Sincerity is as if a safeguarded musk preserved in the depths of the heart, its scent adorning and distinguishing the one who wears it. If deeds are the image then sincerity is the soul. Do not trouble yourself by performing a deed is you lack sincerity – a person is not considered a pilgrim unless he witnesses the gathering (on the mountain of Arafah) even if he performs all the other pillars of pilgrimage. Do not be misled by the mere outward appearance of good deeds – when sincerity is absent and the case is presented before the Judge, He will detain the act and it shall not be acceptance.
Sincerity is a trade that is promising and rewarding – never shall it suffer from recession. The sincere one takes stock of his good deeds, despising his work as being inadequate even though the pen of acceptance has recorded them down. Indeed, the sincere one involved in a truthful deed always assures his anonymity, as the tilts of judgement of his deeds in his favour.
When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, depicted the beauty of anonymity represented in the jewel of Uwais [a famous ascetic], the pickaxe of longing to meet him began to pick at the heart of Umar and so he sought him every year, inquiring about the people of Yemen. When Umar met him for the first time he asked him: who are you? He replied, a shepherd and a hired person, without revealing his name. This is because the awliya are known only to a few as they conceal themselves underneath the garment of anonymity. However, as soon as you recognise them through their characteristics, you shall observe the purity of their secrets and not the smudges on their clothes; “And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them” (al-Khaf 18:28)
Ayyub al-Sakhsitiyani [a young Tabi’in] had a little wealth, that was barely sufficient and served to distract others from seeing his [true state of] poverty; whenever he spoke, his heart would become mellow and his eyes would flush with tears immediately, but then he would say, How severe is this flu that I’m suffering from!
And whenever Ibrahim Ibn Adam used to feel ill he would place besides himself a meal, that only a healthy person could eat, so that he would not be like the one who complains about what they are having to endure. Indeed, their imitation coins are better than genuine ones.
Sincerity of believers comes in different forms and states; some believers would give charity with their right hand while concealing it from their left hand.
Al-Nakhi [a pious scholar] used to recite the Quran but whenever someone entered upon him he would immediately cover it [so no-one would know oh his good deed].
Ibn Abi Layla [Judge and jurist of Kufah] used to pretend to be asleep if someone entered upon him while praying.
Al-Hasan al-Basri once said: ‘Men before used to forbear shedding tears whenever their tears began to well up [from their fear of Allah], and if they feared they would be unable to conceal their tears from being noticed by others, they would leave the place so that no one could see them.’
The bottle of the musk of love had been drizzled and its scent has diffused into the sanctuary of worshippers; nevertheless its odour does not scratch to every garment; because ‘How many are those who spent the night paying but earn nothing out of all that except the exhaustion of staying awake all night.” Pretenders spare no effort in praying all night but the wind of pretence refuse and removes the leaves of his worship leaving behind the branches of his deeds bare; indeed thistles bring forth no scent to be carried with the breeze! “If they were truthful with Allah, that would have been better for them”
When the hypocrite attempts to simulate the deeds of the sincere, hearts recognise the stench of the corpse of his hypocrisy and so all deeds have become in vain.
I wonder at the people of hypocrisy! Who do they try to fool and deceive? When “your Lord knows what they conceal in they hearts” (al-Qasas 28:69) As the sincere is overwhelmed by tranquility, the dissimulative arrives showing off with the good deeds he performed but it will be said to him, hold on, the Judge is All-Seeing; when the silkworm began weaving its house, the spider came along to imitate his act [however his web is nowhere as good as the silkworm’s]. The state of Umar ibn al-Khattab declared that when tears fall on cheeks, it becomes clear who is weeping and who was merely pretending.
Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam ibn Jawzi Pages 84-87