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Before Action, Double-Check Your Intention

“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what they intended.

So whoever migrates for the sake of Allah and His messenger, the migration will be counted truly for Allah and His messenger.

And whoever migrates for the sake of worldly increase or to marry someone, then the migration will count for whatever it was for.” (Al-Bukhari)

Each one of us lives with a purpose that shapes our life and our actions. When we take on a purpose for our life, we strive to align our actions and deeds to serve that purpose.

In our search for peace with God, we first consider the purpose of our creation and our life on earth.

Secondly, we consider how to align our actions to serve that purpose. When our purpose and actions are in sync, we can approach a more peaceful and meaningful existence.

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Why Intention Is Important

Intentions are just as important as the deed itself, if not more so. Our eyes can tell us the form of an action, but only the intention determines its weight.

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The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urges us to make sure that our intentions are for the sake of Allah so that we do not fill our lives with hollow motions.

In this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) uses migration to highlight the importance of intentions. When you consider the sacrifices and risks an individual undertakes in migration—leaving behind property, wealth, family, and a home, it is easy to see why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used this example.

The early Muslims traveled on foot with nothing but the clothes on their back to a new city where there were no assurances of a comfortable future. However, as significant as migration is, the scale of that action matters less than its intention. It is possible for someone to undergo the tremendous effort, exhaustion, and upheaval of migration only to receive zero return on their investment compared to what could have been.

In the same way that an admirable deed is rendered worthless without intentions, the smallest deeds can become huge. The reward for a sincere deed is limitless, and will be multiplied according to the greatness of the intention and the mercy of Allah.

The Crucial Secret

A deed with a good intention is like a secret between you and Allah. It is something that you can look forward to when you finally meet Him, because only He knows the work you did in your heart to make sure the intention was strong. So be sure to guard those intentions well.

Intentions are a transformative agent in our lives. The practice of constantly double-checking your intentions should become a habit. When you renew your intentions, your actions become filled with purpose.

Also, there are other effects of constantly renewing intentions: you gain control over your thoughts and impulses, you develop the ability to be steadfast, you gain people’s trust due to your sincerity and lack of hidden motives, and you rest assured that even when you make mistakes or things do not turn out as expected, the reward is secured due to purity of intention.

Imagine a community where the internal substance of actions was unimportant and intentions were simply not taken into consideration. Every word and every action would make us wonder anxiously, “What did they mean by that?  How should I respond?”

There would be hidden motives behind every word and action, and it would be up to every individual to guess what the implicit meanings were. People would become frustrated when, despite the best of intentions, things didn’t turn out for the best. Actions would have no lasting effect on the soul, because they would not require a presence of mind and heart and could have been performed automatically.

Enjoy Peace

Pure intentions bring about internal and external peace: peace from doubting, suspicion, and anxiety; peace in our relationship with Allah; and peace from being devastated by unexpected results. Working towards Allah-focused intentions is the first step to creating peace in our relationships and community.

Most importantly, pure intentions lead to a sense of peace with Allah. Intention helps us stay connected at all times with our life’s purpose. If our intentions were good from the start, we can trust in Allah that he will count our efforts and accept our best attempt. Every day, we can gain ground in our race to Allah simply by checking in on our hearts.


Republished, with kind permission, from the authors’ Seeking Peace

About Hazem Said and Maha Ezzeddine
Dr. Hazem Said has been active in the Muslim community in America for over 10 years and held many different leadership posts. Most notably, he was the president of MAS Youth, a national youth organization from 2004 to 2008. He helped establish Ihsan, a non-profit organization based in Milford, OH and is currently the chair of its board. In his professional life, Hazem is an associate professor of Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati. Maha Ezzeddine has a bachelor degree in Journalism and History from the University of Maryland - College Park and a Master degree in History from Stanford University. She edited several publications for MAS Youth between 2006 and 2008, when she was a member of the national executive team.