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The Purification of the Soul - SINCERITY

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 30th November 2008 17:07

The Purification of the Soul - SINCERITY

Compiled from the works of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Ibn Al-Qayyim
al-Jawziyya, and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali.


Sincerity is the freeing of one's intentions from all
impurities in order to come nearer to Allah. It is to
ensure that the intentions behind all acts of worship and
obedience to Allah are exclusively for His pleasure. It is the
perpetual contemplation of the Creator, to the extent that one
forgets the creation.

Sincerity is a condition for Allah's acceptance of good
deeds performed in accordance with the sunnah of the
Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Allah has
commanded this in the Qur'an:

"And they have been commanded to worship only
Allah, being sincere towards Him in their deen
and true. (98:5)"

Abu Umama has related that a man once came to the
Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and
said, "What of a man who joined us in the fighting, his
intention being for fame and booty?" The Prophet said, "He
recieves nothing." The man repeated the question three times and
each time the Prophet said, "He receives nothing". Then he said,
"Allah only accepts actions that are intended purely for His

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri related that the Prophet (saw) said
in his khutba during the farewell pilgrimage, "Allah
will bless whoever hears these words and whoever understands
them, for it may be that those who pass on this knowledge are
not those who will understand it the best. There are three
things concerning which the heart of a believer should feel no
enmity or malice: devoting one's actions to Allah, giving
counsel to the Imams of the Muslims, and being loyal to the

What is meant here is that these three things strengthen
the heart, and whoever distinguishes himself in them
will have a heart purified from all manner of deceit, corruption
and evil.

A servant can only free himself from shaytan through
sincere devotion, for Allah tells us in the Quran that
Iblis said to Him:

"Except those of Your servants who are sincere.

It has been related that a rigtheous man used to say, "O
self, be devout and you will be pure." When any wordly
fortune, in which the self finds comfort and towards which the
heart inclines, intrudes upon our worship, then it impairs the
purity of our efforts and ruins our sincerity. Man is
preoccupied with his good fortune and immersed in his desires
and appetites; rarely are his actions or acts of worship free of
temporary objectives and desires of this kind. For this reason
it has been said that whoever secures a single moment of pure
devotion to Allah in his life will survive, for devotion is rare
and precious, and cleansing the heart of its impurities is an
exacting undertaking.

In fact, devotion is the purifying of the heart from all
impurities, whether few or many, so that the intention of
drawing nearer to Allah is freed from all other motives, except
that of seeking His pleasure. This can only come from a lover
of Allah, who is so absorbed in contemplation of the next world
that there remains in his heart no place for the love of this
world. Such a person must be devote and pure in all his actions,
even in eating, drinking and answering the calls of nature.
With rare exceptions, anyone who is not like this will find the
door of devotion closed in his face.

The everyday actions of a person who is overwhelmed by
his or her love for Allah and the akhira are
characterised by his love and they are, in fact, pure devotion.
In the same way, anyone whose soul is overwhelmed by love for
and preoccupation with this world, or status and authority, will
be so overwhelmed by these things that no act of worship, be it
prayer or fasting, will be acceptable, except in very rare

The remedy for love of this world is to break the
worldly desires of the self, ending its greed for this
world and purifying it in preparation for the next world. This
will then become the state of the heart and sincere devotion
will become easier to attain. There are a great many actions
where a man acts, thinking they are purely intended for Allah's
pleasure, but he is deluded, for he fails to see the defects in

It has been related that a man was used to praying in
the first row in the mosque. One day he was late for the
prayer, so he prayed in the second row. Feeling embarrassment
when people saw him in the second row, he realised that the
pleasure and satisfaction of the heart that he used to gain from
praying in the first row were due to his seeing people seeing
him there and admiring him for it. This is a subtle and
intangible condition and actions are rarely safe from it. Apart
from those whom Allah has assisted, few are aware of such
delicate matters. Those who do not realise it only come to see
their good deeds appearing as bad ones on the Day of
Resurrection; they are the ones referred to in Allah's words:

"And something will come to them from Allah
which they
had never anticipated, for the evil of their
deeds will become apparent to them. (39:47-48)"

And also:

"Say: Shall We tell you who will lose most in
respect of their
deeds? Those whose efforts were astray in the
life of this world, while they thought that
they were doing good works. (18:103-104)"

Yaqub said: "A devout person is someone who conceals
things that are good, in the same way that he conceals
things that are bad."

As-Sousi said: "True devotion is to lose the faculty of
being conscious of your devotion; for someone who
identifies devotion in his devotion is a person whose devotion
is in need of devotion." To contemplate devotion is to admire
it, and admiration is an afflication; and that which is pure is
whatever is free of all afflictions. This means that one's deeds
should be purified from any self-admiration concerning the
actions they entail.

Ayyub said: "It is much harder for the people of action
to purify their intentions than it is to execute any of
their actions."

Some people have said: "To be devout for a short while
is to survive for ever, but devotion is rare."

Suhail was asked: "What is the most difficult thing for
the self? He said: "Devotion, when the self does not
have the good fortunre of being endowed with it."

Al-Fudayl said: "Forsaking action for the sake of other
people is to seek their admiration. To act for the sake
of their admiration is to associate others with Allah. Devotion
is when Allah frees you from both of these states.

Notes: 1. Sahih, an-Nisa'i, Kitab al-Jihad, 6/25; al Hafidh ibn
Hajar, Fath al-Qadir, 6/28. 2. Sahih, Ibn Ma'jah; also Ibn
Hibban, Marwarid adh-Dham'an, p.47, on the authority of Zaid ibn

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