The meaning of Kalimat at-tawhîd

Question: What is the meaning of Kalimat at-tawhîd?
When one becomes a Muslim, first and foremost, it obligatory for one to know and believe in the meaning of the phrase “Lâ ilâha ill-Allah Muhammadun Rasûl-Allah.” This phrase is called Kalimat at-tawhîd. The brief meaning of it is as follows: There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad (‘alaihis-salâm) is His Messenger.

Ahl as-Sunnah scholars explain the meaning of the Kalimat at-tawhîd as follows:
Human beings were nonexistent. They were created later. They have one Creator. He is the One who has created everything. The Creator is one. He does not have a partner or a likeness. There is no second He. He has been ever-existent; His existence did not have a beginning. He will be ever-existent; there is no end to His existence. He will not cease to exist. His existence is always necessary. His nonexistence is impossible. His existence is of Himself; He does not need any means. There is nothing that will not need Him. He is the One who creates everything and makes them go on existing. He is not material or a thing. He is not at a place or in any substance. He does not have a shape and cannot be measured. It cannot be asked how He is; when we say “He,” none of the things which occur to the mind or which we can imagine is He. He is unlike these. All of them are His creatures. He is not like His creatures. He is the Creator of everything that occurs to mind, every illusion and every delusion. He is not above, below, or at one side. He does not have a place. Every being is below the ’Arsh. And the ’Arsh is under His Power, under His Omnipotence. He is above the ’Arsh. Yet this does not mean that the ’Arsh carries Him. The ’Arsh exists with His Favour and in His Omnipotence. He is the same now as He was in eternity, in eternal past. He will always be the same in the everlasting future as He had been before creating the ’Arsh. No change occurs in Him. He has His own Attributes. His Attributes called as-Sifât ath-Thubûtiyya are eight: Hayât (Life), ’Ilm (Omniscience), Sam’ (Hearing), Basar(Seeing), Qudra (Omnipotence), Irâda (Will), Kalâm (Speech, Word) and Takwîn (Creativeness). No change ever occurs in these Attributes of His. Change implies deficiency. He has no deficiency or defect. Though He does not resemble any of His creatures, it is possible to know Him in this world as much as He makes Himself known and to see Him in the Hereafter. Here He is known without realizing how He is, and there He will be seen in an incomprehensible way.

Allahu ta’âlâ sent prophets (’alaihim us-salâm) to His human creatures. Through these great people, He showed His human creatures the deeds that bring happiness and those which cause ruination. The most exalted prophet is Muhammad (’alaihissalâm), the Last Prophet. He was sent as the Prophet for every person, pious or irreligious, for every place and for every nation on the earth. He is the Prophet for all human beings, angels and genies. In every corner of the world, everybody has to follow him and adapt himself/herself to this exalted Prophet. (Kimyâ-i Sa’âdat)

The virtues of Kalimat at-tawhîd
Kalimat at-tawhîd, which is said by Muslims on all occasions, has many virtues. It is declared in hadîth-i sharîfs:
(A person who says 
Lâ ilâha ill-Allah attains salvation from predicaments and afflictions.) [Bazzar]

(Renew your îmân by saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah many times.)[Tabarânî]

(Out of deeds, the valuable one is saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah.)[Hâkim]

(The most virtuous dhikr [remembrance of Allahu ta’âlâ] is sayingLâ ilâha ill-Allah.) [Nasâî]

(Saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah averts ninety-nine predicaments, the lightest of which is distress.) [Daylamî]

(The best of my sayings and of the sayings of all other prophets is Lâ ilahe ill-Allah.) [Tirmudhî]

(The sins of a person saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah are erased, and an equal amount of thawâb is recorded instead.) [Abû Ya’lâ]

(The phrase Lâ ilâha ill-Allah is the key to Paradise.) [I. Ahmad]

(If a person saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah is sincere in his word, all his sins are forgiven.) [Imâm-i Ghazâlî]

(Inculcate people who are at the time of death with saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah and give them glad tidings of Paradise as well. The moment when Shaytan is the closest to a person is this moment.) [Abû Nu’aym]

(Do not force a severely ill person to say Lâ ilâha ill-Allah. Only inculcate him with it.) [Dâra Qutnî]

(If a person’s last saying is Lâ ilâha ill-Allah, his soul departs from his body easily. And this phrase will be light for him.) [Hâkim]

(When the next world is preferred to this world, the phrase Lâ ilâha ill-Allah serves as a buffer against Allah’s wrath. However, when a person who prefers worldly benefits to the next world says Lâ ilâha ill-Allah, Allahu ta’âlâ declares, “You are lying. You are not sincere in your word.”) [Bayhaqî]

(Do not call a person saying Lâ ilâha ill-Allah a disbeliever on account of his sins. Anyone who calls such a person a disbeliever becomes one himself.) [Bukhârî]

(On the Day of Resurrection, the face of a person who says Lâ ilâha ill-Allah one hundred times a day will shine like the full moon.) [Tabarânî]

[When you say the 100th one, you had better add the phrase “Muhammadun rasûl-Allah.” To recite compatibly with tajwîd, you should say “Muhammad-ur–rasûl-Allah.”]

