The ‘What is Islam?’ Podcast brings you a whole new world of understanding Islam and religion through social commentary and analysis.
In this Podcast episode we discuss the transformative power of the Shahada and the Islamic declaration of faith. We explore the significance of the Shahada, the key to converting to Islam, with esteemed Islamic scholar, Imam Wadood Janud.
Delve into the profound message of Tawheed (the Oneness of God), the importance of recognising Prophet Muhammad as the Messenger of God, and the process of incorporating the Shahada into your daily life. This episode offers guidance and support for those considering converting to Islam, as well as a deeper understanding of the faith for current Muslims.
Click below to listen to the full episode, watch the video podcast on our YouTube channel above, or read through an abridged transcript below.
Imam Hadi: Assalamu alaikum, everyone and peace be upon you. Today I’m speaking with my friend and colleague, Imam Wadood Janud. He is a central missionary of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community currently serving in Western Australia. He is also the Imam of the Nasir Mosque in Perth.
Today we’re going to be talking about the first and most important pillar of Islam, which is the Shahada, the declaration of faith that is made when one converts to Islam. It is a simple yet profound statement, being the basis of the entire Islamic tradition. We felt the need for speaking on this topic in particular because we are now receiving 2 to 3 requests on a weekly basis of people from across Australia who would like to learn how to convert to Islam. So let us provide you a detailed explanation on the Shahada, and how it will affect your life; what does it mean to believe in one God, why Muslims emulate Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and simply how to convert to Islam and the challenges you may face in your journey. So Imam Wadood, thank you for joining us for this episode – It’s a pleasure to have you.
Imam Wadood: Assalamu alaikum, JazakAllah for having me and it’s a pleasure to be here
The Rise of Islam Amidst a Sea of Change
Imam Hadi: So, what we’ve noticed, and I think this is something you must have noticed as well on social media in particular, is that there’s a whole lot of confusion out there today in today’s society with this whole argument taking place on the world stage about the “woke mob” and the red pill movement. But now, interestingly enough, there’s another movement that’s been around for 14 centuries now and it is the “green-pill” movement as they call it. So what we’re seeing is a lot of confusion out there in this regard, particularly because of irreligiosity. On the other hand there is, as I mentioned, we’ve got a lot of people being attracted to Islam. Perhaps we can start here and ask you what your take on this is?
Imam Wadood: As far as most people are aware from the media, they would know that Islam is the fastest growing religion, but you see a lot of influencers who are also turning towards Islam or to core Islamic values and morals, which are being challenged in the world today, especially in the rise of woke media or you know, this woke culture. So Islam, it’s attracting a new fellowship which perhaps was not there perhaps even five years ago.
Imam Hadi: Yeah, it’s interesting because, as I said, we’re receiving a lot of messages nowadays. We follow the normal fiscal year and at the end of it we were running an analysis of the past year and we were receiving 2 to 3 requests on a weekly basis. And it’s just amazing seeing some of the messages and the way people have sincerely expressed their views on this particular topic!
Among some others, we’ve got a number of people saying that they’re just fed up with all the confusion that’s out there and Islam is at the moment the only thing that’s really making any sense. I actually have a number of examples here. Maybe I should even read out one or two messages for a bit of perspective – I mean, these are everyday Australians messaging us! I’ll give you one example – this person says “I have grown up in Australia with the lies and misinformation. I gave up on faith until the last few years where I then read the Bible again and tried Christianity, but I couldn’t relate. It sounds and feels like fiction. I then realized I had an opinion on Islam when I had no idea about it, so I decided to read the Quran and I’ve never read something that I related to as much as the Quran. It’s like it was written on my morals and beliefs and felt right. I haven’t thought about converting to Islam since, but a few days ago I was researching more, and it felt like my mind, body and soul all came into alignment with the decision to convert and felt like I already have. But now I want to speak to someone about it more. I gave up drinking alcohol nearly a year ago. I’m very disciplined. I don’t do drugs and eat healthy. I want to be part of spreading the truth of Islam and learn as much as I possibly can and start being around people of the same beliefs.” That’s one, and there’s many more!
Imam Wadood: As you know I was in Darwin and at the Royal Darwin Show attended by nearly 20,000 people we had a True Islam exhibition, as we do every year, and it was similar feedback we were receiving from the people who are attending, and keep in mind for those viewers who may not know Darwin – it’s another territory in a remote part of Australia and it’s a kind of outback. We had some concerns going there about the kind of feedback or the kind of backlash that we may receive but in all honesty in the 3-4 days that we were there for the exhibition, people were walking up and giving similar feedback to what you have just read out, that how important it is for this awareness and education in regards to what True Islam really is and its place in modern society, in this day and age, which is something that cannot be compared to perhaps for example the declining of Christianity or decline of religion in general. You see that decline happening in Australia and of course around the world with other faiths and at the same time you see a lot of people turning towards Islam because of how it has maintained those values and those morals, some of which this person who messaged you spoke about – Islam stands for something and just because of certain society or the world culture, it doesn’t let go of those morals and values which are a core or essential part of Islam.
