Islam: Actions Are Judged According to Intentions
5 May 2017 News
Forty Hadith 1: It was narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu’minin, Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu ‘anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say:
“The (reward of) deeds, depend upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for the sake of Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration will be considered to be for Allah and His Apostle, and whoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain or for a woman to marry, then his emigration will be considered to be for what he emigrated for.”
This hadith is one of the most eloquent and significant hadiths. It talks about the importance of sincere intention in the acceptance of acts of worship. Al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy upon him) began his book with this hadith inspiring the meaning involved, namely sincerity.
Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali said, “Al-Bukhari prefaced his book with this hadith referring to that every action performed for the sake of other than Allah is null and void, whether in this worldly life or in the Hereafter. It is reported from Ash-Shafi`i that he said, “This hadith is one third of knowledge and it comes under seventy sections of Fiqh.” Imam Ahmed said, “The principles of Islam are based on three hadiths: First, the hadith of `Umar (i.e. this hadith)….”
The hadith at hand stresses the importance of intention in the acceptance of good deeds. It tells us that actions with good and sincere intention are only accepted, while those with bad and insincere intentions are of no avail.
Abu Umamah reported that a man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, “What is about a man who goes for Jihad seeking reward (from Allah) and good reputation among people?” The Prophet replied, “Nothing.” The man repeated his question thrice and received the same answer from the Prophet. Then, the Prophet said, “Allah accepts only sincere actions that are done for the sake of Allah.” (An-Nasa’i)
The first word “actions” refers to good deeds as evil or prohibited deeds are already unallowable and intention has nothing with them, even if it is good. There is a basic rule that says, “Good intention does not validate the invalid action.”
So, the hadith is dealing with the allowable actions only, for which one seeks Allah’s pleasure. In fact, the prohibited actions are means of Satan to misguide the Muslim and incur the displeasure of Allah, the Almighty, upon him.
The scholars of Islam put two prerequisite for the acceptance of actions: permissibility and good intention. They took these conditions from Allah’s saying:
So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone. (Al-Kahf 18:110)
Purity of Intention in the Religious Realm:
As mentioned earlier, this hadeeth sets the first principle for one’s deeds to be accepted by God, which is that they should be done purely for God. In regards to those deeds which have been commanded as a form of religious devotion, known as worship, one must do them for Allah Alone, for it is Allah who commanded the service or deed to be done and loves it. These deeds include the likes of prayer, (Salah), Fasting, the offering of the Compulsory Charity (Zakah), the performance of the Lesser or Grater Pilgrimage to Mecca (Umrah and Hajj), and all other service which have been ordained in the religion. Even though the deeds may appear outwardly, as in this hadeeth, to be one accepted, of pivotal importance is the intention which the person has when performing them.
A person who directs any of these or other religious service to other deities other than or alongside Allah will never be accepted, and one who commits this heresy is deemed as committing the greatest sin against God, polytheism: to associate others with Allah in those things which are specific to Him. Islam is a religion which believes and practices true and strict monotheism. This monotheism not only entails that that there is only One Sole Allah and Creator, but also that this Allah has the right that all worship and acts of deed be done solely for His sake and none else. This concept is once which Allah ordered all His Prophets to preach, as He says in the Quran: