…So serve Allah, offering Him sincere devotion… (Quran 39:2)
Sincerity (Ikhlas) is a form of worship performed by the heart. It entails doing good deeds solely for the pleasure of Allah and not for praise.
Imam Shafi’i said:
“All humans are dead except those who have knowledge… and all those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do good deeds… and those who do good deeds are deceived, except those who are sincere… and those who are sincere are always in a state of worry.”
Showing off (Riya‘) is one of the main signs of a loss of sincerity. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
What I fear for you the most is the minor shirk, that is ar-riya’. Allah will say on the Day of judgement when he is rewarding the people for their actions: Go to those whom you did riya‘ for in the world, then see if you find the reward with them. (Ahmed)
Here are some of the signs of a sincere Muslim.
1. He Perfects His Duties in Private
A sincere person worships God privately in the same manner he worships publicly. Sometimes, he even worships better when in seclusion so that he does his best to please Allah alone.
2. He Dislikes Being Praised
3. He Listens to Advice
Sincere people never shun advice no matter who it’s coming from. They take every opportunity to learn in order to better themselves.
4. He Does Not Rush for Authority or Leadership
You will always find the sincere person calm and reserved. He would rather be chosen, than nominate himself for positions of authority.
5. He is Constantly Mindful of His Shortcomings
A sincere person is always busy thinking of how to better himself and stop committing sins. He sees the good in others and always gives good advice.
In fact, he always considers his own opinions minimal as compared to others.
“If a person were wise, his concern over his own sins would distract him from seeing the fault of others” (Imam Shafi’i)
6. He Prefers Giving Charity in Secret
The hadith said:
“Abu Huraira reported that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) had said:
Seven are (the persons) whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him (i. e. on the Day of Judgment, and they are): A just ruler, a youth who grew up with the worship of Allah; a person whose heart is attached to the mosques; two persons who love and meet each other and depart from each other for the sake of Allah; a man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces (for illicit relation), but he (rejects this offer by saying): “I fear Allah”; a person who gives charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the right hand does not know what the left has given, and a person who remembers Allah in privacy and his eyes shed tears. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah is the one who knows what’s in the heart. May He purify our hearts.