The phrase has two parts and to understand the meaning of Laa Ilaaha Illa-Allah we need to look into the two parts of the phrase.
The first parts ‘Laa Ilaaha’ negates that anything or anyone deserves to be worshipped other than Allah. While the second part ‘ Illa-Allah’ affirms that Allah alone truly deserves to be worshipped.
To support that, Allah (SWT) said: ‘And (remember) when Ibraheem said to his father and his people: ”Verily, I am innocent of what you worship, except Him, Who did create me; and verily, He will guide me” – Q43 V26-27.
Therefore it’s not sufficient to worship Allah, rather you must worship Him alone. The Tawheed (believing and worshipping only Allah) of a person is not correct except by singling out Allah in worship and freeing one’s self from polytheism (shirk) and those who commit it.
It has been mentioned in a narration that ”Laa Ilaaha Ill-Allah” is the key to Paradise. But does everyone who says it have the door of Paradise open for him?
Wahab ibn Munabbih was asked: ‘Isn’t the statement ”Laa Ilaaha Illa-Allah” the key to Paradise? He answered: ”Yes, but every key has a set of teeth. If you come with the key that has the correct set of grooves, the door will open for you. If you come with a key that doesn’t have the correct set of grooves, the door will not open for you.’
Many narrations have been reported from the Prophet (PBUH) which explain the correct grooves the key must-have. For example, he (PBUH) said: ”Whoever says ‘Laa Ilhaa Illa-Allah’ sincerely” and also said ”with the certainty in his heart” and he also said ”truthfully from his heart” and so on.
These narrations clarify that in order for this key to open the gates of paradise, ‘Laa Ilaaha Ill-Allah’ must be said with submission to what the meaning of Laa Ilaaha Illa-Allah entails, remaining firmly upon it throughout one’s life and with other characteristics.
Based on evidence from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the scholars of Islam have concluded that certain conditions must be fulfilled, and certain factors must not be present for this phrase to serve as the key to Paradise and to benefit the person who utters it.
In conclusion, Laa Ilaaha Ila-Allah means that one must not worship anything, anyone except Allah, while also believing that anything or anyone other people worship is not worth worshipping. May Allah guide our belief to the right part.
And Allah knows best.