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All in the Intention, Right?

We sent down the Qur'an as guidance for mankind.Have we forgotten the meaning of Islam, or worse yet, the very purpose of our existence? Islam means to submit. We live to submit to the will of Allah. And not just to the degree we choose to, we are talking complete submission to His every decree in every aspect of our lives. Yet all too often, we get ahead of our religion and feel capable enough to draw the line ourselves – the line that defines sin, the one we must not cross. We sent down the Qur'an as guidance for mankind.How often do we hear people justifying the sins they commit in the name of their “intention”? “Oh, I know I’m a good person, I don’t mean any harm.” “Islam is all about intention.” “I don’t have bad intentions, so it’s ok.” 

Have we forgotten the meaning of Islam, or worse yet, the very purpose of our existence? Islam means to submit. We live to submit to the will of Allah. And not just to the degree we choose to, we are talking complete submission to His every decree in every aspect of our lives. Yet all too often, we get ahead of our religion and feel capable enough to draw the line ourselves – the line that defines sin, the one we must not cross. Time and again, this line is based entirely on whether our “intention” for a particular action is good or bad. Rather than following the laws prescribed to us by our Creator, we effectively allow our unqualified selves to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t. Escaping the laws of Islam by justifying wrongdoings in this way has almost become an art.

There are Muslims today of all ages attending gatherings of the unlawful kind, whether this consists of an atmosphere of music and dancing or simply a corporate dinner where alcohol is being served and consumed. They feel it is ok as long as they themselves do not drink or dance. Those who shake hands with the opposite gender feel they can because they have no evil intentions in doing so. Some may deem it acceptable to purchase products from companies who support Israel, as they are simply interested in the product and do not intend to “get involved in politics”. In any case, intentions are “good” or “pure”, and that is all that seems to matter.

What needs to be reinforced here is the concept of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and the absolutely critical role it plays in the religion of Islam. Take the example of a wife who donated all her husband’s property and wealth to the poor after he had died. Despite all the good she had intended in doing so, she ultimately earned hellfire because she lacked the knowledge of Fiqh – that her husband’s belongings must be distributed to his heirs according to the laws of inheritance. Lacking proper knowledge of Fiqh and/or failing to adhere to its laws can lead to terrible consequences, even when performing a good deed with the very best of intentions.

As Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said, “Learn the laws of Haram and Halal, unless you are of the ignorant ones.” Lacking knowledge of Islamic laws does not exempt us from our obligation to follow them. We learn this from the story of the man who sold fish without scales in the marketplace of Kufa. When Imam Ali (peace be upon him) was punishing him for breaking the law (since only fish that have scales are considered lawful in Islam), the man pleaded that he had no idea about this ruling and begged to be forgiven. But instead of excusing the fishmonger for his ignorance, the Imam actually doubled the punishment – the first one for breaking the law, the second one for not bothering to learn the law!

Imam Ali has also said, “Surely, the completion of religion is due to the obtaining of knowledge and acting on it (accordingly), and beware that the obtaining of knowledge is more obligatory for you than earning wealth.” (Al-Kafi) Thus, in order to ensure that we remain within the bounds of Islam, it is imperative that we improve our knowledge of Fiqh and make every effort to apply it regularly in our lives. Some may feel that such strict adherence to each and every Islamic ruling is extreme or is asking for too much. However, these laws have been laid down for us for a reason. If we have complete faith in Allah, we will soon appreciate the fact that abiding by His decree will only benefit us and disobedience will only bring us harm – in ways we may not even be aware of.

A practicing and God-fearing Muslim will consequently act in accordance with Islam’s rules, and when (s)he promises to submit to the will of Allah, (s)he will do exactly that. We see such conviction beautifully displayed by Lady Zainab (peace be upon him) on the day of Ashura. When the tents of the Ahlul Bayt were burned and the holy ladies were stripped of their Hijabs, she approached Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him) and asked if the women should stay inside the tents and get burned or go outside with their heads uncovered. Even in a life-and-death situation, she made sure to be acting upon the laws of Islam rather than basing the decision on her “good intention” to save their lives. Such unreserved submission shows that we really have no excuse in violating the rules prescribed to us, not even the excuse of intending to do no bad.

