The habit of Intention - The Muslimah Guide
The Muslimah Guide

The habit of Intention

how to align your life

Do you ever find yourself starting something with a sincere intention and after a while just losing sight of why you started and why it even matters?

In an increasingly distracting world, it’s not uncommon for many of us to have experienced this. Starting something with sincere and good intentions just for it to become a habitual act that’s done every day without much thought or insincere.

However in Islam intentions are the foundation of every action as reported from Imam Ahmad who said, “The foundations of Islam are upon three hadith: the one reported by ‘Umar – ‘Actions are but by intentions’, the one reported by ‘Aishah – ‘Whoever does a deed that does not conform to our commands will have it rejected’ and the one reported by Al-Nu’man b. Bashir – ‘The halal and haram are clear…’”

Actions are by Intention:

The Prophet Muhammad – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – said:

“Actions are but by intentions, and everyone will have what he intended. So whoever migrated to Allah and His Messenger, he migrated to Allah and His Messenger. But whoever migrated for some worldly benefit, or to take a woman in marriage, then his migration was only to what he migrated to”. – (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)

What can we learn from Actions are by intentions hadith?

Here is a brief commentary that is taken from Ibn Rajab’s Jami’ Al-‘Ulum wa Al-Hikam, in which he explains the entire Forty Hadith collection of Al-Nawawi:

• Imam Al-Bukhari (as Al-Nawawi later did in his Forty Hadith) begins his Sahih collection with this hadith, reminding us that any deed through which Allah’s pleasure is not sought is futile; it will bear no fruits in this life or the hereafter.

• ‘Abd Al-Rahman b. Mahdi, the great scholar of hadith, said, “If I were to compile a work in chapters, I would place this hadith at the beginning of each one.” He also said, “Whoever wishes to author a book, he should begin with the hadith about intentions.”

• This hadith forms a fundamental principle of Islam and an axis around which this way of life revolves.

• It is reported that Imam Al-Shafi’i said, “This hadith constitutes a third of all knowledge, and it relates to seventy areas of fiqh (correct understanding of the religion).”

• This hadith teaches us the principle that acceptance of our deeds and whether or not they are regarded as righteous depends primarily on what the intention behind them is. If the intention is good and pure – to receive Allah’s pleasure and reward, the deed is righteous. Otherwise, the deed is futile and false. This is the first thing that needs to be dealt with.

(Al-Bukhari and Muslim.) (Source: Sayings of the Salaf)

Turning Habits into Worship through correct intention:

A Habit is any regularly repeated behavior that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. A habit which can be part of any activity, ranging from eating and sleeping to thinking and reacting—is developed through reinforcement and repetition.

However, with sincere intentions, those habits and routines can be turned into worship.
As mentioned by Dr. Saalih as Saleh (Notes on Imam an-Nawawee’s Forty Ahadeeth By: Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullah)

“The Intention distinguishes habits from worship. It even distinguishes the acts of worship from one another.

Example of distinguishing habits from worship: A person eats because he likes to eat, i.e. out of desire. Another person eats the food in compliance with the command of Allah as in 7:31: …eat and drink. The latter action is a worship while the former is a habit. “

Sufyan ath-Thawri said, “I have not treated anything more difficult than my intention, because it keeps changing.”

How to keep intentions:

Renew them, every single day.

In hadith Qudsi, the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ mentioned,

“he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, ALLAH (سبحانه وتعالى) writes it down with Himself as a full good deed; but if he has intended it and has done it, ALLAH (سبحانه وتعالى) writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over.

But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, ALLAH (سبحانه وتعالى) writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, ALLAH (سبحانه وتعالى) writes it down as one bad deed.
[Bukhari and Muslim; An Nawawi Hadith Number 037]