Struggling Towards Sincerity – Humza Asad

The prophet (saw) said,

” إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ”

“Actions are judged by their intentions, so each man shall have what he intended.”

And the hadith continues on saying “and whosoever’s hijra was to Allah and His Messenger, his hijra is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”

When I first met my committee in around March time, we had the usual discussion which any new team would have. Why are we here; what can we expect; what is expected from us. And amidst that discussion a crucial point was put forward. A point which was to set a precedent for the perspective which we would have when we approached our work. A point which was to set a precedent for our mindset moving forward. And that was; isoc – much like anything else in life – is a transaction. The more you are willing to give, the more you should expect to receive in return. So, if you want to be stingy with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that matches you in your stinginess. And if you want to be naïve with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that fittingly reflects your naivety.

“So, to each man is what he intended.” And thus, an evaluation of the type of transaction we have engaged ourselves in is absolutely necessary. An evaluation of exactly what we have intended is crucial because to each man is what he intended. And so, the intentions we put forward will be indicative of the results we are expecting.

However, when looking at our Muslim community the opposite is true. The sad reality is that we’ve (whether consciously or subconsciously) shifted our focus in alignment with the shift of societal focus. Anyone who’s analysed the evolution of western civilisation will understand that as the church separated from the state – as theology was disengaged from the practical application of governmental affairs – a much greater and more significant separation would be initiated as a consequence. One which would manifest itself at the level of the individual. The separation of the internal affair from the external affair.

Examples of this disparity are numerous. A critique of ethical philosophies which arose show a society much more concerned with a consequentialist view on morality; putting emphasis on the importance of outcome of our actions over the intention or reasoning behind them. We find a society which has engrossed itself with the objectification of both men and woman, inundating people with images of outer appearance and offering cosmetic solutions. We find a society that has overwhelmed itself with social media and the concern to busy oneself in projecting superficial appearances and relationships over very intrinsic, real life family interactions. We find the rise of the scientism spearheaded by empiricism (the senses and outer body experience) as the ultimate method towards truth and understanding. And this ever-strengthening campaign of removing (or shifting focus) from the external affair from the internal has filtered down and affected our Muslim community at large.

Let me ask a simple question. And I want everyone to engage with a mental hand up. We ma shaa Allah have had many successful charity campaigns across the country. With the primary intention to focus on enjoying good and alleviating specific poverty or suffering. But how many people reading this woke up in the last 1/3 of the night, when Allah descends and made sincere dua for the cause? How many people when it rained or whilst travelling for their mountain trek – at times we know that dua is accepted by Allah – how many people raised their hands and made dua to Allah sincerely for their cause? Although the question is directed towards ISOCs engaging in charity week campaigning. It is transferable to any community work we do in any environment.

It was narrated by ibn Abbas that one day he was sitting behind the prophet (saw), i.e. on the same mount. And as they were riding the prophet (saw) turned around and said, “O young man, I shall teach you of some advice. Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah alone. And if you seek help, then seek help in Allah alone. And know that if the nations were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you accept with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Your rizk has already been written. The pens have lifted, and the pages have dried. So, whether we announce that we have raised 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 40,000 know and internalise that if we had raised these sums of money or if we had just raised a few pennies. That by Allah if He had willed those pennies would go a lot further than any of that money. And by Allah, if He wills those pennies may have a greater weighting for you on the day of Judgement. And if he wills those thousands of pounds may have equal weight against you on that day.

So its time to look down at the hand we’ve outstretched in this transaction. How sincere have we been in what we’ve put in front of Allah? And to answer this question we need to practically reflect upon our lives. Here are 5 points to practically implement in order to retain sincerity in what we do:

  • Do we truly know why we are doing what we are doing? To please Allah doesn’t cut it. There are plenty other ways which are more efficient and effective in pleasing Allah; isoc isn’t the only way to do so. Remember that a tree with shallow roots is likely to be swayed with the slightest of breezes. Similarly, if you haven’t yet found a strong enough reason as to why youre doing what you are doing, then expect your intentions to sway in whichever direction the context blows in
  • Have we prioritised our Islam à Do we prioritise what Islam asks us to prioritise? A simple question: Was the way you prayed, the time you prayed and the khushoo you felt in salah better before you got involved in this work or now. Because if your answer is the latter then there needs to be some fundamental changes. How can we expect to be sincere in what we do when we prioritise other than what Allah prioritised for us – the question then needs to be asked, who are we even doing this for?
  • Understand the focus of your transaction is in the hand that is outstretched to give – and not in the hand which is outstretched to receive. Those of us who believe in Allah need to understand that we are required to wait until resurrection for the completion of this transaction. We cannot completely focus our thoughts on the outcomes of our actions as Allah has been asking of our efforts and not results. You’ve heard it many times. Nuh (as) preached for 950 years and in comparison to how long he worked, he only received a handful of followers. Yet he’s one of the greatest men to walk on this Earth. There needs to be a serious shift in perspective
  • Understand the faults in short-sightedness – sincerity can no longer be an action but rather it needs to be internalised as a trait. That is, it needs to become the descriptive word of your character and no longer just the descriptive word of the action which you undertake. You yourself as a person are required to be sincere and not just your actions. A person cannot be truly sincere if they are sincere on only some occasions – sincerity must be consistent. The way you tackle this is to do continuous good deeds that you do so regularly they become part of you – part of your character and part of your nature; becoming a trait. Which is why the prophet (saw) said: “the best deeds are those which are done continuously; even if they amount to a little.” That is not to say that you don’t continuously question the sincerity of your actions.
  • And finally, this leads me to the last practical point. And that is a lot of what we do in ISOC and committee focuses on the external – how many guys came to that event, whats the headcount at that talk, how much are we raising throughout charity week and are generally deeds which are one-off and large in scale. So if we want to make sincerity a part of us then we are required to slow down in our individual lives. Re-synchronise ourselves and the best way to do this is for everyone to have a secret action between themselves and Allah. An action which nobody knows about and will ever know about apart from Allah. And an action we commit to so regularly that it becomes part of our nature and character trait. And due to the privacy of this action, if we indulge in it enough, we will find true sincerity.

We ask Allah to put sincerity in all that we do

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