We previously mentioned that saying laa ilaaha illallaah must be accompanied by understanding its meaning and acting upon its requirements. However, as there are certain texts which may be misunderstood to mean that the mere utterance of it is sufficient, as some people incorrectly claim, this matter therefore needs to be clarified in order to dispel such misunderstandings from those who desire the truth. Thus, concerning the hadeeth of ‘Utbaan radiallaahu ‘anhu which states:
“Indeed, Allaah has forbidden the Fire to whoever says laa ilaaha illallaah seeking by it the Face of Allaah.”(1)
Shaykh Sulaymaan ibn ‘Abdullaah, rahimahullaah, said: “And know that the apparent meaning of certain ahaadeeth is that whoever utters the two testimonies of faith, then Allaah will forbid the Fire to them; such as this one, and the hadeeth of Mu’aadh who said:
“I was riding along with the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam as a companion rider when he said to me thrice: “0 Mu’aadh ibn Jabal!” I replied to him thrice: Here I am, 0 Messenger of Allaah, at your service. He then said: “There is no one who testifies to laa ilaaha illallaah muhammadur-Rasoolullaah truthfully from his heart, except that Allaah would forbid the Fire to him.” I said: 0 Allaah’s Messenger, shall I not inform the people so that they may receive good news? He said: “No, because they will depend upon this.”
However, Mu’aadh related this hadeeth just before his death, fearing that he may be sinful
[i.e by concealing this knowledge]”(2).
And Muslim reports from ‘Ubaadah radhiyallahu anhu, from the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam: “Whoever testifies to laa ilaaha illallaah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, then Allaah would forbid the Fire to him“(3).
Then there are certain ahaadeeth that state that whoever utters the two testimonies of faith will enter the Gardens of Paradise, but they do not actually state that the person will be guarded from Hell. From [such ahaadeeth] is the hadeeth of ‘Ubaadah radhiyallahu anhu, which has preceded, and the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah - when they were with the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam in the battle of Tabook - in which it states:
“No one who meets Allaah having testified to laa ilaaha illallaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, having no doubt about it, shall be barred from the Gardens of Paradise“(4).
The best of what has been said concerning its meaning is what Shaykhul-Islaam [Ibn Taymiyyah] and others have said: That these ahaadeeth refer to whoever says it and dies upon it, since it has come with [certain] restrictions: That it should be said with sincerity from the heart, with certainty from the heart, without entertaining any doubt about it, and with truthfulness.
Indeed, the reality of tawheed is the soul’s total affinity and attraction to Allaah. So whoever testifies to laa ilaaha illallaah sincerely from his heart, will enter the Gardens of Paradise.
This is because sincerity is actually the heart’s affinity and attraction to Allaah, the Exalted, by sincerely repenting to Him from committing sins. So whoever dies upon this state will attain Paradise. There occurs in some ahaadeeth that reach the highest level of certainty and authenticity (mutawaatir), that whoever says laa ilaaha illallaah, and has in his heart faith, even if it equals the weight of a grain of barley, or the weight of a mustard seed, or even the weight of an atom - will eventually be taken out of the Hellfire.
(1) Reported by al-Bukhaaree (no.425) and Muslim (no.33).
(2) Reported by al-Bukhaaree (no.128).
(3) Reported by Muslim (no.47).
(4) Reported by Muslim (no.45).