How to become a Muslim according to the Quran?
Most traditional Muslims believe that in order to be a Muslim you must say the shahada, which is comprised of two parts: la ilaha illa allah and Muhammad rasool alla. According to traditional Muslims, both parts of the shahada must be declared to the public to be considered a Muslim in the eyes of the people.
From this, we should ask ourselves two questions:
1) What does the Quran say on how to become a Muslim? Are there certain words that must be said?
2) If the second part of the shahada (Muhammad rasool Allah) was excluded, would the first part of the shahada (‘la ilaha illah Allah’) be sufficient in Islam?
1. If we take a careful look at 3:18-20, we see that in order to become a Muslim one must simply ‘submit’:
[3:18] GOD bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise.
[3:19] The only religion approved by GOD is “Submission.” Ironically, those who have received the scripture are the ones who dispute this fact, despite the knowledge they have received, due to jealousy. For such rejectors of GOD’s revelations, GOD is most strict in reckoning.
[3:20] If they argue with you, then say, “I have simply submitted myself to GOD; I and those who follow me.” You shall proclaim to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not, “Would you submit?” If they submit, then they have been guided, but if they turn away, your sole mission is to deliver this message. GOD is Seer of all people.
According to 3:20, Muhammad was required to ask the people of the scripture and the gentiles “would you submit?”… So the criteria to becoming Muslim, if we are to say anything at all, is to simply say, “I submit” – no shahada of a messenger is required…
2. Abraham said and did the same thing; he said, “I submit to the Lord of the Universe” (2:131).
[2:131] When his Lord said to him, “Submit,” he said, “I submit to the Lord of the universe.”
3. When the Queen of Sheba became a Muslim she simply said: “I now submit with Solomon to God…”
[27:44] She was told, “Go inside the palace.” When she saw its interior, she thought it was a pool of water, and she (pulled up her dress,) exposing her legs. He said, “This interior is now paved with crystal.” She said, “My Lord, I have wronged my soul. I now submit with Solomon to GOD, Lord of the universe.”
4. Submitting to God means we worship God Alone and strive to do all the righteous works:
[2:177] Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.
5. From the above Quranic verses we learn that in order to become Muslim we must Submit to the will of God by words and, more importantly, by deed.
Is ‘la ilaha illah Allah’ sufficint to making me a Muslim?
As we have seen in the Quran, the shahada is not a requirement to become a Muslim… But for the sake of clarity, let’s find out if saying ‘Muhammad rasool Allah’ is contingent to our salvation when used in the shahada:
1. The shahada according to God, the angels, and those who are well founded in knowledge is ‘la ilaha illa Allah’ (3:18)… This simple statement is what unifies all those who Submit to the One God in Submission (2:62). The only criteria to being a Muslim is to Submit to the One and only God (3:18-19).
2. We are required to believe in all of God’s messengers (2:85), but nowhere does the Quran suggest the shahada must include bearing witness to God’s messengers… Especially if the messenger is dead… Muhammad himself proclaimed that the greatest testimony (akbar shahada) is:
[6:19] Say, “Whose testimony is the greatest?” Say, “GOD’s. He is the witness between me and you that this Quran has been inspired to me, to preach it to you and whomever it reaches. Indeed, you bear witness that there are other gods* beside GOD.” Say, “I do not testify as you do; there is only one god, and I disown your idolatry.”
3. Although the desciples of Jesus were living amongst a living messenger and they believed in him. They said ‘bear witness we are Muslim’… They didn’t have to say ‘la ilaha illa Allah, Isa rasool Allah’… No, they simply said ‘we are Muslims’..
[3:52] When Jesus sensed their disbelief, he said, “Who are my supporters towards GOD?” The disciples said, “We are GOD’s supporters; we believe in GOD, and bear witness that we are submitters.”
[5:111] “Recall that I inspired the disciples: `You shall believe in Me and My messenger.’ They said, `We have believed, and bear witness that we are submitters.”
4. Pharaoh, even though he still incurred hell, uttered a correct and sufficient ‘shahada’ before drowning:
[10:90] We delivered the Children of Israel across the sea. Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, aggressively and sinfully. When drowning became a reality for him, he said, “I believe that there is no god except the One in whom the Children of Israel have believed; I am a submitter.”
[10:91] “Too late!* For you have rebelled already, and chose to be a transgressor.
Please note that the words ‘too late, for you have rebelled already…’ means that God would have accepted Pharaoh’s repentance but didn’t because Pharaoh’s sins out-weighed his good deeds. Again, this teaches us there is no need that the Shahada should include a messengers name.
- In order to witness something, that ‘something’ must be present (4:135). For example; the statement ‘I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God’ is a false satement. This is because Muhammad is dead, I can’t see him or touch him to bear witness of his current existence.
Moreover, 3:86 does not mean there is a second part to the shahada. Unfortunately, the translation of Y. Ali does not give the full picture. Here is a better translation:
[3:86] Why should GOD guide people who disbelieved after believing, and after witnessing that the messenger is truth, and after solid proofs have been given to them? GOD does not guide the wicked.
Again, to witness something, that ‘something’ must be present. This is precisely the case in 3:86. The people ‘witnessed’ the messenger and the proofs given to them… Nowhere does the verse suggest this is part of the second shahada…
6. Finally, every Muslim MUST believe Muhammad was a messenger of God and a deliverer of the Quran (47:2). The Quran teaches us to give the utmost respect to God’s messengers (5:12), to bear witness of their righteous endeavors in spreading the word of God (25:56), and not to distinguish between the messengers of God (2:136). As we’ve seen from the above Quranic examples, nowhere does it say that our shahada must include another name besides God. All messengers of God said ‘la ilaha illah Allah’ (there is no god but God)…. What comprises a Muslim is the worship and Submitting to the One God. As simple as that…