Hadith: From the Amir al-Muminin Abu Hafsa ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, that he said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saying, ‘Actions are only by intentions, and every man has only that which he intended. Whoever’s emigration is for Allah and His Messenger then his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. Whoever’s emigration is for some worldly gain which he can acquire or a woman he will marry then his emigration is for that for which he emigrated’.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Everything in this life has to be purely and solely to earn the pleasure of Allah[swt]. For the righteous actions that we do, we’ll be able to earn the pleasure/rida’a/Qurb of Allah[swt] based on how noble our intention is – as the Prophet[saw] has said that a person is only going to have that which they intended.
There are three kinds of actions that we perform, lets see the effect that niyyah can have on each of these actions:
- Good/Rigteous Actions
- Neutral Actions [Daily/mundane acts]
- Bad Actions
1. For Righteous Actions:
Now, it is possible that we perform a good action but have different kinds of intentions for it i.e. Good, Bad & Neutral for doing the same act.
a. Good Intention:
Whenever we perform a good deed, we should make a pure intention in our heart to please our Rabb.
- The barakah of making an sound intention at the beginning of a good deed is that it creates awareness in our heart of performing that deed and if we can become aware in the beginning inshaAllah that will carryout throughout the ibadah and we will have more khushoo in our worship.
- Making Multiple intentions: one way in which we can multiply the positive effect of our good deeds and gain maximum rewards from it is by making multiple intentions, the more intentions that we can attach to the deed, the more reward we can expect to attain from the act, inshaAllah. For e.g. When we go to the Masjid, instead of just making an intention of going to pray namaz, we can make so many additional niyyahs for the same act: for instance we can make intention of doing i’tikaf, being in a sinless environment, to be in the company of pious people[saaliheen] etc.
b. Lack of Intention:
Most of the times, we find ourselves in a situation that we would be doing a good deed[ like for e.g. praying, doing wudu etc] but since we did not make any intention in our heart before it, the act of ibadah//worship becomes merely a ritual. So, these good acts that we automatically perform, if only we make a sound intention in our heart before doing them, it would not only earn us more rewards from Allah[swt], but also our hearts would actually be present/aware in that ibadah and hence we would be able to perform it with more concentration.For e.g. When studying hadith, we should make intention that we would do ‘amal on these ahadith
c. Bad Intention:
Having a bad niyyah for a good action can destroy the greatest of acts. We should know that our act, no matter how good it is, will only be according to the intention we made for it, if it is to please someone other than Allah[swt] (Ghair Allah) then it is going to be for that which it has been intended for.
2. For Neutral Actions:
These are the mundane acts that we perform normally in our everyday routine unthinkingly. Niyyah is such an incredible tool that it can spin these neutral acts into acts of worship or righteous actions simply by making an intention which would connect that act to Allah[swt].
For e.g. An ordinary act of sleeping can be converted into an act of ibadah such that we get sawab for every moment that we spent in sleeping! Before sleeping we should firstly recite the sunnah dua then we can make the intention that Ya Allah, I’m sleeping only inorder to give my body some rest so that I can rise and do Your ibadah, I only wish to recharge my body so that I can do acts that are pleasing to You, plus it is also a sunnah to sleep so in it’ibah-e-sunnah, plus it also comes in the Quran that He[swt] has made night a time to sleep, so we can add that intention of following this verse too! Similarly, when eating food we can make intention that Ya Allah, I’m eating this halal food to remain healthy for your ibadah, we can make dua that Ya Allah[swt] please create via this food new cells that would enable me to do good, and dispose off the cells with which I sinned, by eating the sunnah way we can also gain more sawab etc.
For Bad Actions:
Know that just like good acts can be multiplied by a good intention, a bad intention multiplies the effect of a bad act.
For e.g. We can lie out of ignorance or accidentally but we can also lie deliberately. The latter is more hateful in the eyes of Allah[swt].
To save ourself from a bad intention, we need to be watchful on our mind, our heart…if ever you feel a bad thought/desire/emotion/inclination come to you, the first thing you should say is: La hawla wa la Quwwata illah billah i.e. There is no might or power except with Allah[swt]. You can also recite: Aoudu billah-e-minash-shaitan-ir-rajeem [I seek refuge in Allah[swt] from satan the accursed]
* Some of the most earliest Muhaddiseen found this hadith to be heaviest on their hearts, because now in addition to keeping a check on their actions they had to keep a vigil on their intentions as well.