(By abstaining from harâms [prohibited acts], if one says Lâ ilâha ill-Allah with ikhlâs [sincerity], he enters Paradise.) [Khatîb, Tabarânî]

(A person who says 
Lâ ilâha ill-Allah with ikhlâs enters Paradise. Ikhlâs means its precluding the sayer from harâms.) [Tabarânî]

Ikhlâs is to dispel and clean everything from the heart except the love of Allah.

The following hadîth-i sharîfs state:
(Allahu ta’âlâ will be pleased with anyone who believes in the Oneness of Allahu ta’âlâ and who performs his “salât” and gives obligatory almsgiving “zakât” with sincerity.) [Ibni Mâja]

(Perform your acts of worship with ikhlâs! Allahu ta’âlâ accepts only those acts of worship done with sincerity.) [Dâra Qutnî]

(Perform your acts of worship with ikhlâs. Any worship which is done with sincerity, even if it is not much in quantity, would be sufficient for you on the Day of Gathering.) [Abû Nu’aym]

(Congratulations to those who perform their worships with sincerity. They are the stars of guidance “Hidâyat.” They annihilate the darkness caused by instigations “fitnas.”) [Abû Nu’aym]

(If a person performs acts of worship with sincerity for 40 days, a stream of wisdom will flow from his heart to his tongue.)

Tawhîd and îmân
Question: Could you give us information about tawhîd, that is, believing in that there is no god other than Allah?
Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî states:
Tawhîd is like a fresh walnut. Everybody knows the two shells of a walnut as well as its kernel. And the kernel of its kernel is its oil. Munâfiqs [hypocrites, people who pretend to be a Muslim though being a disbeliever] say “Lâ ilâha ill-Allah” with the tongue only, and they do not believe it with the heart. This is the first grade of Tawhîd.

The second grade: This is the heart’s believing in the meaning of tawhîd. This belief is either by seeing, hearing from others, e.g. the belief of us, the ignorant people, or one believes through proofs, with mind’s proving. So is the belief of the savants of dîn [religion], of the masters of the knowledge of Kalâm.

[knowledge of Kalâm: this is the branch of knowledge that explains the Kalimat ash-shahâdat and the six tenets of îmân relative to it.]

The third grade: This is to see that one Creator creates everything, to realize that all work is done by one agent only and that none else does anything. This seeing and understanding requires a nûr [light, halo] being lit in the heart. Such an îmân [belief] is unlike the îmân of the ignorant or of the savants of Kalâm. For example, there are three kinds of believing that the resident of a house is in the house:
1. To believe it by hearing someone say so. The îmân through imitation is a reminiscence of this.
2. To believe by seeing the things used by the resident every day, such as his mount, his headgear and shoes in the house. This is an example for the îmân of the savants of Kalâm.
3. To believe by seeing the resident in the house. This is an example for the tawhîd of ‘ârifs. Though such tawhîd has a very high grade, its owner sees the creatures and knows that they were created by the Creator. Since the creatures are seen, the tawhîd cannot be perfect.

The fourth grade: Such a person sees one being. It is not seen more than one. Men of tasawwuf call this state “Fanâ in tawhîd.”

Of the four grades above,
The first one is the tawhîd of munâfiqs, and it is like the outer shell of a walnut. As the outer shell of a walnut is bitter and looks ugly from within though a lovely green from outside, and when burned it makes lots of smoke and puts the fire out and is useless except that it protects the walnut for a few days. As to the tawhîd of munâfiqs, since it is not known by people that they are munâfiq, people consider them as Muslims.

The second grade is the tawhîd of the ignorant and of the savants of Kalâm. It is like the wooden second shell of the walnut. As this wooden shell of the walnut does not avail except to protect the walnut for a while, so this grade of tawhîd avails only in protecting people from Hell fire.

The third grade is like the walnut’s kernel. It is the edible and useful part.

The fourth grade is 
like that the kernel of a walnut is eaten and digested until it has reached to your cells.