The Power of Intentions

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab:

I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.” (Bukhari)

My thoughts:

Imam Bukhari’s selection of this hadith to start his book is purposeful, marvelous, and shows his deep understanding of the religion. This hadith is a warning, an invitation, and a promise of reward all rolled up in one. It is a warning for those who might misuse the deen (or any worldly affair for that matter), it is an invitation for all to check their hearts, and it is a promise of reward for all those who seek the pleasure of Allah in following his Prophet (peace be upon him) and being honest to self and others.

For any action to be acceptable in the sight of Allah, it has to fulfill two requirements; intention and sunnah. The intention needs to be purely for the sake of pleasing Allah and the action needs to be  performed exactly as mentioned in the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). You can say that Imam Bukhari chose to start his book with one of the golden rules of Islam.

Many a times i have opened bukhari with the intention of reading a few ahadith but whenever i read this hadith, i feel the immense weight of its meaning and i decide to close Bukhari for a while so i may ponder over these words and how i can extract and apply the wisdom from its words to my life.

It is also the right time to remember another hadith which mentions the reward of intentions.

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, related from his Lord the Blessed and Exalted, “Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.” Source: Sahih Bukhari 6126, Sahih Muslim 131

Also realize that there is difference between intention and desire but many people are confused in the matter. Intention necessitates actions whereas desire may or may not result in action. For example, i desire to be a fit and handsome hunk with a six pack abs and what not, yet i sit all day and munch away on snacks without remorse. Clearly i desire being fit but if i truly intended to be fit then i would do something to achieve what i intended. In other words, i think that desires, when they become strong enough, lead to intention and intention leads to action.

Another touchy subject when it comes to intention is whether or not we should say it aloud. From the authentic sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we do not find any examples of him verbally stating the intentions out loud before performing any religious or worldly act, except at the time of hajj or ummrah. Hajj and ummrah was the only time when the Prophet (peace be upon him) publicly declared his intention to perform the rites. Other than this, he did not verbally state his intentions before praying for before entering into fast or breaking his fast or before doing any other deed. Hence, we realize that intention is an act of the heart alone and declaring it with tongue is not from sunnah except at hajj or ummrah.

Intentions are paramount in religion and consequently in daily life. My father always says, ‘You will never fail if your intentions are clear (towards all whom you deal with) Inshallah.’

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