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A. Difference the Kalimah creates

Brothers in Islam! You become Muslims by reciting a few words called the Kalimah: “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadun Rasulullah” (There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah).

On pronouncing these words, a man is supposed to have radically changed. He was a Kafir, now he is a Muslim; he was impure, and now he is pure. He deserved Allah’s displeasure; now he deserves to be loved by Him. He was going to Hell; now the gates of Heaven are open for him.

On a more concrete level, in social life, this Kalimah becomes the basis for differentiating one man from another. Those who recite it constitute one nation, while those who reject it form another. If a father recites it but his son refuses it, the father is no longer the same father, nor the son the same son. The son will not inherit anything from the father, his mother and sisters may even observe purdah from him. On the other hand, if a total stranger recites the Kalimah and marries a Muslim family, he and his children become eligible for inheritance.

The power of the Kalimah is thus so strong that it takes precedence even over blood ties; it can join strangers together into a nation; it can cut members of the same family off from each other.

B. Is mere utterance enough?

Why should the Kalimah make such a big difference between man and man? What is so special about it? After all, it contains only a few letters like ‘L’, ‘A’, ‘I’, ‘M’, ‘R’, and ‘S’. Joined together and pronounced, do they somehow have the power to work magic so as to radically change a man? Can merely saying a few words create such an enormous difference?

Brothers! A little reasoning will immediately tell you that merely opening your mouth and uttering a few syllables can never have such an impact. Idol worshippers no doubt believe that by reciting some formula of holy words, mountains can be removed, the earth can be split and fountains can gush out of it, even though they do not know its meaning. This is because they ascribe supernatural powers to letters, and they believe that merely uttering them is sufficient to make their powers work.

This is not so in Islam. The effectiveness of words lies in their meaning. If they do not penetrate deep into your hearts and have an impact powerful enough to effect a change in your thoughts, your morals, and your actions, then their utterance is meaningless and ineffectual.

A simple example will illustrate this point. Suppose you are shivering in cold weather and you start shouting, ‘cotton quilt, cotton quilt!’ The effect of cold will not be any less even if you repeat these words all night a million times on beads or a rosary. But if you prepare a quilt stuffed with cotton and cover your body with it, the cold will stop. Or suppose you feel thirsty and shout the whole day,’ water, water,’ your thirst will not be quenched. What you need to do is to get some water and take a mouthful. Or again, suppose you are suffering from cold and fever and you decide the best remedy is to chant the name of medicines used to cure these illnesses. You will not get better; but if you actually take these medicines, your cold and fever will disappear, Insha Allah.

This is exactly the position of the Kalimah. The mere utterance of six or seven words cannot conceivably transform a Kafir into a Muslim, or an impure person into a pure person, or a damned person into a favored one, nor can it send a man to Paradise instead of Hell. This transformation is possible only after you have understood the meaning of these words and made it penetrate your hearts and change your lives.

So, when you recite these words, you should be conscious of what an important commitment you are making to Allah, with the whole world of your witness, and what a great responsibility you are taking on as a result of your commitment.

Once you have made the affirmation consciously, the Kalimah must conform all your thoughts and reign supreme in your whole life: no idea contrary to it should form part of your mental furniture. Whatever runs counter to the Kalimah you must always consider false and the Kalimah alone is true. After affirming this Kalimah you are not at liberty, as are the unbelievers; to do as you like. You have to follow what it prescribed and renounce what it forbids.

If you recite the Kalimah in this manner, only then can you become true Muslims, only then is created that overwhelming difference between man and man that we have just been discussing.

by Sayyed Abul A’la Mauwdudi


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