Australia’s Evolving Spiritual Landscape and Islam’s Enduring Call
Imam Hadi: Absolutely, and yeah this is from all over the place and it’s actually quite inspiring to hear that you’ve experienced the same thing in Darwin, because you would think that maybe this is something specific to people living in the major cities and Darwin’s well away from everything, right! So, that’s incredible. The next thing that I was going to ask is, what do you think is attracting people to Islam in particular? And you’re absolutely right, it’s the fact that Islam maintains and has maintained its principles for the past 14 centuries and doesn’t continuously change goal posts, it doesn’t conform to the societal expectations which I think is a credit to Islam. Unfortunately, some religions over time adopt the values of the society or if not even the values, for example some religions would take upon certain cultures which straight up associate partners with God so that it can make itself relevant to the people of that society which would be to the detriment of the religion itself. Whereas Islam obviously maintained the idea that these principles are from God and they’re from the Creator who has designed you with a specific blueprint and knows best how that blueprint needs to be utilised.
Imam Wadood: You know, the consequences of that are best observed in Australia – recently figures from the Census data was released and for the first time in Australian history, Christianity was on the decline and atheism was increasing.
Imam Hadi: Yeah. It’s just so unfortunate and it’s actually something we keep repeating, the people who are moving away from religion don’t do so because of Islam, but because of their understanding of religion, which they’ve acquired through modern day Christianity, emphasis on the modern-day Christianity. We’ve got a lot of Christian friends, obviously, and we believe in Jesus (peace be upon him) and Islam teaches us to respect Jesus and his teachings and the teachings of Judaism. Unfortunately the modern take on Christianity has done such a disservice to religion. And it’s one of the key reasons that Islam talks about for people moving away from religion.
Imam Wadood: And just on that point, I remembered something about His Holiness, the fourth successor of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement in Islam. So, he came to Australia for the first time in 1983, and he came to lay the foundation stone of the largest mosque and mosque complex at Marsden Park in Sydney, which is a beautiful mosque if anyone’s been there. But you know, it’s ironic that he spoke about, when he was laying the foundation stone of that mosque, he spoke about conservative Australia, which at the time was predominantly Christian around then, and you can see this in the number of churches over in Adelaide for instance – it’s known as the City of Churches, right? Because there’s a church or two every other block. So again, Australia was Christian and based on conservative values and His Holiness when he came here, in one of his sermons he says that he’s travelled through countries like America, Europe and Asia, and mentions the rise of atheism, but particularly mentions that the type of atheism in Australia he feels he has not witnessed in any other part of the world – this is at a time where atheism or lack of faith wasn’t an issue in Australia – but nonetheless he saw the direction Australia was heading towards
Imam Hadi: About that – I think one of the reasons he gave was, because Australia, being in the East, it still considers itself to be a Western nation and therefore having a kind of resistance or desire to keep up with the West and thus does more than it needs to in relation to foregoing values typical of East actually espouses to keep up with the West and this was so many years ago – you were saying 1983.
Imam Wadood: Exactly.
Imam Hadi: Having grown up in Australia, you must have seen Australia in the nineties – I’m presuming it wouldn’t have been that much different then either?
Imam Wadood: In the nineties, absolutely. You know, I still remember some of the friends that I’ve had from high school, people that I still stay in touch with. They were themselves from church-going families and would go to church every Sunday. I remember if they wanted to come over or if I wanted to go there and catch up or do something we couldn’t do anything on Sundays, for example, and I still joke around with this mate of mine, even to this day, that even to this day his mother wouldn’t allow him to play a game called Warcraft, that I’m sure everyone definitely knows, only because it’s got magic in there, saying it was against the Christian values and beliefs. So now, he’s an atheist – his family’s all atheist and no longer go to church anymore. Back then there was still that connection to faith, whatever faith that may be. But you see that, it’s as you said, modern day Christianity – the kind of harm that it’s had and the kind of negative impact that it’s had on the faith of Christian people specifically, is quite evident across Australia.
The Profound Nature of Shahada and Unity in Islam
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. I guess we can then move on to the next question that I had, which is the basis of today’s conversation. And that quite simply is – what is the Shahada? It is the first pillar of Islam, but why is it so important to Islam?
Imam Wadood: Yeah, absolutely. So among the five pillars of Islam, the first of them is the Shahada. I always say on this topic that, you know, there are five pillars of Islam and there are six articles of faith for a Muslim. So, essentially if anyone asks what defines a Muslim, one of the most basic definitions is if they believe in the six articles of faith, and in the five pillars of Islam. And these are pretty much unanimous and consistent across the Muslim world, with it being the first pillar and therefore Kalima of the faith. Interestingly the first pillar, the Kalima Shahada, it’s actually quite similar to the purpose of the first article of faith, which is the belief in the unity of God. The Shahada or the Kalima that also declares the unity, the oneness of God, and that oneness and that unity is perhaps the focal point of the Islamic faith – the idea that oneness and unity is manifested not only through this declaration of faith, which is the Shahada, but in every aspect of a Muslim’s life.
