Ikhlas (sincerity)

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on May 8, 2016]

مُخۡلِصِينَ لَهُ ٱلدِّينَ‌ۚ
With pure faith in Him

In the first Majlis, we discussed ‘zuhd’; there is also another important quality that we need to adopt called ikhlas (sincerity).

Ikhlas means the effort to bring about sincerity, but it also can mean sincerity itself – a quality, which Allah swt bestows upon people through His grace. In the Qur’an, Allah swt uses the word ‘mukhlasin’ – referring to a people who Allah swt has bestowed with ikhlas.

So what is this ikhlas – what is this ikhlas, khulus, khalis? These are all words in Arabic. When a person does any action, he should perform it ‘khalisatan Lillah – solely for the sake of Allah swt’. When there is the feeling of love in your heart, it should be ‘khalis – sincere’ – there should be no drop of impermissible love attached.

If you have hatred for someone, then that should also be ‘khalis’ – for the sake of Allah only. We should be ‘khalis’ when it comes to our sight too; we shouldn’t look at anything impermissible. We should be ‘khalis’ when it comes to our hearing too; we shouldn’t listen to anything impermissible. In everything we do, we should be khalis.

Khalis means pure!

We should be pure from those things which are against the commandments of Allah swt, which goes against the pleasure of Allah swt, which goes against the teachings of Rasulullah sws, which goes against the temperament of Rasulullah sws.

When a servant becomes free from these things, they will become khalis. Khalis here meaning they will become how Allah swt wants them to be; they will become in line with the message and commandments of Allah swt, they will act in accordance with the sunnah and example of Rasulullah sws.They will become khalis – pure!

Whoever has this ‘khulus’, they are ‘khalis’ – they are pure. To strive to become ‘khalis’ – this effort is called ‘ikhlas’. Mukhlis is that person who puts effort to become pure and ‘mukhlas’ is that person who Allah swt made pure.

Hadrat Ahmed Ali Lahori (rah) would say:

sab hi to hain ussi ke, par us ka koi aik;
hazaaron me na milega, laakhon me tu dekh

Every slave belongs to Allah swt alone, but to search for a khalis slave, you will not find him within the thousands, but you will need to search for him in hundreds of thousands of people – these people are hard to find; implying that one person from amongst hundreds of thousands/millions is actually khalis, despite all of us belonging to Allah.

The effort to become khalis called ikhlas is a very important part of tasawwuf and tazkiyah. In many ahadith, Nabi sws has mentioned ikhlas in terms of our eyes, our tongues, our minds, our hearts etc – and whoever does not have this ikhlas, they will fall into sin, which may be the means of punishment on the Day of Judgment.

There is a hasan hadith in regards to ikhlas: ‘man akhlasa lillahi arba’ina sabahan, zaharat yunabi’ul hikmati min qalbihi ‘ala lisanihi’ – that whosoever spends 40 days for the sake of Allah swt alone, meaning he spent it just for Allah; this may be in ‘ibadah, or da’wah, or maybe 40 days purely for the sake of Allah to seek ‘ilm, or maybe 40 days spent in khidmah, or to help the poor – basically 40 days, where he gave all his time, his every moment for the sake of Allah swt alone, Allah swt will then open up the streams of wisdom from his heart to flow on his tongue.

What does this mean? This means his batin, his inner, will become manifest. The wisdom in his heart will flow on his tongue. The person will become wise; Allah swt will grant him wisdom. So this effort of 40 days will result in the manifestation of his wisdom.

Once someone asked a person that I worshipped for 40 days, but I did not receive any wisdom – a reply was given to him that you gave 40 days to Allah swt for the sake of attaining this wisdom, but the hadith mentions ‘man akhlasa lillahi’ – whoever spends it solely for the sake of Allah’ (the hadith didn’t mention ‘man akhlasa lil-hikmah – whoever spends 40 days for the sake of getting hikmah’), hence due to this lack of khulus in his intention, he wasn’t granted the hikmah mentioned.

We shouldn’t even do any religious action (i.e. seek ‘ilm or give da’wah) for the sake of religion, but we should do that just for the sake of Allah swt. When we do it for the sake of Allah swt ONLY, then we will receive the barakah and reward that accompanies such actions. We shouldn’t worship Allah for the sake of attaining this hikmah, we should worship Allah swt for the sake of Allah swt; and yes, when we do this for the sake of Allah swt, then Allah swt will surely grant us this hikmah.

A Strange Anecdote of Wisdom

There was a great noble scholar by the name of Hadrat Bahauddin Zakariyya (rah), and when he first came to settle in Multan (a city in Pakistan), the existing masha’ikh of the city sent him a message. They sent him a cup of milk, which was filled to the brim. The caretaker of the majlis was passed this full cup of milk and was told to give this gift to Hadrat Zakariyya Multani (rah) which was from the ‘ulama and masha’ikh of the city.

When he received this glass of milk, he placed a rose petal on top and sent it back. Now, his students and companions in the majlis told him they did not understand this action of his – meaning, he had received a gift and he sent it back with a rose on top.

Hadrat replied that the masha’ikh were sending me a symbolic message that Multan (which was at that time known as the city of the awliya’ullah) is already full, meaning there are a lot of scholars and masha’ikh already present here, hence you should go elsewhere since there is no place for you here.

