Before we begin, the big question. Why do we study and why do we sacrifice?

We make immense sacrifices to gain knowledge; however, we should all make the sincere intention that we are seeking knowledge for the right reasons so that the sacrifice is worth it.

The intellect is a faculty of perception but it is ultimately governed by the heart. One will only benefit from knowledge if the heart is in the right place.

There are 3 reasons why people seek knowledge:

  1. Entertainment –for the “wow” or, “SubhanAllah” factor ( or these days “Infotainment”)
  2. Information- Like the Doctors that own Phd’s in Islamic Law. They are not Muslims themselves but excel in knowledge of Islam.
  3. Beneficial knowledge-which penetrates the heart. This should be the reason we all should be reading this.

In this article we aim to inculcate the understanding that all actions are based upon intentions.

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions.” (Bukhari)

Importance of this hadith:-

  1. Imam Bukhari-used this hadith 9 times- He used it instead of a book introduction.
  2. Imam Shafi-said that this hadith is one third of knowledge.
  3. Imam Dawood – said he had narrowed down 4000 hadiths to 4 and this was one of them.

Habit or worship?

In fact what distinguishes an act from worship is the mental/spiritual intention behind it.

Muslim or non muslim?

Muslims are distinguished from non-Muslims by their actions. The acts of Muslims are acts of worship intended to make Allah swt happy with.

Definition: What does Ikhlas mean?

The root letters are Kha, Laam, and Saad. Khalasa is the verb. The doer is called a “Mukhlis”.

Contextual –Khalasa means:

  1. To purify.
    • It means that there were once impurities inside something and we have extracted them.
    • You free that thing/heart and give it safety/peace from that impurity: Ibn Manzhoor
    • Impurities are called Shawb in Arabic
    • The pure heart will act and intend to worship purely for the sake of Allah swt.
    • The level of purity in the sincerity one has, is equal to the level of reward they will receive.
  2. To refine.
  3. To therefore, purify and refine our hearts so that we intend to do everything for Allah swt to make Him happy.
  4. The highest level of sincerity is to do something for 3 purposes jointly:-
    • For Allah swt
    • His promise of Jannah
    • Escape from Hellfire

Ikhlas is an action of the heart

There are many actions of the heart such as to love Allah swt, to rely upon Him etc. Ikhlas is one of the actions of the heart. It drives the heart which then drives the limbs to work perfectly for the pleasure of the One above. The heart is the King. The limbs are its soldiers. A pure healthy heart has ikhlas. It does everything purely for Allah swt. It feels sincerity and happiness.

Why must our intentions contain ikhlas/ be pure?

It is a Quranic obligation.
Some examples:-

  • “Say Allah alone do I worship being sincere to him in my religion.” 39:14 Al-Zumar
  • 98:5 Bayyinah
  • Al Anam 6: 162/182
  • It is a Prophetic obligation. “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions.” (Bukhari)
  • Without a pure intention to please Allah swt. The action will not be considered worship so our efforts will be wasted. Ibn Qayyim likened this to a traveller that puts sand inside his socks.

Socks and sand…(Ibn Qayyim, Al Fawaid 67)

Ibn Qayyim said that an action without sincerity is like a traveller that fills up his socks with sand. The socks don’t move or give the traveller benefit. Socks in those days were like the sports shoes we use these days to walk in or like a car. They were a tool for travelling. The traveller’s socks have no value since he cannot walk in them. His efforts are futile.

The success factor. In order for an act to be successful it must be sincere and proper

  • Sincere-Done only for Allah swt
  • Proper-Implemented according to the Sunnah

If you reach the heights of worship you will not reach the heights of heaven unless you have Ikhlas. A real concern. The dark side. A story of the unsuccessful.

An application of the above principles:-

Abu Hurayrah, who said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say,
‘Verily, the first to be judged on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who had died as a martyr. He will be brought forward. Allah will remind him of the favours He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. Then He will ask him: ‘What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: ‘I fought for Your Cause till I was martyred.’ Allah will say: ‘You have lied. You fought so that people might call you courageous; and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell.

Next a man who had acquired and imparted knowledge and read the Qur’an will be brought forward, Allah will remind him of the favours He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. Then He will ask him: ‘What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: ‘I acquired knowledge and taught it, and read the Qur’an for Your sake.’ Allah will say to him: ‘You have lied. You acquired knowledge so that people might call you a learned (man), and you read the Qur’an so that they might call you a reciter, and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him, and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell.

