Over the past few months, we have focused on several concepts which are integral to the understanding of Islam.
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During the month of Ramadan, 11th April 2021, [ https://ismailimail.blog/2021/04/11/chand-raat-of-ramadan-1442-hijri-12th-april-2021/ ], we focused on concept of ihsan, which Angel Gabriel described to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as “worshiping Allah as though you see Him and if you cannot see Him, then knowing that He sees you.” In its essence, ihsan is about striving to be the best person that one can be. We then explored walaya, which signifies devotion to the Imams while accepting the uniqueness of Allah and His final messenger. We also touched on the concept of tahara, or purity, which is not simply about physical cleanliness, or washing, or wudu/wadhu before presenting yourself before God but to be ritually pure in the presence of God; it points to a purity of the heart, the mind, the tongue and the soul.
But for us to adopt ihsan, walaya and tahara into our daily lives, we must first be sincere in our intentions and also in our actions. This idea of sincerity is often represented by the Qur’anic word, Ikhlas. Verses from a chapter in the Holy Qur’an by this name are included in the sixth part of the Ismaili Muslim Du’a. At its core, ikhlas is an attitude of the heart. It means that we do our best to refrain from all things worldly, while obeying and worshiping God. In a celebrated hadith of the Prophet, we are told that Allah (swt) judges us not by our wealth or appearance but by the genuineness of our intentions, our niyyat, and by what is truly in our hearts.
When it comes to our personal behavior and character, we must do things because they are inherently right, because they are pleasing to Almighty Allah. Our beloved fourth Imam, Mawlana Muhammad al-Baqir (alayhi salaam) once said: “When a man does some kindness to a relative or offers something for the sake of Allah, the reward of a good deed performed secretly is written for him. Later, if he mentions it to someone, that which was written earlier is wiped out and in its place the reward of a good deed performed openly is written for him. Later, when he makes mention of it again, what is written for him is the vice of showing off.”
Sincerity also applies to our religious act. For many of us, when we are learning about our traditions and practices, we are instructed by our parents, elders, and teachers on what we should do. We are taught how we should say our prayers and guided on what actions are required during each ceremony. In time, these actions become so routine and commonplace, they turn into mere habits. It is precisely at these times, when we become aware of this, that we must reflect on why we do certain things and or in certain ways.
If ihsan is about striving to be our best, then ikhlas is about ensuring that our actions are anchored by the right intentions. Imam Mawlana Ja’far al-Sadiq (alayhi salaam) once said, “To persist in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than performing the action itself, and sincerity of action means you should not desire anyone’s praise except that of Your Creator.”
Sincerity takes time to develop and often requires practice. True sincerity is about integrity and about striving to be spiritually honest with ourselves in all that we do. Whenever we have a few moments during our daily lives, we should remember our Creator. And in those moments, as well as during formal prayer times, we should aim to push all other thoughts away, so that our love and devotion to God can become purer and continue to grow.
Our faith teaches us to be humble, honest, generous, and compassionate. How many of us incorporate the values of humility, honesty, generosity, and compassion into our everyday lives? How many of us strive to develop an intimacy in our prayers when we speak to God? Piety is much more than just going through the motions, much more than performing the same actions over and over. Let us strive to be more sincere in all that we do.