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Are you a Muslim by Choice, or Muslim by Chance?

Bint Assalaam – Opinion | 13 March 2014/11 Jumadal Ula 1435

“I’m just going to take a sip of this drink here. My intention is not to get drunk. I just want to know what the fuss is about.”

Intention is really important. Everyone is constantly saying it. We keep reading and hearing people express how intention counts more than actions. Often these expressions are bellowed when there shouldn’t even be intent to do a particular action in the first place.

We can’t hide anything from Allah SWT, not externally and not internally. He knows what we’re thinking about doing and saying, why we want to do it and whether we carry out good actions with honest and sincere intention. While many of our actions are carried out openly – for others to see, make assumptions, deductions and judgements about – our intention is a secret between us and Allah SWT.

This world has laid a permanent red carpet for us, to a path of glitz, glamour and even glory. Pretty lights have blinded our understanding of worship, devotion and intention in Islam, obscuring the cobbled straight pathway that leads to Allah.

Intention has become a power card some of us draw to justify all kinds of things. “If you have the right intention then I don’t see why anyone should be saying it isn’t ok to – insert Haraam or questionable act here”. “If you have no intention to do anything wrong, it’s ok to attend X or associate with Y.”

In doing this we trivialise what intention is and how important it is in Islam and prove our lack of understanding of what intention before action actually means. Statements like these reveal that we don’t truly understand what our intentions should be and what actually constitutes a pure intention. To the extent that we use “good, well meant, noble intention” as a means to indulge in the unlawful or the questionable.

If good deeds are accepted or rejected based on the sincerity of one’s intentions, how is it possible that Haraam or questionable deeds can be given a nod with a “pure” intention? Can we sensibly think it is ok to do something with good intent when the act itself is displeasing to Allah? A pure intention involves more than not intending to do anything completely Haraam.

The realisation of how important intention is in everything we do can shake you up a bit. Being aware of how much weight intent holds for an action to be accepted causes one to question the good deeds they may have carried out in the past and whether their intentions were pure and sincere. Because good deeds done for other than the pleasure of Allah SWT are wasted and can also earn Allah’s SWT displeasure.

Having pure intention means performing actions – deeds which themselves are pleasing to Allah SWT – for Allah’s sake only, to seek only His pleasure and reward and out of fear of His punishment. Intention starts within us, learning how to relate with Allah SWT. “If you do not love Allah SWT you cannot please Him,” says Sheikh Abubakar Ali Kasaccha, author of Purifying the Intention, “and love cannot come without knowledge.”

It’s easy to get caught up in a routine and forget why we do certain things. Being born into Muslim families we’ve become used to carrying out obligations because it’s what we are told to do, not because our hearts choose to do it. We risk being Muslims by chance instead of Muslims by choice, Muslims who choose to carry out obligations and good deeds, for the pleasure of Allah SWT and by being conscious of Allah SWT.

We have 24 hours and a number of opportunities to earn Allah SWT pleasure each day but we’ve taken for granted what it really means to please Allah SWT. Sadly, we consciously grab only a few. Rising for Fajr, taking a bath, getting dressed, sweeping the floor or driving to work are all actions we could earn Allah’s pleasure from, when we think about, and correct, our intentions for doing them. Even in the act of eating, with the intent of pleasing Allah and gaining energy to perform Salaah better, we can earn reward.

We gain Allah’s SWT pleasure and blessings by keeping Him in our thoughts or praising Him, by uttering good words to someone else and by performing good deeds – even the everyday actions – to seek His pleasure. But our thoughts have been reduced to thinking about the latest movie. Our words have become meaningless, humming that song we can’t get out of our head. And our actions are sometimes done for another’s pleasure or for show – and – tell.

A well known hadith reads, “Allah SWT says, ‘I am as my servant expects Me to be, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he thinks of Me, I think of him. If he mentions Me in company, I mention him in an even better company. When he comes closer to Me by a hand span, I come closer to him an arm’s length. If he draws closer to Me by an arm’s length, I draw closer by a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him. If my servant comes to Me walking, I go to him running.

There is tremendous beauty in pleasing Allah SWT. So much so that the heart is filled with much regret for ever having displeased Allah SWT. Allah SWT doesn’t need us to please Him. Our pleasing Allah SWT through sincere and correct intention and worship is Allah’s gift to us. The rewards abundant. The thought of Allah SWT thinking about us, mentioning our names to His Angels, running to us, is the key to success in this life and the hereafter.

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