The intention is the foundation of every action
November 19 2020 09:51 PM
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The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention), said: “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. So the one whose ‘hijrah’ (migration) was to Allah and His Messenger, then his ‘hijrah’ was to Allah and His Messenger. And the one whose ‘hijrah’ was for the world to gain from it, or a woman to marry her, then his ‘hijrah’ was for what he made ‘hijrah’ for.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Many scholars began books with this Hadith. Imam Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy upon him, commences his book of Hadith (Saheeh Al-Bukhari) with this Hadith and explains that every action that is done without seeking Allah’s pleasure is invalid and devoid of reward.
It can be said that the entire religion revolves around this Hadith. Imam Ash-Shafi’I, may Allah have mercy upon him said, “this Hadith constitutes a third of all knowledge.”
Muslim scholars differ in opinion as to the limits of the Prophet’s saying: ‘actions are by intentions’. Many of the later scholars are of the opinion that the limit is that the action is made correct or acceptable with the intention. What is meant by this is that a legislated action needs an intention. As for habitual actions such as eating, drinking, dressing, etc., they are not in need of an intention.
Some say ‘actions’ here is to be understood in its generality; therefore, nothing is exempt from it. Others relate this as the saying of the majority, meaning the majority of the early scholars. This occurs in the words of Ibn Jareer At-Tabari, Abu Talib Al-Makki, and others from the early scholars, may Allah have mercy upon them. Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “I like that for every action, from prayer, fasting or charity or any action of righteousness that there be an intention preceding the action. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: ‘actions are by intentions’, and this is taken for every matter.”
Fadl Ibn Ziyad, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “I asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy upon him) about the intention in action, how should it be? He, may Allah have mercy upon, him said: ‘One should concentrate on himself when he intends to do an action, not doing it for the sake of people (showing off).’”
It is possible that the limits of the saying, ‘actions are by intention’, are that the action is good, corrupt, acceptable, rejected, rewarded, or not rewarded accordaing to the intention. Therefore, this statement informs us of the Islamic ruling concerning this: the correctness or incorrectness of the action is in accordance with the correctness or incorrectness of the intention.
The saying of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, after this: ‘and for everyone is what he intended’ informs that one cannot gain anything from his action except what he intended. So if he intended good, he gets good. If he intended evil then he gets evil. This second statement (of the Hadith) is not merely reiterating the first, because the first statement points to the fact that the goodness or corruptness of the action is according to the intention necessary for that action to exist. The second statement points to the fact that the reward of a person for his action is according to his good intention, and that the punishment for his action is according to his evil intention.
Scholarly definition of the word ‘Intention’:
1. To distinguish different types of worship, one from the other. Like distinguishing Noon (Thuhr) Prayer from Afternoon (‘Asr) Prayer, or distinguishing the fast of Ramadan from other fasts, or distinguishing actions of worship from actions of habit: like distinguishing bathing from impurity from bathing for the purpose of cleanliness.
2. To distinguish for who or what the action is done: is it for Allah only, for other than Allah, or for Allah and others than Him?
The meaning of ‘intention’ in the speech of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and the Salaf (righteous predecessors) was used generally to carry the meaning of ‘desire’. In the Qur’an, the word ‘desire’ is often used to describe an intention, as in Allah’s Saying (which means): “…Among you are some who desire this world, and among you are some who desire the Hereafter…” [Qur’an 3: 152]
In other verse Allah Says (what means): “Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments…” [Qur’an 11: 15] And Allah Says again (what means): “And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life...” [Qur’an 18: 28]
Sometimes intention is described with the word ‘seeking’ as in Allah’s Saying (which means): “But only seeking the countenance of his Lord, Most High.”[Qur’an 92: 20] And (which means): “…and you do not spend except seeking the countenance of Allah…” [Qur’an 2: 272]
Regarding the second meaning of intention, there are numerous examples from the ‘Sunnah’ and the statements of the ‘Salaf’. To mention a few:
The Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “People will be gathered upon their intentions.” [Ibn Majah] He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, also said: “Mankind will be resurrected upon their intentions.” [Muslim] Another Hadith says: “Verily those slain on the battlefield will be resurrected upon their intentions.” [Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya]
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, also said: “For the ones whose concern is this world, Allah will scatter his affair, and place poverty between his two eyes. He will not get from the world except what is written for him. For the one whose intention is the Hereafter, Allah will gather for him his affair and place contentment in his heart, and the world will come to him willingly.”[Ibn Majah]
Zayd Ash-Shami, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “Verily I like to make an intention for everything I do even if it is eating and drinking.”
