Definition of Intention

  • 1 The concept of intention in Islam

    In the name of Allah, all praise is due to Allah, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the Messenger of Allah and all his family and companions.

    The concept of intention in Islam

     The intention is a fundamental matter, it is the spirit of deeds, with which deeds may be good. It has been narrated on the authority of Umar bin al-Khattab that the Messenger of Allah ( may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon  him ) said:

    Deeds are but intentions. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended."-

     The place of the intention is the heart. Therefore, if one uttered – out of mistake - with his tongue what is contrary to what is in his heart, what counts is what he intends with his heart, not what he uttered.

    Imam An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: " Muslims anonymously agreed on the importance of this Hadith and that it implies many beneficial rulings. Moreover, it was authentically transmitted …" Then he said: "The masses of the Arabic and Usoul scholars and other than them hold the view that The word (but) encompasses all the related meanings for the mentioned thing and negates the same meanings from other than it.

    So the interpretation of this Hadith: Actions are counted with the intention, and they are not counted if they lack the intention.

    This Hadith indicates that the purity, which may be attained through the ablution, the washing, and the ( Taymmum ) dry ablution are valid only with the intention, the same applies for the prayers, paying the Zakah, observing fasting, performing Hajj, staying in the mosque for I`tikaf and the other acts of worship".

    Then Ibn Rajab, may Allah have mercy on him, elaborated on the Hadith: " A man will be rewarded only for what he intended." This is an Explanation that one does not get from his deeds except what he has intended, for if he intends a good, he will have good rewards, and if he does not have a good intention, he will be rewarded according to his intention. The second sentence is not a mere repetition for the first one because the first one indicates that the validity and the invalidity of the deed depend on the intention of performing the deed, but the second one indicates that the reward of the doer for his deed on the righteous intention, as well he may be punished because of his bad intention. However, one may have a permissible intention and accordingly his deed will be counted as permitted, thus he will not be either rewarded or punished. The deed itself in terms of its validity, invalidity, and permissibility depend on the intention to initiate it and to perform it. The reward of the doer, as well as his safety or deserving the punishment, depend on the intention because of which the deed is considered valid, or invalid or corrupt or permissible." 

    From this honorable and comprehensive Hadith, it is possible to derive important rules pertaining to intentions in our daily life, including: -

    1- The intention does not turn a sin into a good deed.

    2- Deeds are not valid unless there is an intention.

    The intention affects the deed, so it turns the permissible deed into an act of obedience and drawing close to Allah, and turns the obedience into disobedience, for instance, if someone who does a deed for the sake of showing off and reputation or for the sake of seeking a worldly matter, but it does not turn the act of disobedience into a permissible thing as some people think.

  • 2 Conditions for accepting deeds in the sight of Allah Almighty

    In order to have the acts of worship accepted by Allah Almighty so that the servant is rewarded for doing the acts of worship, it must meet two conditions: The first condition: is sincerity to Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty said ( interpretation of the meaning ):

    { And they were not commanded except to worship Allāh, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakāh. And that is the correct religion. }

    Quran [ 98 : 5].

    What is meant by the sincerity in Islam is: that the servant intends to seek the pleasure of Allah Almighty. with all his outward and inward words and actions Allah Almighty said ( interpretation of the meaning ):

    { And not [giving] for anyone who has [done him] a favor to be rewarded1 But only seeking the face [i.e., acceptance] of his Lord, Most High. }

    Quran [ 92 : 19 - 20]

    Allah Almighty said ( interpretation of the meaning ) :

    { Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter - We increase for him in his harvest [i.e., reward]. And whoever desires the harvest [i.e., benefits] of this world - We give him thereof, but there is not for him in the Hereafter any share. }

    Quran [ 42 : 20 ]

    Allah Almighty said ( interpretation of the meaning ) :

    { Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments - We fully repay them for their deeds therein,1 and they therein will not be deprived. Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And lost is what they did therein,1 and worthless is what they used to do. }

    Quran [ 11 : 15 -16 ].

    Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

    The Messenger of Allah ( may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) said,

    "Almighty Allah says, 'I am the One Who is most free from want of partners. He who does a thing for the sake of someone else beside Me, I discard him and his polytheism.."


    The second condition: the deed must be in conformity to the law that Allah Almighty commanded the servants not to worship him except by it, which is to follow the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in all the instructions he taught us, 'Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:

    The Messenger of Allah ( may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) said, "If anyone introduces in our matter something which does not belong to it, will be rejected".

    [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

     The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, commanded his followers to stick to and abide by his Sunnah and his guidance. He, peace and blessings be upon him, said: " hold fast to my Sunnah and the examples of the Rightly- Guided Caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold fast to them. Beware of new things (in Deen) because every Bid'ah is a misguidance". 

    Every action that is not intended for the sake of Allah Almighty, and not in conformity with the law of Allah and His Messenger will be rejected, then the one who does it will not be rewarded. Anyone who introduces a heresy in Islam will not be accepted from him because Allah his Messenger did not legislate this deed.

     (Ibn Al-Qayyim said: Allah made sincerity and following-up the Messenger of Allah Muhammed the criteria for the acceptance of deeds, otherwise deeds will not be accepted)

    Allah Almighty said ( interpretation of the meaning ) :

    { [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving }

    Quran [ 67 : 2]

    Al-Fudail interpreted this verse by saying: " which of you is best in deed means which of you is the most sincere and correct

  • 3 The importance of intention

    The intention transforms the permissible deed into an act of obedience and an act of worship, so care and attention should be paid to it. it must be sincerely dedicated to Allah Almighty, free from the impurities of hypocrisy and reputation. There is no doubt that correcting the intention, and bringing it up at the beginning of the deed, is one of the greatest things that the worshiper must be keen to do, because it is the criteria for accepting or rejecting the deed. Moreover, it is the indicator of the goodness or corruption of the heart. The heart will not be upright unless it strives to please Allah only with no partners.

