Virtue of Ikhlas

Virtue of Ikhlas

by Sayyidi Abd al-Qadir Jilani

2. CONCERNING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SINCERE DEVOTION [IKHLAS].

 

As for the significance of sincere devotion [ikhlas], Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has said:

And they have been commanded only to serve Allah, making the religion His sincerely as men of pure faith.  (98:5)

wa ma umiru illa li-ya'budu 'llaha  mukhlisina la-hu 'd-din:hunafa'a.

He has told us (Glorious and Exalted is He):

Surely pure religion is only for Allah. (39:3)

a-la li'llahi 'd-dinu 'l-khalis.

He has said (Exalted is He):

Their flesh and blood do not reach Allah, yet your devotion reaches Him.  (22:37)

lan yanala 'llaha luhumu-ha wa la dima'u-ha wa lakin yanalu-hu 't-taqwa min-kum.

He has also told us (Magnificent is His Majesty):

Say [to the people of the Scripture]:
"Do you dispute with us concerning Allah, when He is our Lord and your Lord?"

Ours are our works and yours are your works, and we are sincerely devoted to Him. (2:139)

qul a-tuhajjuna-na fi 'llahi wa Huwa Rabbu-na wa Rabbu-kum:wa la-na a'malu-na wa la-kum a'malu-kum: wa nahnu la-hu mukhlisun.

People have held differing opinions with regard to the meaning of sincere devotion [ikhlas].  For instance, it was al-Hasan [al-Basri] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:

"I asked Hudhaifa (may Allah be well pleased with him):  'What is meant by sincere devotion [ikhlas]?'  He replied:  'I once asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):  "What is meant by sincere devotion [ikhlas]?"  He replied (Allah bless him and give him peace): 

"'I once asked Gabriel (peace be upon him): "What is meant by sincere devotion [ikhlas]?"  He replied:  "I once asked the Lord of Might and Glory [Rabb al-'Izza] (Majestic and Exalted is He):  'What is meant by sincere devotion [ikhlas]?'  So He told me (Glory be to Him and Exalted is He): 'It is a secret, a part of My secret knowledge [sirr min Sirri], which I entrust to the heart of anyone I love among My servants."

According to a report from Idris al-Khawlani (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

For every truth [haqq] there is a real meaning [haqiqa] to be experienced, and a servant [of the Lord] will not experience the real meaning of sincere devotion [ikhlas], until he no longer likes to be praised for any work he performs for the sake of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). 

It was Sa'id ibn Jubair [ibn Hisham al-Asadi] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:   "The meaning of sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that the servant [of the Lord] devotes his religion sincerely to Allah, that he puts it into practice for the sake of Allah (Exalted is He), that he attributes no partner to Him in his religion, and that he does not seek to impress anyone with his religious practice."

It was al-Fudail [ibn 'Iyad at-Talaqani] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "To neglect one's religious practice for the sake of other people is a form of hypocrisy [riya'].  To perform one's religious practice for the sake of other people is a form of polytheistic idolatry [shirk].  As for sincere devotion [ikhlas], it is being afraid that Allah (Exalted is He) might chastise you for either of these two offenses."

It was Yahya ibn Mu'adh [ar-Razi] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means keeping one's religious practice uncontaminated by imperfections, as in the process of milking a ruminant, when the milk must be preserved from contamination by the animal's droppings and blood." 

It was Abu 'l-Husain al-Bushanji (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is so subtle that the two [recording] angels do not take note of it, the devil [shaitan] cannot corrupt it, and one's fellow human being is quite unaware of it."   

Ruwaim (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) once said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means removing one's admiring gaze from the action performed."

 Other noteworthy sayings include the following:

"Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that which is intended to serve the truth [haqq], and which is pursued for the sake of honesty [sidq]."

 "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that which is neither mixed with corrupting influences, nor dependent on the concessions offered by convenient interpretations [rukhas at-ta'wilat]."

 "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that which is concealed from creatures [khala'iq] and kept free from attachments ['ala'iq]."

 It was Hudhaifa al-Mar'ashi who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means that the actions of the servant [of the Lord] are of the same quality on the outside [zahir] and the inside [batin]."

 It was Abu Ya'qub al-Makfuf who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means that a person keeps his good deeds hidden, just as he conceals his bad deeds."

 Sahl ibn Abdi'llah [at-Tustari]478 once said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is bankruptcy [iflas]."

 According to a traditional report, transmitted on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said: 

There are three habits, by conforming to which the heart of a Muslim will not be invaded by rancor, malevolence, malice or spite.  They are:  (1) working for the sake of Allah with sincere devotion [ikhlas], (2) giving honest counsel [munasaha] to those in positions of authority, and (3) keeping closely in touch with the community [jama'a] of the Muslims.

The following anonymous sayings also deserve to be quoted: 

 "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is single-minded dedication to the Truth [Haqq] in the practice of worshipful obedience [ta'a].  It means that the servant practices his worshipful obedience for the purpose of drawing near to his Master [Mawla], to the exclusion of any of His creatures.  It means that he does not behave in an artificial manner, designed to impress his fellow creatures, to win their praise, to attract their love, and to shield himself against their blame and criticism."

 "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means keeping one's conduct free from the meddling influence of other creatures."