I’m sure you can elaborate upon this through our prayers to the direction that we face to the Ka’aba, to even the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. His advent also unifies mankind, his advent unifies all prophets that were before him. So the focal point, you know, of the Shahada is unity, not only the unity of the oneness of God, but the unity and the oneness of mankind; the unity and oneness of creation, of coming together. And that’s one of the most important aspects of the Shahada or the Kalima.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely, there’s such a big emphasis on the unity of God in Islam. It can be argued that whenever a religion moves away from the unity of God, the religion ceases to be a religion itself. As soon as it forgoes the unity of God and the understanding of the oneness of God and becomes a means to create multiple gods, then it enters a completely different paradigm, which technically can’t be associated with the revealed religion by its nature. And it’s right to think, as you do, to say that it is the focal point of all religions – particularly Islam. This emphasis is strongly based on the idea that you are only worshiping one God. And I think that it’s absolutely right to say it’s the focal point of all religions and particularly Islam. And the emphasis lays on this in particular, that you should focus on worshiping only one God, which in today’s society more people can come to terms and reason with – granted this has been in the common knowledge for centuries among people, but what does Islam say? It negates the ascribed notion of being a new religion, coming as rather, a confirmation of what was revealed in the past to the likes of Abraham, Moses, Joseph (peace be upon them) among others.
Nonetheless, as was being discussed earlier, the confusion and disarray seen in society today through social media channels can really be alleviated in light of the message of Islamic concept of the Unity of God – certainly even more so now because the adverse effects of finding validation from material sources such as influencers and celebrities do not provide what is sought. Interestingly enough, historically the purpose of Islam was for the upheaval of polytheism, but what are we seeing now if not living idols themselves – much too similar to idolatry of the past! Unfortunately, it only results in immense depression and anxieties among people who live such lifestyles, whereas what Islam says is to worship one God and if not, then you end up worshiping a myriad of gods – which we see in society today.
Imam Wadood: You know, those gods – they don’t have to be supernatural beings, but that god or the thing that you worship could be that person, for instance that influencer on that social media. And, just coming back to your point on why this unity is important, it’s not only because God is one, His Holiness the fifth successor of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, at one of the peace symposiums highlighted this very aspect, that this belief in one God develops and nurtures love for creation and mankind, because if it is one God – the God of all people – no people, no nation in history or otherwise have any monopoly over him. He’s not the God of only Arabs and Muslims, or the children of Israel, or the Hindus, or the people of the East or the West, but He’s the God of every single creation. So, when you declare Shahada, you express belief in a God of every single nation and every single people.
We know, as students of other faiths, you can look at the New Testament, the Old Testament, you can look at the Vedas of every other faith you get that experience of God, but it is only of those people of that faith, however this belief in the Unity of God & Oneness of God grants you this, that there is a greater purpose behind the unity – mankind, the human race – this brotherhood which does not exist in any other faith! And how do you know? If you were to meet any convert, someone who became Muslim and ask them what is the most attractive thing about Islam, most likely they would elaborate on this brotherhood they find overnight!
Imam Hadi: You’re right – because even like some of the most famous or noteworthy African-Americans of our time, they specifically mentioned this in relation to their conversion. Take for instance the likes of Muhammad Ali or even Malcolm X particularly, because he mentions going to Mecca for the Ka’aba and there he noticed people of all backgrounds there standing shoulder to shoulder with one another, contrasting his background as someone visiting from the United States, which at the time had issues of systemic racism, so this was revolutionary for him. But more to the point, you’re absolutely right – the concept is profound yet simple, but still deep, and the more deeper the understanding is for the Unity of God and trying to achieve that within your own life, the greater the realization is for what the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave up for their lives for.
Back to conversion stories for a moment, there was an African convert who was among the first to do so, lending himself to tremendous persecution – Bilal. Even now in Islam we remember him for the expressions he made whilst being tortured under the burning Arabian sun being pressed by heavy boulders into the hot sand – his torturers offering mercy upon him recanting the religion of Muhammad, peace be upon him. To that, Bilal would only respond ‘Ahad!’ which means God is One, and the reason for that is so profound – there’s another way of looking at it in appreciation of what you mentioned, that being unified with God unifies you too with the rest of all creation, because if there is one thing or being which transcends everything but unifies it all at the same time – it is one God!
And it’s interesting because recently I was looking into modern practices of meditation, etc. and mostly I was looking into it because I was trying to develop a deeper understanding of salat, which is the Islamic formal way of praying.
Another perspective which a lot of younger people can hopefully appreciate that gets talked about a lot in today’s society is freedom and liberal values: We all would like to be free, but are you really free, though? When you’re following another person, according to what Islam teaches, you are following societal expectations. Getting to work or school, take a look at yourself and you would come to realise that there’s a certain behavior you are following, or wear certain clothes or don’t. Like for example a Muslim woman choosing not to wear the hijab because of the fear of what people will think – posits the thought, “Are you really free despite living in a free world?” Islam teaches that true liberation comes from worshiping only one God and not looking to the rest of society, on that hand there’s this really profound liberatory nature to the Shahada as well.
