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The Significance of Intention Behind Good Deeds
Hadith & Sunnah
Moiz Amjad


روي أنه قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إنما الأعمال بالنيات وإنما لكل إمرئ ما نوى فمن كانت هجرته إلى الله ورسوله فهجرته إلى الله ورسوله ومن كانت هجرته إلى دنيا يصيبها أو امرأة يتزوجها فهجرته إلى ما هاجر إليه.

It is narrated that the Prophet (sws) said: “[The reward1 of pious2] deeds is dependent only upon intentions3 [of those from whom they emanate]. Every person shall only get what he actually intended [while doing a pious deed4]. Thus, whoever actually migrates5 towards [another land for] God and His Prophet6, his migration shall be [counted in the Hereafter, as one] towards God and His Prophet [and shall, thus, follow great rewards]; while, whoever migrates towards [another land for] a worldly gain which he wants to earn or a woman, whom he wants to marry, his migration shall be [counted in the Hereafter, as one] towards what he actually intended it for [and shall, thus, carry no weight in the eyes of God]”.


Notes on the Text of the Narrative

This narrative or a part of it, with minor variations, has been reported in: Bukhārī (narrative no. 1, 54, 2392, 3685, 4783, 6311 and 6553), Muslim (narrative no. 1907), Tirmidhī# (narrative no. 1647), Nasā’ī (narrative no. 75, 3437 and 3794), Abū Dā’ūd (narrative no. 2201), Ibn Mājah (narrative no. 4227), Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (narrative no. 168 and 300), Ibn Khuzaymah (narrative no. 142, 143 and 455), Ibn Hibbān (narrative no. 388, 389 and 4868), Bayhaqī (narrative no. 181, 182, 972, 1321, 2087, 7162, 7897, 8774, 12686 and 14773), and Humaydī (narrative no. 28). The preferred text is the one reported in Bukhārī, narrative no. 6311, except where otherwise specified.

In Bukhārī’s narrative no. 6311, the opening sentence has been reported as: إنما الأعمال بالنية (Deeds are dependent only upon intention). Our preferred sentence إنما الأعمال بالنيات (Deeds are dependent only upon intentions) has been reported in Bukhārī, narrative no. 1. Similarly, the sentence وإنما لكل إمرئ ما نوى (Each man shall only get what he actually intended) – as reported in Bukhārī’s narrative no. 1 – has been rendered as وإنما لإمرئ ما نوى (Man shall only get that, which he actually intended).


(This write-up is prepared by the Hadīth Cell of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Those who have assisted the author include: Izhar Ahmad, Muhammad Aslam Najmi and Kaukab Shehzad)







1. It is, in fact, the promised rewards in the Hereafter for pious deeds that is discussed in this narrative. This fact is further elaborated by the clarification: “Man shall only get that which he actually intended.”

2. It is only the pious deeds that are under consideration in this narrative.

3.  Niyyah (intention) does not refer to any utterances of the tongue. On the contrary, it refers to a person’s hidden motives behind a particular act.

4. A person may do a pious deed to show his piety to others or to be known in his friends as a pious individual or to get any other worldly or immediate benefit. This statement implies that it is not merely doing good deeds which qualifies a person for rewards in the Hereafter; it is, in fact, good deeds performed solely for God’s pleasure that shall have any weight on that Day.

5. It seems that the reported saying relates to the time when the Qur’ān had directed the Muslims residing in Makkah to migrate to Madīnah.

6. A prophet of God is, in fact, God’s representative on earth. A prophet of God sent in a particular people is the sole source of knowledge of God’s directives and likes and dislikes for that people. Thus, in matters of the sharī‘ah, true piety emanates from obedience to the prophet of God. The words “for God and His Prophet” actually imply that the “good deed” should be done for the pleasure of God and according to the directives of His Prophet (sws).

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