Sincerity in Worship: What is Ikhlas?


(part 1 of 2) Description:  A discussion of the meaning of  Ikhlas  and its importance in the life of a Muslim. Objectives ·         To give...

(part 1 of 2)

Description: A discussion of the meaning of Ikhlas and its importance in the life of a Muslim.
·       To give a deeper understanding of the concept of Ikhlas and offer advice as to how it can be easily implemented into one’s life.
Arabic Terms
·       Ihsan - perfection or excellence.  Islamically, it is to worship Allah as if you are seeing Him.  While one does not see Allah, he or she is aware that Allah see all.
·       Ikhlas - sincerity, purity or isolation.  Islamically it denotes purifying our motives and intentions to seek the pleasure of Allah.    It is also the name of the 112th chapter of Quran.
·       Riyaa – It comes from the word ra’aa meaning to see, to behold, to view.  Thus the word riyaa means showing off, hypocrisy, and dissimulation.   Islamically riyaameans to perform acts which are pleasing to Allah with the intention of pleasing other than Allah.
·       Shariah - Islamic Law.
·       Shirk – a word that implies ascribing partners to Allah, or ascribing divine attributes to other than Allah, or believing that the source of power, harm and blessings comes from another besides Allah.
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
·       Surah – chapter of the Quran.
·       Zakah – obligatory charity.
Sincerity1.jpgAn 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 so that there is no consideration other than Allah.  Bearing this in mind, an Islamic glossary will often describes 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 pretence, deceit or hypocrisy - we begin to understand what ikhlas is. 
Ikhlas is purifying one’s deeds from all contamination by shirk, in order to worship Allah in the correct way.  For a person to cultivate and maintain real ikhlas he must avoid anything that calls into question Allah’s right to be worshipped  as the One.  Surah number 112 is called Al-Ikhlas and it explains very clearly the Oneness of Allah.  More detailed information can be obtained here,
“Say, ‘He is Allah, (the) One.   Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks).    He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.’” (Quran 112)
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.  More information about riyaa can be found here, and will be discussed further in part 2.
“And whether you hide what is in your breast or reveal it, Allah knows it…” (Quran 3:29)
“…And if you join others in worship with Allah surely your deeds will be in vain and you will certainly be among the losers.” (Quran 39:65)
In order that a believer’s deeds and actions are accepted by Allah they must be performed with ikhlas, they must be preceded by the right intention and they must be carried out according to the shariah
“And they were commanded not but they should worship Allah and worship none but him alone, and give zakah, and that is the right religion.” (Quran 98:5)
Prophet Muhammad emphasised that, “Allah is Pure and He accepts only that which is pure”[1]  thus the Sunnah gives prominence to the fact that Allah accepts only that which is pure and done solely for His sake.  For example, Khalid ibn al-Walid was removed from his post as commander of the army by Caliph Umar.  Rather than being offended and refusing to fight, Khalid fought even harder.  When he was asked why, he said: “I fight for Allah not for Umar.”
Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Quran 6:162)
The acceptance of a person’s deeds by Allah depends on purity and sincerity; because it is with such ikhlas that a person can attain a high rank in the sight of Allah.   In fact with the right intention and a pure heart a person can even be rewarded for an action that they were unable to perform.  Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily Allah has recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds.” He then informed those around him that, “Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed…”[2]
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;
·       Doing righteous deeds.  The more deeds we do, the easier they will become, the more close we will get to Allah and our hearts will become more sincere and pure.
·       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, more pure.
·       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.  Guarding our ikhlas is important and will be discussed further in part 2. 

[1] Saheeh Muslim
[2] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim.

Sincerity in Worship: Ikhlas vs. Riyaa (part 2 of 2)

