It is narrated on Amir al-mu’minin Abu Hafsh ‘Umar bin Khattab radhiyallahu’ anhu who said: I have heard Rasulullah ﷺ say:
إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى. فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيْبُهَا أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ>
“Actions are (judged) by motives (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. “(This hadith was narrated by two well-known Muhaddiths, Abu Abdillah Muhammad bin Ismail al-Bukhari and Abul Hasan Muslim bin al-Hajjaj bin Muslim al-Qusyairy an-Naisabury).
This hadith is a great hadith, containing a perfect and comprehensive meaning. It is said that Rasulullah ﷺ explained the importance of niyyah of all the deeds carried out by Muslims.
The niyyah is key to whether or not Allah accepts a charity.
First of all, we should know that niyyah means intentional linguistically. As for the term, niyyah means deliberate doing something and immediately followed by its implementation.
The importance of niyyah in a deed is like the importance of a spirit in a body. It is impossible if the deeds that do not have a soul are considered a form of ubudiyah. It’s nothing but a damaged body.
Therefore, niyyah has a vital role in the life of a Muslim because all deeds are determined by niyyah. If the niyyah is really for and because of Allah ﷻ, then the deed will be accepted. Conversely, if the niyyah is intended other than Allah ﷻ, then his deed is in vain. The evidence is from the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, as follows “Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended.”
Through this hadith, the Prophet ﷺ delivered two sentences with a profound meaning. First, every deed depends on the intention, and everyone will get what he intended.
In the first sentence, he wanted to explain that a deed means nothing without niyyah. Whereas in the second sentence, he explained that people who did an amal would get merit according to what is intended.
Ulama commented to this hadith that the niyyah distinguishes between acts of the value of worship and actions that are ‘adah (habit) and differentiate between one worship and another.
First, distinguishing worship from habit. A person who takes a bath wants to get fresh called ‘Adah. However, it would be different when someone takes a bath because of junub or ghusl when he wants to go to the mosque on Friday. Then the deed has the value of worship.
A person who eats only wants to feel full, and to indulge his lust will have a different value if someone eats sufficiently so that his body can stand up to carry out his obligations as a Muslim.
Second, niyyah is the differentiator between one form of worship and another. A person who performs two rak’ah prayers at the time of Fajr must distinguish from his intention whether to pray the sunnah qabliyah or the Fajr.
Regarding how to do niyyah in every act of worship, ulama of the madhabs, the Hanafi madhabs, the Maliki madhabs, the Shafi’I madhabs, and the Hambali madhabs all conclude that the niyyah is declared in one’s heart. As for reciting niyyah, ulama allows anyone who does not have the stability of heart—in other words, reciting to get the strength of the heart in doing deeds of worship. Wallahu’ alam.
Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaimin, Syarh ‘Arba’in An-Nawawiyah.
Abduurahman bin Abdullah al-Bassam, Taisiiru al-‘Alam Syarhu ‘Umdati al-Ahkaam.
Abdul Ghani bin Abdul Waahid al-Maqdiisy, Tanbiihul Afham Syarhu ‘Umdati al-Ahkaam.