Next a man whom Allah had made affluent and to whom Allah had given plenty of wealth, will be brought forward, Allah will remind him of the favours He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. He will ask him: ‘What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply: ‘I did not neglect any of the ways You liked wealth to be spent liberally for Your sake’. Allah will say to him: ‘You have lied. You did it so that people might call you generous, and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell.”

Ikhlas grants forgiveness. It gives us positive hope.
The bright side. Stories of the successful.

A little ikhlas can go a long way in forgiving our sins. The shahaddah written on a card with pure sincerity or giving thirsty dog water are simple and small acts yet, the ikhlas with which they are done can force the doors of Allah’s Rahmah wide open.

The man and the shahaddah

The Messenger of Allah (S) said:”A person from my Ummah will be summoned in the presence of all creatures on the Day of Judgement. Ninety-nine records (of his deeds) would be unfolded, each extending as far as the range of the vision can stretch, then he would be asked: ‘Do you deny any of these deeds?’ He will reply: ‘No, My Lord.’ He will be asked: ‘Do you have any excuse or any good deed?’ The man who will be scared will say: ‘No’ It will be said to him: ‘Yes you have some good deeds. No iniquity will befall you.’ A card will then be shown to him, on it will be written: ‘Laailaaha ill Allah, Muhammad Rasool Allah.’ He will say: ‘O Allah! What cards and records are these?’ It will be said to him: ‘No injustice shall befall you.’ The (ninety-nine) records will then be placed in one pan of the scale and the card on the other. The card will then outweigh the records.” [At-Tirmidhi and Al-Haakim]

The Prostitute and the dog

Allah’s Apostle said, “A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol 4/Book 54/538)

Lessons we learn from these stories

Ikhlas is the easy way. In the moment of decision, destiny unfolds

The above examples are easy, soothing and reassuring reminders of Allah’s Rahmah. Just a small amount of ikhlas in small acts that may even appear to be as mundane as serving water to the thirsty can grant everlasting Paradise.

Ikhlas can easily beautify all the decisions we make, no matter how little they are, like saying something nice to someone that’s feeling down or staying quiet in order to avoid hurting someone’s heart. If we decide to do “doable” things to achieve Allah swt’s happiness and closeness then even that one second of sincerity can be the reason for everlasting success. In the moment of positive decision- destiny unfolds.

Amazing Ikhlas! Even a little, easily becomes a lot.

The outcome and quantity of actions is irrelevant. It is the purity and sincerity inside the heart that matters. Ikhlas is easily achievable and we do not need to be martyrs or scholars to achieve it and win our place in Jannah.

Where are our intentions of greatest significance?
What are the most important acts of worship?

Intentions are most relevant in our Salah and Akhlaaq. Why is this so?
Some of the most important questions on the Day of Judgement will be about our Salah and our Akhlaaq. In fact the very first question on the Day of Judgement will be about our Salah.


  1. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said :” The first act that a slave of Allah will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be his salah.
  2. If it is good then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” (Al NasaiKitaabul Salah –b. al muhasabah ala al-salah)
  3. Abu’d-Darda’ reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever has been given his portion of compassion has been given his portion of good. Whoever is denied his portion of compassion has been denied his portion of good. Good character will be the weightiest thing in the believer’s balance on the Day of Rising. Allah hates a coarse, foul-mouthed person.”(Al-adab al Mufrad-Imaam Bukhari)

Ikhlas in Salah

What is Salah?
Salah comes from the root letters SAAD – LAAM –YAH. Some grammarians say the last letter is WAW not YAH. Salah means to join or link. What an easy way to directly connect to Allah (swt)!

Salah is not something we merely read but an act of worship that we establish spiritually. Praying for the sake of Allah swt with ikhlas means that we should pray with our hearts and connect our souls to the words, meanings and movements of prayer. To attain this level of concentration is extremely easy. The simplest way is to learn the words and meanings of what we are saying and feel the power of them.

It has also been said that by focusing on what the tongue is saying the heart will also be inclined to naturally connect to Allah swt. Eventually this connection will become richer and stronger such that the soul also re connects with its Maker and Owner. When all three elements of the human being are worshipping in harmony and synchrony the true sweetness of salah is achieved. For some the achievement of this state takes longer than for others. It is contra- intuitive for us to sit still. However the state in itself is naturally and easily achievable. This is because we as human beings are reverting to our natural state which is one of submission.

Ikhlas in Akhlaaq-

The real goal of Rasool Allah pbuh, was to perfect our manners. Ikhlas when it is implemented in our Akhlaq becomes the key characteristic which makes us more valuable as humans.

