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Sincerity (Ikhlaas)

 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA



What is Ikhlaas?

Ikhlaas is an Arabic word  for sincerity. There is a Surah (chapter), Number 112, named  "Ikhlaas" in the Qur'an. It is also called "Tawhid."  

What is Sincerity?

The meaning of sincerity is that what the person says and his/her deeds and actions should be for the sake of Allah (SWT) and not to show to the people or to be proud of himself or herself with them. Acceptance of deeds depends on sincerity. Sincerity to Allah (SWT) is a sign of the completeness of faith. Allah (SWT) looks into the heart and what is in it from intentions, not to the appearance or the shape of the deeds.  

Islam has invited us to sincerity and persuades us to live  within it.   

The Prophet (SAS) was asked: "Which of the three persons carries on Jihad, one who fights for bravery and courage, one who fights tribalism or nationalism, or one who fights to be seen or to show off?"  

The Prophet (SAS) replied: "The one who fights to uphold the message of Allah is the person who carries on Jihad in the cause of Allah."  

The deeds, which the Muslims do, are not considered good unless they are done with good intentions and for the sake of Allah (SWT).  Only sincere people have the moral courage to criticize the leaders when they do wrong things. The following two examples illustrate this.



(1).When Abi bin Ka'b (RA) recited the Quranic verse no. 110 in Surah 5, Al-Ma'idah, infront  of other Sahaba including Hadrat Umar bin Khattab (RA), the Second Khalifa
"Min 'Alladhena astha  Haqqah 'Alaihimul Aw'la' yaani…"  Al- Ma'idah, 5: 110
Hadrat Umar bin Khattab (RA) rejected the (manner of) recitation of the Qur'anic verse and said, "You have spoken a lie."
Hadrat Abi bin Ka'b (RA) immediately replied " You are a bigger liar."
Someone interrupted,  "You are contradicting Amir-ul-Momineen(commander of the faithful)."Hadrat Ab bin Ka'b (RA) replied, " I pay more regard to the Amir-ul-Momineen when he is right, but I have opposed him in matter of incorrect pronunciation of Allah's Book, and not contradicted him in matter of correct pronunciation of the Book. I have heard the Noble Prophet (SAS) reciting this verse in the same manner. And  O' Umar (RA) you remained engaged (busy) in marketing (doing business) at Baqia'. "
Hadrat Umar (RA) said, "You are perfectly right. I had just tried to test whether anybody could speak the truth (before me)."
(2) 'Abu Muawiya bin Abu Sufiyan (RA) stood upon the pulpit  and delivered the Jumuah Khutbah and said, "All the wealth, properties and the booty belong to me and it is upon me to distribute it to some people and keep others deprived of it." He repeated these words in his address  on the next Friday and on the third Friday also. This time one of the persons present in the Masjid (mosque) got up and said, "It can never happen so far all the income, property and booty belongs to none but us, and one who stands between these things and us will be dealt with our swords."

Hadrat Muawiya (RA) got down from his pulpit, called the person and took him to his house, after the prayers. The people in general thought that his days are numbered. But when they entered the house of Hadrat Muawiya (RA), they saw that person sitting beside Hadrat Muawiya (RA) on his throne.   Hadrat Muawiya told the people "He has enlightened my soul today; may Allah keep him alive. I have heard the Noble Prophet (SAS) saying, "Soon after me, some Amirs will emerge who will say something (against Shariah) and will not be rejected by people.  Such Amirs will enter Hell like monkeys.  I had certainly addressed the people on a Friday but nobody interrupted me.  I became apprehensive (viewing the future with anxiety) if I would have been among such Amirs (who will enter Hell).  I addressed you again on the next Friday but none of you contradicted me.   I thought I am certainly one among them (i. e. Hellish). Then I repeated the same address on the third Friday, and then this man got up and contradicted me.  Thus he has given me a new lease of life, may Allah (SWT) confer upon him a long life. (Al-Haithmi,  Vol. V, p. 238).  

