Hadith 1. Intentions

On the authority of Ameer ul-Mu’mineen (the Commander of the Faithful), Abu Hafs `Umar ibn al-Khattab radiAllahu anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam say:

“Actions are but by intentions and every man shall have only that which he intended. Thus he whose migration (Hijrah to Madeenah from Makkah) was for Allah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated.

Reported in Bukhari and Muslim

Brief commentary: 

  • Many scholars started their books with this hadith
  • Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali said this is one of the ahadith that the religion revolves around
  • It is equivalent to a third of knowledge because we are rewarded for three things: what the heart contains, what the tongue says and what our limbs do, and this hadith is pinnacle in dealing with matters of the heart
  • The word إنما  is used for exclusivity i.e. Actions are exclusively done by intentions
  • Some scholars said there is an ellipses (implied meaning) in the first statement, in that it is talking about correctness of actions, as we are only judged in the hereafter for actions which we intended to do and are not judged for accidental actions (which had no intention behind it), i.e. the first statement is saying “Actions which you will be judged upon on the day of judgement are the ones you intended to do”
  • In the Arabic, it may seem that the second statement وإنما لكل امرئ ما نوى  is a repeat of the first one, but the meaning of both is that the first statement is saying: for every correct action you do (action that you are held accountable for), there is an intention behind it, and the second statement is saying: the reward for the doer for his deed is according to his pious intention
  • Doing sins could prevent you from doing righteous actions
  • The first 3 people to be dragged into hellfire are people who done good actions with insincere intentions
  • The opposite of sincerity is riyaa’, which means: showing off
  • Riyaa’ is considered as a minor form of shirk, and can disqualify a person’s good deeds
  • Riyaa’ in Islam is when we do an act of worship for other than the sake of Allah alone
  • Riyaa’ is of many levels, many of which are hidden. Some examples of riyaa’ are:
    • You do an action solely for the sake of the people
    • You do an action for the sake of Allah, but when you do it in front of others, you find it easier to do e.g. praying qiyam-ul-layl
    • You do it for the sake of Allah and it is not made easier by others looking at you, but you feel happy when others know you did this action, and you try hard to let them know you’ve done it e.g. pray in front of them or mention that you’ve just did this act of worship
    • You do it for the sake of Allah and it is not made easier by others looking at you, but you feel happy when others know you did this action, however, you do not directly try to make it visible that you have done this action, but you try to make it known indirectly e.g. swollen eyes or dry lips to let others know you’ve been crying or fasting
    • You do it for the sake of Allah and do not let others know you’ve done it, but you expect to be respected by others because you do such and such acts of worship
  • This hadith mentioned two things, dunya and women, as they distract us the most from the hereafter
  • The main theme of this hadith is about sincerity and purifying our intentions
  • We need the three I’s for our deeds to be accepted:
    • Iman (Being a Muslim)
    • Ikhlas (sincerity)
    • Ittibaa’ ( following the way of the prophet (sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam))
  • Without any of the three above, our deeds will not be accepted, hence it is vital that we be sincere with Allah in our acts of worship
  • Some definitions of sincerity:
    • You do the action solely for the sake of Allah
    • You do not want a witness for your action other than Allah, and you do not seek reward for it from other than Allah
    • Purifying the action from any defects
    • When your inner is the same as your outer
  • Some of the salaf have said that if you see sincerity in your sincerity, then your sincerity requires more sincerity, for the level of deficiency you see in your sincerity is in fact the level of sincerity you have!
  • Ibn Al-Qayyim said about the pious intention: “Forgetting to look at others, by constantly looking at Allah” i.e. not caring what others think by always worrying what Allah sees
  • We need to have a sincere intention for everything we do so that we may be rewarded for it e.g. intend to go to sleep to be able to be stronger to worship Allah, intend to eat to be able to be stronger to worship Allah, etc
  • The scholars have said “ The worship of the heedless is a habit, and the habits of the righteous are worship” i.e. the heedless ones are not concentrating in their worship as it is just a habit, but the righteous turn even their habits into worship e.g. eating, sleeping etc
  • The intention is the driving force in your heart that pushes you to do this action. It is not something that you merely say with your tongue so for you to have a sincere pious intention, you must have this intention (e.g. playing football to be healthy or to meet with brothers and increase in brotherhood) before carrying out the action, and it must be the reason that pushes you towards this action, so if it is not there, you would not do the action

Benefits and Action points:

  • Whenever you feel a difference whether people look at your act of worship or not, then know you have an element of riyaa’ in you which you must seek to dispel
  • Avoid all forms of riyaa’ mentioned in the commentary above
  • To avoid riyaa’ we must know what causes it. It is caused by 3 main principles. Below are the causes of riyaa’ and how to dispel them:
    • Desiring to be praised
      • Remind yourself of the pleasures you get in Jannah, and compare if you want to swap them for the minute pleasure of being praised in the dunya
    • Hating to be criticised
      • Remind yourself of your imminent stand before Allah and compare which criticism is more important, the criticism of the people or the criticism of Allah
      • Know that if Allah is pleased with you, then He will make the people pleased with you too
    • Desiring what is in the hands of the people
      • Remind yourself that what is with Allah is far greater
      • Remind yourself that what is in the hands of the people ultimately belongs to Allah, and only He decides if you get something or not
  • Being Sincere in your worship of Allah brings many benefits. These include:
    • It is a reason to be saved on the day of judgement
    • It is a great source of good deeds
    • It can magnify the reward of a small action
    • It can change your habits into acts of worship
    • It is a reason for your sins to be forgiven
    • It is a reason for calamities to be removed
    • It is a reason to be raised in rank
    • It saves a person from trials and tribulations
  • In order to achieve sincerity, we need to :
    • See the good actions we do as a blessing from Allah over us for giving us the ability to do them
    • Not ask for any rewards for it as we know we are slaves of Allah and slaves do not ask for rewards for what they do
    • Not be pleased with what we do and look for its defects and try to improve next time (while never feeling that we have reached perfection in what we do)
    • Know what Allah deserves and that we will never be able to worship Him as He deserves
    • Try our utmost to perfect the action, but be shy from Allah as it is not perfect
    • Try out utmost to not let anyone see or know about the action
    • Understand that we only did this action because Allah has written for us to do it so all the credit goes to Him

21 thoughts on “Hadith 1. Intentions


  2. It is well explained, may Almighty Allah assist us to purify our intention always. Jazakah llau aeran.

  3. I have learnt a lot. May Allah strengthens our seen. May Allah reward you in abundance. Masha Allah

  4. Masha Allah what a wonderful commentary may Allah bless us with useful knowledge . Ameen

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