TOPIC: The Islamic Concept of Ikhlas (Sincerity).
‘Audhu billah minash shaytanir rajeem Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Alhamdu lil laahi Rabbil aalameen. Was salatu was salamu ala rasulihee al kareem.
There is no doubt that the purpose for which we were created is to worship Allah but any act of worship devoid of sincerity will be a waste. Sincerity or Ikhlās, is the most important and core base of any ʿibādah as without it the act of worship becomes invalid and rejected immediately.
An Arabic to English dictionary tells us that the word ikhlas means sincerity, purity or isolation. The word ikhlas comes from the Arabic word akh-la-sa and it means to render a deed free of riyaa (showing off) so that there is no consideration other than Allah. Bearing this in mind, an Islamic glossary will often describe the word ikhlas as the act of purifying motives or intentions so that actions are done primarily to seek the pleasure of Allah. When we combine these definitions with the English dictionary definition of sincerity – being free from pretense, deceit or hypocrisy – we begin to understand what ikhlas is.
Ikhlas is being honest with Allah, and worshipping Him with ihsan. Ikhlas is closely linked to ihsan. When a person is consistently aware that Allah sees all he is more likely to remember the importance of ikhlas. When a person does something sincerely for Allah, he or she is no longer concerned with receiving praise or reward from anyone but Allah. It does not matter who sees you or who does not see you. Sometimes a deed can be done for Allah’s sake but the intention is tainted with boasting and showing off; this is riyaa and it may nullify the rewards that a believer is seeking.
Allāh (swt) says,
“Indeed, we have sent down to you the Book (O, Muḥammad) in truth. So worship Allāh (being) sincere to Him in Religion. Verily to Allāh belongs the Complete Religion.
Allāh also says
“And they were not commanded except to worship Allāh (being) sincere to Him in Religion, inclining to truth and establish prayer and to give Zakah. And that is the correct Religion.
There are also numerous aḥadīth where the Prophet (saw) explained the importance of Ikhlās. In the very famous ḥadīth narrated by ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (RTA) the Prophet (saw) said:
“Verily, the reward of deeds depends upon the Niyyah (intentions) and every person will get rewarded according to what he has intended.”
The Prophet (saw) also emphasized in another ḥadīth:
“Allāh does not accept any deed except that which is done only for Him and to seek His Countenance.”
Why the emphasis on Ikhlās?
There are several types of wisdom in emphasizing Ikhlās to such a degree:
I. Ikhlās is the core of Tawḥīd. Tawḥīd is the most essential element in being a Muslim. Without testifying that that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allāh and doing it purely for His Sake and His Sake alone there is a high chance that one could fall into Shirk whether minor or major, knowingly or unknowingly. Major Shirk takes one out of the fold of Islām, while minor Shirk i.e. Riyā, makes that deed null and void. Imām Al Izz b. ʿAbdi Salām (raḥimahu Allāhu) said:
“Ikhlās is doing an act of obedience for Allāh’s Sake, not wanting any religious benefit, nor avoiding a worldly calamity, nor wanting to be respected and esteemed by the people.”
Allāh says about Prophet Mūsā (asw):
“And mention in the Book Mūsā (Moses). Indeed he was Chosen, i.e. Mukhlasan, and he was a Messenger and a Prophet.”(Q19:51)
Allāh praised Mūsā (asw) in the Qur’ān because of his sincerity.
II. A person with Ikhlās may become one of the Siddiqun, i.e. The Truthful Ones. Allāh says,
“And those who obey Allāh and the Messenger, those are with the ones whom Allāh favoured from among the Prophets, the Truthful Ones (Siddiqin), the Martyrs and the Righteous (people). And excellent are those as companions.”(4:61)
III. A person who consistently has Ikhlās could become one of the Awliya of Allāh (swt) and reach a very high status. May Allāh make us from those. Allāh says,
“No doubt! Verily, the Auliya’ of Allāh [i.e. those who believe in the Oneness of Allāh and fear Allāh much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which he has forbidden), and love Allāh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)], no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve. Those who believed (in the Oneness of Allāh – Islamic Monotheism), and used to fear Allāh much (by abstaining from evil deeds and sins and by doing righteous deeds). For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present world (i.e. righteous dream seen by the person himself or shown to others), and in the Hereafter. No change can there be in the Words of Allāh, this is indeed the supreme success.”(Q10:62-64)
IV. People, by nature, are keen to be praised and appreciated by others and no one is more appreciative of our doing good deeds than our Majestic Creator, (swt)
“And whoever seeks the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer-it is their efforts which are thankfully appreciated.”(Q:17-19)
Everyday life causes our levels of ikhlas to wax and wane and to rise and fall. There are many ways in which to obtain or increase our ikhlas. They include;
· Seeking knowledge. If we understand what we are doing and why, we can perform all actions in accordance with the shariah. Doing so will make our hearts softer, purer.
· Always checking our intention. Imam Ahmad said that we should ask ourselves before performing an action, “Is this for the sake of Allah?”
Ikhlas has been said to be the foundation on which all our deeds and actions are built. If the foundation is corrupt the structure can be easily broken.