Unity of God and the Role of Prophets in Islam
Imam Wadood: Absolutely. In the example that you gave before, of Bilal, the African slave turned one of the earliest converts to Islam, and how despite the heavy persecution and the torture he could only utter ‘Ahad’ – this is the freedom that you’re talking about. That despite the pain that you’re going through, despite the hardships that you may be going through, once you reach that level of freedom nothing else matters. No pain, torture, persecution can turn you away from that. That oneness, that unity. And we see this example across history, not only Islamic history, but the history of religion in general. In the story of Moses, you see the right side going against the Pharaoh. Pharaoh wasn’t just any king, Pharaoh was the king. He was so powerful and mighty that he was considered Go. So imagine a humble, poor shepherd going against the god of the world in the shape and form of the Pharaoh. You see that in the life and example of Abraham, you see that in the life and example of Jesus. You see that in the life and example of approximately 50 plus prophets that have been mentioned in the Bible. And that is a freedom which one inherits through belief in such a part.
Imam Hadi: Right. I really like the fact that you mentioned that – because there’s something unique about these persons, these prophets of God who stand up to the status quo and they don’t conform to the trends of society at the time, yet still succeed. There’s this fantastical aspect to it, which it’s interesting because all books today, all good stories contain it. You can take the example of Harry Potter which happens to be one of the most famous story books of our time. It’s so brilliant, the story is absolutely brilliant, it is attractive because the theme follows that of the prophets of God. It’s interesting because it’s really “Quranic” or “Biblical” in nature, because you have a young boy who stands up to the prevalent circumstances of society, though all the odds might be against him. But what J.K. Rowling has managed to borrow from these stories or these true stories of the past, and in particular what is of great attraction to us as human beings is our want to emulate and also follow and find fulfillment in the same way, how you observe in the lives of these characters is all the variables and odds are against these individuals, yet God makes them succeed, which in itself is a testimony to that unity of God. Like it’s one thing where one could stand up and just claim whatever he likes, that he worships one God, but if what he was claiming ultimately does not achieve success in the way in which he has claimed, then technically you wouldn’t really believe the claim in the first place, right?
Imam Wadood: Absolutely. I mean, and I think all prophets and such examples are unique to this. But I always look at the example of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. I think a lot of people don’t realise the magnitude of his miracle of what he was up against those days. I did a lot of research into the pyramids and the ancient Egyptian civilisation, which was one of the greatest civilisations to walk or to exist on earth – and to go up against that? It makes me think that, would the pharaoh have ever imagined that a day will come where my existence will only be recognised through these ruins that people will be digging up, and yet Moses will be someone who will be revered by billions of people? Whilst my remembrance will purely be from ruins that used to exist beneath 30 feet of sand. So how the events transpired and as history would show, unity and that belief in one God truly not only liberated Moses, peace be upon him, but as the Quran declares him to be alive forever, you look at these people, these individuals who are the ones to inherit an everlasting life, and we see that in the shape and form of not only Moses but every other prophet of God as well.
Imam Hadi: So I think maybe at this stage it would be important if I point out – the statement is “La ilaha ilallah Muhammad ur Rasoolullah” – that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger. So far, we’ve been only talking about the first aspect, which is the unity of God and to worship only one God. Why is the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, mentioned in this particular statement? As in, what’s the significance of that?
Imam Wadood: I think there’s a few reasons, and of course we can break them down over this podcast, but it’s the continuation of the unity of God because the prophet, peace be upon him, unites all prophets before him as well. So for example, there are famous traditions of the Prophet Peace be upon him, and the Quran declares him to be ‘Khatam Nabiyyin,’(the seal of the prophets). There’s ‘hadith’ (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), of the Prophet where he says he was ‘Khataman Nabiyyin’ when Adam himself was being created. And we see all these prophets in some form or another – especially Biblical prophets in the Old Testament, tell prophecies about the coming of this great Prophet. He’s a Mercy for mankind, right? The Quran declared him to be the merciful creation for the whole of mankind and belief in him also unites us in regard to all these prophets.