 It was Dhu 'n-Nun al-Misri (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:   "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] does not become complete, unless it is tested by truthfulness [sidq] and practiced with patience [sabr].  Nor does truthfulness [sidq] become complete, unless it is pursued with sincere devotion [ikhlas] and practiced with constant perseverance [mudawama]."

 Abu Ya'qub as-Susi had this to say on the subject:  "Whenever people are sure that they can see a sincere devotion in their sincere devotion [fi ikhlasi-him ikhlasan], their 'sincere devotion' is badly in need of a dose of sincere devotion!"

 Dhu 'n-Nun al-Misri (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) once said:  "There are three reliable symptoms of sincere devotion [ikhlas], namely:  (1) equal indifference to praise and blame from the common folk, (2) a lack of interest in the impression made by good deeds, and (3) regarding the reward for religious practice as a matter to be decided in the hereafter, [not in this world]."  

 He also said (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him):  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that which is safe from being corrupted by the Enemy [Satan]."

 It was Abu 'Uthman al-Maghribi (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that in which the lower self [nafs] has no share whatsoever.  That is the sincere devotion of the ordinary folk [ikhlas al-'awamm].  As for the sincere devotion of the élite [ikhlas al-khawass], that is something that happens to them, not because of them."

 It was Abu Bakr ad-Daqqaq (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "The shortcoming of everyone who tries to be sincere [mukhlis] in his sincere devotion, is the tendency to admire his sincere devotion [ikhlas].  If Allah (Exalted is He) wishes to purify his sincere devotion [an yukhallisa ikhlasa-hu], He will therefore rid his sincerity of that tendency to admire his sincere devotion, so he will then be a mukhallas [one who has been made sincere through purification], rather than a mukhlis [one who tries to be sincere]."

 Sahl [ibn Abdi'llah at-Tustari] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) once said:  "No one can see through hypocritical display [riya'], apart from one who is sincere [mukhlis]."

 It was Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz481 (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "The pretentiousness of those who know by direct experience [riya' al-'arifin] is worth more than the sincere devotion of the novices [ikhlas al-muridin]."

 Abu 'Uthman [al-Maghribi] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) also said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means forgetting to notice one's fellow creatures [khalq], through paying constant attention to the Creator [Khaliq]."

 One of the wise once said:

 "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is that by which the truth [haqq] is sought, and which is pursued for the sake of honesty [sidq]."

 It was Sari as-Saqati (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "If someone tries to impress other people, by flaunting something he does not have within him, he will fall from grace in the sight of Allah (Exalted is He)."

 It was al-Junaid (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] is a secret between Allah (Exalted is He) and the servant [of the Lord].  No angel is privy to it, to be able to record it, nor any devil [shaitan], to be able to corrupt it, and no passionate desire, to be able to distort it. "

 Ruwaim (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) once said:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas], in religious work, is that for which its practitioner seeks no recompense in either of the two Abodes [ad-Darain], nor any share in the two Domains [al-Mulkain]."

 When someone asked [Sahl] ibn 'Abdi'llah [at-Tustari] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him):  "What is the hardest thing for the lower self [nafs] to bear?" he replied:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas], because it has no share therein."

 To quote another anonymous saying:  "Sincere devotion [ikhlas] means that you invite no one, apart from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) to notice your religious practice."

 The following incidents were reported by one of the righteous, who said:

 "I paid a visit to Sahl ibn 'Abdi'llah [at-Tustari] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), one Friday before the congregational prayer [salat].  I spotted a snake in the house, so I started taking one step forward and another step back, but he said:  'Come on in!  No one attains to the reality of faith [haqiqat al-iman], as long as there is anything, on the face of the earth, of which he is still afraid.'  Then he went on to say:  'Are you thinking of attending the congregational prayer [salat al-jum'a]?'  'Hardly,' said I, 'since it would take a day and a night to travel the distance between here and the mosque [masjid].'  So he took me by the hand, and it seemed like no time at all before I could see the mosque.  We went inside and performed the congregational prayer [sallaina 'l-jum'a], then we came outside again.  Sahl stood and watched the people as they emerged, then he said:  'Many are those who repeat the words:  "There is no god but Allah [la ilaha illa 'llah]," but few of them are sincere [mukhlisin].'

 "On another occasion, when I was with Ibrahim al-Khawwas484 (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) on a journey, we came to a place in which there were many snakes.  He laid his water-flask [rakwa] on the ground, and sat down, so I sat down too.  Then, when the night turned cool, and the air grew cold, out came the snakes.  I yelled at the Shaikh in alarm, but he said:  'Just remember Allah (Exalted is He),' so I remembered Him, and the snakes recoiled.  But then they came back again, so I yelled at the Shaikh, and he gave me the same advice as before.  I found myself in that same situation, right through to the break of day.  Then, when the dawn had arrived, he stood up and started walking, so I walked along with him.  Suddenly, out of the seat of his pants, there fell a huge serpent, which had gathered itself into a coil.  'Did you not feel it?' I asked, but he said:  'No, it has been a long time since I spent a night as pleasant as this last one.'"

 It was Abu 'Uthman [al-Maghribi] (may Allah the Exalted bestow His mercy upon him) who said:  "If a person has never tasted the lonely isolation of heedlessness [wahsat al-ghafla], he will never discover the sweet taste of the intimate friendship of remembrance [uns adh-dhikr]."

 

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