In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
IKHLAS - SINCERITY
By ABUBAKR KAROLIA
What is the meaning of Ikhlas and why is it relevant in the life of a Muslim? Let us examine the outer and inner meaning of the word that will give us these answers. It is also our intention to explain such concept words that appear in the Noble Qur’an and why they are vibrant and essential for Muslim upliftment, re-education, to establish good character and the manner to appreciate and understand the Divine Guidance.
The Arabic root of the word ikhlas is kh-l-s, which means to be purified or refined. The very concept of refining, purifying and leaving nothing but the very essence of that, which was sought, which, in this case, is Allah.  Ikhlas is also explained as a simile that is as pure as honey or as pure as milk, which is direct from the udders of a cow and is not tainted with anything? Ikhlas is a concept of purity that is not tainted with pride – Riyah or anything else.  That is not to do anything in our life, other then for the sake and pleasure of Allah.
The underlying purpose to understand the meaning of the Arabic concept word Ikhlas is to establish in our hearts, its characteristic and value as a state and to keep firm to the submission, obedience and devotion of the Creator and not to worship anyone but Him.
Surah Al- Ikhlas – Sincerity, the 112th Chapter of the Glorious Qur’an is a pure description of the Creator and to acknowledge the total state of belief in Him and His Uniqueness.
Say: He is Allah, Absolute Oneness,
Allah, the Everlasting Sustainer of all.
He has not given birth and was not born.
And no one is comparable to Him. 
Hadrat Ali (R) said that that there is no interpretation for this Surah because its meaning is not veiled.  The Surah is sometimes called The Surah of Unity and is said to encapsulate the essence of the whole Qur'an. 
The Prophet (S) mentioned that Surah al Ikhlas is equal to one third of the Glorious Qur’an because it explains in a concise manner the principles of the Oneness of Allah – Tauheed, which is the cornerstone of the Din of Islam.  By reciting this Surah repeatedly, having faith in it and living its meaning in our constant worship of Allah, helps us develop and instill the value of Ikhlas.
This Surah show us that Allah is Unique and allows us to perhaps visualize His light and Majesty. If we are sincere to the Creator then He will share with us His sincerity.
Mukhlis means to be sincere and a Mukhlaas is a sincere one chosen by Allah. These are the people who achieve the highest stage of Ikhlas and are Allah’s dedicated friends - awliya.
The Mukhlis is the one in whose sight there is always a meeting with his Lord. 
In the Hikam of Ibn Ata’alla we find an aphorism concerning Ikhlas, “A light that is stored in the heart is supplied by the lights that come from the stores of the Unseen.”
The Rasul (S) was asked the meaning of Ikhlas and he said that he would ask the Great Angel Jibra’eel (AS). When he asked the archangel, he said that he would have to ask Allah, thus showing the importance of the question and of getting the right answer from the Highest authority.
Allah’s reply was: “It is a secret of My secrets. I have deposited it in the heart of the Abd (slave) that I love. No angel knows it, so it is not written, and no shaytan knows it, so it is not spoiled.”
What is of benefit is to encounter and seek the gifts of Allah with the proofs of sincerity in speech, action and state. He or she who acts according to this is given knowledge of what they do know by Allah. Then this knowledge comes from their Lord to their hearts. That is the most perfect of knowledge’s, and the most majestic, so understand, and seek it from you to you. From me and to me my cups have circled. 
There are three levels of Ikhlas – Sincerity. The first is darajat al aawaam – The level of the common people, - those who ask for earthly desire and for the Hereafter. The second is darajat al khawaas – The level of the special people, - those who ask for heavenly favours and the third is darajat khawaas al khawaas – The level of the elect of the special people - those people whose sole purpose is to be good servants of Allah – Ubudiyyah.
Shaykh Ibn Ata’alla in his book, The Book of Illumination shows us how to attain these high levels of Ikhlas - sincerity. Firstly, correcting one’s deeds through Ikhlas – sincerity and actively taking part and contributing in righteous deeds and secondly, correcting one’s sincerity by vigilantly keeping away from fame. To be distant from show and ostentation in ones intention and conduct. Other factors as superogatory prayers that are most essential to instill the value of Ikhlas in our hearts, as it is with these prayers that a servant of Allah draws closer to Him.
Abu Dharr (R) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stated:" He who comes with goodness, there are in store for him ten like those and even more than those: 'And he who comes with vice, ' it is only for that that he is called to account. I even forgive him (as I like) and he who draws close to Me by the span of a palm I draw close to him by the cubit, and he who draws close to Me by the cubit I draw close to him by the space (covered) by two hands, and he who walks towards Me I rush towards him, and he who meets Me in the state that his sins fill the earth, but not associating anything with Me, I would meet Him with the same (vastness) of pardon (on My behalf)." This Hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Waki'. 
Abu Huraira (R) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, thus stated: I am near to the thought of My servant as he thinks about Me, and I am with him as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in his heart, I also remember him in My Heart, and if he remembers Me in assembly I remember him in assembly, better than his (remembrance), and if he draws near Me by the span of a palm, I draw near him by the cubit, and if he draws near Me by the cubit I draw near him by the space (covered by) two hands. And if he walks towards Me, I rush towards him.