So I sent a message back that I have not come here for name or fame; I have put this petal on top of here to show that the cup cannot take anymore milk, but it can take a petal – and I am like this flower, I will not be a burden for any of you. The ‘ulama were very surprised by this reply, and they were so impressed by his ikhlas that they themselves became his adherents. Hadrat Zakariyya (rah) became the most known and accepted wali of Allah from Multan.

When you have ikhlas, you receive special acceptance and help from Allah swt. This is barakah. When we don’t have ikhlas, we will make wrong decisions – our intention will be that we make the right decisions, but the decision will be wrong. Sometimes we may lie, we may exaggerate, we may go against someone else just because we didn’t have ikhlas.

Lack of ikhlas never stays hidden – it will surely come out; this may be through lying, or making wrong decisions, or wrong thoughts/connections etc. In the same way, when someone is sincere, when they have ikhlas, it will also not stay hidden. This will also become apparent.

Allah swt revealed in Qur’an that Nabi sws has an exalted and excellent standard of character. Allah swt has also said:

ثُمَّ جَعَلۡنَـٰكَ عَلَىٰ شَرِيعَةٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡرِ فَٱتَّبِعۡهَا
Then We have put you on a certain way of the Matter (i.e. the religion); 4 so follow it [45:18]

It is apparent that Nabi sws and the sahabah kiram had the ‘ilm and they would do ‘amal on this ‘ilm, and even then this order was given to follow shari’ah. This was to show that the real way to ikhlas is to follow the shari’ah with our actions, our words and our states.

Whatever we say, we should say it according to shari’ah; whatever we do, we should do it according to shari’ah, and the state of our heart, our passions, our feelings and wants should also be according to shari’ah. Hence Nabi sws said that actions are based on their intentions. What does this mean? Ikhlas starts from the intention; if we want to be sincere when doing any action, the sincerity should be manifest in our intention.

In that hadith, Nabi sws is saying the action of hijrah (migration) is good, but since the intention was for the sake of dunya (migrating to marry someone) – since the intention wasn’t solely for the sake of Allah, then despite it being a good ‘amal, it wasn’t classed to be completely sincere.

The Need for Conscientiousness in Our Intentions

Now, to have ikhlas in our intentions, we need to be aware of our intentions; we need to be conscious of our intentions; we need to be conscientious when making intentions; we need to take care of our intentions. Many of us don’t even do any a’mal, and the ones that do, many times, we aren’t even conscious of the reasons and the intentions that are driving those actions. This awareness and sentience is achieved through dhikr.

Our masha’ikh have taught us this dhikr e qalbi – when we do this with mindfulness and heartful awareness, and stay steadfast on this, we will become conscious of our intentions and we will make an effort to make correct and sincere intentions. Then, we will become worried when we cannot do certain actions for the sake of Allah swt alone – we will think, how can I do this action when I cannot do it for the sake of Allah alone?

Or that my intentions are becoming mixed for e.g. I’m going to a bayan, and my intention should be for Allah swt alone, but together with this intention, I am going so people think good of me – despite being mukhlis here, the intention here is not khalis; it is not for Allah swt only! When the intention becomes mixed, the action is not ‘khalis’ – this is why our masha’ikh emphasise a lot that we should be aware of our intentions.

Now, we are living in a time where we unknowingly do things; we say ‘I did not want to do this, but I ended up doing it; I did not want to lie, but I ended up lying’ – we aren’t even aware of our actions, so imagine how unaware we are of our intentions. This is why there is a lack of sincerity in our actions.

Now, due to this lack of sincerity, we lack in wisdom. So now, when we have a lack of sincerity, and a lack of wisdom too, and we have mixed intentions resulting in insincere actions, how will we become the beloved and accepted slave of Allah swt?

The teachings of masha’ikh are sometimes very particular, but they are very deep too. To attain this ikhlas in our intentions and actions, we need to become dhakir. By becoming a dhakir, we will attain both zuhd and ikhlas. Without dhikr, it is very hard to attain both zuhd and ikhlas, so we need to make an effort on our dhikr.

Allah swt has said,

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱذۡكُرُواْ ٱللَّهَ ذِكۡرً۬ا كَثِيرً۬ا
O you who believe, remember Allah abundantly [41:73]

So we need to bring this ayah into practice, and we need to have certainty in Allah swt that through this dhikr, He swt will grant us zuhd, ikhlas, taqwa, haya, good akhlaq etc. And if we don’t make effort to do dhikr, and to become dhakir, and we stay negligent, then know that due to this ‘ghaflah’, we will not attain taqwa, nor zuhd, nor haya, nor ikhlas.

This will then lead to a troubled life, and we will end up in sin, and by continuously sinning, we will become deprived of hikmah (wisdom), and we will always remain troubled and worried. This is why Allah swt has said in Qur’an,

أَلَا بِذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطۡمَٮِٕنُّ ٱلۡقُلُوبُ
Listen, the hearts find peace only in the remembrance of Allah. [13:28]

Because dhikr is the means to attain these qualities, and it is through these qualities that we will attain satisfaction, comfort, peace and happiness in our lives, and we will be protected from sorrow and worry.

May Allah swt make us from those who strive to become dhakir; may He swt make us conscientious and make us aware of our actions, and the intentions behind those actions.


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