About Farah Masood

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  • OJ

    I like reading II with my morning coffee, at work.

  • wot!

    Harsh, very harsh.

  • J.H

    I absolutely love this article!! The point is once we start taking Islamic rulings lightly, we start losing the plot also. As for the “intentions” excuse…we use it to satisfy our guilt and appease people. However, would we dare use such feeble excuses in front of God? Thought so. Keep it up Farah =).

  • razagulani

    Awesome article, and a great reminder…indeed the solution for our problems on a personal level, community or state level is; acquiring the knowledge of Allah (SAW) through the teachings of our Masomeen (AS) and practicing them by following the exact footsteps of our Masomeen (AS)…keep it up sis

  • ZS

    Salam!

    Thank you for this magnificent piece! It does get extremely tiring hearing Muslims repeatedly justify their haram actions by way of their “intention”. I was speaking to somebody who follows a sect of Christianity, and she said their justification for not following the divine laws as outlined in the Old Testament is because “Jesus died for our sins”. While most of us think that’s a ridiculous excuse, at least they are not knowingly committing sins.

    We on the other hand somehow manage to openly commit sins in the presence of our 12th Imam (atf)… 🙁

  • jafriya

    Couldnt have put it better myself. So true, what use would Allah’s laws be if we decide ourselves what we can and can’t do… If Allah has forbidden something HOW do Muslims say it’s ok under particular circumstances?

    Jazakallah sister!

  • .

    I can’t believe I’m reading so much praise for things like, “So true, what use would Allah’s laws be if we decide ourselves what we can and can’t do.” It’s one extreme to say that the only thing that matters is one’s intentions, but it is just as extreme to put all the emphasis on what you can see. It is a form of hidden materialism to insist that all that matters is what is on the outside. Allah has spoken against this way of thinking in the Quran and ahadith. I’m a little concerned that some Shias, who might otherwise be upset with the way Wahabbis do things, can apparently act in the same way. Such a way of thinking is not at all Islamic!

  • HiddenSoldier

    ^ “It is a form of hidden materialism to insist that all that matters is what is on the outside.”

    Clearly the author is not insisting that “all that matters is on the outside” or the fact that a good intention is all that matters.

    [quote]Take the example of a wife who donated all her husband’s property and wealth to the poor after he had died. Despite all the good she had intended in doing so, she ultimately earned hellfire because she lacked the knowledge of Fiqh – that her husband’s belongings must be distributed to his heirs according to the laws of inheritance. [/quote]

    It is a matter of Fiqh which she has highlighted with great importance, and this my friend is of utmost importance as detailed in the Qur’an and hadith. 😉

  • husseini

    I couldn’t find “So true, what use would Allah’s laws be if we decide ourselves what we can and can’t do” anywhere in the article, though I can see what the person was trying to say. Neither did it imply anywhere that all that matters is what you can see on a person’s outside. That’s completely off the point 😮 and obviously untrue.

    The article is simply saying that people’s ‘clean’ intentions are no justification of doing something Allah forbids. So no matter what excuse we have the bottom line is that we all MUST follow Allah laws, the laws of fiqh. This is important to emphasise because people often give their opinion more consideration than Allah’s!

  • .

    I was referring to some of the comments. But Hidden Soldier, now that you’ve mentioned something in the article, you still haven’t explained from Quran or ahadith why Allah would necessarily throw a woman in hellfire if she doesn’t know the rules. Without drawing it out, that statement was a very big claim, let’s see some evidence please.

  • RE: RE:I agree

    Why are you asking HiddenSoldier for proof from the Qur’an/Hadith? Did you even read the article? 😀 The incident of Imam Ali [as] punishing the fishmonger is exactly the proof you are asking for!

  • .