    The reward is multiplied by the multiplicity of the intention in the same act. If a Muslim enters the mosque in a state of  ablution and prays two units of prayer with the intention of the voluntary prayer of dawn, the Sunnah of ablution, and the Sunnah of greeting the mosque, he will be rewarded for what he intended, and with Allah is the Greatest Bounty.

    An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “If one enters the prayer with the intention of performing the obligatory prayer and the prayer of greeting the mosque, his prayer will be valid and he will be rewarded for both the obligatory prayer and the prayer of greeting the mosque.”

    Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, said: " the acts of obedience .. are contingent on the intentions, in terms of the original validity and the multiplication of the reward. As for the original; it is to worship Allah alone with no partners. Therefore, if one shows off with his deed then it will turn into an act of disobedience. As for the multiplication of the reward, it relies on the multiplicity of the good intentions for one can have more than one good intention in the same deed so that he receives a reward for each good deed, each good deed will be multiplied ten folds and Allah increases the reward as he likes as confirmed in the authentic Hadith".  

    Let us consider this example: Sitting in the mosque:

    It is an act of obedience, and it is possible to bear many good intentions so that it becomes one of the virtuous deeds of the righteous, and the doer attains the ranks of those who are close to Allah.

    The First: is to believe that it is the house of Allah and that inside it he will be considered a visitor of Allah, so he intends to visit his Lord, hoping to attain the reward promised by the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who said: " the one who sits in a mosques has visited Allah, and it is due on the visited to honor his visitor"

    The Second: To wait for the prayer after performing a  prayer.

    The third: Devotion to Allah, contemplation of the hereafter, and repelling one’s diverting concerns by secluding oneself in the mosque.

    The Fourth: To free oneself to remember Allah or to listen to his remembrance and to be reminded of him.

    The Fifth: To intend to convey the knowledge through ordering what is good and forbidding what is wrong, because in the mosque he may meet people who pray in an improper way or commit a prohibition.

    The Sixth: To benefit a brother for the sake of Allah.

    The Seventh: To abstain from sins out of shyness from Allah the Most High, and out of shyness from transgressing in the House of Allah what necessitates an offense against its sanctity.

    Then ……………

    This is a way to multiply the intentions, you may apply the same method on the other acts of obedience and the permissible things. Since there is no act of obedience but it is liable to bear many good intentions. These good intentions will be present in the heart of the servant when he strives to attain the goodness, prepare for it and contemplate on it. In this way, the deeds can be elevated and the deeds may be multiplied

  • 4 The types of intentions

    There are two types of intentions

    [1] An obligatory intention, without which the act of worship is not valid, such as the intention in ablution, prayer, zakat, fasting, and pilgrimage. This intention is hardly overlooked by anyone, so if a person performs ablution to pray, or to touch the Qur’an, or to be pure, then he has the intention. So the intention to pray, or the intention to remove the state that prevents him from offering the prayer, this is the intention in ablution. If a person stands to pray, knowing that it is the noon prayer, for example, and intends to pray it and begin it, then he has made the intention, and it is not necessary - and it is not prescribed - to say with his tongue that I intended to pray the noon prayer... etc., as some people do, because this was not narrated from the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, but the place :of the intention is the heart. Thus, if a person resolves - at night that he will fast tomorrow - then he has intended to fast, and even eating the food of Suhoor, indicates his intention to fast and his desire for it. Intention in this sense is difficult for a person to forget.

    [2] - The second type: is a recommended intention, to obtain the reward, and this is what some people neglect, which is to evoke the intention in permissible things, to turn them into acts of obedience and acts of worship, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping with the intention of strengthening the  body to perform the acts of obedience, Narrated Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas:

    Allah's Messenger ( may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) said,

    "You will be rewarded for whatever you spend for Allah's sake even if it were a morsel which you put in your wife's mouth."

     Muadh, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “As for me, I sleep and stand up in the night prayer, so I expect the reward for my sleep as I expect the reward for standing in the night prayer.”

    He, may Allah be pleased with him, used to anticipate the reward in sleeping, as he anticipated the reward for performing the night prayer, because he wanted to gain strength for worship and obedience by sleeping.

    He used to seek the reward in rest as well as in fatigue. Because if the rest is intended to help in worship, the reward will be obtained.”

    Matters help to evoke this intention:

    - Taking one`s time.

    -  Contemplation.

    - Avoiding haste.

    In this way the person thinks about what he does and leaves, and holds himself accountable before the action, then considers whether it is permissible or forbidden, then looks at his intention: What did he intend by that?

    The more he holds himself accountable, and trains it to reflect before performing the deed, the more he remembers to have a good intention until it becomes his habit, and he usually gets used to it, so he does not go out or enter, does not eat or drink, does not give or prevent, unless he has a good intention in that deed, and thus it turns spending the time in the permissible things to times of worship and drawing closer to Allah.

    We ask Allah Almighty to guide us to sincerity in intention, saying, and action.

    Allah Almighty is higher and knows best. All praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions, and those who follow him in goodness until the Day of Judgment

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