6 ways to maintain Ikhlāṣ

Ikhlāṣ (sincerity) refers to the Islamic concept of doing good deeds for the pleasure of Allah. Ikhlāṣ is one of two conditions for the validity of any deed. For any deed to be acceptable to Allah, it must be in conformity with Islamic Law and it needs to be done with ikhlāṣ. This makes ikhlāṣ a very crucial and central theme in Islam. There are many evidences regarding the importance of ikhlāṣ and many warnings about not having ikhlāṣ.

From the evidences of the importance of ikhlāṣ is the opening narration of Sahih al-Bukhari;

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, deeds are only with intentions and every person will have only what they intended. Whoever emigrated to Allah and His Messenger, his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever emigrated to get something in the world or to marry a woman, his emigration is for that to which he emigrated.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1907

From this narration, we learn that we are rewarded or punished based on the sincerity of our actions. The following narration drives home the importance of ikhlāṣ.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, my greater fear for you is the lesser idolatry.” They said, “What is the lesser idolatry, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “It is ostentation. Allah Almighty will say to them on the Day of Resurrection, when people are being recompensed for their deeds: Go to those for whom you made a show in the world and look, do you find any reward with them?”

Musnad Aḥmad 23119

Despite these clear evidences, ikhlāṣ remains something everybody struggles with due to the whisperings of the devil and the cravings of the ego. It is extremely difficult to dedicate one’s life to Islamic work without occasional lapses in one’s intention. Our religion prescribes several methods to help up recognize and fix wrong intentions, and maintain ikhlāṣ.

1. Daily Muḥāsaba

Muḥāsaba (self-accountability) refers to the classical Islamic practice of holding oneself accountable for one’s deeds and intentions. It is important to regularly check one’s deeds and intentions to ensure spiritual growth and sincerity. This can be done by taking the time to sit and think about one’s day. Reflect on how many good deeds were done in the day, as well as why they were done. After doing so, work on a plan to improve. Muḥāsaba is an important and crucial step towards maintaining sincerity and catching oneself when slipping.

2. Secret Good Deeds

It is very easy to fall into wrong intentions when doing good deeds in public. Yet it is the nature of many good deeds that they require public effort. Dawah, Salah in congregation, and many other types of good deeds take place in public. This is a challenge for one’s sincerity. One of the ways to improve sincerity is to have a regular habit of secret good deeds. This can be extra Salah, Quranic recitation, remembrance of Allah, charity, or any other good deed. Regular good deeds that are done in secret ensure that at least such deeds are done solely for the pleasure of Allah. the sincerity of such deeds can also rub off on one’s public deeds, saving a person from going astray in this matter.

3. Remembering one’s secret sins

Another way to fight the ego is to remind oneself of one’s secret sins. Every human has their secret sins and mistakes that nobody knows besides Allah. These sins are often forgotten about as the ego takes over. If anyone feels religious arrogance creeping in, and notices that it is modifying their intentions, a simple solution is to remind oneself of one’s sins and weaknesses. This brings a person back down to earth, humbling them with the crushing reality of their own weaknesses and shameful mistakes.

4. Seeking forgiveness

As humans, we strive to do our best but remain weak. Our efforts are also full of mistakes and deficiencies. Whether in form or intention, mistakes are often unavoidable. one way to make up for this is to seek forgiveness daily. We should seek forgiveness multiple times a day, not just for our sins but for our lapses in intentions as well as the deficiencies in our efforts. This practice of seeking forgiveness not only humbles the soul but also makes up for momentary lapses in intention.

5. Asking Allah for sincerity

Everything we need can only come from Allah. He is our provider and so we ask of Him for everything we want. This applies to sincerity as well. Our hearts belong to Allah and only He can bless us with true deep sincerity. Therefore, we must ask Allah every day, especially before doing a public good deed, to rectify our intentions and keep our deeds purely for his sake. This supplication serves as both a reminder to ourselves and a means to gain deeper sincerity through an accepted supplication.

6. Supplementary good deeds to make up for lapses in intention

The final step to overcoming wrong intentions is to follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These supplementary good deeds make up for any mistakes in the primary good deeds. For example, after praying Dhuhr in the Masjid, we should pray two units of extra prayer at home to make up for any lapses in intention or deficiency in attention. Likewise, after giving charity publicly, we should give a bit more secretly in case the intention of the original deed is compromised. These extra deeds help make up for mistakes and keep us grounded in the obedience of Allah.

Summary

Ikhlāṣ is necessary for any deed to be acceptable to Allah. To us maintain sincerity, we need to reflect daily on our inner state, do extra good deeds in private, remind ourselves of our secret sins, seek forgiveness for our mistakes, ask Allah for sincerity, and follow up our good deeds with more good deeds. These steps will help us stay sincere and keep us on the straight path. We ask Allah for ikhlāṣ throughout our lives, firm faith, and a blessed ending in a state that is pleasing to Him. Ameen.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.

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