In Search of Sincerity

By Muhammad Alshareef

In one of the battles that the Muslims waged against the Romans, the Muslims, under the commandment of Maslamah Rahimahullah, surrounded a city that had a tall and well-fortified wall. The siege went on for months.

Then one night, one of the Muslim soldiers came to General Maslamah and told him of a hole that he had accomplished to make through the wall. “”It is only large enough for a slim soldier.”” He knelt closer. “”Quickly, send with me someone who can squeeze through and fight the army on the inside until he has opened the gates for all of us to enter.””

Maslamah sent out the news and that night someone volunteered. In a sweeping assault, the gate was opened and the Muslims were victorious.

Maslamah, overwhelmed with happiness, sent out the word that the soldier who entered the hole should come forward. No one showed. A day passed and the request was repeated. Another day passed, and then another. No one arrived to take credit.

On the fourth day, a soldier approached Maslamah; his face wrapped in a scarf. He said to him, “”I have news of the soldier that entered the hole.””

Maslamah sat up sharp, “”Tell me who it is?””

“”First, however,”” said the soldier, “”he has three conditions before exposing himself. Do you agree to this?””

“”Of course,”” Maslamah said.

“”The first is that you do not try to compensate him for what he did. The second is that you do not tell anyone who he is. And the third is that you shall not ask for his presence ever again. Do you agree to these conditions?””

“”It is agreed,”” Maslamah said.

The soldier, uncovering his scarf, said, “”It is I. I went through that hole only for the sake of Allah.”” Then, turning, he walked away.

After that day, Maslamah was often heard praying to Allah, “”O Allah, (on the Day of Resurrection) grant me companionship with the soldier of the hole.””

Sometimes at an Islamic school, there are children who pray at the back, but the actions are better described as ‘playing’ (no, not with a lisp). Then when the head master, or whoever they consider to have authority above them approaches, they all stand erect in complete devotion.

They are children and Allah will not take them to account. However, there are many adults that do this exact thing but on a more serious scale. The ingredient that we all need to work on throughout our lives as Muslims is ikhlaas (sincerity); in sha Allah, that shall be our topic for today.

Sincerity in all we do is a commandment of Allah.

Say, “”Indeed my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds/ No partner has He. And this I have been commanded and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.”” [An‘aam 6/162-163]

In another place, Allah says:

“”And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. That is the correct deen.”” [Al-Bayyinah 98/5]

In defining ikhlaas, Al-Jurjaani rahimahullah said that it is to not seek any audience for your deeds other than Allah.

When one looks over the text of the Qur’an and Sunnah, they will come to the realization that Allah ta’aala and His Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam speak about sincerity in different aspects:

Sincerity in Tawheed of Allah
Sincerity in our Intentions
Sincerity in our Worship (salah, sujood, fasting, standing in Ramadan, standing in the night of Qadr)
Sincere love for the masjid, zakah, sadaqah, Hajj, jihaad, repentance, supplications, recitation of the Qur’an, and so much more

The Qur’an and Sunnah speak about:

Sincerity in all our verbal statements
Sincerity in our defined and upright akhlaaq (character)
Sincerity in our tawakkul (placing of our trust) in Allah
Sincerity in all actions

Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala said:

“”He who created death and life to test you (as to) which of you is best in deed.”” [Al-Mulk 67/2]

Commenting on this verse, Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaadh rahimahullah said, “”It is those deeds which are most correct and most sincere.””

The students asked, “”O Abu Ali, what are deeds that are correct and sincere?””

He said, “”If a deed is done sincerely, yet is not done correctly, it will not be accepted. And if a deed is done correctly, but not sincerely for Allah, it will not be accepted. It must be done sincerely and correctly. Sincerely, as in for Allah alone; correctly, as in accordance to the Sunnah.””

