When we speak about sincerity in religion, what do we mean? Sincerity in religion is to intend to please God with our deeds and our devotion, without any ulterior or worldly motives.
We need to be vigilant with our hearts and make sure we do not covet the people's praise. We should only be concerned with Allah's pleasure and His reward. Allah says: ﴾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 practice regular charity. That is the proper way of faith.﴿ [Sûrah al-Bayyinah: 5] He also says regarding what we say: ﴾There is no good in most of their secret talks, except (in the speech of those) who enjoins charity or goodness or reconciliation between people; and whoever does this seeking Allah's pleasure, We will give him a mighty reward﴿ [Sûrah al-Nisâ': 114]
Allah describes how we should approach our good deed when He says: ﴾And they provide food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the prisoner of war, saying): 'We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks'.﴿ [Sûrah al-Insân: 8-9] Piety entails abandoning behavior that brings harm to our souls in the Hereafter. This means not only abandoning that which is clearly and unambiguously sinful in Islam. It also entails staying clear of matters that are suspect and morally doubtful. Again, we do this out of our love and our awe of Allah. Form these definitions, we can see how sincerity and piety relate to each other and complement one another. We should also be able to appreciate how people can be at different levels in either their sincerity or their spiritual piety. Sincerity pertains to our worship and to our performance of good deeds. Some of us are more devout in our worship, more focused on Allah's pleasure, less distracted by worldly concerns and public recognition. Some of us are more likely to do acts of good unselfishly, seeking nothing other than Allah's reward. Likewise, some people exhibit more piety than others do. They are more cautious about their behavior, and consider the moral implications and consequences of any course of action they might undertake. Some people exhibit greater caution in some aspects of their behavior than others. We should take stock of ourselves on both of these counts. We should appraise the sincerity of our good deeds, as well as the piety we exhibit in our general conduct. Are we truly focused in our worship upon Allah alone? Are we really doing our good deeds without any ulterior motives? How careful are we to avoid falling into sin? How cautious are we concerning unclear actions that may have morally dubious consequences? We should take heed of the Prophet's words: ﴾What is lawful is clear, and what is sinful is clear. Between the two extremes are ambiguous matters that few people know about. Whoever shows caution about these dubious matters keeps his religion and honor safe. Whoever falls into dubious matters invariable falls into sin.﴿ [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (52) and Sahîh Muslim (1599)] And Allah knows best.
* Abd al-Rahmân al-Barrâk, professor at al-Imâm Islamic University.