"I bear witness that there is no god, but Allah..."
When the Arabs made an oath with another, they use to perform certain rituals to grant the act significance. Those a partisan to the oath would perform such rituals as "dipping their hands in water, rubbing perfume on their hands, or slaughtering an animal and sprinkling the blood on the parties involved in order to symbolize the blood relationship." (Mustansir Mir, "The Qur’an Oaths : Farahi’s Interpretation")
Blood added a SACRED dimension to the whole affair. The Arabs were so keen to preserve their oaths that even the threat of death to their children did not deter them from fulfilling them. Further, these oaths were accompanied by the presence of WITNESSES to testify to the reality of this oath, meaning that the witnesses were PART OF THE OATH. 'Shahida' has the meanings of 'to be present' and 'to be witness'. This is precisely why Mustansir Mir states:
"In fact, to bear witness to an event is to declare that one was present at the scene of the event."
What does this imply?
To 'witness' in Arabic does not mean an acceptance of a theological proposition. By witnessing, one has involved himself in something sacred. Unlike education today, where knowledge is considered the number of varying opinions one knows regarding a certain matter, the pre-Islamic Arabs, and those of the time of Muhammad (S) were not interested in theory.
"The forest of learning and invention is devoid of lion-hearted men
What remains is but the slaves of the Sufi and the Mullah, O Saqi!
Who has stolen the sharp sword of creative passion?
The learned hold an empty scabbard in their hand, O Saqi"
The kalima is far from a proposition. It is a declaration of action rooted in a realization of the profound truth of tawheed. As the Almighty has said:
Javed Ghamidi has stated regarding this verse:"God has purchased from the faithful their lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. Rejoice then in the bargain you have made. That is the supreme triumph."
(Translated by Shehzad Saleem, www.monthly-renaissance.com
Surah Taubah, verse 11)
"The Qur’an has declared that Islam is in fact a contract of sale and purchase with the Almighty: We sell our lives and wealth for the Paradise the Almighty has prepared for us."
The shahadah signifies an AWAKENING of man who realizes whom God is. There is reason why in Islam, 'the whole earth becomes a masjid'. Allah has also stated in this verse that it is man himself who has gotten the better deal, even though he is SELLING HIS LIFE AND WEALTH. And far is Allah from lying.
It is with this in mind, that a Muslim must understand his worship. If man does not realize the significance of 'tawheed' as well as it's implications, than his worship is useless. On the other hand, prayer begins to shatter the awareness of the believer if done with some semblance of realization of the truth of tawheed.
"God knows to which side my humble forehead turned in prayer,
that the Ka’abah itself is coming towards me seeing my faith’s power of attracting."
Angels never fail in implementing the commands of their Lord. It is because God has created the angels with wings, "twos, threes, and fours" to fulfill the obligations imposed upon them WITHOUT FAIL that the prayer and sujood of the son of Adam has a taste that angels are not even aware of. Man prays with the burden of failure. Yet, knowing whom God is, he is not overcome. He begins to see himself, including his own mistakes, as well as his own limitations as he moves from qiyam, to ruku, to sujood. One ASKS FOR GUIDANCE, one bows before God, and one repents. And after all this, in the last stages of the 'believer's ascension' as Muhammad ibn Abdullah (S) called it, he re-affirms his commitment to God Almighty to act. When one bears witness to 'tawhid' while sitting before God, it is a re-affirmation of a covenant made when one first accepted the religion AS AN AWAKENED INDIVIDUAL. When one points his finger in the symbol of tawheed, he is a re-affirming an OATH, A COVENANT that he has made with God Almighty. Through this act of prayer, man becomes the 'qalander', the perfect man whom the true sufis had once lamented that the world no longer possessed, because he realizes his own 'khudi'.