Series: In the Light of Sunnah, In the Footsteps of Our Salaf – Part 2 – Application of Intentions in all our Actions

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In the previous post we illustrated that the source of intentions, and the spring from which all actions emanate is the heart. Therefore, the first step will be the correction and alignment of the heart. Just as the heart is the centre of Allah’s attention, similarly it is also the primary focus of Shaytaan and Nafs. It is due to this reason that the struggle for the rectification of the heart is the first, last and all in between steps, a never ending battle and therefore rightly termed “Jihad al Akbar” – the greatest Jihad.

Having declared an all out non-stop war on Shaytaan and Nafs, along with the commitment to the continuous struggle to rectify the heart, we now need to focus on each activity from our waking to our sleeping, so that we are able to find and apply proper Niyyaat accordingly.

Imam Malik has been quoted to have remarked: “… Do you observe that the one who prostrates to Allah and one who prostrates to an idol are identical in outward form, however this is I’badah and that is Kufr according to Niyyah.” In fact, if we observe the A’amaal of the Muslims from the time of Sahabah until today, we will find, a fairly close proximity in terms of “kind and quantity,”. The main difference in Barakat and Khairat lies in their objectives and their ability to nurture and augment their A’amaalthrough the strength and richness of their Niyyah, which was, of course, directly proportionate to the strength and richness of their Emaan!

For example:  Three men proceeded to the Masjid for Salah. The first has some pressing personal or household need which happens to coincide with the time of Jamaat, or has an appointment to meet someone at the Masjid.  He leaves oblivious of the intention of taqarrub (Seeking closeness to Allah) while proceeding to the Masjid.  This person will have the reward of Salah alone (provided his Salah is accepted, of course!), however he suffers huge losses on every step he took towards the Masjid simply because of not intending  taqarrub  by those steps! Rasoolullah (SAW) has mentioned “…If one of you rightly performs  wudu (ablution), then proceeds to the Masjid, intending only the performance of Salah, then not will a single step be taken except it will be an elevation in rank (in Jannah) and the decrease of one sin…” And in a narration by Abdullah Ibn Masood (RA), the Holy Prophet SAW said “…for every step a hasanah (virtue) will be written, and an elevation of one rank, and the decrease of one sin…”

One Ansari, whose house was the furthest from the Masjid, was asked “Why don’t you buy a donkey to ride to the Masjid?”  He replied “I desire that my walking to the Masjid as well as the return to my family should be written in my account!”  On this Rasoolullah (SAW) remarked, “Allah has granted you all that you mentioned!” (Muslim)

The second man with these virtues in mind leaves his house intending only Salah, without any other worldly objective, along with the virtue of the footsteps proceeding towards the Masjid.  For him will be the reward of the Salah and his footsteps as mentioned in the Hadeeth.

The third man leaves his house with a Niyyah similar to the second person, however he considers whether his Niyyah could be enhanced or not?  The answer, as in the case of most actions: Yes!  Identifying additional possible Niyyaat, he finds that he can intend all of the following:

  1. Sitting in the Masjid.  In a Hadeeth: “One of you continues to remain in Salah as long as the Salah keeps him waiting (in the Masjid).” (Muslim)
  2. Muraabitah   (Literally to protect the vulnerable borders from the enemy [Here it means protecting oneself against Shaytaan and Nafs]).

In a Hadeeth: “…and to continue to wait for the Salah after the offering of a Salah, that is the “Ribat” (defense against the Enemy).” (Muslim)

3. I’tikaaf 

4. Khalwa (Solitude and seclusion for the sake of Ibadah)

5. Dhikr (To remember Allah)

6. To recite and listen to the Quran.

In a Hadeeth: “Never do people gather in one of the houses of Allah (Masjid) reciting the book of Allah and studying  it between themselves except that Sakina descends upon them, and they are  enshrouded with mercy, and the angels throng around them, and Allah makes a mention of them to those with Him.” (Muslim)

7.  Learn and teach knowledge.

8. Enjoin good and forbid evil. 

9. Distance oneself from sins. 

10. Mutually assist in righteous works. 

11. To help any needy Muslim.

Needless to say there is a vast difference in the proceeding towards the Masjid of the three men mentioned, although in shape and form they appear identical.

Imam Ghazali Rahimahullah mentioned, “Ibadah is completed by the combination of Niyyah and A’amaal. Niyyah is one of the two portions of Ibadah, yet it is the superior of the two.  This is because the action of the limbs of the body, are not intended except for their effect on the heart so that the heart inclines toward good and shuns evil.  That being the case, placing one’s face on the ground is not the actual object but it is actually submission and humility of the heart, as the heart is affected by the actions of the limbs. Similarly the objective of Zakah is not to remove ownership of property but to remove the avarice of greed, which means the cutting of the connection of the heart with wealth.” Thereafter he says, “Struggle to increase and enrich your Niyyah in all your actions.”

To be continued, Insha’Allah…

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