For an action to be Hasan (good) it is necessary to sincerely purify the intention for Allah and for the act to be in agreement with the Shar’a (Islamic legislation). Due to this, the early Scholars (May Allah’s mercy be upon them) used to combine these too fundamental principles.
In respect to the speech of Allah (swt)
“Who created the death and the life so that he may test you, which of you will be the best in deed” (Mulk 2).
In regards to this Aayah, Al-Fudail Bin ‘Iyaad said it means: Akhlasuhu (Its most sincere) and Aswabuhu (Its most correct). He was asked: ‘What do Akhlasuhu and Aswabuhu mean?’ He responded:’ If the action is correct but is not sincere then it is not accepted and if it was sincere but not correct then it will not be accepted. It will not be accepted until it is sincere and correct, sincere in that it is purely for Allah and correct in that it is upon the Sunnah’.
Sa’eed Ibn Jubair said: ‘The statement (Qawl) is not accepted unless there is action, the statement and the action are not accepted in the absence of the Niyah (intention), and the statement, action and Niyah are not accepted unless they are all in agreement with the Sunnah’.
Indeed ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) used to make the following Du’aa: ‘O Allah make every act of mine Saalih (upright), and make it purely for Your sake and don’t let any part of it be for other than you’.
And it has been narrated about Al-Imaam Maalik that he said: ‘The Sunnah is the ship of Nuh (as). Whoever boards it has been saved and whoever stays back from it is drowned’.
The Da’wah carrier guards with the utmost attention and caution the perfection of his acts and to make sure that in his Da’wah he does not seek any worldly gain. If he did so, his action would hold no worth and he would be from amongst those who have lost.
The Noble Hadeeth states:
Anyone who gains knowledge so that he can vie and debate with Scholars, argue with the foolish and to draw people to his personality, Allah will make him enter the fire. (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibbaan and others but there is weakness in the Isnaad).
The focus must be towards perfecting the action and not quantity of the action.
Allah (swt) said
That he may test you, which of you will be the best in deed (Al-Mulk 2)
He (swt) did not say: To see which of you did the most actions.
It was narrated from Maalik Bin Deenaar that he said: ‘Say to those who has not been Saadiq (truthful/sincere) (in his action). Don’t wear yourself out!’. Once when Abu Umaamah walked past a person who was in Sajdah he remarked: ‘What a wonderful Sajdah that is, had it taken place in your house’ and Fudail Bin ‘Iyaad said: ‘How many times is this house (the Ka’bah) circumbulated whilst there is another person in a far off place who has much greater reward than him’.
Due to all of this, it is obligatory to observe pure sincerity (Ikhlaas) and the best intentions when undertaking all acts. This is because the validity of actions and their being accepted by the Lord of the worlds (swt) rests upon the Niyah (intention). In regards to the Hadeeth:
Actions are only by the intentions and every person will attain what he intended (Agreed upon).
It is not strange to find, that the ‘Ulamaa considered this Hadeeth representative of one third of the Ahaadeeth that Islaam revolves around. The earliest of the ‘Ulamaa from the Salaf used to prefer to place this Hadeeth first and ahead of every matter that arises from the matters of the Deen due to its general application over all kinds of matters.
Ikhlaas in their view meant making the actions of the servants the same whether they were open or hidden. Al-Imaam Al-Haarith Al- Mahaasabiy said: ‘The Saadiq (truthful/sincere person) does not mind if he loses all appreciation from the hearts of creation for the sake of reforming his own heart. He does not like to inform people about the good that he has done whilst not hating that the people find out about the bad that he has done’. And AL-Imaam Al-Qushairiy said: ‘Al- Ikhlaas is singling out Al-Haqq (Allah) Subhaanahu Wa Ta’Aalaa in obedience by his intention. And by his obedience he wishes only to draw close to Allah Ta’Aalaa and nothing else, whether his intention is aimed towards the creation so that he is commended amongst the people or so that he gains love and praise from the creation, or any other direction that is other than the direction that aims purely at attaining closeness to Allah Ta’Aalaa’.
Al-Hasan Bin Ar-Rabee’ said in relation to the Jihaad of the honourable Imaam ‘Abdullah Ibn ul Mubaarak: ‘A masked rider from amongst the Muslims went out into the battle and killed a rider from amongst the enemy who had been having his way with the Muslims. The Muslims then made Takbeer (Allahu Akbar) and he entered into the midst of the people and nobody knew who he was. I followed him until I asked him that by Allah he should take off his mask. I then recognised him and said: ‘Are you hiding yourself despite this great victory that Allah has made easy by your hands?’ He replied: ‘The one for whom I did it, nothing is hidden from Him’.
