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Articles Section > Sincerity


Sincerity:
by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


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The Holy Quran has placed great emphasis on the quality of sincerity in our thoughts, words and deeds and has laid it down as a pre-requisite of our spiritual fulfilment as we read in 98:5:

And they are enjoined naught but to serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright, and to keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and that is the right religion.

The recompense of such is given in verse 8:

Their reward is with their Lord: Gardens of perpetuity wherein flow rivers, abiding therein for ever. Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.

Our Holy Prophet (pbuh), too, in answer to a question from his Companions (rta): "O Prophet, what is religion?" replied thus: "Religion is sincerity." When asked to whom, he said: "To Allah and His Book, and to His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk" (Muslim).

When we human beings are insincere to our family and friends or to others in general, we are forced to live a life of deception, anxiety and fear and we do things that undermine the stability of our inner self and bring unhappiness to our own selves. For example, we always have to hide and cover up our intentions and are always afraid of being found out. Or, we may have to do things to please others, thus stifling out our legitimate desires, concerns and ambitions and living an unfulfilled life, perhaps seething with in impotent rage at our own cowardice and spinelessness. Of course, we may try to fool ourselves by rationalising our behaviour to make it palatable for us to swallow. For example, we may consider ourselves as martyrs who are sacrificing our lives for others. Or, we may do things for show or for personal gain and so become very cold and calculating in our actions, and if we are not careful, we may end up becoming confirmed hypocrites who misuse even the sacred institution of prayer, as the Holy Quran tells us:

And they come not to prayer except as lazy people (9:54).

And when they do come, it does not benefit them for their motives are selfish and vain, as we read in 107:4-7:

So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayer! Who do (good) to be seen, and refrain from acts of kindness!

In fact, if we behave like that, not only do we begin to use people conveniently, but we extend the same treatment to Allah, Most High, as can be seen when we fall into danger or suffer a calamity, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. We call to Allah for help in total sincerity, but this earnestness is short-lived for it does not last after the tribulation is lifted. This false sincerity and its consequences are described in the Holy Quran in 10: 22-23:

He it is Who makes you travel by land and sea; until, when you are in the ships, and they sail on with them in a pleasant breeze, and they rejoice at it, a violent wind overtakes them and the billows surge in on them from all sides, and they deem that they are encompassed about. Then they pray to Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience: If Thou deliver us from this, we will certainly be of the grateful ones. But when He delivers them, lo! They are unjustly rebellious in the earth. O men, your rebellion is against yourselves – a provision (only) of this world’s life. Then to Us is your return, so We shall inform you of what you did.

As a matter of fact, so blinded do we become, by the falsity of our hearts and the selfishness of our motives, that we even misunderstand and distort the favours of Allah to us and in our vanity we see them as further evidence of our own greatness, 'specialness', and superiority over others, and a peculiar kind of boasting results. One example will suffice. A certain gentleman became suddenly ill at home and fell into a coma. Through Allah’s grace, some friends were visiting him at the time and they had the presence of mind to rush him to the hospital, where again he was fortunate enough to receive an emergency operation. When he recovered consciousness, he was told by one of the doctors, that if he (the patient) had come in to the hospital two minutes late he would have died, and if the doctor had not stayed back at the hospital for a few minutes, because he was expecting a telephone call, the worst would have occurred. Now, instead of giving thanks to Allah in complete humility and gratitude and devoting the rest of his formerly negligent life to the way of the Beneficent, he paraded this incident as conclusive proof of his own greatness and in his numerous repetitions of this super experience he caused people to remark jokingly and ironically: "Here he is making us feel jealous. We, too, wish that we can become ill as he was and take Allah’s favours as an emblem of our own honour."

It is amazing how foolishly we behave when we seem to think that we can outwit Allah, the Almighty Who is Al Basir (The Seer), Al ‘Alim (The Knower), Alimul gharbi wash-shahadati (Knower of the hidden and the manifest), Al Latif-ul-Khabir (The Knower of the Most subtle secrets, the Aware) and Who has told us in unmistakable terms that we will be called to account for every thought, word, feeling and action, whether secret or open:

And whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account for it (2:284).

And if thou utter the saying aloud, surely He knows the secret, and what is yet more hidden (20:7).

And surely there are keepers over you, honourable recorders, they know what you do (82:11-13).

Every soul will know what it has prepared (81:14).

Allah’s knowledge is comprehensive as He tells us:

And with Him are the treasures of the unseen -- none knows them but He. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. And there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor is there a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green or dry, but (it is all) in a clear book (6:59).

