The word ikhlas denotes purifying our motives and intentions so that our actions are not tainted by anything other than seeking the pleasure of Allah.
Ikhlas or sincerity is the first key that opens the heart to receive the mercy of Allah Almighty. In fact the acceptance of one’s deeds depends on one’s purity of intention, which in turn depends on the level of sincerity in one’s heart. With sincerity, a person can attain the highest ranks in the sight of Allah Almighty, make the most of his or her deeds, and even be rewarded for righteous deeds that he or she was not able to perform.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: The word ikhlas in Arabic means “sincerity, purity, isolation” and so on. When used in a general sense in Islamic literature, it refers to sincerity and purity of intention and motive in worship of Allah. Allah says: (They have been ordered no more than this: To worship Allah sincerely, being true (in faith), to establish the prayer, and to give zakah. And that is the worthy religion) (Al-Bayyinah 98: 5). (Say: “I am but a man like yourselves but to whom it is revealed that your Lord is only One God. So whoever hopes to meet his Lord let him work righteousness, and let him not associate anyone with Him in worship) (Al-Kahf 18: 110).
In a more specific sense, it denotes purifying our motives and intentions so that our actions are not tainted by anything other than seeking the pleasure of Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah is Pure and He accepts only that which is pure” and “He accepts only that which is pure and done solely for His sake alone!” Explaining this concept Imam Fudhayl ibn `Iyad said, “If a person abandons an act because of people, he is being ostentatious; if, on the other hand, he were to do it because of people then that is shirk (associating partners with Allah); ikhlas, therefore, is to be free of both of the above.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has warned us in numerous traditions against getting our actions tainted by impious motives and intentions. He said, “Whoever fights in the way of Allah while aiming only for spoils of war, he gets that and nothing else!” And he said, “There are many who are slain between the two battle-lines, only Allah knows their intentions!” and “Whoever fights in order to hold aloft the Word of Allah, he alone fights for the sake of Allah!”
Finally, Imam Fudhayl ibn `Iyad said, “All good deeds, in order to be acceptable in Shari`ah, must satisfy two essential prerequisites. First, they must be approved or sanctioned by Allah; second, they must be done with the pure intention of earning the pleasure of Allah.”
In conclusion, ikhlas is to worship Allah and dedicate all our good works wholly and entirely unto Him, in order to seek His pleasure. May Allah grant us all sound faith, pure hearts, and acceptable deeds. Ameen.