What does “La ilaha illallah?” mean?
“La ilaha” means there is no god. “Illa Allah” means, there is only Allah!
Let’s examine it in sections:
La ilaha; there is no god, i.e. there are no other beings other than Allah.
Now there are two significant denotations here:
The first meaning is there is no god, the second, more implicit meaning is, yes there are other seemingly separate forms of existence but they all exist and subsist with Allah.
The first meaning is warning you against conceiving separate forms of existence… It’s saying there are no separate beings, there is only Allah, the Wahid and Ahad.
There is only an inseparable, indivisible, unified existence: Allah!
In this light, neither you nor anyone else exists.
The second meaning is saying there are separate beings but what you conceive as separate is nothing other than Allah, in respect of the dimension of names and acts. For what we call the dimension of acts is dependent on the human or compositional laws.
There are seemingly separate forms, but they are nothing other than Allah! For there is no existence besides Allah.
That is, they only exist as points of manifestation of the divine names.
The second implicit meaning is hidden in the word “illa”. La ilaha illa: there is no god but, only, besides… this is what the word “illa” implies.
Therefore, the meaning of “La ilaha illallah” not in respect of the Absolute Essence (dhat) but in respect of the dimension of names is, “there is no god there is only Allah”! There is no existence besides Allah, the Wahid’ul Ahad. This is the first meaning.
The second meaning, at the level of acts, is that there are loci of manifestation of the divine names, thus there are seeming separate forms or ‘compositions’ of existence. But all of these compositions are compositions of the names of Allah and hence they are nothing other than Allah. They are from Allah, they belong to Allah, they are extensions and manifestations of Allah.
For the common people the Word of unity “la ilaha illallah” simply means there is no other deity, there is only one creator to be worshipped and that is Allah.
The truth is, there is no existence besides Allah, and hence nothing to worship and deify!
Have I been able to make my point?
There is no deity, only Allah! You can find more details on this in Muhammad’s Allah.
To accept something first you need to know what it is, first you need to understand it and comprehend it then you can choose to either accept or reject it.
If you can understand the meaning of La ilaha illallah as I’ve just explained then you are given an invitation to accept it.
Do you accept it?
If so, then you can claim “La ilaha illallah, but only if, beyond a mere acceptance, it is an observed reality for you…
On the other hand, you may not be in observation of it but it may make sense to you and it may be aligned with your compositional make-up and you can still accept it, simply because it makes sense to you and your composition.
But if you can observe the meaning of La ilaha illallah, at least at the level of acts, then you are asked to witness it. Hence the Word of Witness is an expression of an actual ‘act of witnessing’ that has taken place. The Word of Witness is for those who can observe and witness this reality.
If you can observe it then you can lawfully say “I witness that…”
How can you be a witness?
You can only be a witness to something that you’ve actually seen right?
Hence to witness this reality is to see and witness that there is no other being besides Allah.
Then you can claim “Ash hadu an la ilaha illallah”.
“I witness that nothing exists besides Allah. It is only Allah that exists!”
Who is able to bear witness in this way?
According to the Quran:
“Allah knows with certainty that none exists other than He. He is HU, there is no other, only HU...”
This verse is a clear indication that nothing exists other than Allah; and everything that “seemingly” exists is nothing other than Allah.
Then, La ilaha illallah can only be proclaimed once in a lifetime, in the real sense, with the prefix “I witness” …
Many can object to this. Especially when so many spend their entire lives chanting the Word of Unity over and over again. Yet repeating something is one thing, observing its meaning is another thing altogether. Observing that there aren’t “many” creations but a singular existence, and that this singular existence is only Allah, is a one-time experience. This observation takes place once. It doesn’t happen again and again because existence isn’t destroyed and re-created for you to see this again for the first time.
Once you’ve seen it you’ve seen it. The first time you look at something and see it, you’ve seen it. The next time you look at it you’re merely continuing an observation you’ve previously made. You can look at it again and again, but all of these will be extensions of the initial look, a more detailed seeing of what you’ve already seen.
So, if you can say “La ilaha illallah” once, in the real sense, then every time you say it thereafter will just be a repetition and a validation of your initial observation.
Hence why Muhammad (saw) says;
“When you see the Kaaba for the very first time, make a prayer, as that prayer will most definitely be accepted.”
He doesn’t say this for “every time” you see the Kaaba or if you continually stare at the Kaaba. The first experience is a one-time experience.
Observations after the initial observation are not disregarded, but the first is the real deal. For once you’ve seen something you’ve seen it; you can no longer unsee it! All other following observations are but the continuation of the first.
 Quran 3:18