There is a very well known story concerning the sincerity of Hazrat Ali. It is said that once, while fighting with a non believer, he managed to overpower him and was sitting on top of him ready for the final blow of his sword. At that moment the non-believer spat in his face. This act of the disbeliever made Ali feel very much displeased. However, he placed the sword back into its sheath and got off from him. In other words he immediately refrained from killing him, although he had all the opportunity to do so.
As he separated himself from the enemy, the disbeliever shouted at him: "O Ameerul- Mumineen! What is this? After I had insulted you by spitting in your face, you should have killed me immediately. You had me at your mercy and completely subdued and subjugated. What is it that stopped you from killing me?"
Hazrat Ali replied: "I had the intention of killing you solely for the pleasure of Allah. When you spat in my face, you stirred up my anger. If I had killed you then, this act of mine would have been out of the anger of my nafs and not out of sincerity to Allah. Allah does not accept any deed which is not done out of sincerity. Killing you at that time would have been against sincerity. Hence I refrained from killing you".
Hearing these words from Hazrat Ali the enemy was astonished and the light of Imaan was lit in his heart: "I consider it my good fortune to accept such a Deen, 0 Ameerul-Mumineen, where such a teaching of sincerity is expounded. This Deen is undoubtedly
the true Deen".
Now Maulana Rumi (R.A.) says:
"Learn the lesson of sincerity from Hazrat Ali
And consider the Lion of Truth to be free of deceit.
During Jehad he overpowered a non-believing fighter
And removed his sword from the sheath in order to kill.
The non-believing enemy spat in the face of him.
Who was the beloved of Allah, Rasulullah and all the Saints.
Hazrat Ali replaced his sword in the sheath
And refrained from killing the enemy.
The non-believer was astonished at this.
He was surprised at the enemy's pardon and mercy.
He said: "With such speed you took out the sword
But why did you replace the sword in the sheath and leave me alone?
How is the mercy and pardon at a time of anger
When a serpent subdues someone, why would it leave its prey?"
"I am the Lion of God, not the Lion of my lustful desires.
This act of mine, is a witness and an indication of the truth of my religion.
When you spat in my face, my nafs cried out for revenge.
At that time my nature and disposition was destroyed.
At that time half the act would be for God and the other half as revenge for myself.
And any deed done for God should not be divided between Him and another
And should be done solely for Him".
The disbelieving enemy replied:
"I am a spreader and sower of injustice and evil,
But I consider you as a highest form of humanity".
The result of this story was that the non-believer became blessed with embracing Islam.
Maulana Rumi (R.A.) says:
“The sword of clemency is sharper than the sword of iron in effect. In fact, in being victorious, clemency is more effective than numerous armies ".
Lesson from this Story
From this story we learn a very great lesson about sincerity in deeds. Whatever deed a person does, he should correct his intention. If sincerity is present, worldly acts also become religious acts. For example, a person for the sake of earning halaal shouts: 'Here, buy guavas, buy mangoes!' His intention is to earn halaal sustenance to feed his wife and children according to the command of Allah and His Rasulullah. In such a case, for every time he shouts 'Buy guavas, buy mangoes', he is being rewarded.
On the other hand if he says: "Subhaanallah, Subhaanallah!" with this intention that the people should look upon him as a holy man and put their wealth in his trust, whereby he will acquire worldly things, then in such a case his "Subhaanallah" will be a worldly act and not a deeny act.
Hence Ikhlaas (sincerity) is very important. Otherwise there is the danger that all deeds may become destroyed. In order to learn sincerity, it is necessary that we learn it from a sincere person. This great gift is best learnt from the saints of Allah and from their company. It is not acquired merely from books. Book knowledge and the company of the saintly, both these things are necessary. Those who are blessed with the company of the elders also learn a lot and also become beloved of the people while those who only depend on book knowledge and do not stay in the company of the saintly ones can never become properly reformed beings. The reason for this is that purification is a transitive action of one on another person and for this act a purifier is required.
The Quran speaks about "And he purifies them".
In this verse the purifier is Rasulullah $ and the purified are the Sahabah (R.A.). This shows that the Sahabah (R.A.) were not able to purify themselves although that was the blessed era of Rasulullah $. At that time the Quran was being revealed and Jibreel was coming and going among them. So how can anybody today say: "We consider our studies of books enough for our reformation and rectification". Such people's hearts will fully understand that such a talk is ,merely meaningless and foolish pretence. In actual fact, laziness of the self and love of this world and of the high rank are the things that keeps one away from visiting a saintly spiritual guide, for self-rectification.
The immediate pleasures and grandeur of this world is preferred above the promised life of the hereafter. The nafs reigns supreme and one has not the ability to resist and oppose it. The actual reason for this is the fact that there is a lack of desire in us for Allah and for this reason we are satisfied with a little deen in our lives, but we are not satisfied with a little of this world. Night and day we make plans as to how we can acquire more of this
worldly wealth. '
Imam Ghazali (R.A.) says:
"I see the Kings of this world satisfied with little deen,
But not satisfied with a little of this world
So now, with Your deen become independent of the King's world,
Just as they with their dunya show disinterest in the hereafter".