Ethics In Islam
Sincerity of Intention
SINCERITY OF INTENTION
In the previous article, entitled "Qualities of Good Conduct", we quoted a few specimens of the ethical virtues, good conduct and behaviour of the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (Sal-lal-laa-hu 'alai-hi wa-sal-lam), which are useful for mankind in his everyday life.
The first and foremost thing essential for the ethical virtues and good conduct is the sincerity of intention i.e., whatever virtuous deed is performed or goodness is done to others shall be for Allaah and seeking His Pleasure. There shall be no other aim, as for example people practice honesty because 'honesty is the best policy." In the Qur'aan, Allaah has ordained about the sincerity of intention in a very polite and loving way. In Surah Zumur, addressing the Kind Prophet, He commands:
"...so serve Allaah, offering Him sincere devotion." (S. 39: 2).
In the same Surah, at another place, Allaah again commands the kind Prophet:
"Say: 'Verily, I am commanded to serve Allaah with sincere devotion." (S. 39:11).
These Verses reveal that every deed of a man should be for seeking the Pleasure and Consent of Allaah and for no other purpose. The worldly object or aim, hypocrisy, seeking of grandeur and dignity, greed etc., should never be aimed at in performing a virtuous deed. If one confers any favour on an indigent; gives alms to the poor; offers gifts to people of worships, he should do all these virtuous and good acts and deeds for the Pleasure of Allaah. In the Qur'aan, Allaah has revealed the true desires and sentiments of His sincere devotees in the following words:
"We feed you for the sake of Allaah alone: No reward do we desire from you, nor
thanks." (S. 76: 9)
The Kind Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (Sal-lal-laa-hu 'alai-hi wa-sal-lam) said:
"The basis of the deeds of man is on man's intention, and every man will get the award according to his intention."
In the same tradition, it has been further stated about the intention in the context of 'Migration' which is one of the most important of the good deeds. In Migration, man gives up his long established home, departs from his relatives, abandons his running business, trade etc., for the Pleasure of Allaah and goes to a foreign land, where he faces innumerable problems of rehabilitation, and sometimes has to undergo great troubles for a long time. But, it has been clearly stated in this connection that the Migration which is only for the pleasure and consent of Allaah will be highly rewarded by Allaah and the Migration which will be for worldly ends or in love of a woman, will have no value before Allaah.
Briefly speaking, the intention to do a thing should invariably be for the Pleasure of Allaah. In worship, mutual dealings, business, trade, and in all works, the intention to seek the Pleasure of Allaah is the first essential condition. This centralisation of man's every effort and a struggle on gaining the Consent of Allaah is unique to Islam. No other religion or ideology can present an example of this noble aim; truly speaking, religions other than Islam have not even its conception in their system. In their purview is their country or nation, for whose gain and benefit, the inhabitants of the nation or country can tell a lie, commit a fraud and persecute the people of other countries and nations. This claim is supported by facts. History stands witness that in the past the powerful and strong nations and states persecuted, caused harm, inflicted losses on weak and under-developed countries and nations for their selfish ends and benefits. They made all efforts to make the states weak, poor, helpless and invalid for their own benefit and dignity. In these circumstances and conditions, how can we hope that the civilization which has today its control all over the world can with its ethical standard establish peace in the world. Can a small nation grow and develop and a weak nation speak before a powerful one? Definitely this is not possible under the cover of the modern civilization and the ethical standard it presents. Whether we discuss this matter in detail or in brief, the conclusion will be one and same, that the peace of the world is bound with the ideology of Islam, its standard of ethics and its system of life and living. No chance exists for establishing peace in the world if we go away from the path of Islam. Islam teaches the lesson of ethics, which aims at the Pleasure of Allaah, by working for the welfare of people, leaving behind all personal and selfish gains or advantage. Therefore, when one embraces Islam, the first and imperative duty of the man is to make sincere intention that everything he does should be for the Pleasure of Allaah.
What is Intention?
Intention is the will or the firm determination which is made in the mind and heart for the purpose of doing any good and pious work or act. It has been established as an essential condition in Islam for every worship and virtuous deed. Those men who do any good deed for popularity, worldly grandeur, fame, etc., do so against the injunction of Islam. Giving of charity, offering of 'nafil' prayers, recitation of Qur'aan in good tone and voice, performance of Hajj, waging of religious war and even sacrificing of life do not count before Allaah if the intention is for worldly pomp and show. Those who do these deeds for personal ends do no good to themselves. The Kind Prophet said that such people would be told in the Court of Allaah that since they performed those deeds for worldly fame and dignity they got the same during their sojourn in the world and, therefore, there was no reward for their deeds in the Hereafter.
Contrary to this, those who performed good deeds with the intention of seeking the Pleasure of Allaah would be amply rewarded by Him. They would get high station in Paradise and be enriched with the Bounties of Allaah.
The Companions of the Prophet always sought for the Pleasure of Allaah in their thoughts and deeds. Their intention never deviated from the true aim. The sincerity of intention can well be understood from the following event.
Once Hazrat Umar (razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu) whipped a drunkard in punishment. The drunkard abused him. Hazrat Umar held back his whip and did not strike him again. When people asked the reason for stopping his act of whipping, he replied:
"I was punishing him to gain the Pleasure of Allaah. When he abused me, I grew angry. If I would have punished him after that, I would have done that for my 'self'. Therefore, I held my hand back from striking."
A similar noble instance we get from the life of Hazrat Ali (razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu). In one of the wars he fought, he threw an infidel on the ground and sitting on his chest drew his sword to kill him. The infidel presently spat on his face. Hazrat Ali held his sword back and moved away from his chest and said:
"If I had killed him in that state it would have been for myself".
In short, the foundation of worship, ethics and good conduct is laid on the sincerity of intention. The purity of intention is the essence of ethics. Without the sincerity of intention, worship and prayer of very high standard go waste. If the intention is pure, even a small act can serve a means for gaining the Pleasure of Allaah. May Allaah help us all to have sincere intention in performing good deeds!