Ep. 20 The Forties – Intentions: The Criteria for Evaluating Deeds

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Al-Salam ‘Alaykum, this is Syed Ali Imran – and you are listening to the Forties podcast, brought to you by Mizan Institute.

This is episode 20 – Intention: The Criterion for Evaluating Deeds

رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص أَنَّهُ قَالَ: إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَ إِنَّمَا لِامْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى فَمَنْ‏ كَانَتْ‏ هِجْرَتُهُ‏ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ رَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ رَسُولِهِ وَ مَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِامْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا أَوْ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ.

Hadith #19: Deeds are only evaluated by their intentions, and each person will deserve only that which they intended. One who migrates towards Allah and His messenger, then he would have migrated towards Allah and His messenger, and one who migrates towards a woman so he can marry her, or towards the world, then he would have done so – his migration is towards that which is decides upon.

What this tradition is saying is that, imagine someone engineers a river and alters its course in a way that it starts running through their local town, for the purpose that people can make use of the water – he does this for the sake of Allah, but on the other hand a king may engineer a river so that it flows through his palace, for the purpose that people look at it and derive pleasure from its beautiful view.

The first person is going to get his recompense from Allah, because that is the reason why he even changed the course of the river to begin with, so that His servants can drink from it or use it for other necessities, but the king had nothing to do with Allah. His action was for the sake of his palace, his recompense will also come from that palace, he wasn’t seeking anything from God to begin with.

Likewise on the contrary, if someone cuts off access to water from a river, so that this river doesn’t damage the walls and houses of people that live near the river – he does this for the sake of Allah, he will get his reward from Allah, but another person may cut off access to the river, so that he can access it only and others don’t get to drink from it – this person will also get what he had intended, which is to satiate himself – the act is the same but the intentions are different, and both will get what they deserve.

This narration essentially tells us that there are paths which two individuals can take, the exact same path, but one will be rewarded for taking that path by Allah, while the other will not – and the only thing differentiating their acts are their intentions. Two friends who go hunting, one may be going because he knows he needs to eat and feed his family, it is from the necessities of life, while the other may be going just for entertainment and leisure, as a sport – he is not deserving of any reward nor is this act of hunting valuable in the eyes of Allah. Each path and each journey can be made Godly with intentions and at the same time it can be made Ungodly.

إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا – 76:3

[76:3] We already showed them the Way, whether they ˹choose to˺ be grateful or ungrateful.

In the next episode we’ll read a narration from the Prophet (p) in which he tells us that showing off is a form of shirk or polytheism.

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