As you mentioned, you cannot be a Muslim until you believe in every single prophet, from the time of Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, till the advent of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, at the very end. At the very end, when you believe in Prophet Muhammad, that’s when you become a Muslim. But before that, you cannot be a Muslim unless you believe in Jesus and Moses and Abraham and Jacob and John and Aron and all these prophets. So even belief in Muhammad, peace be upon him – he becomes a source of unity amongst people and cultures and nations. For example, if I follow Judaism, then I regard every other prophet from Jesus onwards to be a false prophet. If I become a Christian, then I regard every other prophet after Jesus, peace upon him, to be a false prophet. If I become a Hindu for example, I regard every Biblical Prophet, and even Muhammad to be a false prophet. No faith, no religion, through belief in its founder, promotes the kind of unity and oneness that does so through Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Imam Hadi: All right. Yeah, there’s a deep meaning behind why the Holy Prophet has been mentioned here, as you’ve mentioned. Just as the concept of the unity of God unites all of creation, then too does following the Prophet Muhammad in particular, unites all faiths and those who follow the prophets of God. There’s also another aspect which I believe is worth talking about which is the fact that the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, in particular managed to reach the climax of the unity of God. That’s an intrinsic belief of Islam, hence why we consider him to be what is known as ‘Khataman Nabiyyin,’ being the seal of the prophets. This term ‘khatam’ is used in the Arabic language, in particular to denote or specify someone’s supremacy, their greatness. For example, the term has been used for others as well at different times, such as the best of the poets like Watanabe, etc. But here we’re talking about the greatness of the Holy Prophet – why was he great? He was great because he managed to demonstrate to us the unity of God in every manner, particularly through his own character and conduct throughout his life story, something which we witness in his character, his dealings with people. It’s something that eye witnesses within his own home, such as his wives among which particularly A’isha testified to, that he was the embodiment of the Holy Quran itself.
And in actuality is interesting because the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who we believe to be the Promised Messiah and the Imam Mahdi, mentioned something very interesting, and he said that the Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, because of the nature of Muhammad, peace be upon him. He alone, because he was the Perfect Man, qualified himself to understand the Unity of God to the highest degree – hence why the greatest form of revelation was revealed to him in the form of the Holy Quran – he had the capacity to be able to receive the message of the Holy Quran, which is the best code and conduct of life and the final law from God Almighty, that also confirm the teachings of the past, but also provides us teachings which are timeless for the future as well.
The Need for Guidance and Mentorship in Society
Imam Wadood: Further to that point there comes another aspect which is incredibly important today – the issue of a lack of guidance within society. People understand it is important to have a good mentor, and it is said that if you cannot find one then you should read a book because they too mentor you to a certain degree. if I were to simplify this for our younger audience then it would be thus; the importance of Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the religion of Islam is akin to the requirement of having a mentor teach you in the ways of adopting the Unity of God in your life, to have a living relationship with God Almighty. This was best taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his religion – hence why you cannot separate the statement ‘Muhammad ur Rasoolullah’ from ‘La ilaha ilAllah,’ the two are absolutely interwoven.
Scholars of the past – they’ve actually written thousands of words on just this shahada, this declaration of faith, and they said that this statement, in essence, it presents the gist or the summary of the Islamic teaching of the Quran, of the whole of the religion. And they actually break it down so – for example, that ‘la ilaha ilAllah’ refers to the rights of God and ‘Muhammad ur Rasoolullah’ refers to the rights of the creation of God. And if we see and if you observe the Holy Quran, essentially the commandments are divided between these two categories: the rights of God and the rights of creation of God. And one of the most beautiful things I heard was the Fourth Caliph, the fourth successor of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. explaining that this philosophy in the Shahada and the philosophy of all commandments in the Holy Quran can essentially be divided in these two categories with the rights of God and the rights of the creation or the rights of the man of God, and he said that they have to go parallel, one cannot only try to pawn one of these and totally neglect the other to the point where – he emphasised that the rights of the creation of God and looking after them play a dominant role and they enable you to fulfill the rights of God Himself. One of the most beautiful examples is that while a lot of Muslims may concentrate on their salat, on the five pillars, on the fasting, on the zakat, they lack on the other end because of having a horrible relationship with their neighbor or they may curse a relative or friend or they may not be the best father or husband or mother or wife, so on and so forth. Further, he set the example of those who pay due attention towards the rights of God yet neglect the rights of the creation of God – it is like someone who tries to build a two-storey house but proceeds to construct the second story before building the first floor or even the foundation.
An example from the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, recalling from memory – is two really long incidents that how the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, received the very first revelation – an angel came to him whilst he was in a cave and this being the first instance of this realisation that a tremendous responsibility was being placed upon him. He quickly went home worried, and he asked his beloved wife, Khadija, to put a blanket over him while he narrated the whole incident. Khadija, alone right there, a woman and his wife, became the first believer. When the Prophet, peace be upon him, explained what had happened, she didn’t ask for the proof of his prophethood, or ask to be proven that an angel came to him or even for proof of the existence of this one God. She presented five or six reasons why she believed him, and they were all tied to his relationship with the creation of God! Like for example, looking after the poor and needy, those who were in a state of difficulty, the merit of his hospitality and his looking after his close ones and relatives. Among which, she said, seemed not to exist within their society and it raises no doubt to believe him to be a prophet of God. So ‘Muhammadur Rasoolullah’ also draws our attention towards this aspect of our faith, and that is the rights of the creation of God which enables us to fulfill the rights of God, which both have to go parallel in order for one to tread upon this faith and walk and journey further into spirituality.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. I really like that point because it reminded me of something that, again, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community once mentioned, saying that the greatest miracle or you know, as far as faith-inspiring incidences go, is not in the different stories that we read of the past, but in actuality the revolutionary transformation of the human character, which he says was one of the greatest miracles of Muhammad, peace be upon him. It was his character – he was appropriate and perfect in every stage of his life; when he spent his time as an orphan, as someone who had no support and was far from having any form of governance under him let alone the king or the ruler of the whole Kingdom. So he behaved appropriately according to those circumstances, both when he was poor, but also when God Almighty granted him power and gave him leadership. Even then, he behaved entirely appropriately and he displayed kindness where kindness was due. He displayed strictness when strictness was due, and I think people of today can really appreciate this because of it being one of the biggest silent epidemics taking place in the world today; which is just moral confusion, not knowing what to do at what time and what faculties are actually appropriate and how to utilise them.
