To maintain sincerity and istiqāmah or uprightness

Sincerity and uprightness must be the two inseparable characteristics of a man of service. To be a true man of service is a blessing of Allah the Almighty. We should be grateful for this blessing and try to be sincere and follow the straight path in our services. Otherwise we should not forget that we may lose this blessing.

Those who are entrusted with more important duties of serving others have to be really careful in this matter. It is necessary for someone who climbs a high mountain to be careful where to step up and which branch to hold on to, because a wrong step would be much more dangerous at the peak of a mountain.

The saying of the Prophet (pbuh),“…The sincere ones are against a great danger” (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, V, 345),is a very nice expression of this reality. Those who sincerely serve others are under the protection of Allah the Almighty against the tricks and plots of the Devil. This is expressed in the following verses:

“He said: Then by Thy Might I will surely make them live an evil life, all, Except Thy servants from among them, the purified ones.”(38; 82-83)

 Sincerity is the most important condition for the validity of serving others. Wherever there is sincerity, selfishness and desires wane. In this way claiming the success for his/herself will be blocked and obstacles on the path to service will decrease to a minimum.

One of the manifestations of sincerity can be observed in some types of charitable acts, especially in the foundation of endowments. Some endowments live for centuries because of the sincerity of its founder. Even though they sometimes temporarily stop their activities, in time some philanthropists come and revive them again.

We should never doubt that sincerity always prevails; because sincere attempts are protected and will never be wasted. Many a small army which was constituted from sincere and patient soldiers defeated a large army by Allah’s will. This proves that sincerity is the foundation of victory. Victory after the Battle of Badr is the best example of this reality. On the other hand in the Battle of Hunayn, because the Muslim army trusted its number advantage and boasted, they lost their sincerity and experienced a partial defeat at the beginning. However, later the Prophet (pbuh) warned his Companions and they realized their mistakes and were blessed with victory.

One of the most important signs of sincerity is to expect the reward for the service only from Allah the Almighty. The best examples of this were manifested by the prophets and men of Allah. The following statement mentioned in the Qur’an and uttered by almost all prophets expresses this fact in the clearest way:

وَمَاۤ اَسْـئَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ اَجْرٍ اِنْ اَجْرِىَ
اِلاَّ عَلَى رَبِّ الْعَالمَِينَ

“And I do not ask you any reward for it; my reward isonly with the Lord of the worlds:”[1]

Another significant example from the Qur’an is the story about “Ashab Qaryah – The Companions of the village.”

Three delegates were sent to Antioch to invite their people to the straight path, but the people not only refused their invitation but also threatened to kill them. When Habib al-Najjar from Antitoch heard his peoples’ rude behavior and threats, he hastily came to them and said:

“And from the remote part of the city there came a man running, he said: O my people! follow the messengers; Follow him who does not ask you for reward, and they are the followers of the right course;.”(36; 20-21)

If a man of service waits no worldly gain for his services but expects his reward only from Allah the Almighty, he would gain not just Allah’s but also people’s contentment. This reality is expressed in the following tradition of the Prophet (pbuh):

On one occasion a man came to the Messenger of Allah and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! Tell me something when I do it, I win both Allah’s and people’s love.” The Messenger of Allah replied:

“Renounce the world and do not love this world so that Allah would love you. Do not ask what people have so that people would love you, too.”(Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 1)

In short, the thought to do everything for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty must transform into consciousness in the hearts of the men of service.

Those who serve others must follow the path of the Prophets, siddiqs or the eminently truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous, in other words the straight path. Those who follow the straight path in faith, in speech, in action, in every step of life are praised in the following verse:

“(As for) those who say: Our Lord is Allah, then continue in the right way, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the garden which you were promised.”(41; 30)

Men of service should display a strong character; because humans admire and follow exemplary figures who have strong character and dignity. There are many examples of these types of people in history of Islam.

In fact during the Abbasid caliphate, borders of the Muslim state were expanded and nation’s wealth was flowing into the capital Baghdad. As a result, the number of those who were deceived by wealth and fell into fun, pleasure and luxury rose significantly. In fact head vizier Hasan b. Sahl’s wedding ceremony, who got married with Caliph Ma’mun’s daughter, continued for nineteen days and luxury and extravagance was at the highest level. State treasury had been wasted. State’s wealth enslaved the souls’ of many high ranking statesmen. Such weak characters could not present any good example for others to follow, and they did not have any charitable reminder or trace after their death.

On the other hand at the same time there were others in Baghdad who invite people to purify their souls, to obey Allah and His messenger. These friends of Allah, such as Abdullah b. Mubarak, Sufyan al-Sawri, Fudayl b. Iyad, Junayd al-Baghdadi, Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, and Bishr al-Khafi, devoted themselves to Allah and were living a pious life. Worldly possessions and luxury could not buy their souls; no government posts or worldly glamour could turn them from their objects and blessed duties. They were like a safe harbor and a shelter for those who were about to drown in the sea of materialism. Sultans, viziers, statesmen were ruling over the physical existence of the people while friends of Allah were crowned in the hearts of people. They were serving people without expecting any worldly benefit from them. Their spiritual state was even affecting the non-Muslims.

Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid was living in glory and luxury in Raqqa. One day Abdullah b. Mubarak came to Raqqa. All the people of the city went out of the city to welcome him. Caliph was almost alone in the city. One of the concubines of Caliph wondered the reason of this scene and asked:

“What is this? What is happening?” and she was told:

“A scholar from Khorasan came to the city. His name is Abdullah b. Mubarak. People went out to welcome him.”

Then the concubine said:

“The real sultanate is this one not Harun al-Rashid’s; because, without a police force he cannot even gather his workers.”

As a matter of fact, throughout history the righteous men kept the community’s spirit alive and hold the honor and dignity of Islam up with their high character and personality. In return for their high morality Our Lord Almighty loved them and made them loved by all believers until the last days. In a verse, it is stated that:

اِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنوُا وَعَمِلوُا الصَّالحِاَتِ
سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمنُ وُدًّا

“Surely (as for) those who believe and do good deeds for tthem will Allah bring about love.”(19; 96)

That is why men of service should follow the footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh), who was al-amin (trustworthy) and al-Sadiq (honest), and be honest and trustworthy. This can be achieved if the servant follows an upright conduct in his/her servitude to Allah the Almighty. They must be really careful in each of their steps like they are walking on the bridge of Sirat both in their personal life as well as in their service to others.

[1].      See Holy Qur’an 26; 109, 127, 145, 164, 180: 10; 72: 11; 29.