Ibn Qutaibah said in his book ’Uyoon Al-Akhbaar’: ‘Maslamah bin ‘Abdul Malik laid siege to a fortress and this fortress had some holes that had been made in the wall. So the people wanted someone to enter through it but nobody did so. Then an (unknown) person came from within the midst of the army, he went through it and then Allah opened the fortress via him which led to victory. Maslamah then called out: ‘Where is the one who went through the hole?’ When nobody came to him he then called out again and ordered the guard to let the person in at the time of his coming as he was determined to wait for him. A man later approached the guard and sought permission to see the Ameer (Army leader). The guard asked him if he was the soldier of the holes and he responded by saying: ‘I will tell you all who he is’. The guard then went to Maslamah and told him about the man who had approached. Maslamah then gave him permission to enter and the man said to him: ‘The soldier of the holes demands three things from you (i.e. conditions): That you do not propagate his name, that you do not order him with anything and that you do not ask him who he is i.e. from which tribe etc..)’ Maslamah responded and said: He can have that. So the man said: ‘I am the one’. Then after this incident Maslamah would not perform a prayer except that he would say: ‘O Allah let me be raised with the soldier of the holes’.
How beautiful was the statement of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (rh) when he spoke about the consequences of having pure sincerity to Allah Ta’Aalaa when he said: ‘The level of Allah’s help and assistance to His slaves is in accordance to the level of the intentions. So the one who has perfected his intention then the help of Allah is perfected for him whilst the one who falls short in his Niyah then the help of Allah will fall short for him’.
From amongst the signs and manifestations of Ikhlaas (sincerity) is submitting to the truth, accepting advice and even if it came from someone considered to be of a lower station or level to him, so his breast does not feel any tightening or constriction if the truth is manifested by others to him.
Ibn Hajar (rh) narrated in his ‘Tahdheeb At-Tahdheeb’ when mentioning ‘Ubaidullah Bin Al-Hassan Al-‘Anbariy who was one of the prominent people of Al-Basrah, from their ‘Ulamaa and their Judge. He narrated that his student ‘Abdur Rahman Bin Mahdi said: ‘We were at a Janaazah and he was asked a question and made an error in his answer. So I said: May Allah correct your affair, the correct answer is such and such. He lowered his head and said: In that case return for I am made low. To be a tail upon the Haqq (truth) is more beloved to me that to be the head upon Baatil (falsehood)’.
Another sign of Ikhlaas is not to be overbold in regards to providing a Fatwaa or legal ruling and it is for this reason that many of the righteous predecessors used to be very cautious in regards to providing verdicts and wished that they would not be asked.
‘Abdur Rahmaan Bin Abi Laylaa said: ‘I met one hundred and twenty of Messenger’s (saw) companions. One of them would be asked a question on an issue and he would pass the question on to another, and then that one would pass it to the next, until the issue would return back to the first’.
As such, the one who loves to issue verdicts in sittings and be questioned, is someone who has been regarded to be not qualified or fit to be asked.
Bishr Bin Al-Haarith (rh) was from the most prominent ‘Ulamaa and he was not shy or embarrassed to say: ‘I do not know’. Ash-Sha’bi was asked about a matter one day and he said: ‘I don’t know’. He was then asked if he was embarrassed to say that he didn’t know whilst he was the Faqeeh (Jurist) of the Iraaqiyeen (people of Al-Iraq). He replied: ‘But the angels were not shy or embarrassed when they said Exalted are You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us (Al- Baqarah 32).
The following was mentioned in the Tabaqaat of Ash-Shaafi’iyah:
Al-Qaadi ‘Izz ud-Deen Al-Hakaariy narrated in a book of his a mention of the life of Sheikh ‘Izz ud-Deen ‘Abdus Salaam. He said that Sheikh ‘Izz ud-Deen once provided a Fatwaa (verdict) and then the error of his judgment became evident to him. He then called out in Egypt and Cairo against himself saying: ‘The one who provided a verdict to so and so, do not act in accordance with it, because it is an error’.
Taken from the book At-Taqarrab Ila Allah by Fawzi Sunuqrot