Ikhlas (sincerity) is the foundation stone of the Deen. Without Ikhlas all religious beliefs and practices are meaningless. The spiritual path which is often referred to tassawuf or the path of sulook and Ihsan is from beginning to end the path of Ikhlas.
Allah (swt) says in the Noble Qur’an: And they were not commanded but to worship Allah making the religion sincere for Him, (meaning turning away from others).
Thus the meaning of ikhlas is that in any act one’s intention (niyyat) be to do that act purely and solely for the pleasure (rida) of Allah (swt). It’s opposite is ostentation (riya’) which means doing things to please people or to gain value in their eyes. Reflecting (tafakkur) upon those ayaat and hadith that talk about the importance of ikhlas helps to engender it in the heart. Moreover awareness of Allah Taala’s trancendent majesty (jalal), beauty (jamal) and perfection (kamal) leads to the realisation of ikhlas, as one know’s that both worlds are insignificant in comparison with the good pleasure (rida) and nearness (qurb) of Allah (swt).
Shaykh Ibn Ata’illah(ra) said in famous work Hikam: Actions are lifeless forms and are only brought to life by the reality of ikhlas in them.
As with all states pertaining to the heart and the inner aspect of man, an easy way of acquring ikhlas is keeping the company of the people of ikhlas.
Regarding tawajjuh (concentration in prayer etc): It is helpful to bear in mind the Hadith of Gabriel in which the Holy Prophet (saws) said: Worship Allah as though you see Him for though you do not see Him, He sees you. Apart from this it is also helpful to focus on the meaning of what one is saying and try and say these words from the heart intending to humble onself before Allah (swt). If one gets distracted by some thought or memory one should bring one’s attention back to the words and their meanings and insha’Allah if one keeps to this one will progress to a level where one is less distracted. Sometimes these distracting thoughts are involuntary and these should just be ignored. It is important not to get hung up on these thoughts as they will cause one to be absent from the prayer. The secret of presence with God in prayer (namaz/salat) and in dhikr is to keep the heart free of trivial and useless thoughts at other times during the day. The more one’s normal state is free of defects the better one’s tawajjuh will be in ibadat. Of course one should also make du’a asking Allah (swt) to make us from his sincere servants who are in His presence at all times.
All success is only by Allah Most High.
(the above is a response to question from as visitor to this blog)