In Islam, sincerity (Ikhlas) is an essential quality for every Muslim to have. Whether it involves acts of worship or interactions with fellow humans, a Muslim should always strive for Ikhlas in their every deed.
But what does sincerity truly mean, and why is it so important?
In English, the word translates to “the absence of pretence, deceit, or hypocrisy”. But Ikhlas goes deeper than that - to do something with Ikhlas means to do it only to seek the pleasure of Allah. In Islam, sincerity is “freeing one’s intentions from all impurities in order to be nearer to Allah.”
It sounds easy in theory, but the truth is that it takes a lot of practice and self-searching to truly achieve Ikhlas.
We’ve all had moments where our intentions might not have been pure - whether it’s visiting relatives just so they won’t speak badly of us, or attending a religious class because a friend dragged us along. While these are great and commendable acts of ibadah by themselves, without Ikhlas they (and we) fall short of great potential.
HOW IKHLAS CHANGES EVERYTHING
1. Deeds are rewarded by their intentions
The Prophet S.A.W. said: “Indeed, deeds are but by intentions. Every man will be rewarded only for what he intended.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
This well-known hadith is an important reminder - without sincerity, even saving a thousand lives will only benefit us in this Dunya. However when we purify our intentions with Ikhlas, remembering Allah S.W.T. and in hopes of pleasing Him, even a small act of kindness can become the catalyst for change in this Dunya plus a source of endless rewards in Akhirah!
2. Sincerity increases rewards
The Prophet S.A.W. said: "Whoever goes to his bed intending to get up and pray at night, then his eyes overwhelm him and (he sleeps) until morning, the (reward for) that which he intended will be written for him, and his sleep is a charity for him given by his Lord, may He be glorified and exalted." (Nasaai/Ibnu Majah)
Another lesson our beloved Prophet taught us is that with sincerity, even our intentions to do a good deed are rewarded! Such is the mercy of Allah S.W.T., who knows that we don’t always have the strength to do everything we intend. Whenever we plan to achieve new goals or reach new heights in our ibadah, Ikhlas will not only ease the way for us but ensure that even if we fail, we have succeeded in the eyes of Allah.
3. With sincerity comes peace of mind
Allah tells us in the Quran, “Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort” [Quran 13:28]
While this verse refers to Zikr, it also reminds us that remembering Allah’s presence is a balm to the heart. In this modern age where appearances are everything, it can be easy to get caught up in our image and what people think or say about us. But when we practise Ikhlas, concerns about others will fall away and be replaced by peace, knowing that no matter what, He is pleased with us.
WAYS TO WORK ON IKHLAS
As humans, our discipline and strength of will can only take us so far. There will inevitably be days where we forget to check our intentions, or struggle to truly feel our Ikhlas. And who better to turn to in these challenges than our Creator himself? We should make it a habit to make dua to Allah to strengthen our Ikhlas, and let him know that we are striving to achieve it.
2. Spot-check before ibadah
All deeds should be done with sincerity, but none more so than ibadah. A good way to practise purifying our intentions is by doing so right before beginning ibadah. Ask ourselves - are we doing this for Allah, or because of someone else? This builds the habit for sincerity even outside of ibadah in our day-to-day lives.
3. Value your privacy
Doing good deeds away from others’ eyes is a good way to evaluate our Ikhlas. Does ibadah suddenly feel less appealing? Do those good deeds and habits suddenly seem much harder to do? This self-reflection will help us understand where we struggle to feel Ikhlas, and give us a starting point to begin working on renewing our intentions.
The path towards Ikhlas is not a straight line - it’s bound to be filled with endless ups and downs. But by understanding its profound impact on our deeds and rewards, and with continuous effort and introspection, we can persevere to make this valued mindset a part of our lives.
May Allah S.W.T. help us in our journey towards achieving this goal and becoming better people!