Imam Wadood: Not knowing where to make a stand.
Imam Hadi: Not knowing where to make a stand, yeah. And then where is what we see in the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, that he is the best when it comes to his wives; best when it’s coming to dealing with his neighbors and society. And this was something which was acknowledged even before he started receiving revelation – people considered him to be ‘Ameen’ and ‘Siddiq,’ trustworthy and truthful respectively, well before he received revelation. And the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said, it was because of this nature of Muhammad, peace be upon him, that the Holy Quran was revealed to him and this remains to be the most timeless miracle of today, which continues to show miracles even in this day and age – 14 centuries after the demise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
One thing I would mention is while we discussed some of the life of Muhammad, this does no justice to it and we don’t have enough time to go through it all, even though future episodes will try to cover more of his life and character, God Willingly. Going through his life and character within this podcast will take hours upon hours, but we would highly recommend for our viewers and listeners to read the book Life of Muhammad which we’ve provided the link for you to download it – it’s a story that’s as ever important to read today as ever, maybe even more than before, because it’s a story of a man who personified the unity of God in his life, in his own private life, but it was something that the world witnessed in all the circumstances. It was like the whole universe worked in his favour – it’s just incredible.
Imam Wadood: This shahada draws our attention towards studying and applying the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, in our own lives. Like ‘Muhammad ur Rasoolullah’ for instance, it is pertinent even in situations concerning social media and the current mode of dialogue happening often nowadays where people chase after likes by getting into viral arguments and it centralises on putting the other individual down as a way of proving your points and argument as correct. An apparent truth from these situations, if you study the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, is that his invitation and call to God, was always true to his character and morals and values. He wouldn’t stand in a corner and present proofs of the existence of God and proofs for why he was the Prophet of God and exclaim of his fulfilled prophecies. His greatest conveyance of the message of God was through the Quran, and his own morals and values which moved people to say such things as “look, he could not be a liar!” and as you were talking earlier, the attraction that Muhammad, peace upon him, had, which drew people towards them wasn’t how eloquent he was or a mind-boggling greatest single proof that he presented before them. Rather, it was his own character, morals and values that he presented, which moved people to the point where borders are being placed upon the bodies, so to speak, and they can’t leave this camp of the unity of God. So it is quite important, the second part of the Shahada – the soul draws the attention of a Muslim towards emulating the life and the character and the modern values of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. What you just said again just reminded me of something I heard recently, which I think is worth mentioning though for our viewers and listeners. Just as I highly recommend you read The Life of Muhammad, do also check out the Jalsa Salana UK, the International annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, that just took place recently. It was incredible and absolutely faith inspiring – especially a speech given by Dr. Faheem Younus. He said something really interesting; he said that if you drink a drop from the cup of science, then at most it makes you arrogant. But if you delve deep right to the bottom of the water, then all you can manage to understand is the unity of God. And you see the unity of God in every aspect of creation, and once you adopt the unity of God in your life, you no longer need to argue with others because our job isn’t to argue with others, but to win the hearts of those who are around us. And it is through the unity of God that you also unify creation.
Imam Wadood: I believe he was quoting off a scientist or a physicist who had, from this example, drank from the drop of science, and this is what you conclude too. But also, whilst I was researching for this podcast and I came upon Einstein, how he, as he studied the universe and creation, also commented on how there’s perfect unity and harmony that exists in creation. This is what we spoke about earlier as well, that it’s not only in a belief in the unity of God but it extends to creation. It extends to the physical world, not only the spiritual world and it exists in every single aspect of our life. For example, when we pray, we stand together in line, shoulder to shoulder and make sure that we are standing in a straight line, make sure that no one breaks that line or goes further up. Because we stand behind one imam who leads the prayer and we face that one direction, which is the Ka’aba. So this form of unity, it doesn’t just extend to the spiritual realm. I recently had the pleasure and honor of going to the Ka’aba for Umrah (pilgrimage). And you see that over there, the unity is amplified because everyone is wearing the same white robes, there’s no class in the clothing that you wear. There’s no brands, you only wear slippers, not even socks, so you have the same kind of clothes, you have the same color of clothes and are there for that same purpose. There’s no rich or poor. There’s no old or young. You’re there as worshipers of the one God, and you become that representation of that manifestation of unity, which God desires to be established in the human race. I think there’s no better sight. If anyone wants to Google, what happens at The Ka’aba, what happened at Hajj, they would know and understand what I mean about that oneness and unity being amplified and manifested in every single aspect of your life.
