يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ
“O ye who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with those who are truthful (in word and deed)” [Qur’an 9:119]
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الصِّدِّيقُونَ ۖ وَالشُّهَدَاءُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ وَنُورُهُمْ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ
“And those who believe in Allah and His messengers, they are the truthful, and the martyrs are with their Lord; they have their reward and their light; while as for those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, they are owners of hell-fire.” [Qur’an 57:19]
These are just two (of many) examples in the Quran where Allah describes the ‘siddique’, one who is truthful and sincere of heart.
Sincerity of heart and intention is a huge theme in the Qur’an and sunnah.
The sincerity of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW)
Nearly 1450 years ago, we were brought out of the worst period of darkness the world has and will ever know, into the light of tawhid by the most sincere and pure-hearted human being the world has and will ever know.
The Prophet didn’t blindly follow the status quo of idolatry; he didn’t fear going against the grain out of fear of rejection.
In the example of our beloved Prophet, we are shown a sincere and pure-hearted person who was commanded to show the right way to those who had become lost:
لَقَد جاءَكُم رَسولٌ مِن أَنفُسِكُم عَزيزٌ عَلَيهِ ما عَنِتُّم حَريصٌ عَلَيكُم بِالمُؤمِنينَ رَءوفٌ رَحيمٌ
Surely, a Messenger has come unto you from among yourselves; grievous to him is that you should fall into trouble; he is ardently desirous of your welfare; and to the believers he is compassionate, merciful – [9:128]
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 13, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 45.
Sincerity is often not easy
Despite the fact that sincerity is a pre-requisite quality of a Muslim, I feel sad to admit that I can count the amount of sincere friends I have perhaps only on one of my hands. Indeed it is conceivable that I am in part to blame for this. It isn’t easy to be sincere when recipients frequently perceive your sincerity to be a slight upon their character and so, on many occasions we keep silent out of fear of offending someone or their taking it badly.
What a Muslim should feel most precious to his/herself is their faith, the biggest blessing is guidance itself, so when I talk of sincerity I am not merely talking about a friend being happy yet secretly envious of your work promotion, marriage or baby. On a deeper level, I am talking about our ikhlaas (sincerity) when it comes to deen (faith/guidance) – if there is no ikhlaas in deen, there is never going to be ikhlaas for one another in other areas of life.
The cure for hasad (envy) is ikhlaas. One who has ikhlaas can never be envious of what God bestows upon another person.
The reality is that many of us avoid telling one another how to improve ourselves out of fear of being perceived as judgmental or being rejected by our friends for pointing out their shortcomings.
Compliments vs constructive criticism
We prefer friends who compliment us rather than those who offer insightful critique.
But which is more beneficial; compliments or constructive criticism?
One is character building and one is character assassination, though you’d be surprised how many people would associate the two categories opposite to reality.
It is certainly pleasant to give and receive compliments, but why does critique irk us so much when it is a means to self-improvement whilst the compliment was a means to self-aggrandizement?
Of course, a balance is required, yet what we see more prevalent in relationships (familial, platonic or romantic) is an incessant need to have our egos massaged, to be reassured that we are good, well liked, admired even. And yet when we spend a considerable amount of time with people (live, work or travel with them!), we find out one another’s flaws but are reluctant to speak of them to each other out of fear that the other will not react well. When we do muster the courage to give feedback, it is not usually well received. We have been conditioned to assume that anyone giving us feedback does not do so with the good intention of wanting us to improve.
The Prophet demonstrated kindness as a means to draw people nearer to belief but he also didn’t shy away or shirk from speaking the truth even if it was unpalatable to his audience. The man was driven out of his home but it didn’t stop him from practicing and preaching the truth.
What we are losing as a society at large is our sincerity and our ability to honour the truth regardless of whether it’s disagreeable to our audience. The sad reality is that the dominance of social media in our lives has created a society that has become increasingly artificial and insincere. We have become a “mutual appreciation society” gaining validation from notifications reminding us that we are liked.
