In Islam, any action devoid of sincerity is null and void. It has to be done solely for the sake of Allah, be in line with the prophetic methodology and upon the understanding of the righteous predecessors. This statement means three simple things:
- All acts of worship do it for the sake of Allah exclusively.
- Follow the recommended ways of the Prophet (PBUH) in executing such actions.
- Practice Islam the way the companions did, for this was what led them to felicity.
Imagine the following scenarios; How did you think an army of three hundred and thirteen men defeated a thousand enemies in Badr? Why did Allah save Dhun-Nun (Prophet Yunus) from the belly of the whale? What led the early generation of Muslims to be triumphant in their spread of Islam across the globe? It all goes back to the sincerity in their submission, efforts, supplications and actions.
Sincerity is the essential quality that guards our hearts and protects us from the delusions of hypocrisy. A heart devoid of sincerity will often prefer to show-off than earn Allah’s reward. Therefore, it’s important to purify our intentions before every action.
The Prophet PBUH said:
There are three traits by which the heart of a Muslim will not be deceived (or consumed by hatred): sincere deeds for Allah, offering goodwill to the leaders of the Muslims, and keeping to their community. — [At-Tirmidhi]
Here are a few tips on establishing sincerity with Allah:
- Secret Deeds: Indulge in good actions solely for the sake of Allah. You don’t have to seek the pleasure or approval of people. Remember the story of the three men in the cave and how their sincerity was a means through which Allah saved them. Actions done privately are more likely to be sincere than those made public.
- Supplication: When you ask, ask only from Allah. Believe Allah is the All-Hearing and He can do all things. A prominent example of sincere supplication is the dua’ of prophet Ibrahim when he was thrown into the fire:
“Hasbi Allah wa ni’am al-wakeel (Allah is sufficient for me and He is the best Disposer of affairs).” — Qur’an 3[Al-’Imran]:173
3. Fearing Allah’s punishment: Feeling so secured about one’s deed is an act of insincerity. Abubakr As Sideeq was foremost of this ummah in establishing good deeds. Even when people shower praises upon him for his goodness, this is what he responds with:
“Oh Allah! Make me better than what the people think of me. And forgive me for that which they do not know of me. And do not punish me for that which they say about me”. This is sincerity at its peak.
4. Learning from the life of the righteous predecessors: One of the Salaf said:
“Do not take inspiration from those who are living, for you do not know their end. Let your inspiration come from the dead, for you know upon which path they ended”.
The biography of Umar ibn Khattab dealt with this extensively, let’s learn from the companions and take inspiration from them.
5. Constantly renewing the intention: Hypocrisy is one sure tactic which Iblis uses in attacking the believers. None is saved from it except a true servant of Allah. One of the best ways to escape this ploy is to constantly renew our intentions. Whenever shaytan whispers, return your focus back to Allah. Iblis (Satan)) said:
“O my Lord! Because you misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all. Except for Your chosen (guided) slaves among them.” — Qur’an 15[Al-Hujurat]:39–40.
We ask Allah to count us among His sincere slaves and save us from all actions that will render our deeds null. Success only comes with the aid of Allah.