Meaning of ‘Ilaah’ and defining the Shahadah

Posted on February 21, 2007. Filed under: 101 - Ruboobiyyah and Uloohiyyah |

Shahadah: No Ilaah except Allah.

Ibn Abbas said ilaah is one whom everything turns to and worship.

Ar-Raghib al-Asbahanee (d.425) wrote a dictionary of the Quran and said ilaah is a name given to every object that is worshpped.

Ibn Mandhoor (d. 711) defined it as any object that is taken as an object of worship (Lisaan al-Arab).

All the classical dictionaries defined it as an object of worship.

If ilaah meant Rabb, then the mushrikoon would have been Muslims. Some later groups in Islam tried to define ilaah as creator, but this is not an interpretation found in the first centuries of Islam.


Laa ilaah”– negatory ‘laa.’ When negating, there must be a being and the concept being negated from that being. It is like saying “There is no person inside the house.” You cannot have “There is no person” or “inside the house” by itself. There must be 2 things after the negatory laa. In arabic this is an ism (noun) and a khabar (description). The noun here is ilaah, but there is no description. The description is understood by the context and therefore there is no need for it to be stated (this is a simple point of grammar). The description here would be “worthy of” (bi-haqqin). So the complete phrase “Laa ilaah” is “There is no deity that is worthy of worship.”

When the shahadah is completed then, it is “There is no deity that is worthy of worship except Allah.” The first half of it is negation, and then there is an affirmation.

The affirmation and negation gives us 1) exclusivity, and 2) it is the height of praise. Something that is negation only would be like saying, “there is no one who is intelligent.” There is no exclusivity or praise. To say so and so is intelligent, is to give praise, but not exclusivity. But if the two are combined and you say “there is no one who is intelligent except so and so” then it results in exclusivity and it is the height of praise. There is nothing else that can be done to praise more than that. This is how the shahadah is, there I nothing at all worthy of any worship at all, except Allah.

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