Niyyah of a Mo’min is better than his ‘amal
RasulAllah[saw] said that the niyyah of a mo’min is even better than his ‘amal.
- A person gets reward for the niyyah of a good action even if he/she is not able to actually perform the ‘amal.
- Even if the ‘amal ends up not being accepted by Allah[swt], the niyyah for it will be rewarded.
- Niyyah has damaam[prepetuality] in it i.e. you can make the niyyah of doing something forever and inshaAllah you will get sawab for it forever!
Actions are limited; intentions are unlimited
Believers, even if they do good deeds for a few years they will be rewarded with eternal abode in Jannah, similarly disbelievers will be punished eternally in hellfire for this short life of disbelief.
Why? Because of their niyyah.
A believer would want to be a believer and do good deeds no matter how long a life he gets and similarly a disbeliever no matter how long he lives in this world intends to profess disbelief, so Allah[swt] will reward us according to our intentions.
Niyyah is an action of the Qalb/heart
To make an intention does not simply imply that we say it verbally but it actually means to have awareness in our heart.
Niyyah can be used as a tool to judge the worthiness/permissibility of an action
A simple way to tell if an action [ our words/thoughts/feelings] is right or wrong, we can use the power of niyyah to see if we can connect it to Allah[swt] then it is a good action otherwise its not allowed in our deen, hence it can be the biggest proof to check any of our deeds.
People will be rewarded on the day of judgement for deeds they didn’t actually perform
Shaykh gives the example of a person who would be raised on the day of judgement with so many hajjs/Tahajjuds etc that he did not actually do, just because he had this sincere niyyah/desire/yearning in his heart to do those deeds
Reason for our lack of Ikhlaas/sincerity
The reason we don’t have ikhlaas in our niyyah is because we don’t have ikhlaas/Sidq in our heart. A sign that a person doesn’t have ikhlas in our heart is that we don’t do whatever we can to obey/please/worship our Rabb.
Because we haven’t done everything that we can for Him, He[swt] is not doing everything He can for us.
Three things that are soley for Allah[swt]:
1. Rujoo’ ilallah – means inabat that we turn towards Allah[swt] whenever we can, we yearn in raghbat for Allah[swt] in all our matters. Just like in the Qur’an, Allah[swt] has said: Inna lillah-e-wa inna ilaihe raji’oon – Indeed! To Allah[swt] we belong and to Him is our return. That is actually a formula for our entire life that we turn to Allah[do rujoo’ towards Him in each and everything]
2. Ihtiaj ilallah – that we are all muhtaj of Allah[swt] that we only have need for Allah[swt]. In any time of need, we should feel that the greatest need that we have is of Allah[swt] i.e. if we have Him i.e. His Pleasure, we don’t need anything else.
3. Tawakkul ilallah – Completely relying solely upon Allah[swt] for any and all of our matters.
Two Types of Nifaq:
- To have Nifaq in iman : Outwardly profess iman with words and deeds, but inwardly having ill intentions towards Islam
- To have Nifaq in deeds: Inwardly having iman, acknowledging that we are the slaves of Allah[swt] but our actions do not reflect that. Because once we say that we believe in la ilaha illallah, it means that we are now sold to Allah[swt], we’ll do whatever He[swt] wants us to do i.e. Rabb marzi becomes mann marzi…So when our deeds don’t reflect this state, it means that we have hypocrisy in our deeds
A mukhlis person is like a shepherd…
The example of a mukhlis person is like a shepherd grazing sheep, when praying salah amidst his sheep he wouldn’t really worry/think about what the sheep are thinking about his prayer. Just like that, a mukhlis person is only concerned about how Allah[swt] views his action, he doesn’t care what makhlooq think about his virtuous acts.
If we do three things; Allah[swt] will bless us with three things:
1. If you fix your batin[innerself], Allah[swt] will fix your zahir[outward appearance]
2. If your improve and work for your aakhirah, Allah[swt] will fix your dunya
3. If you fix your ta’luq[relationship] with Allah[swt], He will fix your worldly relations.
[These are some highlights from the amazing bayan on the power of our intention by Shaykh Kamaluddin[db] delivered on 09.02.2008. It is a summarized version of the original transcript. Plus, it also contains some points from Shaykh’s Karachi bayan on purity of intention]