by Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.
ur amazing capacity for abstract, complicated thought is what sets humans apart from other creatures. Our varied cultural heritage, technological advancements, and capacity to see the future and, hopefully, improve upon it are all products of this. However, our flawed minds have also produced awful errors and perilous ideas. Without the ability to discriminate between good and bad thinking, we run the risk of holding beliefs that are destructive to our health, those of others, and the environment.
Of course, the classic example of an expert thinker is a philosopher. Their discipline is frequently portrayed as a formal approach that identifies fallacies to avoid, distinguishes between flawed and sound arguments, and distinguishes between deductive and inductive thinking. Each of these items has a purpose. Philosophy, however, cannot be reduced to a mere technicality. Adopting the proper attitudes and developing productive routines are also necessary for good thinking. Even the most intelligent people only succeed in playing games on paper without these “intellectual virtues.”
Throughout history wise men and women have applied themselves to these problems in the service of their own development and that of humankind. One such area of focus has been the aspect of sincerity in human beings. Issues such as how driven are you in the fulfilment of other goals that it is practicable for you to be sincere, or how honestly do you speak about issues and people and events, pruning your personal opinions, inclinations or even illusions, in so doing. A truly fascinating subject indeed, but one mired in mystery and misinterpretations.
Islam places a high value on sincerity, or “Ikhlas” as it is known in Arabic. It is a quality that not only characterises a devoted Muslim but also acts as a beacon for living a purposeful and happy life. Let us examine the Islamic teachings and counsel on truthfulness, backed by rational scientific analysis, showing how sincerity promotes both spiritual and psychological health.
Islamic Principles on Sincerity
Purity of Intention: According to Islamic teaching, every activity, including religious rituals and routine tasks, should be carried out with a true and pure intention.
And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion(Qur’an, 98:5)
This principle emphasises that all actions should be performed with the intention of making Allah happy, not for fame or personal gain.
Sincerity in Islam is strongly correlated with humility and selflessness. According to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
“Actions are but by intention, and every man shall have only that which he intended.”
This tells us that the sincerity of one’s aim is the fundamental quality of their deeds and exhorts Muslims to practice selflessness.
Avoiding Ostentation and Show-off: In Islam, ostentation, or “Riya” in Arabic, is seen as a serious spiritual ailment. It is wrong to perform acts of devotion or generosity in order to win the favour or acclaim of others. The Glorious Qur’an foretells,
“So woe to those who pray, [but] who are heedless of their prayer – those who make show [of their deeds]” (Quran, 107:4-6).
True sincerity necessitates consistency in both one’s faith and one’s deeds. Muslims are exhorted to remain sincere in both their daily life and their religious rituals. This constancy encourages a peaceful marriage of faith and deeds, resulting in a balanced and content existence.
Scientific studies support the positive impact of sincerity on both spiritual and psychological well-being:
Superior Psychological Health: Sincere people typically have lower levels of stress and anxiety. One is less likely to experience the negative impacts of stress when their activities are driven by pure goals rather than by outside forces. Sincerity in daily life has been linked to better mental health and emotional resilience.
Stronger Interpersonal partnerships: Sincere people are frequently thought to be trustworthy and genuine, which improves their capacity to establish and keep wholesome partnerships. According to psychological research, sincerity is essential for developing deep relationships with people and generating a sense of support and belonging.
Sincerity encourages a positive self-image, which raises self-esteem. People are more likely to feel good about themselves and their actions when they act with good intentions. This increase in self-worth might result in more self-assurance and general life happiness.
Greater Sense of Purpose: Being sincere offers people a sense of direction and purpose in life. People frequently report feeling more fulfilled and motivated when behaviours are in line with firmly held ideas and values. In the face of life’s adversities, this sense of purpose may promote resilience.
Philosophers have explored the concept of sincerity from various angles, examining its ethical, psychological, and social dimensions. Here are some key insights from philosophers on the topic of sincerity:
“A wrangler is one who aims only at victory, being indifferent whether the arguments which he employs support his own contention or that of his opponent.”Akap?da Gautama (the legendary founder of the Ny?ya (‘Logic’) school of Indian philosophy, who is reputed also to be the author of its basic text, the Ny?yas?tra. This compilation of roughly 500 mnemonic sentences reached its first defined form around ad 400.
The Indian classic Nyya Stras, purportedly written by Akapda Gautama between the sixth and second centuries BCE, is the first significant work on the foundations of reasoning. Gautama separates debate into three categories. Jalpa (wrestling) aims for victory, whereas vitanda (cavilling) is solely focused on criticizing the opposing side. However, the goal of a good or honest discussion, vada, is truth. Sometimes philosophical debates become competitive. But the sharpest thinkers refrain from arguing or criticizing. One of these thinkers, Bernard Williams, named precision as the other of the two main “virtues of truth” and sincerity as the third. The greatest threat to sincerity is not outright lying, but rather the triumph of righteousness over the quest for the truth.
Immanuel Kant (a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant’s comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics have made him one of the most influential and controversial figures in modern Western philosophy): Kant stressed the need for sincerity in moral behaviour. He claimed that moral standards should be upheld out of a sense of obligation and a real dedication to those standards. Kant held that a deed is only ethically meaningful if it is carried out truly and without any ulterior motives or self-serving goals.
Sren Kierkegaard (a Danish theologian, philosopher, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher): Kierkegaard wrote extensively on the subject of sincerity. He made a distinction between authenticity and sincerity. According to him, authenticity is living up to one’s values while sincerity is being loyal to oneself and those principles. He thought that to live a genuine life, one had to be sincere and dedicated to one’s principles.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic, and educational thought): Rousseau examined the concept of sincerity in his writing. He thought that through enforcing social standards and expectations, society frequently compels people to be dishonest. Rousseau called for a return to a more organic and real condition of being, where people might genuinely express who they were.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (a German philosopher, prose poet, cultural critic, philologist, and composer, whose work exerted a profound influence on contemporary philosophy. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy). He is well-known for his critique of morality, and has a nuanced understanding of sincerity. He denounced what he referred to as “slave morality,” which he said encouraged hypocrisy and self-denial. Nietzsche regarded the authenticity of embracing one’s desires and instincts as well as the sincerity of one’s will to power.
Harry Frankfurt (an American philosopher. He was a professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University, where he taught from 1990 until 2002. Frankfurt also taught at Yale University, Rockefeller University, and Ohio State University): The essay “On Bullshit,” written by contemporary philosopher Harry Frankfurt, investigates the idea of sincerity in a roundabout way. He contends that sincerity, or “bullshit,” differs from lying in that it includes a complete disdain for the truth. The significance of sincerity and truthfulness in communication and society is a topic that is raised by Frankfurt’s work.
In conclusion, sincerity has been studied by philosophers, proven by science and commanded by the Holy Qurán as a key component of upright, moral behaviour, authenticity and expressing one’s genuine self. These sources offer insightful information on the value of sincerity in human life and moral judgment, something we must try not just to embrace in our lives but to internalise them to the extent that they become part of our beings, our core existences.
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