Description: A discussion about how riyaa can creep into our worship and rob it of all sincerity.
·       To understand the concept of riyaa and how to defend ourselves from letting it ruin our worship and relationship with Allah.
Arabic Terms
·       Aayaat - (singular – ayah)  the word aayaat can have many meanings.    It is almost always used when talking about proofs from Allah.   These include evidences, verses, lessons, signs, and revelations.
·        Dunya - this world, as opposed to the world of the Hereafter.
·        Hadith -  (plural – ahadith) is a piece of information or a story.  In Islam it is a narrative record of the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
·        Hadith Qudsi  - Allah’s message to humankind transmitted in the words of Prophet Muhammad, usually dealing with spiritual or ethical subjects.
·       Ihsan - perfection or excellence.   Islamically, it is to worship Allah as if you are seeing Him.   While one does not see Allah, he or she is aware that Allah see all.
·       Ikhlas - sincerity, purity or isolation.   Islamically it denotes purifying our motives and intentions to seek the pleasure of Allah.     It is also the name of the 112th chapter of Quran.
·       Riyaa – It comes from the word ra’aa meaning to see, to behold, to view.   Thus the word riyaa means showing off, hypocrisy, and dissimulation.    Islamically riyaameans to perform acts which are pleasing to Allah with the intention of pleasing other than Allah.
·       Sahabah - the plural form of “Sahabi,” which translates to Companions.   A sahabi, as the word is commonly used today, is someone who saw Prophet Muhammad, believed in him and died as a Muslim.
·       Shariah - Islamic Law.
·        Shaytan - sometimes spelled Shaitan or Shaytaan.    It is the word used in Islam and the Arabic language to denote the devil or Satan, the personification of evil.
·       Shirk – a word that implies ascribing partners to Allah, or ascribing divine attributes to other than Allah, or believing that the source of power, harm and blessings comes from another besides Allah.
·        Surah – chapter of the Quran.
·        Ummah - Refers to the whole Muslim community, irrespective of color, race, language or nationality.
Ikhlas means that one’s heart is pure and that he or she worships Allah solely to please Him.  In lesson 1 we established that in order for a believer’s deeds to be accepted by Allah they must be performed with ikhlas, they must be preceded by the correct intention and they must be carried out according to the Shariah.  We will continue our lesson by discussing things that can contradict or corrupt our ikhlas; i-e, riyaa.  Riyaa is in fact minor shirk, it makes us focus on gaining the admiration and appreciation of people rather than seeking to please Allah. 
A great scholar of Islam once said, “Indeed the hardest thing to achieve in this world isikhlas.  How many times have I struggled to extinguish riyaa (showing off) from my heart except that it only appeared again in a different colour”?[1]  It is clear from this statement that even the most educated people struggle to remain sincere and avoid riyaa.   But indeed it is something that we must avoid.   Prophet Muhammad said that it was the thing he feared most for his Ummah.  “Indeed the thing that I fear most for you is the minor shirk,” he said.  The sahabah asked, “And what is minor shirk, Oh Messenger of Allah?” To which he replied, “It is Riyaa.  Allah will say to the people of riyaa on the Day of Judgement – when the people are being re-payed for their deeds – ‘Go to those who you showed off your deeds to in thedunya, and see if you can find reward from them!’”[2]
There is also a hadith qudsi in which Allah says, “I am Independent of all the partners (ascribed to me).  Whoever performs a deed while associating partners with Me, I will leave him and his shirk.”[3]  Riyaa can be defined as the performance of a deed with the intention of pleasing someone or something other than Allah.  It is a form of shirk and something to be feared because it is easy to fall into riyaa without noticing.
Our good deeds and actions can be nullified by riyaa.  Let us take the example of a man who has $100 he wants to give in charity.   He begins his act of charity with a pure and sincere heart and donates $50 but then the idea of showing how rich he is occurs to him so he makes quite a performance of giving another $50.   It is possible that Allah will reject the second $50 as an act of charity because it was mixed with a desire to show off.  If however the idea of showing off occurred after the total $100 had been distributed it would not affect or invalidate the act of charity.
Having said this it is important to bear in mind that it is not showing off if a person feels happy after doing an act of worship.  This is a sign of faith.   Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, said “Whoever feels happy because of his good deeds and sad because of his bad deeds, is a believer.”[4]  In addition, if people praise you for a good deed it is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, it is a portion of the glad tidings of the Hereafter.  Prophet Muhammad was asked, “What do you think if a man does a good deed and the people praise him for it?”  He said: “That is the portion of the glad tidings for the believer which he is given in this world.”[5]
There are a number of things that you might like to pay more attention to in order to ward off any riyaa that may be creeping into your worship.
·       Try to bear in mind the concept of ihsan.  Allah is always watching.
·       Either conceal your worship or make a conscious effort not to make a display of it or yourself.
·       Reflect on your shortcomings and your achievements.  Remember that Allah alone is the source for our accomplishments.
·       Seek Allah’s help to overcome any riyaa in your worship.
·       Reflect upon the ayah we say many times a day in our prayers.  “You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)” (Quran 1:5)
Another important point to bear in mind is that we should not stop doing good deeds for fear of riyaa.  This is one of the tricks of Shaytan.  He tries to weaken people’s resolve so that they avoid doing things that Allah loves and is pleased with.  If we carefully form an intention to please Allah alone this should ensure that riyaa does not creep into our worship.
In conclusion we must remember that sincerity in worship is important.  Believers must aim to have a pure heart and the intention to please Allah in all that they do.

[1] Jaami ul-Uloom wal-Hikam of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee
[2] Imam Ahmad
[3] Saheeh Muslim
[4] Imam Ahmad, Ibn Majah.
[5] Saheeh Muslim



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Jama Masjid: Sincerity in Worship: What is Ikhlas?
Sincerity in Worship: What is Ikhlas?
Jama Masjid
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