He then recited the verse:

“”So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.”” [Al-Kahf 18/110]

With ikhlaas we can be saved from misguidance as Prophet Yusuf alayhis salaam was saved. Hear Allah’s words:

“”And thus (it was) that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our mukhlaseen servants.”” [Yusuf 12/24]

With ikhlaas, the books can be turned in our favor in the last minutes of our lives just as what happened to the man that murdered 99 men. Allah ta’aala saved him in the end because of his sincerity in repentance.

With ikhlaas one will be saved from Hellfire and granted a lofty position in Jannah.

And they give food out of love (for Allah ta’aala) to the needy, the orphan and the captive (Saying) “”We feed you only for the countenance of Allah, we wish no reward from you nor gratitude/ Indeed, we fear from our Lord a Day severe and distressful.”” So Allah will protect them from the evil of that Day and give them radiance and happiness. And will reward them for what they patiently endured (with) a garden (in Jannah) and silk (garments). [Al- Insan 76/8-12]

Dear brothers and sisters, we must understand that there are certain things that contradict our ikhlaas to Allah. Of these things are three: riyaa’, sum’ah, and ‘ujb.

Riyaa’ is to perform an act of worship with the intention of showing it off to people, seeking their praise or some other vanity. Thus, this person is seeking to be glorified, praised, hoped for, or feared through this action. An example of this would be donating a large sum of money in order that people may think the contributor is generous.

Sum’ah is similar to riyaa’, but the ‘ulama have said that it is those verbal statements that a person makes for the sake of people. There is the example of someone making ballooned threats against the Jews in Palestine just so others will think he is courageous.

Ibnul Mubaarak rahimahullah said, “”Perhaps a great deed is belittled by an intention. And perhaps a small deed, by a sincere intention, is made great.””

‘Ujb is the cousin of riyaa’. It is when a person becomes impressed with himself for the ‘great’ deeds that he has done. This, and all the other types are viruses that can kill our actions and turn them against us on the day of Resurrection.

Ya’qoob Al-Makfoof rahimahullah used to say, “”The sincere one is he who hides his good deeds in the same way that he would hide his bad.””

From the Seerah, Sa’ad ibn Waqqaas narrates:

“”… as for Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl (after the conquest of Makkah) while escaping by sea, a terrible storm befell them. The owners of the boat shouted, ‘At this moment pray to only God and pray sincerely, for your gods cannot avail us in any way through salvation from this storm.’ Ikrimah said, ‘By Allah, if ikhlaas can only save me on the sea, then on land nothing but it can save me.’ (He then raised his hands and pronounced), ‘O Allah if you save me, you have upon me an oath that I shall not rest until I arrive at Muhammad sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and place my hand in his.””

He then came to RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, became Muslim, and was later martyred in jihaad.

Sincerity is a topic that is not only key to Islam, but it is also a subject that the Kuffar and philosophers have pondered for centuries. The English have a saying that goes to the effect of: To hunt with the lantern of Diogenes.

Diogenes was a cynical Greek philosopher who lived about 320 years before Prophet Eesaa alayhis salam. He believed there was no sincerity in any human being. To vividly prove his point, he was said to have gone about the streets of Corinth in broad daylight with a lighted lantern looking for a sincere man. From here the English coined the term ‘To hunt with the lantern of Diogenes,’ when speaking of a group of people whose sincerity is extremely absent.

Indeed insincerity in our actions is something very dangerous and can lead a person to ruin. Ibn Mas’ood radi Allahu anhu would advise his students, “”If your intention is one of these three, do not seek knowledge: To shame the ignorant, to argue with the Fuqahaa’, or to cause people to turn their faces in your direction. Intend with your actions and words that which is with Allah, for indeed that which is with Allah shall remain and everything else shall perish.””

In conclusion, Ibnul Qayyim rahimahullah said, “”Deeds without sincerity are like a traveler who carries dirt in his water-jug. The carrying of it burdens him and it brings no benefit.””

May Allah ta’aala make us all from those whose deeds are done in accordance with the Sunnah, deeds that are done sincerely for the sake of Allah.”

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