Actions according to Intentions

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As-sal?mu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatull?hi wa-barak?tuh. What is the opinion of the Hanafi Madhhab about these 3 questions?

  1. The first question regarding this hadith is whether it refers to all actions or only those actions whose validity requires a Niyyah (Intention)?
  2. If an action might be partially for the sake of Allah and partially to display one’s self in front of the people, if the desire to display one’s self arose at the origin of the action, then is the action vain?
  3. As for an action whose origin is for Allah, then it subsequently becomes corrupted by a desire to display one’s self, is such an act vain?

In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.


  1. As a principle this hadith refers to actions that require the Niyyah. It is mentioned in the commentary of Imam Nawawis forty hadiths:

“In his (Rasoolullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) statement; ”Verily actions are according to intentions’’; actions that do not require the Niyyah are not included in this…”

(Sharah al-Arba’een al-Nawawi 1/8, Qism al-Hadith 2/5)

However, as a Muslim we are encouraged to have a good intention whilst doing anything that is permissible. A permissible action can potentially become an act of worship and worthy of reward if it is accompanied by a pious intention. For example whilst walking we have the intention that “I am walking to stay fit in order to practice the commandments of Allah Ta’aala more efficiently”.

Allamah Ibn Nujaym al-Hanafi states: “As for those actions that are permissible, they differ depending on the intention made. If the intention was to attain Taqwa (Allah consciousness) in actions or to reach it, it will become worship. Such as eating, sleeping, earning wealth, engaging in sexual intercourse”

(al-Ashbah wal-Nadhaa’ir pg20)

  1. If the desire to display one’s self arose at the origin of the action, then one must try ones best to change that intention throughout the action and make it purely for the sake of Allah. Otherwise it will be vain, meaning that it will be devoid of any Thawaab (reward). Allah Ta’aala says:

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘Verily, I am commanded to worship Allah (alone) by obeying Him and doing religious deeds sincerely for His sake only.”


My respected teacher Molana Sa’eed Sahib (May Allah preserve him) says that: “It is difficult at times to keep the intention pious and free from ostentation, as Shaitan comes throughout the action and attempts to mislead the person. Therefore we must make a firm intention at the beginning of the action, and then renew that intention in the middle of the action. Once the action is completed, we must seek forgiveness for any shortcomings that may have occurred throughout the action.” If this is practised, Insha Allah the action will not be vain.

  1. This action itself, if it is a Fardh or Sunnah etc, will be considered complete. However, it will be vain, meaning that it will be devoid of any Thawaab. The Ulama (Scholars) have considered this type of action (and type number two; above) to be the ‘lesser shirk’ (Shirk al-Khafiyy). It is stated in Adwaa al-bayaan: “The meaning of ‘shirk’ here is that he does an action which is initially for the sake of Allah, such as Salah or Sadaqah (Charity) or Hajj, but he publicises it with the intention that people praise him for it.”

(Adwaa al-Bayaan Fee Iidaah al-Quran 9/118)

Only Allah Knows Best

Written by Mufti Abdullah al-Ma’mun

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham.

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