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The Meaning of La Ilaha Illa Allah

Sat Sept 12, 2009


Allah Ta`ala said:
{So know that La ilaha illa Allah} (1)

Prepared by: Um Abdullah al-Misawi

The article in Arabic

The Word “La ilaha illa Allah”‌

- A good Word, Allah said -translation of the meaning-:
{Allah sets forth a parable - A good word like a good tree, its root is firmly fixed, and its branches are high in the sky} [14: 24]
  - It is the Word of Tawheed and Sincerity (Ikhlas), which all the prophets have called to, from Adam to our Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu Alayhi wa sallam), Allah Most High said -translation of the meaning-: {And We have sent not a messenger before you but We reveal to him La ilaha illa Ana so worship Me} [21: 25]
  - It is the Word of Taqwa (Piety), according to Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with both him and his father) and his student Mujahid in Allah’s saying -translation of the meaning-: {And We made them abide by the Word of Taqwa (Piety)}, he says: It is the testimony of “La ilaha illa Allah”‌(2).
  - It is a Word whosoever it was his last utterance (speech) in this life enters Paradise. The Prophet (salla Allaah alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whosoever had his last utterance “La ilaha illa Allah” will enter Paradise”[narrated by Abu Dawod and others, and it is Hadith Hasan].

The virtues of “La ilaha illa Allah”‌ are numerous, we have limited them to these examples to be brief, and much has been written about it. Whoever desires more should consult relevant sources.

This great word -the Word of Tawheed-, the Muslim says it in his prayers every day, and hears it from the Muadhin (the caller for prayer) every day many times, but do most people know its meaning and what it implies?
The goal of this article is to make clear the correct meaning of “La ilaha illa Allah” so that the Muslim knows the meaning of the word of Tawheed, to abide by it and call others to it.


The meaning of “ILAH”‌

Ibn Faris (d. 395 H.) said:
"The Hamza, Lam, and Haa (individual Arabic letters that make up the word “ilah”) is a root meaning “to worship”. Thus al-Ilah is Allah The Exalted, and He is called that because He is worshipped. And it is said: a man ta`allaha (is godly), if he devoted himself to worshipping." (3)
The Ilah, the one worshipped is Allah -Azza wa Jal-, then it (the word ilah) was borrowed by the polytheists for what they worshipped (of idols and other things) other than Allah The Exalted (4) , because they believed that it deserved to be worshipped (5).

And by this, the fault is obvious of those who claim that Allah's Saying: {And it is He Who is Ilah (God) in the Heavens and Ilah in the Earth} [43: 84] indicates that Allah is everywhere, that He resides in His creation -Exalted be He-, for its true meaning is that Allah Most Exalted is the One worshipped (which is the meaning of the word “ilah”) in the Heavens and the Earth.