Sufyan Ath-Thawri, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “I have not treated anything more difficult than my intention, because it keeps changing.”
Ibn Al-Mubarak, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “May be a small action is made great by its intention, and may be a great action is made small by its intention.”
The three above-mentioned sayings were reported by Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya in his book ‘The Sincerity and the Intention’.
Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy upon him, said that the foundation of the religion is upon three Hadiths:
1. “Verily actions are by intention.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
2. “Whosoever introduces into this affair of ours that which is not part of it then it is rejected.” [Muslim]
3. “The Halal (lawful) is clear and the Haram (prohibited) is clear.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Islam teaches us to perform good actions, stay away from the forbidden actions and stop at the doubtful matters. All of this is perfected upon two matters:
Actions must be done correctly, according to the teachings of Islam, and seeking the Pleasure of Allah, Almighty.
Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyadh, may Allah have mercy upon him, said about the Saying of Allah (which means): “He who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed.” [Qur’an 67: 2]
Who is sincere and correct in it? If the action is sincere and incorrect, then it is not accepted. Likewise if it is correct and not sincere then it is not accepted. It is only accepted when it is both sincere and correct. It is sincere when it is for the sake of Allah, and correct when it is done according to the teachings of Islam.
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Prophet Muhammad’s trust in Allah
Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention), preached to the people to trust in Allah. His whole life was a sublime example of the precept. In the loneliness of Makkah, in the midst of persecution and danger, in adversity and tribulations, and in the thick of enemies in the battles of Uhud and Hunayn, complete faith and trust in Allah appears as the dominant feature in his life. However great the danger that confronted him, he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, never lost hope and never allowed himself to be unduly agitated. Abu Talib knew the feelings of the Quraysh when the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, started his mission. He also knew the lengths to which the Quraysh could go, and requested the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to abandon his mission, but the latter calmly replied: “Dear uncle, do not go by my loneliness. Truth will not go unsupported for long. The whole of Arabia and beyond will one day espouse its cause.” [Ibn Hisham]
When the attitude of the Quraysh became more threatening, Abu Talib again begged his nephew to renounce his mission but the Prophet’s reply was: “O my uncle, if they placed the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, to force me to renounce my work, verily I would not desist thereform until Allah made manifest His cause, or I perished in the attempt.”
To another well-wisher, he , sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Allah will not leave me forlorn.”
A dejected and oppressed companion was comforted with the words:
“By Allah, the day is near when this faith will reach its pinnacle and none will have to fear anyone except Allah.” [Al-Bukhari]
It was the same trust in Allah which emboldened the Prophet , sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to say his prayers openly in the Haram (sacred Mosque of Makkah) in the teeth of opposition. The Quraysh were once collected there and were conspiring to put an end to his life when he next entered the Haram. His young daughter Fatimah, may Allah be pleased with her, who happened to overhear their talk rushed weeping to her father and told him of the designs of the Quraysh. He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, consoled her, did his ablutions and went to the Ka’aba to say prayers. There was only consternation among the Quraysh when they saw him, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. [Ahmad].
Then leaving his house for Madinah he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, asked Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, to sleep on his bed and told him: “Do not worry, no one will be able to do you any harm” [At-Tabari, Ibn Hisham]
Even though the enemies had surrounded the house, he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, left the house reciting the Qur’anic verse (which means): “We have set a barricade before them and a barricade behind them and (thus) have covered them so that they see not” [Qur’an, 36: 9]
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, was frightened when pursuers came close to the cavern in which he and Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, were hiding during their flight, but the Prophet heartened him: “Grieve not. Allah is with us.”
