Sincerity is the freeing of one's intentions from
all impurities in order to come nearer to Allah. It is to ensure that the intentions
behind all acts of worship and obedience to Allah are exclusively for His pleasure. It is
the perpetual contemplation of the Creator, to the extent that one forgets the creation.
Sincerity is a condition for Allah's acceptance of
good deeds performed in accordance with the sunnah of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and
grant him peace. Allah has commanded this in the Qur'an:
"And they have been commanded
to worship only Allah, being sincere towards Him in their deen and true. (98:5)"
Abu Umama has related that a man once came to the
Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, "What of a man who joined
us in the fighting, his intention being for fame and booty?" The Prophet said,
"He recieves nothing." The man repeated the question three times and each time
the Prophet said, "He receives nothing". Then he said, "Allah only accepts
actions that are intended purely for His pleasure."(1)
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri related that the Prophet
(sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) said in his khutba during the farewell pilgrimage, "Allah will bless whoever
hears these words and whoever understands them, for it may be that those who pass on this
knowledge are not those who will understand it the best. There are three things concerning
which the heart of a believer should feel no enmity or malice: devoting one's actions to
Allah, giving counsel to the Imams of the Muslims, and being loyal to the majority."(2)
What is meant here is that these three things
strengthen the heart, and whoever distinguishes himself in them will have a heart purified
from all manner of deceit, corruption and evil.
A servant can only free himself from shaytan through
sincere devotion, for Allah tells us in the Quran that Iblis said to Him:
"Except those of Your
servants who are sincere. (38:83)"
It has been related that a rigtheous man used to
say, "O self, be devout and you will be pure." When any wordly fortune, in which
the self finds comfort and towards which the heart inclines, intrudes upon our worship,
then it impairs the purity of our efforts and ruins our sincerity. Man is preoccupied with
his good fortune and immersed in his desires and appetites; rarely are his actions or acts
of worship free of temporary objectives and desires of this kind. For this reason it has
been said that whoever secures a single moment of pure devotion to Allah in his life will
survive, for devotion is rare and precious, and cleansing the heart of its impurities is
an exacting undertaking.
In fact, devotion is the purifying of the heart from
all impurities, whether few or many, so that the intention of drawing nearer to Allah is
freed from all other motives, except that of seeking His pleasure. This can only come from
a lover of Allah, who is so absorbed in contemplation of the next world that there remains
in his heart no place for the love of this world. Such a person must be devote and pure in
all his actions, even in eating, drinking and answering the calls of nature. With rare
exceptions, anyone who is not like this will find the door of devotion closed in his face.
The everyday actions of a person who is overwhelmed
by his or her love for Allah and the akhira are characterised by his love and they are, in
fact, pure devotion. In the same way, anyone whose soul is overwhelmed by love for and
preoccupation with this world, or status and authority, will be so overwhelmed by these
things that no act of worship, be it prayer or fasting, will be acceptable, except in very
The remedy for love of this world is to break the
worldly desires of the self, ending its greed for this world and purifying it in
preparation for the next world. This will then become the state of the heart and sincere
devotion will become easier to attain. There are a great many actions where a man acts,
thinking they are purely intended for Allah's pleasure, but he is deluded, for he fails to
see the defects in them.
It has been related that a man was used to praying
in the first row in the mosque. One day he was late for the prayer, so he prayed in the
second row. Feeling embarrassment when people saw him in the second row, he realised that
the pleasure and satisfaction of the heart that he used to gain from praying in the first
row were due to his seeing people seeing him there and admiring him for it. This is a
subtle and intangible condition and actions are rarely safe from it. Apart from those whom
Allah has assisted, few are aware of such delicate matters. Those who do not realise it
only come to see their good deeds appearing as bad ones on the Day of Resurrection; they
are the ones referred to in Allah's words:
"And something will come to
them from Allah which they had never anticipated, for the evil of their deeds will become
apparent to them. (39:47-48)"
"Say: Shall We tell you who
will lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts were astray in the life of
this world, while they thought that they were doing good works. (18:103-104)"
Yaqub said: "A devout person is someone who
conceals things that are good, in the same way that he conceals things that are bad."
As-Sousi said: "True devotion is to lose the
faculty of being conscious of your devotion; for someone who identifies devotion in his
devotion is a person whose devotion is in need of devotion." To contemplate devotion
is to admire it, and admiration is an afflication; and that which is pure is whatever is
free of all afflictions. This means that one's deeds should be purified from any
self-admiration concerning the actions they entail.
Ayyub said: "It is much harder for the people
of action to purify their intentions than it is to execute any of their actions."
Some people have said: "To be devout for a
short while is to survive for ever, but devotion is rare."
Suhail was asked: "What is the most difficult
thing for the self? He said: "Devotion, when the self does not have the good fortune
of being endowed with it."
Al-Fudayl said: "Forsaking action for the sake
of other people is to seek their admiration. To act for the sake of their admiration is to
associate others with Allah. Devotion is when Allah frees you from both of these states.
1. Sahih, an-Nisa'i, Kitab al-Jihad, 6/25; al Hafidh ibn Hajar, Fath al-Qadir, 6/28.
2. Sahih, Ibn Ma'jah; also Ibn Hibban, Marwarid adh-Dham'an, p.47, on the authority of
Zaid ibn Thabit.