The Power of Intention in Islam: 3 Things You Need to Know

Islam teaches us to live with intentions, not just in our acts of worship but across all kinds of human activity as well. Why is intention so important in Islam?
by Ustazah Noorsakinah Masrawi 2023-01-10 • 8 min read
Ustazah Noorsakinah spent 12 years in madrasah education. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from International Islamic University Malaysia.
2023-01-10 • 8 min read

Some of us may have prepared a list of New Year resolutions to help us get ahead. As much as we look forward to embarking on this new journey, 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 fulfil them so that we can reap the most benefit out of it.

Intention, new year resolution, 2023, plans

Intentions are the root 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,

إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى

“Indeed, deeds are (judged) by intentions. Every man will be rewarded only for what they intended.”

(Muttafaqun 'Alayh)

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 intend will influence our thoughts and then our actions.

In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w mentioned,

أَلَا وَإِنَّ فِي الْجَسَدِ مُضْغَةً إِذَا صَلَحَتْ صَلَحَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ وَإِذَا فَسَدَتْ فَسَدَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ أَلَا وَهِيَ الْقَلْبُ

“Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.”

(Muttafaqun 'Alayh)

This means that the connection between the heart and our intentions is closer than we think. Our limbs and, likewise, intentions depend on the state of the heart.

Intention, new year resolution, 2023, plans

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:

 اللَّهُمَّ مُصَرِّفَ الْقُلُوبِ صَرِّفْ قُلُوبَنَا عَلَى طَاعَتِكَ

O Allah! The controller of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience

(Sahih Muslim)

Using Intentions as Anchors to Our Actions

In an interview with[1], 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 our intentions, it helps us to be more objective. With intentions, we tend to be more conscious of the things that will help us achieve our goals and the things that might 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 (taqwa) 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 that which pleases God. Things that also bring benefit and comfort to us and others, not otherwise.

Having Multiple Intentions for a Single Action to Maximise Benefits

The sahābah (companions of the Prophet) r.a. and scholars would carry out an action for which they would have many good intentions accompanying it. This is so in hopes that they could be rewarded abundantly by a single action for every intention they made. It is due to this that Yahya b. Abī Kathīr said, “Learn about intention because it reaches further than the action.”

In ‘The Book of Intentions’ by Habib Sa'ad Muhammad Bin ‘Alawi Al Aydarus, the writer has listed a number of good intentions for different kinds of actions. He wrote in a way that each action is paired with multiple intentions.

For example, if you plan to help people and fulfil their needs, you may have the following intentions as well:

1. To obey the command of the Prophet;

2. So that Allah, Most High, may come to your assistance;

3. To follow the Prophet s.a.w

4. To bring joy and happiness to them

5. To be humble

6. So that Allah may allow others to assist you and fulfil 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!

Intention, new year resolution, 2023, plans


There is an Arabic saying that goes:

عَلَى قَدْرِ نِيَّاتِكُم تُرزَقُون

“You will get what you intended”

This phrase beautifully mirrors the hadith of our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.[2] For Muslims, any good deed done for Allah s.w.t, regardless of its quantity, will definitely be rewarded. To ensure that we gain rewards from our good deeds, it is important that we keep our intentions pure and sincere.

Read: 3 Good Deeds With Unlimited Rewards

So, let’s look deeper into our hearts and ask ourselves what we truly want to achieve out of our New Year resolutions. Are they built upon temporal pleasures such as human recognition or monetary rewards, or are they built upon sincere intentions that enable us to gain His recognition?

May Allah keep our intentions pure and grant us guidance to act upon them. InshaAllah.

Read: How to Achieve Sincerity in Islam



[2] “Indeed, deeds are but by intentions. Every man will be rewarded only for what he intended.” (Muttafaqun 'Alayh)

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