Ikhlas (sincerity) cannot coexist in a heart which embraces the love of praise and commendation, nor the yearning to obtain that which is possessed amongst the people, save in the manner that fire and water, or a lizard and fish may coexist.
If your soul informs you to quest for ikhlas, turn first towards your yearning and slaughter it with a knife in a state of desperation. Then turn in a state of asceticism upon praise and commendation, the asceticism of the one who loved the dunya for the sake of the Hereafter. If your quest in the act of slaughtering the yearning, and the acquisition of asceticism against praise and commendation is successful, your journey shall be facilitated in your quest for ikhlas.
If it is mentioned: What may facilitate the act of slaughtering the yearning and the development of asceticism against the praise and commendation?
The method of facilitating the act of slaughtering the yearning: Your definitive knowledge that there is no matter present that awakens ones greed for, save the worship of Allah alone, and the treasures which He alone possesses. For no individual can furnish the slave with those treasures save He.
The method of facilitating the development of asceticism against praise and commendation: Your knowledge that there is no individual who can confer benefit upon or beautify his praise, nor inflict damage upon or disgrace his vilification, save Allah alone.
As the bedouin said to the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "My praise has been embellished, and indeed my vilification has been disgraced." The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam remarked, "That is Allah." [Tirmidhi 3266, Kitab Tafsir al-Quran, declared sahih]
Accordingly, be ascetic for praise and the one who is incapable of beautifying his praise for you. And for vilification and the one who is incapable of disgracing his vilification for you. Be desirous for the One who is absolute in the embellishment of His praise, and is absolute in the tarnishment of His vilification. For none shall acquire that, save with patience and certainty, and when you have forfeited patience and certainty, you are comparable to the one who desired to journey across a sea without the aid of a vessel.
Allah has mentioned:
"Be patient. Verily the promise of Allah is true, and let not those who are devoid of certainty in faith discourage you from conveying Allah's Message." [Al-Qur'an 30:60]
"We have made from amongst them leaders, guiding under One Command, when they were patient and believed in Our Signs with certainty." [Al-Qur'an 32:24]
[Translated from al-Fawa'id by Sajad ibn 'Abdur-Rahman, 1998 Sajad Rana taken from www.islaam.com]
(s) Adapted from the translator's footnotes to An Explanation of Riyadh as-Salihin by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Salih al-'Uthaymin