Based on Sh. Husayn al-Awaayishah's "Book of Sincerity"
The Meaning of Ikhlaas
Allaah the Exalted said:
"And they were not commanded except with this:
that they should worship Allaah, being completely sincere in the Deen". (98:5)
and the Exalted also said:
"Say: Indeed I have been commanded to worship Allaah
making the deen sincerely for Him alone". (39:11)
And there is also the hadeeth qudsi reported by Muslim, "I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having partners. Thus whoever does an action for someone else's sake as well as Mine, will have that action rejected by Me to him whom he associated with Me." (Muslim)
Ikhlaas is the sanctification of one's speech and action from every blemish of the soul's desire. For example, desiring one's beautification in the hearts of people, desiring their praise so that they say "a scholar", "what a brave man", or a "doer of good". Also included in this is running away from the criticism of people (i.e. abandoning certain actions because people may criticise or become angry) seeking people's magnification of oneself, their aid and assistance, the fulfillment of one's needs or desiring other people's wealth and possessions - while being content with all of that bcause of the deception of one's soul and amazement with oneself.
Ikhlaas is the freedom from every blemish of the desire for nearness to Allaah, azza wa jall.
Ikhlaas is singling out Allaah azza wa jall with one's intention in all acts of worship.
Ikhlaas is forgetting the sight of the creation by continual observance of the Creator (i.e His Deen).
Ikhlaas is a secret between the servant and his Lord which an angel does not know so that it is not written, nor Shaytaan so he cannot make it futile and neither the whim of the soul so that it does not corrupt it.
WHAT CONDITIONS ARE ATTACHED TO AN ACTION BEFORE IT IS ACCEPTED?
It is vital that two great and important matters are fulfilled for every action. If they are not, the action will not be accepted. So do not make yourself exhausted by performing many actions. Perhaps the one who does many actions does not gain anything but tiredness from them in this world and punishment in the Hereafter -
"And we shall turn to whatever actions they did and make them into scattered dust". (25:23)
This is also illustrated in his (saw) saying, "Perhaps a fasting person obtains something from his fasting but hunger and one who stands during the night prayer nothing but tiredness" (Ibn Maajah, from Abu Hurayrah, al-Albaani declared it sahih Saheehul-Jami' no. 348).
THE FIRST: That the one who performed the action desired nothing but the Face of Allaah, Azza wa Jall, by it.
THE SECOND: That the action is in agreement with what Allaah the Exalted has legislated in His Book or His Messenger (saw) has explained in his Sunnah.
Some of the Salaf used to say, "There is no action, even if it is insignificant, except that it will have two questions put to it: "Why did you do it?" and "How did you do it?".
The first question is about the reason for the action and its motive. If the motive was for an objective from among the objectives of the world, such as seeking praise or status or any other world aim, it is an evil action and will be thrown back at its performer. If the motive for the action was to fulfill the right of Allaah of pure enslavement to Him and seeking a means of nearness to Him then it is a good action and will be accepted insha'Allaah.
The second question is about the following and imitation of the Messenger (saw). Was the action from amongst the legislated actions or was it from one's innovation and invention? If it was from the guidance of the Messenger (saw) then it is a good action and if it was in opposition to the practise of the Messenger (saw) then it is an evil action and will not be accepted from its performer as is it is an evil action and will not be accepted from its performer as is proven in the hadeeth of 'Aa'ishah (ra) who said, "Allaah's Messenger (saw) said: "Whoever introduces into this affair of ours something that does not belong to it, will have it rejected." (Muslim).
She also reports that Allaah's Messenger (saw) said: "Whoever does an action which we have no commanded will have it rejected." (Muslim).
When one of the above two conditions are not fulfilled the action is neither righteous nor acceptable:
"And whoever places his hope in the meeting with his Lord let him work righteous deeds and in the worship of his Lord associate none as a partner". (18:110)
Allaah has commanded in this verse that the action be righteous, meaning in agreement with the Shari'ah. Then He commanded that the person should make it sincerely for Allaah, desiring by it nothing besides Him.
al-Haafidh Ibn Katheer (rahimahullah) said: "These are the two pillars of the accepted action. It is necessary that the action is sincerely for Allaah and also correct, upon the Shari'ah of Allaah's Messenger (saw)". The likes of this has also been reports from al-Qadi 'Ayyad (rahimahullah) and others.
Allaah also said:
"And who is better in religion than the one who submits his face to Allaah and is a doer of good?" (4:125).
The meaning of submitting one's face to Allaah is making one's intention and action for Allaah. And the meaning of doing good is imitating and following the Messenger's (saw) sunnah.