A sermon on al-Ikhlās (sincerity), a condition for Allāh's acceptance of one's actions.
The Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) also said, as is authentically reported from him: There is no servant who sets out seeking to be heard of or showing off except that Allāh will make all His creation know about him, will belittle him and hold him in contempt.
Allāh the Exalted said [to Shayṭān]:
Then get out from here, for verily you are accursed, rejected. And verily, upon you is the curse till the Day of Judgement. He said: O my Lord grant me respite till the Day they are raised up. He (Allāh) said: Then you are of those who have been granted respite. Till the Day of the appointed time. He (Iblīs) said: Because you have put me in the wrong I will beautify for them (what is on) earth and I shall mislead them all. Except your servants among them who are sincere.
Allāh further went on to say:
Indeed you have no authority/power over My servants.
In this passage Shayṭān has made a promise, in front of Allāh, that he will misguide the whole of mankind. However, he did make an exception: The sincere servants of Allāh, and Allāh too reiterated to him, that he can have no authority over Allāh's servants, those that are sincere.
Today's topic therefore is Ikhlās or Sincerity. Since the presence of this quality is a deliverance from the evils of shayṭān and therefore the Hellfire and entry into Paradise, it is a great and vital topic, the reality of which needs to be understood by every concerned and responsible Muslim.
This Ikhlās has been commanded by Allāh and He has made it ibnding upon the whole of mankind. He said:
And they were not commanded except that they should worship Allāh and worship none but Him, offer prayers perfectly and give zakah and that is the correct religion.
Say: Verily I have been commanded to worship Allāh making the dīn exclusively and sincerely for Him (alone).
He is al-Hayy (Ever-Living) there is none worthy of worship except He, therefore call upon Him being making the dīn exclusively and sincerely for Him (alone)
And as-Soosee, one of our Salaf, said: What Allāh intends/wants from the actions of the creations is Ikhlās and nothing else.
The Definition of Ikhlās
Ikhlās is that ones speech/action/emotions/feelings are free from all impurities and desires of the soul. Such impurities and blemishes could be:
desiring praise - 'he is a scholar', 'he is a doer of good', 'he is a skilled reciter', 'he is brave' and other such things. attracting attention to oneself to achieve one's goals and objectives fulfilment of ones personal needs running away from rebuke and criticism showing off seeking worldly gains
When all these are removed and are non-existent so that none but Allāh is desired, the resultant feeling or situation is that of Ikhlās. Allāh the Exalted said in the ḥadīth qudsee:
I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having partners. Thus whoever does an action for someone else's sake as well as Mine, will have that action rejected by Me to him whom he associated with Me.
Here are some more useful definitions from our Salaf which will help to conceptualize the reality of this Ikhlās, the deliverer from the snares of Shayṭān:
Ya'qoob al-Makfoof: The sincere person is the one who hides his good deeds just like he hides his evil deeds.
It was said to Sahl: What is the hardest thing upon the soul? He said: Ikhlās, when there is no other desire in it.
As-Soosee said: What Allāh intends/wants from the actions of the creations is Ikhlās and nothing else.
Abū Uthmān said: It is forgetting the sight of the creation by continual observance of the Creator
Ibrāhīm ibn Adham said: He has not been truthful to Allāh who loved fame (and recognition)
Sahl ibn ʿAbdillāh said: There is nothing tougher/harder upon the soul than Ikhlās. How many times have I tried to extinguish riyaa from my heart and it is as if it has appeared in a different colour (i.e. a different form).
So this then is Ikhlās, the sincerity with which Allāh commanded us and those who came before us.
As for its opposite, then that is Riyaa or showing off, doing something in order to gain a portion of the world and other such things which we have mentioned previously.
Allāh has warned against this numerous times. He said:
And We shall turn to whatever actions they did and make them into scattered dust.
And if you were to associate partners (with Allāh) then vain would be your works and you would be among the losers.
The Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) also said as is authentically reported from him: There is no servant who sets out seeking to be heard of or showing off except that Allāh will make all His creation know about him, will belittle him and hold him in contempt.
Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī said: We were talking about Maseeh ud-Dajjāl in the presence of the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam).He said: Shall I not inform you about something which I fear more for you than Maseeh ud-Dajjāl? We said: Of course, O Messenger of Allāh! He said: The Hidden Shirk. A man stands for prayer and beautifies his prayer for those who are watching him.
The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) explained that Riyaa is more dangerous to his ummah than Maseeh ud-Dajjāl!! And he gave an example of how it can occur. During the greatest of the acts of worship, the prayer!! How then for the other actions?
We now have a good and clear conception as to the meaning of Ikhlās. This Ikhlās which is a feeling in the heart should be present in all our actions, prayer, zakah, fasting, dhikr until even the smallest of actions such as picking something harmful off the road or smiling to another muslim brother.
We will now finish by listing a number of benefits that are attained as a result of this Ikhlās and which give evidence to its greatness.
1. Aiding of the Ummah, due to the ḥadīth:
Allāh will help this Ummah on account of its weak ones, due to their supplications prayers and sincerity.
That is the affliction, the humiliation and the oppression which we find ourselves in can be removed on account of the sincerity that we as individuals try to develop and maintain as a lasting quality, and this in turn is what benefits and aids the ummah on a wider scale.
2. Love of the angels, due to the ḥadīth:
When Allāh the Exalted loves a servant He calls to Jibrīl: Indeed Allāh the Exalted loves so and so, therefore love Him. So Jibrīl loves him and then he calls the inhabitants of the heavens (i.e. angels): Indeed Allāh loves so and so, therefore love him. The inhabitants of the heaven love him and acceptance is made for him upon the earth.
3. Good repute, due to the ḥadīth:
There is no servant except that he has a reputation (amongst the angels) in the sky. If his reputation is good in the sky it is placed upon the earth and if it is bad it is placed upon the earth.
4. Removal of Difficulties, due to ḥadīth in which three men set out on a journey and they get trapped in a cave. Each one of them calls upon Allāh to remove this affliction from them on account of their sincere actions which they had done previously. One man gave his parents preference over his own children despite the fact that they were starving, another man refrained from an illicit sexual relation with a cousin of his whom he loved dearly and the third gave back to a man who had worked for him but did not take his wages, the investments he had made with his wages. All of them said: O Allāh if I did this seeking nothing but Your Face then deliver us from this evil.
Due to ḥadīth in which three men set out on a journey and they get trapped in a cave. Each one of them calls upon Allāh to remove this affliction from them on account of their sincere actions which they had done previously. One man gave his parents preference over his own children despite the fact that they were starving, another man refrained from an illicit sexual relation with a cousin of his whom he loved dearly and the third gave back to a man who had worked for him but did not take his wages, the investments he had made with his wages. All of them said: O Allāh if I did this seeking nothing but Your Face then deliver us from this evil.
5. Answering of the supplication, due to the ḥadīth we have just mentioned
Due to the ḥadīth we have just mentioned
6. Safety from misguidance, due to the saying of Allāh:
Except Your servants amongst them who are sincere/purified.
So these are some of the benefits, and how great they are, for those who make their actions sincerely and purely for the sake of Allāh. I pray that Allāh benefits us all and gives us to drink from the fountain of Ikhlās.