'IKHLAS' (purity and sincerity of intentions)
It is the stripping (i.e. the purifying) of one's intentions in order to draw closer to Allah - the Mighty and Majestic - in all matters. It is also said that ikhlas is intending to single out Allah alone with acts of obedience. It has also been said thatikhlas is to forget about the creation by constantly looking towards the Creator.
And ikhlas (sincerity) is a condition for Allah to accept those righteous actions that are done in accordance with the Sunnah (guidance) of Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam.
So Allah -the Most High - commanded us with His saying:
"And they have not been commanded except to worship Allah alone, having ikhlas (purity of intention) in their Religion and not setting-up partners with Allah in the worship of Him."
Abu Umamah radhiallahu 'anhu relates:
Once a man came to Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam and said: What do you think about a person who joins us in the fighting only to seek fame and wealth? So Allah's Messengersallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam replied: "He receives nothing!" The man repeated the question three times, each time Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "He recieves nothing!" Then he said: "Indeed Allah does not accept an action except if it is done with ikhlas (i.e. purely for Allah's sake), seeking nothing but His Face."
[An Nasai: 6/25]
Zayd ibn Thabit radhiallahu 'anhu relates:
The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:"May Allah brighten whosoever hears my words, memorises them and then conveys them to others. Many a carrier of knowledge does not understand it, and many a carrier of knowledge conveys it to one who has better understanding. There are three things which the heart of a Believer has no malice about: Ikhlas for Allah in one's action; sincere advice to the Muslim leaders; and clinging to the Jama'ah." 2
[Ahmed: 4/80; Ibn Maajah: 230]
The meaning of the above being that these three matters strengthen the heart. And that whosoever adopts them, then his heart will be purified from deceit, corruption and evil. And no servant can be free from Shaytan except by having ikhlas, as Allah - the Mighty and Majestic - said:"Except those of Your servants who have ikhlas."
So ikhlas is: Cleansing the heart from all impurities - whether large or small - such that the intention of drawing closer to Allah is stripped of all other motives, except that. And this matter cannot be imagined, except from someone who truly loves Allah; and who is so absorbed in thinking about the akhirah (Hereafter), that there remains no place in his heat for the love of this world to settle. The likes of such a person - even when he is eating, drinking or any other work - has ikhlas in his actions and has correct intentions. However, whosoever is not like this, then the doors of ikhlas will be closed to him - except in rare exceptions. Likewise, whosoever is overwhelmed with the love of Allah and the love of the Hereafter, then the actions that he does will all be characterised with this ikhlas. However, if the person's soul is overwhelmed with this dunya (world), then the actions that he does will be characterised with this love, such that no act of worship - whether it be fasting or praying, or other than these - will be accepted from him, except in a few cases.
The cure for loving this world is to break these worldly desires that the soul has, curing-off the greed it has for this world and purifying it for the Hereafter. This will then become the overwhelming trait of the heart and with this state achieving ikhlas will become much easier. For how many actions there are that a person does, thinking that they are done with true ikhlas (sincerity), seeking only the Face of Allah, but he is deluded, for he does not see the defects in them!
"MAY ALLAH (SWT) GRANT US PURITY AND SINCERITY IN ALL OUR INTENTIONS AND ACTIONS. AAMEEN!"