To my disappointment, they had returned once again. I had seen no creatures so persevere as the spiders. It had only been a fortnight since I last swept away their creepy dwellings, and there they were back again. Who says housekeeping is easy? I picked up a broom and got to work, and as it brushed away those tiny quarters, my mind went back to another house; the house of emotions and intentions.
Yes indeed, our heart houses our intentions and requires frequent cleaning, too. Silently Riya (dissimulation, show-off) crawls in and spins its webs in every unheeded nook and cranny. We start something solely for the sake of Allah (swt) the Almighty, yet Shaytan does not forget to sneak his part. We human beings may become negligent; however, Iblees never misses a chance to deprive us of our good deeds.
Riya – more dangerous than the Dajjal
Our Beloved Prophet (sa) warned us: “The thing that I fear most for you is the minor Shirk; Riya (Ahmad) And it also states in another authentic Hadeeth that, he considered it even more dangerous for us than the Dajjal. It is what turns even the greatest of deeds to zero. Even if you sacrificed all your wealth and your whole life in Allah’s (swt) path, but you were not sincere; you expected praise from people or were trying to escape their criticism, everything you did will go in vain. You did pay the price, but got nothing in return; just because Shaytan was successful enough to rob your sincerity.
We think we are doing a great job; however, God forbid, what will our condition be if we reach our final destination to find it was all a mirage? We have nothing to acquire Jannah! The time is up, we lost all our investment and Hellfire is there waiting for us. This is the ultimate failure. Astaghfirallah!
Allah (swt) says in his book: “Say (O Muhammad): Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds! They are those who deny the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall not give them any weight.” (Al-Kahf 18:103-105)
Stay on guard – be mindful of your acts
One of the things that needs constant vigilance is our intention. We must check it every day, every minute, before we perform any deed. There are a number of things that become routine for us, and we don’t keep in mind the fact that we are doing it for Allah (swt).
For example our Salah; is it just an exercise or our secret meeting with Allah (swt)? Another example is how we deal with the people around us; are we being nice just for the sake of it or do we seek Allah’s (swt) pleasure? It is our intentions that change the status of our deeds from mere routine work to deeds of worship. A man naturally provides for his family; however, if this is done with the proper intention, it can become a Sadaqah for him.
Helpers along the way
Here are a few tips to help you gain sincerity:
1. As human beings we tend to be forgetful. One of the ways to keep ourselves reminded is holding fast to our Quran. This best friend gives us repetitive reminders; reciting, pondering and going though it provides a healing potion to our souls. The Quran should stay by our side all the time, in our bags, on our work desk, on our kitchen table, in the living room, simply everywhere!
2. In the fore mentioned verse, the rationale cited behind people’s loss is denial of Lord’s verses and His meeting with His slaves. It is true that our intentions lose track when we become unaware of Allah (swt) and forget that we have to face Him one day. The signs of our Creator are scattered all over; what we need to do is notice them, observe them, reflect and remember the power and wisdom of Allah (swt). This is one of the ways that can help us stay conscious about He, who is All-Hearing and All-Seeing. Reflecting over Al-Asma ul Husna (The beautiful names) of Allah (swt) can also be helpful in this regard.
3. We must stop ourselves and refresh our intentions in the beginning, middle and end of all our actions.
4. A time of the day can be fixed to review what you have been doing and the intentions you had for your deeds. This is just a five minute exercise, and if you have simply no other time, then it can be done while travelling or before going to bed.
5. Try best to hide your good deeds and perform some special secret actions just for the sake of Allah (swt).
6. Don’t seek or consent the praise of people. Remember your shortcomings, and that any virtue obtained is only by the grace of Almighty Allah (swt). The love of praise and appreciation can prove to be very fatal for our faith.
7. Last, but not the least is making Dua! Prophet Muhammad (sa) has taught us a specific Dua for this: “Allahumma innaa na`oothu bika an-nushrika bika shay`an na`lamuhu, wa nastagfiruka limaa laa na`lamuh. (O Allah, we seek refuge in you from committing shirk knowingly, and ask your forgiveness for (the shirk that we may commit unknowingly”)
In a nutshell, the worry shouldn’t just be about the quantity, rather it should be about the quality of actions; we need to purify our hearts and make our inner selves better and stronger than the outer selves. Ibn Al Qayyim in his book Madarij-us-Salikeen has put it very nicely: “Ikhlas (sincerity) is when the servant’s internal and external actions are the same. And Riya is when the external actions are better than the internal actions (of the heart). Truthfulness in one’s sincerity is when the internal is better (developed) than the external.”