Intention and Great Virtues
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
“Intention” can be defined as the heart’s determined will and the effort to pursue it with consistent action. An earnest intention of a believer is his strong will and an exclusive determination to seek Allah’s pleasure with total and complete sincerity. Commitment to the concept of Tawheed – the Oneness of Allah (SWT) gives birth and nourishes such an intention. Any act performed with a sincere intention to please Allah (SWT) fills the believer’s heart with extreme delight, ecstasy and contentment, a feeling which is hard to express but can be experienced. According to Shari’ah, intention’s focus should be Allah and His pleasure alone. Action should not be a superficial physical performance of worship or a verbal expression of words or meaning of the Holy Qur’an or the repetition of traditions of Prophet (SAW), as it will be a soulless ritual, and an exercise in futility. It can and will have a positive effect on character and personality if consciousness of Allah (SWT) embedded in the heart is the source of motivation. Such a consciousness causes unison between heart, mind, body and soul to produce “Sua’leh fikr-o-amal” i.e. pure thought and pure action and the desired result of worship. Islam has emphasized that the sincerity and purity of intention behind any action is a condition of its acceptability by Allah (SWT). It is very unfortunate that majority of Muslims lack this understanding, and their practical life is totally devoid of this essential pre-requisite, which renders their acts of worships as mere ritual. Purity of intention has a charismatic force which sharpens perception, enhances comprehension, perfects intuition, creates awakening, and propels a revolutionary change in the individual and thus in the society at large. That is how Prophet (SAW) and his companions created an ideal society in a lawless environment. Deliberations in the Holy Qur’an and a study of Prophet (SAW)’s life unfolds that each Aayah of Allah’s message educates us and each moment of His Messenger’s life sets an example for us of the sincerity and purity of intention. Aayah 3 of Surah Al-Aaraf says:
“Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord…”
One can follow in the real sense only if he understands what the word “follow” means and one can only comprehend its meaning if he has the will or intention.
Ummul Momineen Aa’isha (RA) reported that Prophet (SAW) said: “If anyone introduces in our matter something which does not belong to it, will be rejected.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
This tradition highlights that acceptance or rejection depends on intention with which an act is performed. In the sight of Allah “intention” is the only criterion.
Allah (SWT) says in Aayah 2-3 in Surah Al-Zumar:
“It is We who sent down the Scripture to you [Prophet] with the Truth, so worship Allah with you total devotion: true devotion is due to Allah alone...”
True devotion is impossible without the purity of intention.
Both of these Aayahs relate the intention with the Holy Qur’an and the performance of worship. Aayahs 18-21 of Surah Al-Isra identifies two dimensions of intention, when it says:
“If any one desires [only] the fleeting life, We speed up whatever We will in it, for whoever We wish; in the end We have prepared Hell for him in which to burn, disgraced and rejected. But if anyone desires the life to come and strives after it as he should, as a true believer, his striving will be thanked. To both the latter and the former, We give some of your Lord’s bounty [Prophet], your Lord’s bounty is not restricted – see how We have given some more than others – but the Hereafter holds greater ranks and greater favors.”
One dimension focuses on the acquisition of material world which has no pre-condition. It is up to Allah (SWT) to bestow as much as He wants according to His will and as mentioned in the Hadith-e-Qudsi:
“O My bondmen! I have made oppression Haraam on Myself and have made it Haraam on you too.”
It is but obvious that pursuit of the material world leads to failure in Here and in the Hereafter. The other dimension of intention is the acquisition of the Hereafter and pleasure of Allah (SWT) which leads to greater success and wins a lofty status in the next world.
Correction of intention has a simple and easy prescription to it. A little attention turns each action into a multiple source of reward. Let me give you just one example of Salat. Performance of Salat is an obligatory duty ensuring forgiveness of sins. One earns the reward of Salat even if performed un-attentively as the fulfillment of a duty. But if performed with intention i.e. attentively and with consciousness, it earns multiple rewards. For instance:
It is the will of Allah (SWT) to increase and multiply the reward as much as He likes. Believers should compete among themselves, be greedy to get as much reward as possible and have the firm conviction that He (SWT) in His infinite mercy will bestow upon His blessings. Remember that Allah’s measure is according to His own Grace and Exaltedness and beyond our imagination.
Prophet (SAW) said with regards to Ramadan: “He who observes fasting during the month of Ramadan with Faith while seeking its reward from Allah, will have his past sins forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
It goes without saying that the stronger the faith, the sharper is the intention.
Certainty of reward coupled with longing and greed for the reward has been explained in a tradition quoted by Imaam Bukhari (RehmA). Prophet (SAW) said as narrated by Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-Aas (RA):
“There are forty kinds of virtue; the uppermost of them is to lend a (milch) she-goat (to someone in order to benefit from it and then return it). He, who practices any of these virtues expecting its reward and relying on the truthfulness of the promise made for it, shall enter Paradise.”
The point that should be remembered is that any act which is performed with faith, consciousness and self accountability will make us earn a reward. Most of the time we are oblivious of this important point and as a result our worship lacks quality and merit.
Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi (RehmA) writes: “There is a marked difference between the companions of Prophet (SAW), the celebrated scholars of the Ummah, who followed the companions and the rest of the believers. Our worships and actions are a routine, mechanical in nature and habitual due to soulless repetition, but their actions were generated by pure intention and deep consciousness. Their faith colored their thoughts and actions. They had an intense passionate yearning and longing expressed in each of their actions, even if it was the performance of Wudu.
Prophet (SAW) said: “When a believer washes his face (in the course of Wudu), every sin he has committed with his eyes is washed away from his face along with water, …; when he washes his hands, ever sin they wrought is erased from his hands …; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet walked is washed away with water, or with the last drop of water, with the result that he comes out cleansed of all sins.” [Muslim]
The late Shaykh Nadvi adds: “They had a firm belief in what they were told by Prophet (SAW). It was as though they were seeing them with their naked eyes. The desire to earn reward, the ambition to excel in piety, the aspiration to achieve the ideal quality of virtue was evident in all their actions, and inter-actions. Purity of intention was the guiding principle for them in whatever they pursued. It was evident in their social relations, and in their occupations, trade and business. If we work on our intentions and inculcate that quality in our thought and action, we will be able to create that spiritual magnificence in our life which filled theirs.” [Dastur-e-Hayaat]
This purity of intention should not only be reflected in our worship, but in all and every aspect of life from the acquisition of fair and Halaal livelihood, to job, business, trade, commerce and other occupations whichever we may pursue. All should be subjected to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). Once advising Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas, Prophet (SAW) said:
“You will not expend a thing in charity for the sake of Allah, but you will be rewarded for it; even the morsel of food which you feed your wife.”
It is a very comprehensive Hadith. Imaam Shafa’ee (RehmA) said about this Hadith: “This tradition is one third of knowledge and relates to seventy chapters of Islamic Jurisprudence.”
“Niyyah” i.e. intention, this word uttered by Prophet (SAW) has an enormous meaning to it and it should mirror a momin’s life. It is the very basis to evaluate or rank any act or worship of the believer. Umar bin Al-Khattab reported that Prophet (SAW) said: “The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention….”
Please deliberate on the word “intention” before you talk or act. It covers all aspects of our life. A pure intention leads to good action. A good action is acceptable and it pleases Allah (SWT) and His Messenger.
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
AS = AlehisSalam
RA = Radhiyallaho anhu
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.