Ustazah Noorsakinah spent 12 years in madrasah education. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from International Islamic University Malaysia.
Some of us may have prepared a list of New Year resolutions to help us in getting ahead. As much as we look forward to embark on them, we may want to take a step back and revisit the intentions that drive us to achieve our goals. It is good practice to always identify the purpose of our goals rather than rushing to fulfill them so that we can reap the most benefit out of it.
Intentions are the roots of every action. It reflects the underlying motives of why we plan something or do what we do. Narrated in a hadith, our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said, "Actions are (judged) by intentions (niyyah), so each man will receive what he has intended for.” [Bukhari & Muslim]. This underlines that intention is the ultimate foundation of our actions.
Setting the Right Intentions
Imam Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd Allah Bin Shaykh Al-Aydarus mentioned: “A virtuous intention is the source of all goodness.” The heart is where intentions are formed. Hence as the heart and mind are interconnected, what we intent will influence our thoughts and then our actions.
So, does the state of heart influence our intentions?
In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w mentioned, “…in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.” (Sahih Bukhari).
If the heart has such a significant influence on our body, what more on our intentions? Hence, it is vital that we ensure our hearts are in a ‘healthy’ state as we set our intentions to avoid pursuing any actions or goals that may harm ourselves and others.
One of the ways to keep our hearts directed to Allah s.w.t is to recite a supplication that was practised by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.:
Using Intentions as Anchors to Our Actions
In an interview with Inc.com1, author of ‘Living with Intent’ Mallika Chopra said, “Personally, I have found that when I state an intent, it actually provides an anchor for me. Being purposeful, we will often make choices and look for opportunities to achieve—it provides that anchor in our thinking and decision making.”
Indeed, when we are aware of the intentions of our actions and goals, it helps us to be objective. With intentions, we tend to be more conscious of the things that will help us to achieve our goals and things that hinder them. Our intentions also help direct us on what needs to be done and how things should be done. This reflects our principles and values.
For Muslims, being God-conscious is one of the ways to ensure our intentions are pure. When we are conscious of God, it is natural that we only act upon something that brings benefit and comfort to others, and not otherwise.
Having Multiple Intentions for a Single Action to Maximise Benefits
The sahābah and scholars would carry out a single action for which they would have many intentions, so that they could be rewarded abundantly for every intention. It is due to this that Yahya b. Abī Kathīr said, "The intention reaches further than the action."
In ‘The Book of Intentions’ by Habib Muhammad Bin ‘Alawi Al Aydarus, he has written a list of intentions for different actions, with each action paired with many intentions. For example, if you plan to help people and fulfill their needs, you may have the following intentions:
1. To obey the command of the Prophet;
2. So that Allah, Most High, may come to your assistance;
3. To follow the Prophet;
4. To bring joy and happiness to them;
5. To be humble;
6. So that Allah may allow others to assist you and fulfill your needs.
So, go ahead and think of as many intentions as you can and pair them with your goals. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve!
There is an Arabic saying that goes: