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.’

Eman Management 101

eman management 101

“Eman consists of more than sixty branches. The highest of them is to testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and the lowest of them is removing a harmful object from the road.” Sahih Bukhari

Know that the Eman (faith) of any believer is not a static thing. It increases and decreases depending upon the good deeds or bad deeds done by the believer. This is evident from the numerous ahadith of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as well as from the verses of the Quran, some of which are as follows.

Following is the famous hadith of Hanzala (May Allah be pleased with him):

Hanzala Usayyidi, who was amongst the scribes of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). Reported: I met Abu Bakr. He said: How are you? He (Hanzala) said: Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. He (Abu Bakr) said: Hallowed be Allah, what are you saying? Thereupon he said: I say that when we are in the company of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) we ponder over Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our very eyes and when we are away from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) we attend to our wives, our children, our business; most of these things (pertaining to After-life) slip out of our minds. Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I also experience the same.
So I and Abu Bakr went to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said to him: Allah’s Messenger, Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: What has happened to you? I said: Allah’s Messenger, when we are in your company, we are reminded of Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but whenever we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). He (the Holy Prophet) said this thrice.
Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6623

Following are two verse from the Quran regarding the increase of Eman.

“For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord.” Surah Anfal (Chapter 8, Verse 2)


“Say: ‘Whether you believe in it or not’ It is true that these who were given knowledge beforehand, when it is recited to them fall down on their faces in humble prostration and they say: ‘Glory to our Lord. Truly the promise of our Lord has been fulfilled.’ They fall down on their faces in tears, and it increases their earnest humility.” Surah Al-Israa’ (Chapter 17, Verses 107-109)

Both; the above mentioned hadith and ayat show that eman increases through remembrance of Allah and good deeds. But what about the decreasing of Eman? As a general rule, there is nothing that increases but it also decreases. Also, If you notice the above mentioned hadith of Hanzala (RA), you will realize that the Sahabi was complaining about his decrease of Eman. However, following is the proof that the level of Eman varies because of sins and disobedience of Islamic laws.

The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “Whoever says: ‘None is worthy of worship except Allah’ and he has in his heart Eman the weight of a wheat grain, or a mustard’s seed or an atom, will be extracted from the Hell fire.” Sahih Bukhari: Book of Faith

Thus we see that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) put eman at different levels. We also know through logic that a person who apostated from Islam (that is from having eman) to being a christian (for example) has lost all his eman. So if a person can lose all his eman through comiting shirk, he can definitely decrease his eman by doing disobedience to Allah while still calling himself a muslim. Also know that a person who is austire and a sincere worshiper, is on a different level of eman than a person who claims to be muslim without giving any proof of submission through his actions.

So, now that we know that Eman increases and decreases, how can we manage our eman so that it is always increasing and protected from the trials of this world which cause it to decrease. From the hadith of Hanzala (May Allah be pleased with him) we know that if our eman was to always increase or atleast stay the same, angles would descend on us to shake our hands to honor and congratulate on this acheivement. For our dicsussion, the hadith of Hanzala (May Allah be pleased with him) mentioned above will be my focus for this paper.

We know that faith goes up and down depending upon the good deeds and the bad deeds we do. How many times have you heard a khutabh (semron) about giving charity, heard about the highest standards and examples of generosity from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his companions (May Allah be pleased with them) and at that moment wished that if you had money, you would do the same, but then when you leave that gathering or a few days pass by you lose that zeal, that eman rush you felt at that time. Happens a lot right? That’s because our eman management is very low, if any.

figure 1If we had a monitor that would show us the status of our eman in the form of a graphical chart, we would see it go up and down over an interval of time period. Figure 1 shows a generalized eman level chart. In the figure you see the graph curve up and down at a very organized and structured manner. This is not the case in reality as the eman moves up and down but not in such a ryhtmic manner. Lets first understand what the graph is showing. The graph goes up, it means that at that moment or time period your eman increased. How? Perhaps you read the quran and the fear of the hereafter increased in your heart and as a result you were able to pray in much better way thus resulting in an increase of eman. But then, as days passed, you slowly quran and so the graph declines.

Taking this analysis a little further and expanding it to include a variety of good deeds we can come up with the graph in figure 2. Lets say that the different color lines depict the fervor or level of eman that you have regarding different deeds. For example, lets say the red colored line represents fasting and the blue line depicts giving in charity and the green one represents being good to relatives. figure 2So, from the graph, we see that red line incresaes at an excellent angle but then also declines tremendously. How to explain this? Perhaps the month of ramadan came and your eman increased as your started to fast and enjoy the blessings of the month but as the month passed and days went by, you lost that zeal, that eman-rush, you had during the ramadan and as a result your eman fell in regards to fasting. But notice that your other good deed, the blue line of giving in charity was also moving and falling during the same time. Perhaps when ramadan started you decided to give a lot of charity and then slowly lost the passion and the graph fell down. But since it was your habit to give charity every few weeks, your blue graph represents a pretty rhytmic movement.

So this means that your motivation for one deed may be high and one time and low at another, and therefore your eman level would be high at one time and low at another. Add together all the motivation levels of the different deeds and you would acquire the eman level that your heart is at at a particular time.

The ideal situation of the graph should be that it should be increasing all the time. But this is not possible becasuse we, human beings, cannot stay on one level at all the times. So, we should target the next best thing, that our graph has a general increasing trend over any interval of time.

Before proceeding to the uses of this analysis and its implications on the management of eman, lets discuss some technical points of the graph. First, we will refer to all the instances which bring about an upward trend of the graph as a Reminder Point or ‘RP’. An RP is an event that brings about the eman rush (the uplift) and thus increases the level of eman. For the sahaba this was meeting the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and hearing from him the news of the hereafter. For us it could be a sermon, a book, the quran, the hadith and any such thing that reminds us of Allah.

Similarly, we need to recognize that two things will cause a downfall in this eman rush. The first is the time. As time passes by and the believer does not receive another dose of RP, the general rule is that the graph would decline. This is because human nature / psychology or whatever you want to call is it made in such a way for this to happen. We will refer to this time of decrease in Eman as ‘Time Erosion Factor’, or ‘TE’for short. The second reason for the decrease of Eman could be sins and their outcomes, and or, negative events like loss of business, death of a dear one and any other event that could potentially result in the disobedience of Allah. We will refer to these types of decreases as ‘disobedience factor’ or ‘DF’ for short.

You must be thinking, okay, all of this is fine but whats the use of it. Well the answer is as follows.

When you can measure something, you can change it, or at least, manage it better. For example, If you were to start realizing your motivation cycles of deeds, you can better manage them to increase your eman. For better explanation of this statement and the use of all I have described above, I will share my self observation.

It is my habit to read a book whenever I am travelling from Sialkot to Lahore (approximately 3 hours drive). Usually I read an islamic book with stories of the companions, prophets and the righteous scholars who followed. I read about their sacrifices, their way of living, how they understood and followed islam, the way they used to ask and depend on Allah and how they behaved with those around them. Since I have nothing else to do during travelling, I pretty much spend the whole time reading the book. As a result by the time I reach the destination, I feel my eman has increased. I too want to be like the ones I read about, I too want to sacrifice for the sake of Islam, I too want to stand for prayer in the night, and I too feel the closeness to Allah Subhano Watalh. Furthermore I noticed that even after coming back from my travels, I stayed in the same zone for about a week after which I basically needed another travel, so to speak. So, I realized that my RP was through reading a good islamic book, and that I was at my personal pinnacle of eman and living with the words (just like the companions used to feel like when they were with the prophet, peace be upon him). But soon after I left the book, a combination of time and sins slowly warded off the eman rush. For me the average period of eman rush was about a week.

If during my travel, I had read a book about how the prophet (Peace be upon him) used to give in charity and how the companions followed him. I would feel the urge of giving in sadaqa as much as I could. And if I had read about fasting, I would feel like fasting every day. So I realized that each deed had its own graph which went up and down depending upon the dose of islam I was receiving. Then I thought, If we combine all the graphs of the individual deeds, we would eventually come up with a composite graph of our eman. So, the best way to increase eman is to increase all the individual graphs through regular exposure to Reminder points.

For me, the implications of this finding meant that, if I expect my eman to increase for about a week only, then I should setup regular reminder points for myself so that my eman level increases or at least stays the same over any interval of time.

So what can you do? Well, you can start by being more aware of yourself and the state of your heart. You should realize what your Reminder points are, which ones are more effective on you and which ones leave their mark the longest. Then you should setup up a schedule to give yourself a regular dose of RP while at the same time a minimizing disobedience factors. With this combination the only factor left to combat would be the time erosion factor which can be managed by increasing the frequency of reminder and adding different types of reminder instances. But most important point than all of what I have said up till now is to … make a sincere dua. There is no analysis, no science, no relationship, just simply nothing better than a sincere dua that arises from the heart of a believer and races to the creator of all things who is the best one to hear and respond to the dua. Make dua that Allah increases your eman and grants you His protection from all the factors that would decrease it. Your Eman is your key to Jannah, make sure that key is maintained properly lest it should stain or rust and cause you problems in the hereafter.