A guard was kept at the Prophet’s house in Madinah because of the danger that surrounded him but he had it withdrawn when the Qur’anic verse was revealed (which means): “Allah will protect you from the people”. [Qur’an, 5: 67]
A man was caught waiting in ambush to assault the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, but he was directed to be released with the words: “Even if this man wanted to kill me, he could not.” [Ahmad]
A Jewish woman from Khaybar had put poison in the Prophet’s food. He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, spat it out after taking a morsel but a companion who had his fill died the next day. The Jewess was brought before the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, who questioned her: “Why did you do this?” “To kill you,” was her defiant reply. She was told, “Allah would not have allowed you to do it.” [Muslim]
In the Battle of Uhud when the rear guard action of the Makkan army had disorganised the Muslim army and had turned the tables, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, stood as firm as a rock even though he had suffered personal injuries. When Abu Sufiyan taunted the Muslims and shouted “Victory to Hubal!” (Hubal was one of their idols), the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, asked Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, to shout back: “Allah is our protector and friend. You have no protector and friend. Allah is Great, Magnificent.” [Ibn Hisham]
Again in the Battle of Hunayn, when the unexpected assault of the army had swept the Muslim force off its feet and a defeat seemed imminent, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, did not yield ground. With trust in Allah he showed such courage that the Muslim army rallied behind him to win a signal victory.
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The ideal personality of the Muslim
The ideal Muslim character is distinct and balanced. The Muslim is the embodiment of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (sayings, actions and the approvals of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He follows the teachings of the Book of Allah (i.e. Qur’an) and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with his relationship with his Lord, his own self, his family and the people around him.
Following is a brief overview of some qualities of the ideal Muslim personality.

His attitude towards Allah

One of the most distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his deep faith in Allah, The Exalted, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of Allah. The Muslim is closely connected to Allah, constantly remembers Him, puts his trust in Him and is obedient towards Him.
His faith is pure and clear, uncontaminated by any strain of ignorance, superstition or illusion. His belief and worship are based on the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah.   
The Muslim is alert and open-minded to the magnificence of Allah. He knows that it is Allah who is in control of the affairs of the universe and of mankind, and He (Allah) Knows all and Witnesses every secret.
A Muslim feels in the depths of his soul that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of Allah, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds.
This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.  
A Muslim recognises the signs of the unlimited power of Allah in the universe, and so his faith in Allah increases: Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): “Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and (in) the difference of night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding. Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! You created not this in vain. Glory be to You! Preserve us from the doom of Fire.” [Qur’an 3: 190-191]

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul
The Muslim pays due attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs.
He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He is active, doesn’t eat in excess; but he eats enough to maintain his health and energy. He understands that a strong believer is more loved by Allah than a weak believer. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Qur’an 7: 31]
The Muslim keeps away from drugs and stimulants. He also does not forget to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness.
The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes very clean. He bathes frequently. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. Cleanliness makes the Muslim more likeable to people. He also takes care of his mouth and teeth.    
It is no surprise that the Muslim is concerned with his clothing and appearance. The Muslim does all of this in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes of exaggeration and negligence.
Allah Says (what means): “Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do We detail Our revelations for people who have knowledge.” [Qur’an 7: 32]
As for his intellectual care, the Muslim takes care of his mind by perusing beneficial knowledge. He is responsible to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says (what means): “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Qur’an 20: 114]
The Muslim does not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit, and feels a longing for higher things that make him rise above this materialistic life and scale the heights of goodness, virtue and light.
Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a precisely balanced fashion which does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people
With his parents, the Muslim is an example of sincere filial piety. He treats them with kindness and respect, infinite compassion, utter politeness and deep gratitude. He recognises their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says (what means): “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Qur’an 4: 36]
With his wife, the Muslim exemplifies good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim is a parent who understands his great responsibility towards them which is, as well as flooding them with love and compassion, to pay attention to anything that may influence their Islamic development and give them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.  
With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He puts up with mistreatment and turns a blind eye to his neighbor’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself.
The Muslim relationship with his brothers and friends is the best and purest of relationships, for it is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loving, not cold towards them; he is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle and never harsh; he is tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them (his brothers and friends).
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim is well-mannered, civil and noble, characterised by the attitudes which Islam encourages.
The Muslim does not envy others. He fulfils his promises. He has the attitude of shyness. He is cheerful. He is not pushy. He is patient. He avoids slandering or uttering obscenities. He does not unjustly accuse others. He is shy and modest. He does not interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble. He avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He is modest and never arrogant. He does not make fun of anyone. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people.  He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He calls others to Islam with wisdom and beautiful preaching. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He guides people to do good. He always likes to make things easy and not difficult.
The Muslim is fair in his judgments. He is not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He does not boast about his deeds and achievements. He is straightforward and is never devious or twisted, no matter what the circumstances. He loves noble things and hates foolishness. He is generous and does not remind others of his gifts or favours. He is hospitable and does not complain when a guest comes to him. He prefers others to himself as much as possible. He relieves the burden of the debtor. He is proud and does not think of begging.
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