In today's world if any Muslim criticizes the ruler of a Muslim country, then he or she will be accused of creating a "FITNA"  and will be punished, sometimes severely. When  you fight for your Rights  or speak the truth which is bitter to the wrong doers, you will be labeled as 'TROUBLE MAKER."  The good examples are Hasaan al-Banna, Syed Qutb of  Ikhwanul Muslimeen(the Muslim Brotherhood). In USA, a sincere Muslim like Malcolm X (Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz) criticized  the leader of the Nation of Islam, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Reportedly for this act he was assassinated on February 25, 1965 in New York City.  Our own native of Louisville, World Boxing Champion, Muhammad Ali took on the mighty Government of America by refusing to be drafted into the Army, by saying the "the Vietcong have done no wrong to me."  Muhammad Ali lost his title, income and was subjected to humiliation and suffered a lot for five or six years until 1971 when the Supreme Court unanimously  acquitted him.  Sincere Muslims do not want to stand up to the corrupt rulers and leaders in the Muslim world, for fear of hardship, sufferings or loss of life.  


In  711 CE  Al-Walid was the Khalifa. In that year Al-Tariq conquered southern Spain and Muhammad bin Qasim conquered the present day Pakistan.  

In 717 -718  CE, in one of the battles that the Muslims waged against the Romans(Byzantine Forces or Eastern Roman forces), the Muslims – under the commandment of Maslamah bin Abdul Malik(rahimahullaah) – surrounded a city(Edirne in Turkey) 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 bore 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 that entered the hole should come forward. No one showed. A day passed and the request was repeated. Another day, 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 got excited and 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( that is no reward).

The second is that you do not tell anyone who he is ( that is no publicity or fame).

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-Qiyamah) grant me companionship with the soldier of the hole.”  

The ingredient that we all need to work on throughout our lives as Muslims is Ikhlaas (sincerity). 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." Surah Al-An'aam 6: 162,163  

"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."  Surah Bayyinah, 98:5.    In defining Ikhlaas, Al-Jurjaani – rahimahullaah - said that it is not to seek any audience for your deeds other than Allah. When one looks over the text of the Qur’aan and Sunnah, they will come to the realization that Allah Ta'aala and His Messenger – (sal Allahu alayhi wa Sallam)– speak about sincerity in different aspects: Sincerity in Tawheed of Allah and sincerity in our intentions. Sincerity in our worship, such as in 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’aan, and so much more. The Qur'aan and Sunnah speak about sincerity in all our verbal statements, sincerity in our refined and upright Akhlaaq (character), sincerity in our Tawakkul (placing of our trust) in Allah, and sincerity in all of our  actions. Commenting on the verse: He who created death and life to test you (as to) which of you is best in deed, Surah Al-Mulk, 67:2.

A deed must be done both sincerely and correctly-sincerely, as in for the sake of Allah alone; and correctly, as in accordance with the Sunnah."   

"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." Surah al-Kahf, 18: 110.  

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


Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the messenger, Rasoolallah (S.A.W.) said: "Three men were on a journey when they were overtaken by a sand storm and therefore they took shelter in a cave. A rock slipped down from the mountain and blocked the entrance and hence nobody could exit from the cave. One of them said: "The only way for deliverance left is to beseech Allah(SWT)  in the name of some virtuous deed."  

Thereupon one of them supplicated(made Du'a), "O Lord, my parents were very old, I used to offer them their nightly drink of milk before(infront of)  my children and the other members of the family. One day I went astray far away in search of green trees and could return only after my parent had gone to sleep. When I had milked the animals and brought their nightly drink to them, They were fast asleep, but I did not like to disturb them, nor would give any part of the milk to my children and other members of the family till after my parents had their drink. Thus, with the milk vessel in hand, I  awaited for their awakening, all night till the flash of dawn, while the children cried out of hunger at my feet. When my parents woke up, they had their drink.  O Lord, if I did this thing only to seek your pleasure, then do relieve us of the distress wrought upon us by this rock."  

 Thereupon, The rock moved a little but that not enough to let them pass out.  

 Then the second man supplicated (made Du'a): " O Lord, I had a cousin whom I loved her more passionately than anyone who loves a woman. I tried to seduce her but she would have none of me (this is she refused his advances), till in a season of great hardship due to famine, she approached me (for help) and I gave her one hundred and twenty Dinars (gold coins)  on condition that she would have sexual intercourse with me. She agreed, and when we got together and I was just going to have intercourse with her, she pleaded: "Fear Allah, and do not break the seal (hymen) unlawfully": whereupon I moved away from her, despite the fact that I desired her most passionately; and I let her keep the money that I had given her. O Lord, if I did this thing seeking only your pleasure, then do move the distress in which we find ourselves."

