As-salamu alaykum, dear brothers and sisters. Today, we delve into one of the most profound concepts in Islam – Niyyah, or intention. The significance of Niyyah in our faith cannot be overemphasized. It is a cornerstone that shapes not just our deeds, but also our character and relationship with Allah (SWT).
Niyyah: A Pillar of Actions
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Indeed, actions are based on intentions” (Bukhari and Muslim).
عَنْ أَمِيرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَبِي حَفْصٍ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ:
سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: ” إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ”.
رَوَاهُ إِمَامَا الْمُحَدِّثِينَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللهِ مُحَمَّدُ بنُ إِسْمَاعِيل بن إِبْرَاهِيم بن الْمُغِيرَة بن بَرْدِزبَه الْبُخَارِيُّ الْجُعْفِيُّ [رقم:1]، وَأَبُو الْحُسَيْنِ مُسْلِمٌ بنُ الْحَجَّاج بن مُسْلِم الْقُشَيْرِيُّ النَّيْسَابُورِيُّ [رقم:1907] رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا فِي “صَحِيحَيْهِمَا” اللذَينِ هُمَا أَصَحُّ الْكُتُبِ الْمُصَنَّفَةِ.It is narrated on the authority of Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Believers), Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), say
“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.”
Related by Bukhari & Muslim
This narration is a simple yet profound truth that touches every aspect of our lives. It emphasizes that in Islam, the value of our actions is intrinsically tied to the intentions behind them. A good deed performed with an impure intention doesn’t carry the same reward as one carried out with a sincere Niyyah.
This means that for our Salah, fasting, Zakat, or any other act of worship to be accepted, it must first be rooted in the right intention – to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT).
Intention: The Silent Prayer of the Heart
Niyyah is not merely a verbal declaration; it is the silent prayer of the heart, an inner resolve that precedes our actions.
Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran, “And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion” (Quran 98:5).
And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.
وما أمروا إلا ليعبدوا الله مخلصين له الدين حنفاء ويقيموا الصلاة ويؤتوا الزكاة ۚ وذلك دين القيمة
Wa maa umiroo il-la liy’abu dul laaha mukhliseena lahud-deena huna faa-a wa yuqeemus salaahta wa yu-tuz zakaata; wa zaalika deenul qaiyimahSurah al bayyinah
This verse underscores the importance of sincerity in all our acts of worship.
Niyyah: A Means of Spiritual Growth
Every day, we perform numerous actions, both significant and seemingly trivial. If we consciously embed these actions with a sincere intention for the sake of Allah (SWT), they become a means of spiritual growth.
Even mundane tasks like eating, sleeping, or working can be transformed into acts of worship if we do them with the Niyyah of obeying Allah (SWT) and serving His creation.
Nurturing Our Niyyah: A Daily Endeavour
Maintaining purity of intention isn’t a one-time effort; it’s a continuous process that requires conscious reflection and self-accountability. We must regularly ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” and “Who am I doing this for?” If we find our intentions straying, we should seek Allah’s (SWT) help and guidance to realign them.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to make this beautiful Dua, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from associating anything with You knowingly, and I seek Your forgiveness for that of which I am unaware” (Nasai).
الَّلهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أُشْرِكَ بِكَ وأَنا أَعلَمُ وأَستَغفِرُكَ لما لا أَعلَمُ
This Dua is a reminder to constantly seek Allah’s (SWT) help in purifying our Niyyah.
Let’s consider some scenarios that illustrate how different intentions can alter the value of a good deed in Islam.
Scenario 1: Giving Charity (Sadaqah)
Consider a situation where two individuals, Asma and Fatima, both decide to give charity.
Asma gives a generous amount of money to a local orphanage. However, her primary intention isn’t to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure or to help the orphans, but to gain praise and admiration from her community. In this scenario, while the act itself is commendable, the underlying intention detracts from its spiritual merit.
On the other hand, Fatima also donates to the orphanage. She does so quietly, without seeking recognition or praise, purely out of compassion for the orphans and to please Allah (SWT). Even if her contribution is less than Asma’s, in the sight of Allah (SWT), Fatima’s charity carries more weight due to her sincere intention.
Scenario 2: Praying at the Mosque (Salah)
Let’s take another example of two individuals, Ahmed and Bilal, who both attend prayers at the mosque.
Ahmed attends the prayers regularly and is always in the front row. Yet, his primary intention is to be seen and admired by others for his apparent piety. Although he performs the physical act of prayer, his intention is not solely focused on Allah (SWT), which dilutes the spiritual value of his actions.
Bilal, on the other hand, also prays at the mosque regularly. He does so with the intention of fulfilling his obligation towards Allah (SWT), seeking His pleasure, and enhancing his spiritual connection with the Creator. Despite not always being in the front row or being noticed by others, Bilal’s prayers hold a higher spiritual value due to his sincere Niyyah.
Scenario 3: Fasting (Sawm)
Finally, let’s consider two individuals, Yusuf and Zainab, who are both observing fasts outside of Ramadan.
Yusuf decides to fast with the intention of losing weight. While the act of fasting may bring him physical benefits, the spiritual rewards associated with fasting for the sake of Allah (SWT) may be missing due to his intention.
Zainab, however, fasts with the intention of seeking Allah’s (SWT) pleasure, gaining His rewards, and training herself in patience and self-restraint. Despite enduring the same physical hardship as Yusuf, Zainab’s fast is more spiritually rewarding due to her sincere Niyyah.
These scenarios serve as a reminder that in Islam, the why often matters as much as the what. This is the transformative power of Niyyah, turning seemingly identical actions into deeds of varying spiritual value. It shows us that the essence of our actions lies in the purity of our intentions, and as Muslims, we must continuously strive to align our intentions with the pleasure of Allah (SWT).
The Transformative Power of Niyyah
In conclusion, Niyyah is a powerful tool that can transform our entire lives into an act of worship. It is a beacon that guides our actions, a mirror that reflects our inner selves, and a pathway that leads us to the pleasure of Allah (SWT).
Let us strive to harness this transformative power. Let us make a firm resolve to purify our intentions, not just in our acts of worship, but in every aspect of our lives. Let us remember that Allah (SWT) is All-Knowing and All-Seeing, and nothing is hidden from Him, not even the subtle whisperings of our hearts.
May Allah (SWT) purify our hearts, accept our deeds, and guide us to the straight path. Ameen
1 thought on “The Importance of Niyyah in Islam: Harnessing the Power of Intention”
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