    Yes, I read the article. 🙂

    Without getting into a long discussion about this, we have other ahadith also about people who were ordered by the masooms to be punished according to Islamic law, but were forgiven by Allah because they had made a true repentance before they died. You are confusing the issue of legal punishments with Allah’s wrath, they are two completely different things!

    Furthermore, have you ever presented a school paper and just cited something without a reference? That wouId not fly. Anyone can mention a story ‘I’ve heard’ and present that as proof. I am still waiting for something a bit more decisive.

  • .

    PS: I know I didn’t cite a source either in the post above. I just did that to prove the point that we can go back and forth forever if we are not careful.

  • Questioner

    I am a bit puzzled by your statement ‘.’ which says:
    [quote]’we have other ahadith also about people who were ordered by the masooms to be punished according to Islamic law, but were forgiven by Allah because they had made a true repentance before they died.'[/quote]

    Erm how does that work? I am quite curious to know how did you come to that conclusion and if there are hadiths then please do share. I do find the above contradictory but would like to see the hadiths before I devlve further.

  • .

    I’m looking for a book that has the hadith. I just found it online right now on a site, but without the original reference. While I keep looking, this is the Hadith:

    “Buraidah said: “A woman of Ghamid came to the Prophet and said: “I have committed fornication”, He said: “Go back”. She returned and on the next day she came to him again, and said: “Perhaps you want to send me back as you did to Maiz b. Malik. I swear by Allah, I am pregnant.” He said to her: “Go back”. She then returned and came to him the next day. He said to her: “Go back until you give birth to the child.” She then returned. When she gave birth to the child she brought the child to him, and said: “Here it is! I have given birth to it.” He said: “Go back, and suckle him until you wean him.” When she had weaned him, she brought him to him with something in his hand which he was eating. The boy was then given to a certain man of the Muslims and he (the prophet) commanded regarding her. So a pit was dug for her, and he gave orders about her and she was stoned to death. Khalid was one of those who were throwing stones at her. He threw a stone at her. When a drop of blood fell on his cheek, he abused her. The prophet said to him: “Gently, Khalid. By Him in Whose hand my soul is, she has repented to such an extent that if one who wrongfully takes an extra tax were to repent to a like extent, he would be forgiven”. Then giving command regarding her, prayed over her and she was buried.””

  • .

    So the point is, if a person commits an indecent act which has a shari’ punishment, then that has consequences. The rules give society stability and are important. But to say that everyone is going into hell or heaven simply because they did a wrong act, especially unknowingly, is a little cavalier and I don’t see proof for such a stance. Let us encourage each other to observe the shari’a, but let us not try to play God. Only Allah knows whether a person deserves hell or should be gifted with paradise!

  • Farah M.

    JazakAllah everyone for all your comments!

    Firstly, please accept my sincere apology for not referencing the story as you mentioned… definitely a blunder on my part =( It was from one of Maulana Sadiq Hasan’s Fiqh classes a few years ago. I just asked him for the reference, and I quote him “this hadith is mentioned in Biharul Anwar and Allama Majlisi also quoted this in Volume 1 of his famous book: Hayatul Quloob.”

    I think you may have misunderstood the hadith though. It does not imply “everyone is going into hell or heaven simply because they did a wrong act”, it was merely one incident which aims to emphasize and remind us that sinful actions (whether committed knowingly OR unknowingly) ARE punishable. No doubt that with sincere repentance we can be forgiven by Allah’s infinite mercy, but that is something entirely different. The purpose of the hadith is simply to stress that ignorance of law is not an excuse. I’m sorry if I was unclear in the article.

  • Sidra Abbas

    This articles serves as a great reminder. Made me think back to instances where I have in fact done an action with a “pure” intention bending the rules of Islam (when I shouldn’t have).

    Thanks.

  • rabia

    outstanding very informative MAY ALLAH GIVE US TAUFEEQ TO FOLLOW THEZE RULES AMEEN

  • redha

    Great article indeed, and i love this example that you share,

    ” the Imam actually doubled the punishment – the first one for breaking the law, the second one for not bothering to learn the law!”

    Keep on sharing mate 🙂