Ikhlas (Sincerity) is probably the most difficult of all actions in Islam. Sincerity in seeking Allah’s pleasure alone in all our deeds requires a high-level of consciousness of our Creator that must be consistent over time. More often than not, we fall into the problem of Riya (showoff), where our deeds are really for the sake of people than for the sake of Allah.

Sheikh Abdul Malik Ar-Ramadani mentions some narrations on this subject from the righteous people of the past in his book Sittu Durar:

Ikhlas 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.” (Madarij-us-Salikeen, 2/91)

Bilal Bin Sa’d said, “Do not be a wali (friend) of Allah outwardly, yet an enemy to Him internally.” (Ahmad in Az-Zuhd, Abu Nu’aym in Al-Hilyah)

It has been stated, “Ikhlas is that you do not request anyone to witness your action except Allah, and that you do not seek anyone to reward you (for it) except Him.”

Salamah Bin Dinar said, “Hide your good deeds (from the people) just like you hide your evil deeds”. (Abu Nu’aym, Bayhaqi) And in a narration in Al-Bayhaqi, “Hide your good deed like you hide your evil deed, and do not be delighted at your own action, for you do not know whether you are happy or wretched (in the Hereafter).”

It has been stated in definition of Ikhlas, “It is to single out Allah in one’s intention (qasd) in one’s obedience (to Him).”

Hammad Bin Zaid said, “I used to walk with Ayyoob (As-Sakhtiyani) and he would take me through different routes. I would be surprised at how he would guide himself through them, fleeing from (being seen by) the people who might say, ‘This is Ayyoob.’”

He also said, “Ayyoob used to take me via a route that was the longest and I would say “But this one is closer.” He would reply, “I fear (passing by these) gatherings.” When he would pass by them and give salams, they would reply to him with more than what (they would do for) others. So he would say, ‘O Allah, you know that I did not desire this! O Allah, you know that I did not desire this.’” (Ibn Sa’d, Al-Fasawi)

Abu Zur’ah Bin Abi Amr said, “Ad-Dahhak Bin Qays came out and made the prayer for rain with the people, but they were not granted rain, and nor did they see any clouds come. Ad-Dahhak said, “Where is Yazeed Bin Al-Aswad?” (And in a narration, “But nobody answered him!”. He then said again, “Where is Yazeed Bin Al-Aswad Al-Jurashee?” And I was insistent on calling him that if he was to hear my words he would get up.)

“Here I am,” he said. So (Ad-Dahhak) said, “Stand and intercede with Allah on our behalf, that he should grant us rain.” So Yazeed stood up, made his face pointed in the direction of his feet, and made his head sink into his shoulders (out of humility). He then said, “O Allah, these servants of yours sought intercession through me from You.

So he had not called upon Allah three times except that the people were granted rain in such abundance that they almost drowned on account of it.

Then Yazeed said, “O Allah, this one made a show of me (i.e. Ad-Dahhak, by asking him and calling him out), so grant me freedom from this (fame).”

Yazeed did not live except for the next Jumuah.