By Hamza Andreas Tzortzis.
Australia Trip Update:
On Monday I delivered a lecture at the Multicultural Youth Centre (My Centre) in Melbourne. The lecture focussed on sincerity, connecting with others and genuine care and compassion for fellow human beings.
Sincerity is one of the most important aspects in Islam. Without it, there is no spiritual reward and Divine blessings. All of our acts of worship should be singled out for Allah alone. We should not do anything for praise, fame, status, attention and we must not do it for our egos or for any materialistic gain. Doing any act of worship – whether it be praying, giving charity or articulating a positive case for Islam to other people – for anyone or anything other than Allah is empty. In reality these things are nothing, they are ephemeral. What gives them value and significance is Allah. He has created everything and has given us something we have never earned and do not deserve. When someone gives you something you have never earned and you do not deserve you must always be in a state of gratitude. This thing is every moment of you life. You haven’t earned it, and you do not own it. Allah is the source of life, not you. Therefore, regardless of our context we have something always to be grateful for – every moment of our existence. Hence our worship must be for Him alone. Our ability to do good is only as a result of Allah’s blessings and favour. Doing any act of worship for something or someone else is the greatest act of ingratitude. It is like someone was giving you £50 everyday for a whole year, and after a while instead of thanking the one who gave you the money, you started thanking the £50 note. Absurd.
Since sincerity lies in the heart, it is not easy to maintain and develop. To purify our hearts in order to develop sincerity is an ongoing spiritual struggle. The famous scholar Sufyan Ath-Thawri would always be worried about his sincerity. In reality, if someone is content with their level of sincerity, they probably don’t have much. To develop sincerity there are a few things one can do. Firstly, they should do one action everyday solely for Allah’s sake and that action must only be known and seen by Allah and yourself – no one must ever know. Secondly, reflect and internalise on the benefits of doing things for Allah’s sake. You gain reward, Divine blessings and love. Thirdly, reflect and internalise on the negative outcomes of lacking sincerity. You lose reward, and alienate yourself from Divine mercy and love – which results in the fire. Allah cannot force you to do good, it’s our choice. Allah has given us a freewill to choose, if he made you do good, then every act of good would lose its meaning. Fourthly, every time you do an action ask yourself the following questions: why am I doing this? For who am I doing this? Fifthly, read and ponder over the Qur’an, pray, engage in the remembrance of Allah and humble yourself. These things purify the heart, thereby facilitating sincerity. I pray Allah make us of those who are sincere.
There is no sincerity button. We do not press it and automatically become sincere. It is an on going spiritual practice. However do not fall for the trap and stop doing good just because you sense some insincerity. Continue doing good. The scholars of Islam advise that you should continue to do good and work on your sincerity at the same time. If you stop your good deeds, then you cannot really work on your sincerity.
When conveying a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam to other people, you have to connect with them. To achieve this, I humbly advise the following. When you engage with others speak to them like you are speaking to your own mother. Also, believe that their final abode may be better than your own. Some of the pious predecessors believed that they would be the last people to enter paradise. This is because they were humble and thought well of everyone. They were egoless and followed the Prophet’s (upon whom be peace) advice, that we must never reject the truth and never think ourselves better than others. Finally, have genuine care and compassion for people. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) was a man of compassion and mercy, and he was worried about the spiritual state of people. Here are some words of compassion from the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace):
“You must be compassionate. Whenever there is compassion in something, it adorns it, and when it is removed from something it disgraces it.” [Reference: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]
“Those who show mercy will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to those who are on earth and the One Who is in heaven will show mercy to you.” [Reference: Abu-Dawūd and al-Tirmidhi]
After the lecture I had a private session with the IISNA Melbourne outreach team. We discussed how to deal with difficult situations, pacifying aggressive people, outreach strategy and how to deal with new Muslims. May Allah bless the team and grant them success in this life and the hereafter.