Hadith 1: Actions based on Intentions

(A Summary based on commentaries by Imam Ibn Rajab and Shaikh Jamal Zarabozo)

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It is narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu'minin, Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah () say: "Surely, all actions are but by intention  (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated." [Bukhari & Muslim]



عَنْ أَمِيرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَبِي حَفْصٍ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: سَمِعْتُرَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: " إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍمَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْهِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ".

رَوَاهُ إِمَامَا الْمُحَدِّثِينَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللهِ مُحَمَّدُ بنُ إِسْمَاعِيل بن إِبْرَاهِيم بن الْمُغِيرَة بنبَرْدِزبَه الْبُخَارِيُّ الْجُعْفِيُّ [رقم:1]، وَأَبُو الْحُسَيْنِ مُسْلِمٌ بنُ الْحَجَّاج بن مُسْلِمالْقُشَيْرِيُّ النَّيْسَابُورِيُّ [رقم:1907] رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا فِي "صَحِيحَيْهِمَا" اللذَينِ هُمَا أَصَحُّ الْكُتُبِ الْمُصَنَّفَةِ.

Isnad [2]




1. Hafs حفص literally means lion.

2. As the chains show, its سند is not  متواتر في سند but غريب. However, it’s متواتر in meaning.

3. The Hadith does not have shaadh الشاذّ

Shaadh الشاذّ by Imam al-Shafi'ee, "The shaadh الشاذّ report is where a trustworthy narrator reports something in contradiction to what the people report. This does not include a person narrating what no others narrate."

( per Aratool.com, ّشاذ literally means deviant)


General Comments On This Hadith

Abu Ubaid: The Prophet (peace be upon him) encompassed:

1) All of the affairs of this world in one sentence, 'Whoever enters anything into this religion of ours that does not belong, will have it rejected.'

2) All of the affairs of the Hereafter in one sentence, 'Every action is based on its intention. [2, p.98]


Al-Shafi'ee also said that this Hadith encompasses half of knowledge, meaning that the religion concerns both what is external and what is internal.  [2, p.98].


Imam Abu Dawood: this hadith is one-half of Islam; that is, Islam comprises what is apparent, the deeds of Islam, as well as what is not apparent, the intention behind the deeds.

  Fiqh revolves around five hadith [2, p.98]

   1)"Actions are but by intentions," إنما الأعمال بالنيات

   2) “The religion is sincere advice," الدين النصيحة

   3) “The permissible is clear and the forbidden is clear,"

... الْحَلاَلُ بَيِّنٌ وَالْحَرَامُ بَيِّنٌ وَبَيْنَ ذَلِكَ أُمُورٌ مُشْتَبِهَاتٌ

   4) “There is no harming or reciprocating of harm," لا ضرر و لا ضرار

   5) “ Whatever I forbid you, remain away from. Whatever I order you to do, fulfill as much as you can." (مَا نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْهُ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ وَمَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِهِ فَافْعَلُوا مِنْهُ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ (مسلم


Imam Ahmad: the foundation of Islam revolves around three hadith:

  1. “Actions are but by intention,"
  2. “Whoever introduces anything into this affair of ours that is not from it shall have it rejected. "‏مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ ‏"‏ ‏.‏‏
  3. The permissible is clear and the forbidden is clear.”  [2, p.98]


***The pious forefathers preferred to begin all their meetings and gatherings with this hadith.

Below vocabulary is from  [2, p.92]:

إنَّما may be exclusive as in this Hadith or in سورة التحريم

إِنَّمَا تُجْزَوْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٧

Or relatively exclusive as in سورة محمد

إِنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ ۚ وَإِن تُؤْمِنُوا وَتَتَّقُوا يُؤْتِكُمْ أُجُورَكُمْ وَلَا يَسْأَلْكُمْ أَمْوَالَكُمْ ﴿٣٦


Three of the many meanings of letter “ba” ب 

1. Ba of accompaniment ب المصابيح: “Actions are accompanied by intentions

2. Ba of causation:  ب الاسبابية “Actions are caused by intentions.” (Strongest view)

3. Ba of aid: ب الاستعانة“Actions are done with the help of intentions.”



النية The meaning of niyyah: endeavor, intention, purpose, resolution, goal, aim, resolve, determination, and so forth. It is not just a thought that comes to one's mind but it is a determination, want and aspiration to do something. [1]


The place of the intention is heart

ibn Taimiya: the scholars agree that the "place of the niyyah" is the heart or the conscience and it is not the tongue. What this means is that making a statement is not the same thing as having an intention to do something.


النية، الإرادة ، القصد، العزم [1]

Words in the Quran similar to niyyah. Niyyah itself not in the Quran

الإرادة volition The niyyah is a subset of what iraada or will encompasses. Iraada, according to al-Qaradai, encompasses intention, resolve, consideration, desire, purpose, choice and will.

مَّن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعَاجِلَةَ عَجَّلْنَا لَهُ فِيهَا مَا نَشَاءُ لِمَن نُّرِيدُ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَا لَهُ جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَاهَا مَذْمُومًا مَّدْحُورًا ﴿١٨ وَمَنْ أَرَادَ الْآخِرَةَ وَسَعَىٰلَهَا سَعْيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ سَعْيُهُم مَّشْكُورًا ﴿١٩. سورة الإسراء


قصد  ("purpose") implies turning toward something and desiring it. It can be used for something a person wants for himself or from others(as opposed to niyyah).  The  word qasd can only be used for an act which is within the ability of the person himself while niyyah can be used for an act that is beyond a person's ability.