Far from deceiving our Creator, we cannot fool even human beings for long and our motives will soon come to light and make us laughing-stocks who are respected by no one. To underscore this point, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:

"If a man were to do a deed inside a rock which had no door or window, his deed, whatever it was, would come forth to men."

"If anyone has a good or evil nature, God will make apparent some sign of it by which it will be recognised" (Robson’s Mishkat, p. 1107).

Another interesting example comes from real life. A certain lady got the bad news that her father had suffered a stroke and was helpless. She immediately burst into uncontrollable tears and had to be consoled by those present, who were all impressed and touched by this show of love and affection for a parent. Not long afterwards though, they were all disabused of this impression when it transpired that the tears were not of love, but of bitterness, as the lady felt that the onerous burden of looking after the father would now fall on her and the wounds of fatherly neglect were still fresh in her mind. Hence the tears.

Little do we realise that if we are true and sincere to Allah we would not have to "cover-up" our wrong-doings by justifying them or by using other defence mechanisms of the ego like denial, projection, rationalisation, over-reaction, reaction-formation and escapism to ease our anxieties, fears and guilt feelings that occasion a terrible psychic strain and may lead to more serious emotional and psychological illnesses. The Holy Quran warns us of the consequences of these false artificial techniques and gives us guidance, hope and freedom in the following verses:

And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong their souls, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins. And who forgives sins but Allah? And they persist not knowingly in what they do (3:134).

And ask forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him, surely my Lord is Merciful, Loving-kind (11:90).

Say: O My servants who have been prodigal regarding their souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives sins altogether. He is indeed the Forgiving, the Merciful (39:53).

Our Holy Prophet (pbuh), too, has warned us of the evils of trying to cover up or justify bad actions however trivial they may appear to us when he says:

"Mankind will not perish till they make excuses for their conduct to themselves" (Robson’s Mishkat, p. 1068).

When we are honest and sincere to Allah and to our own selves we shall find it easy and natural to be honest and true to others and so not only will we achieve self-respect and win Allah’s approbation, but we shall also earn the respect of others. This is one of the most fervent desires of a human being, but it is also the most difficult to attain for it is based solely on intrinsic merit and not on extraneous considerations, like worldly rank, status, knowledge, beauty, power, wealth, family, etc.

Another noteworthy benefit is that we shall rid ourselves of the great insidious curse of ostentation against which our Holy Prophet (pbuh) has cautioned us:

"Whoever prays for show, commits polytheism; whoever fasts for show, commits polytheism, and whoever gives charity for show, commits polytheism" (Fazlul Karim’s Mishkat, vol. 3, p. 422).

Greatest of all, we shall attain that supreme and sublime state, which the Holy Quran describes in the following words:

Nay, whoever submits himself entirely (and sincerely) to Allah and he is a doer of good to others, he has his reward from his Lord and there is no fear for such nor shall they grieve (2:112).

According to psychologists, fear and grief, or, anxiety and guilt, are the root causes of all our emotional and psychological diseases. Freedom from fear and grief is regarded as the third and highest stage of the spiritual pilgrim and is called liqa (reunion with God) in Sufi terminology, the first two stages being that of fana (annihilation of selfish desires) and baqa (continuance on the right path). Of this last stage, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, writes:

"For when a person reaches that high rank in knowledge, conviction, reliance (upon God) and love, where the reward for his sincerity, faith and fidelity does not seem to him to be mere imagination, supposition, or conjecture, but is as certain, definite, manifest, palpable and perceptible, as if he had received it, and he acquires such a faith in the existence of God as if he can see Him, and all fears about the future are lifted from view, and no trace is left of any past or present grief, and every spiritual favour appears to be present – this is the state which is clean of all murkiness, safe from every doubt, and above any pain of anxiety, and is termed liqa (Ayena-e-Kamalat-e-Islam).

This is the summit of our spiritual ascent, but one must never forget that the first and last step in our climb is that of sincerity. To test the degree of our sincerity, Mirza Sahib has given a practical test which we can use at every stage of our spiritual ascension. He asks:

"When somebody sustains a loss in worldly affairs, he is sad over it and feels the pain very much. However, if he suffers a loss in religious affairs, does he grieve over it and does he feel it with same intensity as he does when the loss relates to worldly affairs?"

He then suggests:

"Let one’s heart be the scale to weigh the sadness on the two sides and find out whether his grief over the worldly loss is greater than his grief over the spiritual loss, or not."
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Articles Section > Sincerity

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