The concept and purpose of human resource

The human resource is more important than any other resource in any organization; it is indispensible; it is more valuable than electricity etc.

Teamwork is the key to the efficient running of an organization; it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

Secular scholars from the corporate world suggest we bring the long term interests of employees in line with the organization’s objectives thereby increasing employee performance. Systems which provide employees with a voice in an organization cultivate long term commitment reducing exit costs and retaining trained/experienced capital.

Isn’t this the way of sincerity based on the Sunnah? Everyone doing mashwara and working together with unity and humility for Allah swt?

How to develop sincerity-The stop think button-The implementation of it all
Knowledge is that which we act upon. All the rest is academia. See the strategies below.

Ikhlas is a seal or protective plaster! Instructions for how to apply it:-

  1. Make dua before, during and after any major act of worship. Seek Allah swt’s counsel before doing something. It is preferable to pray salatul istikhara before making any decision. Pray for the acceptance of whatever it is you are doing.
  2. Regularly say the Dua for protection from Riya”Allahummainnia’udhubika an ushrikabikawaanaa’lamuwaastaghfiruka lima la a’lamu” [O Allah I seek refuge in You from knowingly associating partners with You, and I seek Your forgiveness for that which I do not know]. Sahih al Jami 3731
  3. Worry about acceptance from Allah swt, more than about how well you think you did.
  4. Connect the Tawfiq/opportunity to do something with Allah swt and see yourself as a mere vehicle that Allah swt chose out of his Rahmah. Had Allah wished He could have chosen others to do great acts of ibadah/dawah projects.
  5. We should fear that a lack of sincerity could result in projects that don’t fly but flop. If our sincerity flops so will our projects.
  6. Remember that Allah swt sends help, mercy and blessings to people who serve him sincerely and sacrifice their all for his sake. Without these intangible support sources we cannot achieve success. The strength to succeed is from Allah swt alone.
  7. Remember that the complacency of worshipping Allah swt lies in the reward He will give in the next life. He alone will reward us and give us the contentment of eternal Heaven. Contentment is not in the praise of people and how highly they rate us.
  8. Do not be too interested in public ratings, unnecessary press shoots, Facebook “likes” and huge followings. Be more interested in how people practically benefit and say their lives have been positively transformed by what they gain from a project/teaching institute.
  9. Do not be too keen in the”number game”. In getting/recruiting high numbers of followers/students/volunteers for the sake of feeling popular/successful. Rather, be more interested in giving maximum benefit to the maximum number of people for the sake of Allah swt.
  10. Seek forgiveness regularly especially at times when you are doing a project and you fear that you are losing Ikhlas and seeking human praise.
  11. Continually give shukr /make dua for students, helpers, volunteers who assist and sacrifice for a project. Do not be concerned with taking the credit for any project. Be disinterested in wanting a “title” e.g “Director”, “Sheikh” merely for the sake of wanting a title.
  12. Think of death constantly.
  13. Think often of the Akhira and the deen rather than the dunia.
  14. Avoid fame at all costs.
  15. Hide your good deeds like your sins.
  16. Avoid having “deen on display.”
  17. Do not yearn for people to hear of your good actions and how great you are. Rather choose to be anonymous at all costs.
  18. Be genuinely humble secretly and quietly and do not pretend outwardly to be so in order to impress people.
  19. Do not literally follow personalities and groups in order to keep up with trends but rather sincerely seek the beneficial knowledge they impart for the sake of Allah swt.
  20. Don’t try to win a “popularity contest” among people, rather wish to serve your fellow brothers and sisters to the best of your abilities for the sake of Allah swt.
  21. Do not disclose who you know and how well connected you are with important and famous people (in order to feel and look important )as this has no relationship with your personal status with Allah swt.
  22. Hope to serve others and do not wish to be served.
  23. Don’t look forward to be made a fuss over in order to feel important.
  24. Do not disclose titles, honorary positions, postgraduate qualifications to others unnecessarily.
  25. Don’t look for respect due to your family members, husbands, children etc.
  26. Increase your love for Allah swt and for others and do not expect the love and praise of people.
  27. When things go wrong in a project accept responsibility and apologise don’t “play victim” and blame others or find excuses. Be humble at all costs.
  28. Don’t get upset when your work is criticized. Accept positive criticism.
  29. Remember that if your ego feels bruised when people criticize your work then your sincerity may be in question.
  30. In the deen always look at people that are doing more than you for Allah swt yet are not showing off about it.
  31. In the dunia always look at those that have less than you and learn to feel grateful for what Allah swt has given you.
  32. Imagine how awful it could be if you lost all your abilities and resources to serve Allah swt. Feel grateful that you have been given the vehicles to serve Allah swt and Islam.
  33. Train yourself to leave comfort.
  34. Remain content If you lose your positions of “power” and “importance” like designations/posts/directorships.
  35. Allow praise and criticism to be equal to you.
  36. Remember that life is not for what you are living for but for who you are living it for. It is not the literal, material but the supernatural, eternal.
  37. Gain knowledge of your actions since without it actions could be implemented incorrectly.
  38. Have sabr and during the worship or project if you experience problems be willing to bear them gracefully without becoming an unpleasant person. Never ever yell at volunteers or be rude/abrupt with them.
  39. Protect good deeds like a rare and expensive, delicate pane of glass that can shatter and cost millons to repair if not handled with care. If good deeds are not protected with a protective seal of Ikhlaas they can shatter, not gain reward, and lead us to Hellfire. This is an awful prospect that can materialize even though the actions outwardly appeared to look great.

