Actions & Sincerity

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Ahmad ibn ‘Ajibah (q.s.), a wali of the Darqawi Sufi Order, commented on the quote of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Atha’illah as-Sakandari (q.s.), the third in the silsilah of the Shadzili Sufi Order, when he said, “Actions are merely propped-up shapes.  Their life-breath is the presence of the secret of sincerity in them.”

Shaykh ibn ‘Ajibah (q.s.) explained that actions refer to physical movements or movements of the heart.  The shapes are the qualities which the mind fixes.  The ruh and the sirr are lodged in living creatures.  Here it refers to that by which ihsan is achieved in actions.  Sincerity is when the heart is devoted to the worship of the Lord as well as its secret and core.  That is the truthfulness designated by being free of strength and might since it is only complete by it, even if it is sound without it since sincerity negates showing-off and hidden shirk.  Its secret negates pride.  Self-regard and showing off detract from the soundness of the action, while pride detracts only from its perfection.

All actions are forms and bodies.  Their ruh is the existence of sincerity in them.  As forms can only abide with spirits since otherwise they are dead and fallen-down, so actions of the body and heart only abide by the existence of sincerity in them.  Otherwise they are propped-up shapes and empty forms of no consideration.

Allah (s.w.t.) Says thus in the Qur’an:

And they have been Commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being True (in faith) … (Surah al-Bayyinah:5)


… so serve Allah, offering Him sincere devotion. (Surah az-Zumar:2)

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) reported that Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “I am the furthest removed from what is associated with Me.”

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “That which I most fear for my ummah is hidden shirk.  It is showing off.”  In one version, “Fear this hidden shirk: it creeps like an ant.”

They asked, “What is hidden shirk?”

“Showing off,” he replied.

In a hadits, the Prophet (s.a.w.) was asked about sincerity and said, “Not until I ask Jibril.”

When he asked Jibril (a.s.), Jibril (a.s.) said, “Not until I ask the Lord of Might.”

When Jibril (a.s.) asked Him, He Answered, “It is one of My secrets which I have Entrusted in the hearts of those of My slaves who Love Me.  No angel sees it so that he records it and no shaythan sees it so that he can corrupt it”

One of them said, “This is station of ihsan: that you worship Allah as if you were seeing Him.”

Sincerity has three levels: the level of the common, the level of the elite, and the level of the elite of the elite.  The sincerity of the common is to remove Creation from dealings with Allah (s.w.t.) while seeking the portions of this world and the next, like preservation of the body, money, expanded provision, castles and houris.  The sincerity of the elite is to seek the portions of the next world rather than this world.  The sincerity of the elite of the elite to seek to remove all portions so their worship is to fully realise servanthood and to undertake the requirements of the Lord, of love and yearning for His Vision.

Shaykh ibn al-Farid (q.s.), the Sufi poet said in ecstasy:

 “My request is not for bliss of the Garden.
I only desire to see You.”

Another unnamed wali said:

“All of them worship out of fear of the Fire,
And see salvation as a generous portion,
Or seek to dwell in the Garden,
And to relax in meadows and drink of Salsabil.
I have no opinion of Gardens or Fire.
I do not seek any recompense for my love.”

Shaykh Abu Thalib al-Makki (q.s.) said, “Sincerity with the sincere is to remove creatures from one’s dealings with the Real.  The first of creatures is the self.  Sincerity among the lovers is not to do an action for the sake of the self.  Otherwise it is affected by looking for recompense or inclining to the portion of the self.  For the unifiers, sincerity is to remove creatures from dealings with of the Real by not seeing them in actions and not relying and relaxing with them in states.”

One of the shuyukh said, “Make your actions sound with sincerity and make your sincerity sound by being free from strength and power.”

One of the ‘arifin said, “Sincerity is not achieved until people do not see and until he fails to think of people.”

And another ‘arif said, “Whenever you fall in people’s eyes, you become great in Allah’s Eye.  Whenever you become great in the eyes of people, you fall in Allah’s Eye.”  This is when you take note of them and are watchful of them.

The shaykh of Shaykh Ahmad ibn ‘Ajib (q.s.) said, “As long as the slave continues to watch people and have awe of them, his sincerity will never be fully realised.”  He further added, “Your watching Allah will never be combined with watching Creation because it is impossible that you see Him and see other-than-Him with Him.”  The upshot is that it is not possible to ever leave the self and to be purified of subtle showing-off without a shaykh.  And Allah Knows Best.

So obscurity is part of sincerity.  Indeed, it is usually only achieved by it since the self has no portion in it.  My shaykh, Shaykh Ahmad ‘Arif taught us that as long as we see ourselves in worship, in anything, as long as we think it is us in any capacity, there is duality.  There can be no other besides Allah (s.w.t.).  There will never be sincerity as long as the Doctrine of Tawhid is not realised for true sincerity is the absence of self.

It is impossible for the self to be present with the Divine.  As long as the self is present, the Divine is Absent.  True sincerity is to be absent in the Presence so that one is Present, and not to be present with the absent.  And hence why the Path can never be realised without the first fana’.  Sincerity is thus an aspect of annihilation.  The self will always want, will always yearn.  Even the wanting of Allah (s.w.t.) is a want.  It is a portion.  The du’a of the Realised is thus: “O Allah, Remove the between in between.”


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