Ikhlas - On Sincerity

Ikhlas in Risalah Qushayriyyah of Imam Abu’l Qasim Abd’al’Karim bin Hawazin al-Qushayri

 Allah Most High has said:

أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ

Does not sincere religion belong to Allah?” (Surah 39 Az-Zumar: Verse 3). 

Ali bin Ahmad al-Ahwazi reported from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah said: 

“Three things prevent the heart of a Muslim from betrayal: sincerity of effort for Allah’s sake; giving good counsel to leaders; attachment to the community of Muslims.”  

Sincerity, Ikhlas, is to give one’s obedience, with firm intention, exclusively to the Truth -that is, above all one wishes one’s good works to bring one closer to Allah. One does not engage in them to impress someone, to acquire a good reputation in society, out of the love of people’s praise, or for any other reason than to come closer to Allah Most High. It is truly said that sincerity is the purification of action from the consideration of created beings. And it is also well-said that sincerity means to guard against giving attention to the opinions of others. 

There is an authenticated tradition that the Messenger of Allah reported from Jibra’eel that Allah Glorified and Exalted said: 

“Sincerity is a secret from My secret. I have bestowed it upon the hearts of the ones I love among My servants.” 

When I asked him “What is sincerity?” I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say that the Lord of Power said this. I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “Sincerity is to guard against paying attention to the opinions of other people, while true integrity, sidq, is to be cleansed from looking at one’s own ego. Thus the man of sincerity has no hypocrisy, while the man of integrity has no spiritual pride.” 

Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri said, “Sincerity is only perfected by truthfulness in it and patience with it, while truthfulness is only perfected by sincerity in it and continuous perseverance with it.” Abu Yaqub al-Susi said, “When people see sincerity in their sincerity, their sincerity is in need of sincerity!” 

Dhu-l-Nun said, “Three of the signs of sincerity are that:

  1. praise and blame from ordinary people become equal to you;
  2. that you forget to watch yourself performing good deeds while you are performing them;
  3. and that you forget the necessary reward for good works in the next world.”

I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say that Abu Uthman al- Maghribi said, “Sincerity is that in which the ego takes no pleasure whatever. Such is the sincerity of ordinary people. The sincerity of the elite is something that comes upon them, not from them, so that they manifest acts of obedience to Allah while remaining detached, without seeing or relying upon these acts. Such is the sincerity of the elite.”  

Abu Bakr al-Daqqaq said, “The flaw in the sincerity of every sincere person is that he sees his own sincerity. When Allah Most High wants to purify someone’s sincerity, He will cause that person’s sight of his sincerity to fall away from the sincerity itself. Thus he becomes a ‘purified one’ (mukhlas) rather than a ‘possessor of purity’ (mukhlis).” Sahl al-Tustari said, “Only a sincere person knows what hypocrisy is.” 

I heard Abu Hatim al-Sijistani say that Abu Said al-Kharraz said, “The hypocrisy of Gnostics is superior to the sincerity of students.” Dhu-I-Nun said, “Sincerity is that which is preserved from the corruption of the enemy.” Abu Uthman said, “Sincerity is to forget to see the creation while continually looking at the goodness of the Creator.” Hudhayfah al-Marashi said, “Sincerity means that the actions of the servant are inwardly and outwardly the same.” Sincerity is called, “that which is intended for the Truth and aims at truthfulness,” and it is called “blindness to one’s own good deeds.” 

I heard Muhammad bin al-Husayn say that Sari al-Saqati said, “Whoever decks himself out before people with what he does not possess has fallen from Allah’s grace.” And I heard him say that Fudayl said, “To give up working for people’s sake is pretension, while to work for people’s sake is to set up partners to Allah. Sincerity is when Allah release you from both of these.”  

Junayd said, “Sincerity is a secret between Allah Most High and His servant. Even the recording angel knows nothing of it to write it in the recording of one’s deeds. Satan does not know it to corrupt it, nor is passion [animal soul] aware of it that it might influence it.” Ruwaym said, “Sincerity in the performance of good deeds means that a person wishes no compensation for his deeds in this world or the next, nor any favours from his recording angels.” Sahl bin Abd Allah was asked, “What thing is hardest on the ego?” He said, “Sincerity- because the ego has no share in it.” Questioned about sincerity, a Sufi said, “It means not showing your deeds to anyone but Allah.” 

Another Sufi said, “I came to see Sahl bin Abd Allah at his house one Friday before the time of congregational prayer. I saw a snake in his house. I started forward on one foot but pulled back the other. ‘Come in!’ he said. ‘No one attains the reality of faith while he is afraid of anything on the face of the earth.’ Then he added, ‘Do you want to make the congregational prayer [at the Prophet’s Masjid]?’ ‘There is a day’s and night’s journey between us and the mosque!’ I said. But he took my hand and in a short while I saw the mosque. So we entered it, prayed with the congregation and left. He stopped to look at the people as they went out and remarked, ‘The people of “There is no god but Allah!” are many, but the sincere among them are few.’“ 

Hamzah bin Yusuf al-Jurjani reported that Makhul said, “If a servant be sincere for forty days, the springs of wisdom will well up from his heart to his tongue.” I heard Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami say that Yusuf bin al-Husayn said, “The most powerful thing in the world is sincerity; yet how often have I striven to drive hypocrisy from my heart, while it has sprouted up again in another form?”  

And I heard him say that Abu Sulayman al-Darani said, “When the servant acts with sincerity, it cuts off most of imagination and pretence from him.”