is to fast during the month of Ramadan, and it is to make or have the sincere intention to make the Hajj. These are the things that every new Muslim needs to know and be willing to do. We as Muslims trying to help them, must realize that outside of these five things, adjusting one's life to the deen (way) of Islam is a process, and we should not become disheartened when they trip up during their journey through this life. Allah knows that all of us do too, even those of us who have been Muslim our whole lives. God Almighty says in the Qur'an in Surat Wal Asr, "By Time, Verily mankind is in loss. Except those who believe, and do righteous good deeds, and remind each other to the truth, and remind each other to have patience". We must always remind each other of the truth of this way, and help to teach each other that which we don't know, and remind each other of what we do, and most of all, we must do so in patience, and remember that God is As Sabur (The Patient One).
We must also remember that we as the Muslim ummah, do not have anything to be proud of when it comes to the rapid spread of Islam. It is truly a miracle of God Almighty that Islam is spreading so quickly, because the Muslims of the world today (as a whole) are definitely not doing anything to help it. Islam is not spreading because of the Muslims, it is spreading despite the Muslims. Allah, subhana wa ta'ala (God, glorified and most high), tells us in the Qur'an, "And you see the people coming to the way of Allah in droves. So, glorify the praises of your Lord, and ask his forgiveness. Verily He is the one who accepts repentance and who forgives". I've heard many times Muslims boasting about how many Muslims there are. You can see them bragging to non-Muslims how there are 8 million Muslims in America, or how in the world 1 and 4 people are Muslim. We see Muslims boasting about this all the time, but they ought to remember that they have nothing to do with it, and the Lord that is responsible for that is the same Lord responsible for those who are not Muslim. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter whether Islam is the fastest growing religion, or the fastest shrinking religion. God says in the Qur'an, "Let there be no compulsion in religion, TRUTH STANDS OUT CLEAR FROM FALSEHOOD". It wouldn't matter if the Muslims in this room were the only Muslims in the world, because the truth is the truth. We must do nothing except praise our Lord, and beg his forgiveness for what little we do as an ummah (people i.e. Muslims) to help in the rapid spread of Islam.
As many of you know we are quickly approaching the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time of purifying ourselves, and bringing ourselves closer to being the best Muslims we can be. On December 31st many people make new year resolutions, well I am asking all of you to make Ramadan resolutions. If you don't pray regularly everyday, make a resolution to pray every single prayer on time every day for the entire month. Make a resolution not to watch smutty movies, or listen to profane music. Make a resolution to visit or call your parents and relatives on a regular basis. Make a resolution to do things to help in your community. Make a resolution to make friends with your neighbors and expose them to the beauty of this blessed month. Make a resolution to be as good a Muslim as you can be, and insha'Allah (God willing) if you can do it for a month you can do it for the rest of the year too. The devils and the shayateen are about to be chained for one whole month people! Let's start to get ready to gobble up as much ajar (reward) and barakah (blessings) as we can. And, let us start by getting back to the basics of this deen, and today let us all be new shahadas.
...And Allah Knows Best...