The sayings of some of the Salaf and scholars on the meaning of this Ayah: - Qatadah: ( * ) : "It means: He is worshipped in the Heavens and is worshipped in the Earth." (6) - Ibn Jarir At-Tabari (d. 310 H) : "He Exalted is saying: and Allah, the One to whom alone is al-Uluha ( ** ), in the Heavens He is worshipped, and in the Earth He is worshipped as He is in the Heavens worshipped, nothing besides Him is worthy of worship; He Ta”ala is saying: So worship none but Him Whose attribute is this, and do not associate anything with (take partners besides) Him (7). - Ibn Abi Zamanin (d. 399 H) : "He is the worshipped alone in the Heavens and in the Earth." (8). - Abu al-Mudhaffar As-Sam`ani (d. 489 H) : "It means: Worshipped in the Heavens and the Earth." (9) - Ibn Katheer (d. 774 H) : "And His saying {And He is Allah in the Heavens and in the Earth, He knows what you conceal and what you reveal, and He knows what you earn.} [6: 3] the interpreters of this ayah differed on different sayings, after agreeing on faulting the first saying of al-Jahmiyah, the ones who said that He, greatly exalted be Allah from their saying, is everywhere; for they took the Ayah to mean that. So, the most correct of what is said is that He is the One called Allah in the Heavens and in the Earth, that is: worships Him and Unifies Him and attests to His Divinity all that is in the Heavens and in the Earth, and they call Him Allah, and invoke Him in hope (desiring His reward) and fear (out of fear of His punishment), except those who disbelieve among jinn and people, and this Ayah with this interpretation is like Allah”s saying: {And it is He Who is Ilah in the Heavens and Ilah in the Earth} [43: 84], that is: He is the Ilah of whoever is in the Heavens and whoever is in the Earth." (11) The meaning of “La ilaha illa Allah”‌: Statements from some of the people of knowledge on the meaning of “La ilaha illallah” : - Ibn Jarir At-Tabari (d. 310 H.) : "It means to forbid the worship of other than Allah." (12) He also said: " {Wa An La ilaha illa Huwa}, he says: and be certain also that there is none worthy of worship, deserving of al-Uluha (divinity, worship) over the creation, except Allah to whom belongs the Creation and the Affair of everything, so discard the peers and deities, and worship none but Him." (13) - Abu al-Mudhaffar As-Sam`ani (d. 489 H.) : {Indeed I am Allah, La ilaha illa Ana so worship Me}. That is: no one deserves worship other than I." (14) - Al-Bayhaqi (d. 458 H.) : Thus the meaning of al-Ilah is: The worshipped, and the saying of those who testify to the Oneness of Allah: La ilaha illa Allah means: none is worshiped but Allah." (15) - Al-Qurtubi (d. 671 H.) : "His saying -Exalted be He-: {La ilaha illa Huwa} is negation and affirmation. Its first part is kufr (disbelief, saying La Ilaha only) and its last part is Iman. (belief, by completing the whole statement), and its meaning is 'none is worshiped except Allah'." (16) Abu Hilal al-Askari said: "The saying of the people 'none is worshiped except Allah', means: 'None is worthy of worship but Allah the Exalted'." (17) - Ibn Katheer (d. 774 H.) : "Thus His saying {Allahu La ilaha illa Huwa} is affirmation that Ilahiya ( ** ) of all the creation is to Him alone." (18) - Al-Suyuti (d. 911 H.) : " {Allah la ilaha} meaning: none is worthy of worship in existence {except He}.”‌ (19) - Al-Bahhuti (d. 1051 H) : "Meaning none is truly worthy of worship except That True One." (20) And many more besides them. Therefore, with this it becomes known that the belief of some Muslims that the meaning of “La ilaha illa Allah”‌ is: “No creator except Allah”, is wrong, for the Arab polytheists were confessing that Allaah alone is The Creator but they worshipped besides Him other things such as idols, the angels and others. Allah the Exalted says: {And if you have asked them who created the Heavens and the Earth and subjected the Sun and the Moon? verily they would say: Allah} [29:61], and many more proofs in the Noble Quran, which we will dedicate a separate article for it Insha Allah. And the testimony of La ilaha illah Allah includes attributing to Allah Alone The Creation, The Ownership and The Controlling of all Affairs, for the one deserving worship is the Creator of the slaves and their owner and overseer of their affairs, and indeed Allah the Exalted has provided the undisputable proof to the mushrikeen (Polytheists), for their belief of Allah’s Sole responsibility for The Creation, The Ownership and Overseeing over worshipping Him alone instead of their false deities which have none of that, for the Mushrikeen used to say in their talbiyah (what is said by pilgrims during Hajj & Umrah) “At your service (here we are answering your call) You have no partner except a partner who is yours, You own him and whatever he possessed”‌; they say this while they circumambulating the House (al-Kabah). (21) And if there were an ilah (deity) other than Allah deserving to be worshipped it would have been identical to Allah “Azza wa Jal-, so he would also be a creator, owner and overseer, and this is cause for ruin (disarray, disaster). Allah -The Exalted- said -translation of the meaning- {Allah has not taken any offspring and nor any gods were with Him. [If there had been], then each god would have walked away with what he created and they would have attempted to overcome others! Glorified be Allah above all that they attribute to Him!} [23:91] Ibn Jarir At-Tabari said in the explanation of this Ayah: "Allah says: Allah has no offspring; And there were none with Him in eternity, and neither when He created things, that which is deserving of worship. If there were with Him in eternity or when He Created things that which deserved to be worshipped {of any gods then verily each would have walked away} he says: thus each god would have secluded himself {with what he created} of things, be alone with it, and they would have competed, then they would have risen above each other, and the powerful would have defeated the weak; for the powerful does not accept to be overcome by the weak, and the weak is not fit to be a god, so Glorified be to Allah what a powerful, undisputable and concise proof, for whoever was mindful and thoughtful." (22) So “La ilaha illa Allah”‌ means: None is worthy of worship except Allah, or none deserves to be worshiped except He. And bearing witness to that includes bearing witness that He is the Sole Creator Owner and Overseer, and that there is none like Him and no equal to Him, because the one whose worship is valid is the Creator of everything and its Overseer and its Owner, there is none like unto Him.

Related Articles:

Tawheed: Its Meaning and Importance


(1) Quran (47: 19)
(2) Jami` Al-Bayan fi Taweel Al-Qur`an (Tafsir) by At-Tabari (22254)
(3) Mu`jam Maqayis Al-Lugha by Ibn Faris (1/127)
(4) Al-Misbah Al-Muneer by Al-Fayyumi, the root “Alah”‌.
(5) Lisan Al-Arab by Ibn Mandhur , the root “Alah”‌.
(6) Jami` Al-Bayan (21/653); Tafsir Abdur-Razzaq As-San`ani (2/203); Al-Asma Wa Sifat by Al-Baihaqi (2/343)
(7) Jami` Al-Bayan (21/652)
(8) Tafsir Ibn Abi Zamanin (4/196)
(9) Tafsir As-Sam`ani (5/119)
(11) Tafsir Al-Quran Al-`Adheem by Ibn Kathir (3/239-240)
(12) Jami` Al-Bayan (5/386)
(13) Jami` Al-Bayan (15/261)
(14) Tafsir As-Sam`ani (3/323)
(15) Al-Asma Wa Sifat (1/58) Al-Hashidi edition.
(16) Al-Jami` Li-Ahkam Al-Quran by Al-Qurtubi (2/191)
(17) Mu`jam Al-Furuq Al-Lughawiya (p.68); Abu Hilal Al-Askari died sometime after 395 H.
(18) Tafsir Al-Quran Al-Adheem (1/678)
(19) Tafsir Al-Jalalayn (p.42)
(20) Kashf Al-Qina` `An Matn Al-Iqna` (p. 9)
(21) Sahih Muslim, Kitab Al-Hajj/ chapter “Talbiya, its description and its time”‌.
(22) Jami` Al-Bayan (19/66)
( * ) He is Qatadah bin Di`ama As-Sadusi (61 - 117 H.), from the Tabi`een.
( ** ) Al-Ilaha, Al-Uluha, and Al-Uluhiya means: worship. (Al-Muhkam Al-Muheet Al-A`dham by Ibn Sayyidah 4/358)