Imam Hadi: Now that’s incredible. And I think before we move on to the next question, one thing I think is important to mention is there is this counter movement against this woke, highly liberal movement, which is the red pill movement. They are a conservative group which is now trying to make the message of modern day Christianity relevant again, and particularly the way they do it is by presenting the passion story of Christ, showing Christ as being someone who is utterly innocent. But once again, mentioning the importance of reading the Life of Muhammad, peace be upon him. The second successor of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; His Holiness, Mr. Bashiruddin Mahmood mentioned something very interesting about these passion stories – he said that if you read the Life of Muhammad, you’ll see that Muhammad had a passion story every single day of his life, in service of God and in service of mankind. Muhammad bore the cross, whereas he says that Jesus had to bear that cross once in his life at the age of around about 33 or so. This is considered an immense sacrifice that moves the hearts of people towards Christianity, but if only you had read The Life of Muhammad, you would realise that in actuality it was not one day, but every single day of Muhammad’s life, and particularly during his ministry from the age of 40 to 63, he bore that cross and he managed to display the unity of God, in both at a time where he was severely persecuted for 13 years and without power, and again then at a time where he had power for ten years. One of the climaxes is at a time where after being removed from Mecca and having to migrate to Medina, he returns seven years later with 10,000 followers as a conqueror, almost, but he doesn’t conquer Mecca through the likes of Genghis Khan or those who have conquered lands in the past – he comes to Mecca and openly forgives those who persecuted him and killed his fellow family members. These people, who were responsible for causing such suffering and loss yet despite that he says I forgive you all today. Why? Because I do it for the sake of God and because what God teaches is that reformation is key, not revenge! Once again, we witness the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, behaving absolutely appropriately.
Imam Wadood: You know, everything that you elaborated there is amazing. I remember a few years ago, I had to present a speech or a lecture, and I was doing some research on this person by the name of Ramakrishna Rao who is an Indian Professor of Philosophy, and he’s actually written a book ‘Muhammad the Prophet of Islam’, and he prefers to appoint him as a perfect role model for human life, for all time to come. For all time. And one of the greatest examples he gives us is the example that you’ve just given right now, about how for 13 years he was persecuted, in Mecca. He saw his relatives, friends, colleagues, people he loved mercilessly martyred. And then for another seven or so years in Madina, he migrates and he leaves his home – his land, his property, his beloved city, he and his fellow immigrants to a different city. But still he’s not left to peace so his loved ones are still killed. Ramakrishna, in the most eloquent of ways, draws up this whole emotional scene, how despite these 30 years of persecution in Mecca, another seven years in Medina. After all that, he finally enters Mecca as a conqueror. And we’ve got the history before us with the conquerors of the past in terms of what they have done when they have conquered a city, for example the history of Caesar, compared to what Muhammad peace be upon him did. And what he does is an example in history – a unique example in history, the likes of which are not found in any conquest whatsoever. And he says “on this day, there’s no blame on you.” He forgives every single individual of that city – people who had been murderers, people who had murdered his own family members, forgiven. And Professor Ramakrishna Rao, in the most eloquent of ways explains all of this and he presents the case for Muhammad, peace be upon him, to the point of being an example for all mankind, for all of human life.
So if anyone wants to look that up, that’s ‘Muhammad the Prophet of Islam’, by Professor Ramakrishna Rao.
Understanding the Journey of Conversion to Islam
Imam Hadi: Wonderful. I think that’s wonderful. So just before moving forward; so far we’ve understood briefly the shahada, the first pillar of Islam, but if you’re looking to convert to Islam, and this is coming from getting this question asked repeatedly – let’s start off with how do you convert to Islam? Is it difficult? Is there any specific thing that you need to do to become a Muslim? What is that exactly? And how do you go about doing it?
Imam Wadood: I think if you listen to the podcast, you would know, but essentially the conviction of faith is extremely personal. Whenever I would interact or speak to people thinking about this, my advice is to take it seriously and not tread lightly. That it should always be in mind that when you want to convert to Islam, you are not presented with a God confined to writings on scripture or books that have existed for the past 1400 years – the God of Islam is a Living God. He is a God that listens to His servants, He is a God who presents that the single greatest proof of His existence is through answering the calls, He answers your prayers. The first step should be that you should implore God to give you conviction of faith, that firmness of faith that will, upon you taking the Shahada, will not put you at fault, but rather continue to grow your faith.
So, it is important, as the simplest step to becoming a Muslim, is not just reciting the Shahada but to understand the Shahada and believe in it, to believe in the unity and Oneness of God, to believe that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was His servant and Messenger. This is the most basic and simple level that makes you Muslim and no one can take the title of Muslim away from you, no matter what. Also understand that the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, referred to life – even his life – as one of a traveller going towards his destination, that the livelihood of this life is nothing but a short rest stop under a tree – this would be the easiest and most simple step on your journey to Islam, but it is a lifelong one. Additionally it is no better to be born a Muslim than a convert, because the value is in the constant struggle to better yourself as a human being and as a Muslim. And being that, it’s a lifelong journey, you keep that destination in mind. You endeavor and you struggle and you work towards that destination.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. And just for our audience, the statement that’s made upon conversion is as follows:
اَشْہَدُ اَنْ لَا اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ وَ حْدَہٗ لَا شَرِیْکَ لَہٗ وَ اَشْھَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُہٗ وَ رَسُوْلُہٗ
“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah. He is One and has no partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.”