Your destiny favours the friends who aren’t afraid to criticize you
Abū Hurayrah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said “the mu’min is owed six things by the mu’min” of which he mentioned “when he asks for your sincere good counsel, then advise him.” [Sahih Muslim 2162]
Last week one of my friends sent me a link to beautiful recitations of morning and evening protection prayers, telling me that she listens to these daily and that perhaps I might like to benefit from the same.
Every week, another friend of mine goes to a tajweed class and whatever ‘hadith of the week’ she learns from that class, she shares it with me the following morning. That same friend is the one who encouraged me to pray my salah on time when we both worked together at a large corporate firm in the finance sector. She would leave a prayer mat in a meeting room cupboard in our office and remind me not to delay my prayers until I got home from work. I could have taken her reminders as her passing judgement but instead I chose to accept that what she was saying and doing was superior than me and I wanted to join her in the ranks of Islam.
So, the next time someone points out a flaw in your behaviour or invites you to join them in a good deed, don’t assume they are being judgmental, remind yourself that they are a rare gem of a friend interested in your success and improvement, just as the Prophet was.
If we do not reflect on what we each have to offer, what we each learn and practice, we need not look much further than the end of our noses for the explanation on why there is so much disunity in our Muslim communities. Our success lies in our proximity to God and our sincerity to Him and each other. I cherish everyone that advises me with sincerity, wishing me to attain success in this life and the next.
We cannot be objective with ourselves or notice a pattern of behaviour that others can more easily distinguish. We need each other to improve. Why else do people search for companionship and say “I’m looking for someone who will inspire me to be the best version of myself”?
Social media constantly celebrates differences and diversity yet when it comes to differences of opinion or we receive criticism, we turn our backs on each other. We are currently sitting in a shallow pool where buzz words and phrases like “don’t judge”, “diversity”, “metoo” are great reminders yet when deeper discussions and opinions are shared that differ to those we are already conditioned towards, we reject the person that delivered them and tell dissenting opinion-givers to focus on themselves. This is certainly true in many cases, but perhaps they identified something useful for your self growth that you were not able to find for yourself.
Are you really so insecure or assured of your perfection that you cannot hear a negative opinion about yourself?
If we reject one another, what then is the difference between us and those that rejected our Beloved Prophet? If we reject each other’s comments about our conduct so flippantly, I ask myself the question whether I would have been part of the Prophet’s followers or whether I would have rejected him out of feeling offended?
Allāh commanded the Prophet to be kind, wise and courteous when calling people to Islām when He said:
“Call [people] to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way and who is rightly guided.” [Qur’an 16:125]
If you are going to embark upon a journey of ikhlaas, it must start with a deep look at yourself. Before starting to tell others of how to behave better, ask yourself if you are fulfilling these recommendations. No one wants to listen to a hypocrite.
The Prophet was successful because he walked the talk. If he invited others to pray, he also stood up praying in the last third of the night despite the fact he was already forgiven, he did it to give thanks. If the Prophet invited others to be kind to the elderly, the sick, the poor, the orphans and many others, he was also the kindest to all of these groups of people. If the Prophet invited others to spend in the way of God, fast in the month of Ramadan and outside it, he led from the front.
If we follow parts of his Sunnah (the way he lived his life), to behave with modesty, kindness, give charity, look after our parents, the elders and less fortunate in our communities, then is not ikhlaas the ultimate quality of the Prophet that we should be striving to emulate? The Prophet endured people throwing trash and rocks at him, plotting plans to kill him yet still he persevered with his ikhlaas.
Omar Ibn Khattab (RA) was on his way to kill the Prophet and is today buried beside him as his brother in Islam. This is the power of ikhlaas.
So use your time wisely and draw nearer to God, for when all else turns to dust (including us), His Excellency is all that will remain and when we return to Him, I want everyone to be standing there with baskets full of treasure hunt eggs in their right hands (yes I have Easter eggs on the brain!)
What makes a friend sincere is one who is invested in your success, in deen (faith), duniyah (this world) and aakhirah (the hereafter). These are the only meaningful friendships of value; may God protect and increase them for us all and make us of the “siddique” (truthful).May God guide and purify our hearts to be sincere and grant us the companionship and friendship of those sincere of heart.Ameen.