Basics – Revisiting and Revising The Most Important Fundamentals: [Al-Ilm (Knowledge) Is The First Condition of The Shahaadah]
In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
The first condition of the [Shahaadah – There is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah] is “Knowledge which necessitates a negation of Ignorance”. This means that one should know its meaning, what it negates and affirms, what it demonstrates in reality regarding the Oneness of Allaah, devotes all acts of worship to Allaah alone, sincerely devote all aspects of the religion to Allaah alone and disbelieve in everything that is worshipped besides Allaah. Therefore, “Knowledge which negates Ignorance” necessitates sound knowledge and an upright understanding of the statement [Laa Ilaaha Illal laah – There is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah] by way of which one is removed from the path of the ignorant ones, because this statement does not benefit the one who utters it without knowledge. Allaah [The Exalted] said: [فَٱعۡلَمۡ أَنَّهُ ۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لِذَنۢبِكَ وَلِلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ وَٱلۡمُؤۡمِنَـٰتِۗ – So know that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah, and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women. (Surah Muhammad. 19)]. So in this verse, Allaah mentioned knowledge first because it is the foundation. [Ref 1]
The one who makes this testimony requires knowledge and truthfulness, and must act upon what he has testified to. The scholars say that knowledge of this testimony removes a person from the path of those Chrsitians [who strayed after the departure of Prophet Eesaa (peace be upon him)] – those who act but have no knowledge, and from the path of those Jews [who strayed after the departure of Prophet Moosaa (peace be upon him)] – those who have knowledge but do not act, and truthfulness removes a person from the path of the hypocrites- those who claim that they believe but they have no certainty.
A person cannot be from the adherents of Tawheed [pure Islamic Montheism] until he fulfils the two pillars of Laa Ilaaha Illal laah: [لا إلهَ – There is no deity worthy of worship (i.e. Negation)] and [إلاَّ اللَّه – Except Alaah (i.e. Affirmation)]. The negation has to be comprehensive and the affirmation has to be specific – a comprehensive negation of all worship that is devoted to others besides Allaah and specific affirmation that only Allaah has the right to be worshipped. If a person utters the negation without the affirmation, then he is not an adherent of pure Islamic monotheism, and if he affirms without uttering the negation, then he is not an adherent of pure Islamic monotheism. If a person were to negate only by saying [لا إلهَ – There is no deity worthy of worship], then he is an atheist, and if he were to affirm that Allaah has the right to be worshipped without negating by saying that others do not have a right to be worshipped, then he is a polytheist. Therefore, one cannot be an adherent of Tawheed [pure Islamic Monotheism] until he testifies that none has the right to be worshipped except Allaah.
And due to the mighty affair of this testimony [لا إلهَ إلاَّ اللَّه – There is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah], it is emphasised through the statement [وحْدهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لهُ – alone, without partner]. The affirmation is emphasised through the statement [وحْدهُ – alone] and the negation is emphasised through the statement [لاَ شَرِيكَ له – without partner]. [Ref 2]
Then Allaah [The Exalted] said: [وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لِذَنۢبِكَ – And ask forgiveness for your sin]- Meaning, seek Maghfirah from Allaah [i.e. that Allaah erases your sins, hide them for you and protect you from the evil consequences of sins (Ref 2.1)], employ the means of attaining Maghfirah such as repentance and supplicating for Maghfirah, perform good deeds and abandon sins etc. [وَلِلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ وَٱلۡمُؤۡمِنَـٰتِۗ – And for believing men and believing women]- Meaning, because indeed due to their Eemaan, every Muslim [male Muslim] and Muslimah [female] owe them rights and one of those rights they are owed is that one supplicates for them and ask Allaah to forgive them (i.e. erase their sins). [Ref 3]
Next topic: The Second Condition of the Shahaadah is “Al-Yaqeen” [Certainty]
[Ref 1: Source: Explanation of Important Lessons For The Muslim Ummah. pages 46-47. Maktabah Malik Al-Fahad 1436AH. (2015)]
[Ref 2: Source: An Excerpt from Sharh Kitaab At-Tawheed. Lesson 2. By Shaikh Abdur Razzaaq Al-Badr (may Allaah preserve him)]
[Ref 2.1: See Majmoo Al-Fataawaa Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah 14/140]
[Ref 3: Tafseer As-Sadi. slightly paraphrased]