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Hadith 1: Actions are judged by intentions

It is 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:
“Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Background

This hadith was said by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, at the time when a man emigrated from Makkah to Madinah during the Hijrah for the sake of marrying someone and not for the sake of Islam.

It is considered to be one of the greatest hadiths in Islam.

Al-Imam al-Shafie said: This Hadith is one third of the knowledge of Islam; related to about 70 topics of Fiqh.

Al-Imam Ahmad (with reference to al-Imam al-Shafie’s statement) said: Islam is based on three fundamentals (all are among the 40 hadiths ):

  1. Hadith 1: which is stated above.
  2. Hadith 5: “Whosoever introduces into this affair of ours (i.e. Islam) something that does not belong to it, it is to be rejected.”
  3. Hadith 6: “Truly, what is lawful is evident, and what is unlawful is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know……”

These three hadiths are agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

These hadiths can be seen as three criteria to help Muslims evaluate and judge what they do and say “as an ibadah” in their daily life:

  1. Hadith 1 – To evaluate and judge our internal actions (actions of the heart).
  2. Hadith 5 – To evaluate and judge our external actions (actions of the limbs).
  3. Hadith 6 – To evaluate and judge our dealings “mu’amalat” (interaction between people).

 Niyyah (intention) has two meanings:

  1. The intention before an ibadah (e.g. prayer)
  2. The willingness

The second meaning (ii.) is what is meant in this hadith.


Lessons

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, starts the hadith with the principle (“Actions are judged by intentions”) and then gives three examples. This is the methodology of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. The examples help illustrate the principle so that it is easier for people to understand and they can apply the principle to other similar situations.

The three examples consist of one of good intention (migration for the sake of Allah and His Messenger) and two of bad intentions (migration for the sake of worldly gains or for marriage).

 This hadith emphasises ikhlas (sincerity – to be truthful and honest to Allah alone, performing an act solely for Allah’s sake whereby no other witness except Allah is sought). Ikhlas is one of the conditions of accepting good deeds. The other condition is that the actions must be done in accordance with the Shariah as it will be explained in the fifth hadith.

This can be seen in the shahadah :

  • “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah” is the ikhlas – ensuring that we do things for the sake of Allah and Allah alone.
  • “I bear witness that Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah” – the Sunnah is the manifestation of the Quran – the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, is our example, our best model to follow. Following his Sunnah in our ibadah, Akhlaq (ethics), and Muamalat (dealings) ensures that we are acting in accordance with the Shariah.

Thus, the shahadah shows us the conditions for accepting a deed or performing an action: (a) it should be for the sake of Allah because He is the only One we worship, and (b) it should be in accordance with the Shariah.

 To achieve ikhlas, we have to avoid shirk (associating others with Allah, which causes insincerity). Al-Imam al-Harawi said the root cause for insincerity (or shirk) is self-desire (al-hawa). Therefore no action should be done because of self-desire.

Imam al-Harawi states that there are 7 types of self-desires:-

  • To make oneself appear good in the hearts of others
  • To seek the praises of others
  • To avoid being blamed by others
  • To seek the glorification of others
  • To seek the wealth/money of others
  • To seek the services or love of others
  • To seek the help of others for oneself

                                                                                              

                                                                              Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi

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