 Again the rock moved a little but not enough to let them pass out.  

Then the third supplicated (made Du'a): "O Lord, I hired some laborers and paid them their dues, but one of them left leaving behind what was due to him. That is he did not take the wages, which were due to him. I invested it (his wages) in business and the business prospered greatly."

After a lapse of some time, the laborer came back and said: "O servant of Allah, hand over to me my wages. I said to him: All that you see is yours: the Camels, the cattle, the goats and the slaves,"

He said: "Don't play joke with me, O servant of Allah"

I assured him: "I am mot joking".

So he took all of it sparing nothing. "O Lord, If I did this seeking only for Your pleasure, do relieve us of our distress."  

The rock then moved away, and all the three came out of the cave safe and sound."  


Sincerity is a topic that is not only key to Islam, but it is also a subject that the Western 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 Cynic Greek philosopher of Sinope, who lived about 320 years before Prophet  Isa – alayhis salam. He believed there was no honesty or  sincerity – no Ikhlaasin any human being. To vividly prove his point, he was said to have walked  in 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. Diogenes' father, Icesias, a banker, was convicted of debasing the public coin, and was obliged to leave the country; or, according to another account, his father and himself were charged with this offense, and the former was thrown into prison, while the son escaped and went to Athens. Here he attached himself, as a disciple, to Antisthenes, who was at the head of the  Cynics.     

Renouncing every other object of ambition, he distinguished himself by his contempt of riches and honors and by his invectives against luxury.  Diogenes reputedly lived in a barrel and owned nothing but a cloak, a stick, and a bread bag. (So it wasn't easy to steal his happiness from him!) The Cynics believed that people did not need to be concerned about their own health. Even suffering and death should not disturb them. Nor should they let themselves be tormented by concern for other people's woes. He wore a coarse cloak, carried a wallet and a staff, made the porticoes and other public places his habitation, and depended upon casual contributions for his daily bread. He asked a friend to procure him a cell to live in; when there was a delay, he took up abode in a pithos, or large tub, in the Metroum.

It cannot be doubted, however, that Diogenes practiced self-control and a most rigid abstinence -- exposing himself to the utmost extremes of heat and cold and living upon the simplest diet, casually supplied by the hand of charity. In his old age, sailing to Aegina, he was taken by pirates and carried to Crete, where he was exposed to sale in the public market. When the auctioneer asked him what he could do, he said, "I can govern men; therefore sell me to one who wants a master." Xeniades, a wealthy Corinthian, happening at that instant to pass by, was struck with the singularity of his reply and purchased him. On their arrival at Corinth, Xeniades gave him his freedom and committed to him the education of his children and the direction of his domestic concerns. Diogenes executed this trust with so much judgment and fidelity that Xeniades used to say that the gods had sent a good genius to his house.  

During his residence at Corinth, an interview between him and Alexander is said to have taken place. Plutarch relates that Alexander, when at Corinth, receiving the congratulations of all ranks on being appointed to command the army of the Greeks against the Persians, missed Diogenes among the number, with whose character he was acquainted. Curious to see the one, who exhibited such haughty independence of spirit, Alexander went in search of him and found him sitting in his tub in the sun. "I am Alexander the Great," said the monarch. "And I am Diogenes the Cynic, "replied the philosopher. Alexander then requested that he would inform him what service he could render him. "Stand from between me and the sun," said the Cynic. Alexander, struck with the reply, said to his friends, who were ridiculing the whimsical singularity of the philosopher, " Alexander is reported to have said, "Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes." As it turned out, both Diogenes and Alexander died on the same day in 323 B.C. Alexander was 33 and Diogenes was 90. Diogenes left behind him no system of philosophy. After the example of his school, he was more attentive to practical than to theoretical wisdom.  

Indeed insincerity in our actions is something very dangerous and can lead a person to ruin.  

Ibn Masood –( radi Allahu ‘anhu) – would advise his students, “If your intention is one of these three, do not seek knowledge: To shame the ignorant, or 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, Ibn Al-Qayyim –( rahimahullaah) – said, “Deeds without sincerity are like a traveler who carries in his water-jug dirt. The carrying of it burdens him and it brings no benefit.”

May Allah Ta'aala make us all to follow those whose deeds are done in accordance with the Sunnah, deeds that are done sincerely for the sake of Allah.


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