Ikhlas - sincerity and fame cannot be together in the same heart. One needs to be strong to get rid of hypocrisy, which is the direct opposite of sincerity. Our heart must be free from our lower desires – hawa and must be pure for a union between Allah and our spirit – the ruh.
Ikhlas must reflect in everything we do – our intentions, our Salah, etc.
A Hadith of the Rasul (S) speaks of Ikhlas - sincerity in the time of giving charity. The Prophet (S) said that your left hand must not know what your right hand gives.
The following verses from the Glorious Qur’an also highlight the necessity and importance of sincerity:
Surah 7 Al Araf (The Faculty of Discernment or Ramparts) Verse 28
“Say: “My Lord has commanded justice. Stand and face Him in every mosque and call on Him, making your Din sincerely His. As He originated you, so will you return.”
Surah 98 Al Bayyina (The Clear signs)) Verse 5
“They were only commended to worship Allah, making their Din sincerely His, as people of pure natural belief, and to establish salat and pay zakat – that is the correct Din. “
A Hadith Qudsi further shows us, how our characters are affected by not being sincere. The Rasul (S) said, “I fear for my Ummah a hidden shirk and that shirk is Riyah – Pride, Hypocrisy. Beware of this Shirk Khafiya – Hidden Shirk, as it is like a black ant walking on a black rock on a dark moonless night. We have to be careful that we do not place anything in our hearts other then Allah - we must be aware that our lower ego places itself before everything including The Creator, thus committing this hidden Shirk.
As Riyah - Pride, Nifaq - hypocrisy etc are diseases of the heart, Ibn Ata’alla advices for an active antidote, which is to practice Ikhlas – sincerity to Allah, Sidq – to be truthful to Allah and to make Zikr ullah – to remember and invoke Allah. To condition and nourish the heart with these three characteristics and methods will be a step forward to achieve a Qalbun Salim – a tranquil and sound heart. Qalbun Salim is the state of a pure heart that is a guiding principle in worshipping and achieving closeness to Allah.
In the Qur'an in Surah 26 As Shuara –The poets, Verse 87-89, Allah says that on the Day of Judgement, nothing will be of any use to us, except a sound heart – Qalbun Salim
87. And do not disgrace me on the Day they are raised up,
88. The Day when neither wealth nor sons will be of any use –
89. Accept to those that who came to Allah with a sound and flawless hearts.’ 
The Rasul (S) said that to nourish a seed, it requires good soil to germinate it in and so Hikmah – wisdom and Ikhlas - sincerity are required to groom a pure heart.
The fine words of Jalaludeen Al Rumi advices that:
“You should be sincere in your deeds,
So that the Majestic Lord may accept them.
Sincerity is the wing of the bird of the acts of obedience.
Without a wing, how can you fly to the abode of prosperity?”
The following words Shaykh Bayazid Al Bistami are also very appropriate:
“I worshipped my Lord for thirty years with all my strength. Then I heard a voice saying: O Bayazid! The treasures of Allah, Almighty are full of acts of worship. If you intend to reach Him, see yourself as small at the door of Allah and be sincere in your deeds.”
Self supervision is an essential dimension of Ikhlas – sincerity, and a truly sincere person does not consider any possible spiritual pleasure that may be derived, or speculate upon whether it will ensure entrance to Paradise.  Sincerity is a secret between Allah and the Abd – servant, who worships Him as He should be worshipped.
These levels of Ikhlas - sincerity can be achieved by active effort, total obedience, watchfulness, mindfulness, and devotion to Allah, the Ahad - One, the Samad - Eternal.
May Allah place this light of Ikhlas in our hearts and may He guide and keep us on the Straight Path. May He forgive our shortcomings and envelope us with his Barakah and Mercy.
AbuBakr Karolia – South Africa, April 2006
 Purification of the Heart, class and workshop on CD by Shaykh Hamza – Zaytuna Institute.
 The Noble Qur’an, A new rendering of its meaning in English 1999 – Abdalhaqq and Aisha Bewley – Page 641.
 Beams of Illumination from the Divine Revelation – A commentary on Juz Amma by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, Page 307 – 1999 printing.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 6, page 494.
 Shaykh Abdalqadir al Murabit – The Hundred Steps, page 17.
 Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Ajiba – The Basic Research, 1998, page 24.
 Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Ajiba – The Basic Research, 1998, page 24.
 Sahih Muslim, Book 35, 6499 - The Book Pertaining to the Remembrance of Allah, Supplication, Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness (Kitab Al-Zikr).
 Sahih Muslim, Book 35, 6471 - The Book Pertaining to the Remembrance of Allah, Supplication, Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness (Kitab Al-Zikr).
 The Noble Qur’an, A new rendering of its meaning in English 1999 – Abdalhaqq and Aisha Bewley – Page 139.
 The Noble Qur’an, A new rendering of its meaning in English 1999 – Abdalhaqq and Aisha Bewley – Page 627.
 The Noble Qur’an, A new rendering of its meaning in English 1999 – Abdalhaqq and Aisha Bewley – Page 353.
 Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism by M Fethullah Gulen – 1999 - Page 62.
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