So this is the way the Shahada is said.
So usually, when you do develop that conviction and faith and you’re fully confident in proceeding with becoming a Muslim, then in Islam it doesn’t require much ritual. There’s no massive church service that is required or dunking you into water. There’s no baptism other than the fact that you sincerely, from your heart, with your tongue, utter these words. After, it is said that, to signify a new birth, that you go home in your own time and have a bath, and that then represents a new beginning.
And this is something that you don’t have to do alone. Well, if you want to, you can. There’s no need for you to turn up at a mosque to officially become a Muslim, as that’s not something that Islam requires. Islam is a very simple religion. It’s something that you can do in your own time and you can consider yourself a muslim without anyone even ever coming to know. But if you do require help, then it is also something that you can avail. We have Imams across Australia, and if you reach out to us, we can put you in touch with an Imam who would happily sit with you and help you recite the words of the Shahada and then also answer any further questions you might have.
Ultimately, as Imam Wudood quite beautifully explained, Islam is not limited to scripture, though the Holy Quran is a way of life that describes to us how we should live life. But the ultimate purpose is to walk with God, and that’s the lifelong journey. As he’s quite beautifully mentioned, we walk with God on this earth, and the way to walk with God is to submit to His Will and to try and live to achieve His pleasure, which is by doing justice to the rights of God, and then also of mankind.
What are some of the challenges you think could be faced by someone who is desirous of becoming a Muslim and should keep in mind? How should they confront those? For example I know some people who are very desirous of converting but cannot due to social pressure or the family pressure, such as the family’s going to start judging. What advice would you give to such people?
Struggles to Faith’s Enduring Impact
Imam Wadood: I think first of all, whenever I meet someone who has just converted after the stigma of converting or who has taken that step, I always tell them they inspire me and that what you are going through and feeling is something that I can never understand. It’s something that I’ve only read in books and as someone who was born a Muslim can never understand or feel the struggle of someone who’s changing everything they’ve always believed in. Second thing is, based on what you’ve mentioned as an example, this is a story of what happened while I was studying in Jamia, the university where you study to become an Imam in the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. I was visiting home over the summer and got in touch with one of my primary school friends, someone I hadn’t seen or met since 7th grade. We knew each other because my family in the 90’s had migrated from Pakistan and he was from Germany, so we studied at the same school and connected, becoming good friends then. We lost touch but I reconnected with him again in that summer and he had since become a Muslim! I asked him if his family knew, and they didn’t – over the course of that summer we stayed in touch and he told me he wanted to tell his family but hadn’t found the right moment. I invited him over and we were having food, which is when he said his family found out; turns out they had known for a while because his mother said she saw him doing things he never used to, which used to be staying out at night and that she never saw him drinking anymore along with getting up at odd hours of the night and the sink being more watery and wet, in addition to changing what he ate. She found out, as mothers would – mothers know things.
They can sense things, so his mother knew right before he could even tell her. And she was so happy for him too, so proud of him because she said these are positive things: “You know, going out at night, drinking – you’re not all I was worried about, with all that’s out there and what parents generally worried about – to see this change in you is something I could never have imagined!”
So, sometimes it can have that positive impact on families as well. But at the same time there was a convert who came from a Mormon background – it was difficult for him and telling his family. He came to find his mother wasn’t very happy. He was very close to his mother, so there are absolutely pressures like this too, within society, within your own family. I always begin conversation with people, that I understand how difficult it can be for you and that I haven’t gone through it myself, but I can give examples from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, what the companions went through when they left their families and the religion of their forefathers. When they accepted the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the one God, your example is similar to these stars, the companions existed only 1400 years ago. That’s the kind of pressure they felt and the struggle that they went through. Nonetheless I tell them to also look at their example and what they’re going through is also a source of faith inspiration for me personally, but for the families in every single experience over the course of time they come around because the changes they see in the individual are so great it moves the whole family. And when it revolves around drugs, drinking and partying and the clothing, as well as your conduct when you’re by yourself and with others. Because the greatest ability, the greatest power that you do is through your morals and values and your own conduct. And that change in conduct is what essentially moves the parents or the families or the pressures that they have and so forth.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. What a wonderful way to actually come to the end of the podcast as well, because that was the miracle of Muhammad, may peace and blessings of God be upon him. That change and radical transformation in character and taking responsibility for your life and living wholly and appropriately in a fulfilled manner.
Listen to the full episode where Imam Hadi and Imam Wadood continue discussing the Shahada and provide guidance for those considering converting to Islam