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As far as sincerity (ikhlas) is concerned, Allah Almighty says

“They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their religion (din) sincerely His.” (98:5)

Hudayfa ibn an-Nu’man, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, what sincerity is. He replied, ‘I asked Jibril about sincerity and he answered, “I asked the Lord of Might about sincerity and He said, ‘It is one of My secrets which I place in the heart of whichever of My slaves I love.'”‘”

Al-Qushayri said, “Sincerity is to make Allah alone your intention in obedience. It is that you mean to draw near to Allah by obedience. It is nothing else, not hypocrisy for the sake of a creature, nor earning the praise of people nor an act demanding praise from creation nor anything else other than drawing near to Allah Almighty!”

He also said, “It would be valid to call sincerity being on your guard against any consideration for other people.”

Abu ‘Ali ad-Daqqaq stated, “Sincerity is being on your guard against any considering creatures, truthfulness, and continuing to read the self (nafs). The sincere person does not show off, and the true man is not vain.”

Dhu’n-Nun al-Misri said, “Sincerity has three signs: praise and blame from common people are the same for you; you forget to see actions when you act; and the reward of the action is paid to you in the Next World.”

Abu ‘Uthman al-Maghribi observed: “Sincerity is forgetting to see creation by constantly looking at the Creator.”

Hudayfa al-Mar’ashi said, “Sincerity is that the inward and outward actions of the slave are the same.”

Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad said, “To refrain from an action for the sake of people is showing-off. To act for the sake of people is associating partners with Allah in idolatry. Sincerity is that Allah frees you from both considerations.”

Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah at-Tustari was asked, “What is stronger than the self?” He replied, “Sincerity, since it is something the self has no share in.”

Yusuf ibn al-Husayn stated, “The greatest thing in this world is sincerity!”

Abu ‘Uthman al-Magribi said, “The sincerity of the common people is that which the self has no share in. The sincerity of the elite is what is bestowed on them—it does not happen by them. Acts of obedience appear from them while they are cut off from them, and they do not see them nor reckon them.”

Makhul said, “When a slave is sincere for forty days, the springs of wisdom must appear on his tongue from his heart.”

Sahl at-Tustari said, “If anyone goes without (zuhd) this world for forty days with truthfulness in his heart and sincerity, miracles (karamat) will appear from him. If no miracles appear from him, that is due to lack of true sincerity in his doing-without.” Someone asked Sahl, “How are the miracles manifested?” He said, “He takes whatever he likes from wherever he likes.”

Sahl at-Tustari also said, “Shrewd men look into the obspractice ervation of sincerity and discover only that its movement and its stillness, its secrecy and its openness are for Allah alone. Nothing is mixed with it, neither the self, nor emotions, nor this world.”

As-Sari as-Saqati said, “Do not do anything for people nor leave anything for them! Do not give anything to them, and do not unveil anything to them!”

-Imam Abu Zakariyya Muhyi’d-din ibn Sharaf an-Nawawi, The Garden of the Gnostics (Bustan-ul-Arifeen)

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