عزم is the resolve of the heart to fulfill a matter.

In the Quran it has four meanings:

          purpose, patience, resolve and fulfillment.

It also implies resolve to do something without any hesitation or doubt concerning that matter. Of the different terms, azm is the strongest with respect to having a resolve to do something. In fact, intention, want and purpose all precede azm. Azm is the end all of these different concepts.


When intention (niyyah) is related to an act being done at present, it is also called qasd. If it is in relation to an act to be done in the future, it is called azm. Iraadah is used for both present and future acts. [1]



The intent behind a deed makes it valid, invalid, accepted or rejected, and thus results in reward or punishment. [2]


Niyyah has two senses:[2]

1. Jurists stress on making an intention to distinguish acts of worship and related actions like ritual or normal bath.

2. Ensure to intend an act to please Allah Tala alone.



ابتغاء Seeking as intention in Quran[2]

References: The Quran: 92:20, 2:265, 272, 4:114


[2] Hadith about three who will be the first to be thrown in hellfire:

A shaheed, a scholar, and a rich person: https://sunnah.com/muslim/33/218


[2] Narrated Abu Hurayrah: http://sunnah.com/abudawud/26/24

The Prophet () said: If anyone acquires knowledge that should be sought seeking the Face of Allah, but he acquires it only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the arf, i.e. the fragrance, of Paradise.

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا سُرَيْجُ بْنُ النُّعْمَانِ، حَدَّثَنَا فُلَيْحٌ، عَنْ أَبِيطُوَالَةَ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ مَعْمَرٍ الأَنْصَارِيِّ، عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ، عَنْأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ عِلْمًا مِمَّايُبْتَغَى بِهِ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لاَ يَتَعَلَّمُهُ إِلاَّ لِيُصِيبَ بِهِ عَرَضًا مِنَ الدُّنْيَالَمْ يَجِدْ عَرْفَ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي رِيحَهَا ‏.‏


Sahih (Al-Albani)

صحيح   (الألباني)

حكم     :



Three forms of bad intentions [2]

1. Purely for Vanity, Riya

The Quran: 4:142, 107:4-6, 8:47

2. Doing it for the sake of Allah but with a small Vanity

Beginning an act with such mix causes the act void.

The Quran, 18:110

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger () as stating that Allah the Most High and Exalted said:

I am the One, One Who does not stand in need of a partner. If anyone does anything in which he associates anyone else with Me, I shall abandon him with one whom he associates with Allah. http://sunnah.com/muslim/55/58

حَدَّثَنِي زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، أَخْبَرَنَا رَوْحُ بْنُ الْقَاسِمِ، عَنِ الْعَلاَءِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ يَعْقُوبَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى أَنَا أَغْنَى الشُّرَكَاءِ عَنِ الشِّرْكِ مَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلاً أَشْرَكَفِيهِ مَعِي غَيْرِي تَرَكْتُهُ وَشِرْكَهُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏

3. Acts and Liability of Boasting

An act done to please Allah Tala with a sense of boastfulness after the act may or may not be negatively affected. Imam Ahmad, ibn Jarir, alTabari, alBasri ...say deed is NOT negated.


People’s Praise of a Righteous Person:http://sunnah.com/muslim/45/216

Abu Dharr reported:

It was said to Allah's Messenger (): What is your opinion about the person who has done good deeds and the people praise him? He said: It is glad tidings for a believer (which he has received in this mortal world).


حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى التَّمِيمِيُّ، وَأَبُو الرَّبِيعِ، وَأَبُو كَامِلٍ فُضَيْلُ بْنُ حُسَيْنٍ - وَاللَّفْظُ لِيَحْيَى - قَالَ يَحْيَى أَخْبَرَنَا وَقَالَ الآخَرَانِ،حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي عِمْرَانَ الْجَوْنِيِّ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الصَّامِتِ، عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ، قَالَ قِيلَ لِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلمأَرَأَيْتَ الرَّجُلَ يَعْمَلُ الْعَمَلَ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَيَحْمَدُهُ النَّاسُ عَلَيْهِ قَالَ ‏ "‏ تِلْكَ عَاجِلُ بُشْرَى الْمُؤْمِنِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏



A Supplication [2]

Sufyaan ibn ‘Uyaynah said, “Mutriq bin ‘Abdullaah used to supplicate to Allaah saying,

«اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَغْفِرُكَ مِمَّا تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ مِنْهُ، ثُمَّ عُدْتُ فِيهِ، وَأَسْتَغْفِرُكَ مِمَّا جَعَلْتُهُ لَكَ عَلَى نَفْسِي، ثُمَّ لَمْ أَفِ لَكَ بِهِ، وَأَسْتَغْفِرُكَ مِمَّازَعَمْتُ أَنِّي أَرَدْتُ بِهِ وَجْهَكَ، فَخَالَطَ قَلْبِي مِنْهُ مَا قَدْ عَلِمْتَ»

“O Lord! I seek Your forgiveness for the sins I do after I have given them up; and seek Your forgiveness for the commitments I promised to You, but could not fulfill; and seek Your forgiveness from whatever deed I claimed to have done just for the sake of You, but my heart meant something else to you.””





  1. Ibn Rajab. (2002). Jami Al-Ulum Wal-Hikam (A Collection of Knowledge & Wisdom - English Translation). Umm Al-Qura, Al-Mansura, Egypt.
  2. Zarabozo, J. (1999). Commentary on Forty Hadith of Imam AnNawawi. Al-Basheer Company for Publications & Translations, Denver.

compiled by Ishaq Zahid

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