Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sincerity in Worship

Peace, one and all...
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim wa al-salatu wa al-salamu `ala rasul Allah...
In tonight's post, I wanted to offer a few Quranic ayat (verses) on the subject of sincerity in worship. Sincerity, or ikhlas, is an absolutely fundamental concept in Islam. The sincerity of one's worship relates directly to the intention behind it. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta`ala says in the Quran regarding ikhlas:
'And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the religion right and straight' (98:5)
This verse is beautiful in its simplicity: true religion is not complicated theology, nor is it detached philosophy; it is righteous action, or practice. And again...
'It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him' (22:37)
These verses relate to sacrifice I believe. In the pagan faiths of the ancient world (as in pre-Islamic Arabia), 'deities' were believed to derive sustenance from the sacrifices of their worshippers. The 'gods' of ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia) for example would be given special meals and drinks. Here, we discover that God is far exalted above such things.
'Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by hurting [others] - like those who spend their substance to be seen of men' (2:264)
And finally...
'Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due?' (39: 3)
Indeed, sincere devotion is due to God, the Lord of all the Worlds (there is none worthy of worship except Him). These ayat were drawn from Tahdhib al-Akhlaq, compiled by Sayyed `Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani.
Imam Hamza Yusuf, in his commentary on Imam al-Mawlud's excellent Matharat al-Qulub, has this to say regarding sincerity:
'It is recommended to recite often Surat al-Ikhlas (the 112th sura of the Quran), which affirms the oneness of God and negates the possibility of their being anything comparable to Him. The Arabic word for sincerity, ikhlas, comes from the root khalusa, which means to be pure, as in pure honey or pure milk. As for one's piety, it can never be pure unless free of ostentation' (page 60)
One one level, we all know what sincerity is; we know when we really mean it, when we really feel it. However, understanding the deeper workings of the heart takes subtlety, insight and a piety which is beyond me (may Allah grant me the tawfiq to understand my own intentions clearly and then to follow the best of them).
Ya Rabb! The road is long and I have no hope of reahing Home, if you do not lead me.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen...
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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