Spiritual diseases and spiritual malfunction

Diseases of the heart are more serious since if we do not treat them we may end up losing our Imaan(belief) and falling into hypocrisy. We should be more worried about the acceptance of the deeds rather than just doing and publicizing them.


Riya the desire to be seen and heard corrupts Ikhlaas. Rasool Allah (pbuh) warned the Ummah about the dangers of this when he said: “The thing that I fear the most for you is the minor Shirk: riyaa’.”(Reported by Ahmad in his Musnad vol 5 pp428-9).

Without diagnosis treatment is impossible. The most horrific aspect of this disease is that the one that is sick with it cannot easily diagnose it. This disease is like an invisible virus. It is difficult to see a sickness that is hidden so deeply inside the heart. Rasool Allah pbuh likened it to a black ant crawling on a black rock at night. It would be impossible to see this.

The one that does Riya is has been given the following synonyms:-

  1. Kaffir – a non- believer
  2. Fajir–one who is n the habit of doing evil things
  3. Ghadir -Traitor
  4. Khasir – The one that has wasted all his efforts and actions.

Rasool Allah Pbuh used to supplicate to Allah swt to keep his heart on Imaan.


Another disease highlighted is Sum’ah. This is when a person does an action or talks about it with the intention that he hears others talk about it and praise it.

A bigger picture

Sincerity is not just a religious matter for the Akhira but a discourse that will rectify our social, economic and political affairs. With sincerity even our matters in the dunia will run smoothly. Once we fix our matters correctly with Allah swt. He will fix everything for us.

Ikhlas means Tawheed:

Tawheed is the bedrock and basis of Islamic faith.

The Mukhlis is also the Muwahidd-the one that accepts the Oneness of Allah and has complete Tawheed. He is free from “ghair” Allah. He is free from slavery to other gods except Allah swt. The Mukhlis only wants to make Allah swt happy. His life is simple and easy and free.

Kalima, or the word, Ikhlas therefore means the Kalima, or word, Tawheed. “Surah Ikhlas” is also called “Surah Tawheed.” This surah is “khalis” or pure in conveying the greatest attribute of Allah swt i.e. His Oneness. The entire surah conveys the same message in every line, in all its ayahs, that Allah is one.

Pure Freedom

The Pure Pathway

When Allah grants us Ikhlas he safeguards us. He shields us from doing actions for people and their subjective praise. We are placed in a protected environment: safeguarded and freed from spiritual diseases and shirk. Our actions are complete in their purity. We are free.

Life is a risk. We can risk everything. Everything can be excused. We all know our own circumstances, however we should never risk our Ikhlas. The consequences are grave. The punishment for hidden shirk can be a reason for severe punishment in the Hereafter.

Sincerity is a driving force that pushes you to do an action. It is very important to maintain it. One scholar Sufyan at-Thawree said he could not control it. It was a great anxiety and worry:

  • “There is nothing more difficult for me to correct than my intention, for it continually attempts to change.”

The scholars say that there is only one type of whispering we should feel the desire to be plagued with. It is the desire to have the whisperings of Ikhlas. We should always doubt ourselves and ascertain whether we really are sincere in what we are doing every millisecond of the day.

Our real and ultimate dua

Our real dua should therefore be that Allah grants and protects us with Ikhlas.

We can also achieve this high state simply and easily just by loving Allah swt: our One and only true friend. We should always aim to remove those things from our lives that challenge our love for Him distance us from His pure path of goodness. The journey to a good friend is never a long one. Let’s pray that Allah blesses us all on this beautiful journey to him with the wonder of ikhlas.


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