What are the procedures to follow if someone wishes to convert to Islam?
Conversion to Islam is a simple procedure; it does not entail any complicated rituals or ceremonies, since Islam allows for no intermediaries in worship, and as such there are no priestly classes to administer specific rites.
Conversion therefore is mostly a person’s own choice; as long as he/she is willing to accept the basic tenets of faith, without any external coercion or pressure, and as long as one expresses it in words in front of people the conversion is acceptable.
However, because of the need for documentation, it is best that a person goes to an Islamic center which can issue a certificate of conversion. For this one needs to simply book an appointment with the imam of the local mosque; he would be more than willing to facilitate the conversion.
At the time of conversion one will be asked to repeat the following words of testimony: Ashhadu ana la ilaha illa Allah wa ashahdu anna Muhammadun rasulu Allah (I bear witness there is no god but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God).
Besides this, it is also good to affirm faith in the following tenets of Islamic faith: I believe in Allah; in His angels; in His scriptures; His messengers; the Last Day and the fact that good and bad are decreed by God. You should request a certificate indicating the date of conversion as you may need it for purposes of pilgrimage to Makkah.
Finally, let me also suggest that you consult the following excellent work entitled, ”Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam“ by Yahya Emerick (2nd edition) as it has all of the essential information you need to know about Islam.
Is it enough to declare the Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) by oneself order to be converted into Islam or is it considered obligatory to make the declaration in front of two witnesses?
Although between you and God it surely is enough for you to say Shahadah (the Testimony of Faith) by yourself, however, in order for you to be recognized as a member of the Islamic community you need to do so in front of people.
As mentioned above, you are best advised to do so in the presence of an imam in a recognized Islamic center or mosque, for in this way you can hope to gain proper orientation in regards to your actual practice of Islam.
Islam teaches us that we should do whatever we do as professionally and efficiently as possible. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah has enjoined excellence in each and every act one performs.” (Muslim)
Therefore, I advise you to call on the nearest Islamic center and get an appointment with the imam; let him facilitate your task of reversion to Islam; in the meantime, if you haven’t already found some useful books on Islam, let me mention another important book – besides Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam – which, I urge you to read and study well; “Islam in Focus” by Dr. Hammudah Abdul `Ati.
I pray to Allah to grant us all steadfastness in faith, and may He grace us all with His mercy and forgiveness in both worlds. Ameen.