Nawawi On Sincerity & Having Conscious Intention In All Actions

Chapter One
Sincerity (ikhlas) and having a conscious intention in all actions

Bustan ul Arifeen: The Garden of the Gnostics (Nawawi) 


Allah says, "They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their din sincerely His as people of pure natural pure belief (hunafa'),1and to establish the prayer and pay zakat - that is the deen of the correct. (din al-qayyima)." (98:5)

This means the straight (mustaqim) system of worship. It is also said that it means "based on the truth" (al-qa'imatu bi'l-haqq). Allah knows best.

Allah says, "If anyone leaves his home, emigrating to Allah and His Messenger, and death catches up with him, it is Allah Who will reward him." (4:100)

Allah says, "Your Lord knows best what is in your selves." (17:25)

Allah says, "Their flesh and blood dies not reach Allah but your fear of Him (tawqa) does reach Him." (22:37)

Ibn 'Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "It means that your intentions reach Him."

Ibrahim said, "Taqwa is the means by which you desire His Face."

Imam Abu'l-Hasan al-Wahidi reported that az-Zajjaj said, "The meaning of this is that Allah will not accept an offering of flesh and blood when it is offered without fearful awareness of Allah. He accepts that through which you show Him your fearful awareness of Him." This indicates that no act of worship is without intention. The intention is that you want to draw near to Allah and carry out His command.

Our Shaykh, Abu'l-Baqa' ash-Shafi'i, may Allah be pleased with him, related to us from Abu'l-Yaman al-Kindi, from Muhammad al-Ansari, from Abu Muhammad 'Ali al-Jawhari, from Abu'l-Husayn al-Muzaffar, from Abu Bakr al-Wasiti, from Abu Nu'aym 'Abd ibn Hisham al-Halabi, from Ibn al-Mubarak, from Yahya ibn Sa'id, from Muhammad ibn Ibrahim at-Taymi, from 'Alqama ibn Waqqas al-Laythi, that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:

'Indeed, actions only go by intentions. Everyone gets what they intend. Anyone, therefore, who emigrates for Allah and His Messenger, then his emigration is indeed for Allah and His Messenger. But anyone who emigrates to gain something of this world or to marry a woman, his emigration is for that for which he emigrated.'

This hadith is unanimously agreed to be sound. Its position is immense and sublime. It is one of the foundations of belief (iman), its first pillar and its strongest support. It is a unique and precious hadith, as is well-known.

The backbone of its isnad is Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Ansari. Ash-Shafi'i said, "This hadith from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is only sound by virtue of its having come by way of 'Alqama, and only sound by virtue of having come from 'Alqama by way of Yahya ibn Sa'id. From Yahya, the transmission of it spreads out to more than 200 men, most of whom are Imams."

Imam al-Bukhari related it in his Sahih in seven places. He related it at the beginning of his book, and in the chapters on belief, marriage, freeing slaves, emigration, giving up deception and oaths. This hadith is related in the Sahih in various ways: "Indeed actions only go by intentions," and "Indeed action is only by the intention." At the beginning of the Book of Shihab, it reads, "Actions are by intentions," and does not include the word "indeed." However, Abu Musa al-Isfahani said that the isnad of transmission for this version is not sound. The meaning of the intention is to aim for the goal. It is the heart's resolve. 2 "Indeed" is used to express limitation. It affirms what is mentioned, and rejects everything else. The meaning of the hadith is that the actions of the Shari'a are only valid by intention. As for the one whose goal is the pleasure of Allah by his emigration, 3 and as for the one whose goal is this world, both of them obtain only that portion.

According to this hadith, the intention is a precondition for wudu', ghusl, tayammum, prayer, zakat, fasting, retreat, hajj, etc. Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "This hadith contains seventy gates of the science of law (fiqh)." He also said, "This hadith contains one-third of knowledge." Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, stated, "It contains a third of knowledge." Others have mentioned this hadith in the same way.

Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi said in the beginning of his book, The Summary of the Sunan, "What ash-Shafi'i meant about the fact that it contains a third of knowledge derives from the fact that the slave acquires everything by means of his heart, his tongue and his intentions. The intention is one of the divisions of his acquisition, but it is the most predominant of the three, because it is worship on its own. The other two are not. Words and actions can be perverted by showing-off. But this does not affect intention in any way."

Scholars recommend that you begin all books with this hadith. Al-Bukhari is one of those who have begun their books with it. It is the first hadith in his Sahih Collection, which is the soundest book after the Book of Allah. Abu Sa'id 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn Mahdi said, "If I had written a book I would have started every chapter with this hadith." He also said, "Whoever desires to write a book should begin it with this hadith." At the beginning of Information about the Commentary on the Sahih of al-Bukhari, al-Khattabi said, "Our previous shaykhs recommended that we put the hadith, "Actions are by the intention", at the start of all matters of the deen that we initiate, since it is generally needed in all aspects of the deen."

We have heard many things like this from the early Muslims regarding this hadith. Allah knows best. The chain of transmission (isnad) of this hadith is very rare and excellent among the people of hadith. This is due to the fact that its chain of transmission includes three Followers, each one relating the hadith from the others. These three Followers are: Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Ansari, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim at-Taymi and 'Alqama ibn Waqqas. Although this is marvellous, there are several sound hadiths that have three Followers relating the hadith from one another, and there are even some that include four Followers in the chain. Ibn 'Abdu'r-Rahman gathered them all together in a section of his book. I have transmitted it and condensed it at the beginning of my commentary on the Sahih of al-Bukhari. I added some others to them which I found to be like them. There were more than thirty hadiihs of this kind, but Allah knows best.

From The Book

Bustan ul Arifeen: The Garden of the Gnostics (Nawawi)

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