The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say: “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.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
This notorious hadith often begins books to remind us of what is crucial for every act we do; our intention. We do not perform any act without an intention behind it.
Even when our intention is not noble, there is still an intention there.
Whatever our intention is, that is what we will get from it. If we read and listen with the intention of increasing knowledge and trying to act upon it, innshaAllah that is what we will gain. If we read and listen with the intention of criticizing and finding faults then we will find mistakes and faults only. It’s easier to destroy as opposed to build hence this mindset is crucial to nurture.
We should read and listen with the desire and intention to increase our knowledge and act upon it and propagate it to others.
An inspirational teacher of mine elaborated this point by citing the following example: two types of animals are set free in a garden; one is a bird and the other is a swine. The bird will look for clean and pure sustenance, whereas the swine will look for filth and dirt. Whatever intention they have, it is manifested in the result of their actions. The domino effect beginning with the intention leads to the result. Similarly to our deeds, the result may be in this world of the next but it will unveil our true intention.
As Muslims we are often reminded of the fact intention is so important however when we do this we separate daily acts from acts of worship. If we change our entire perception we can look at every act as a means to gain reward. This all relies on our intention. One of the best pieces of advice I have picked up from a teacher is making every act about pleasing Allah the Most High. For example, sleeping: we sleep to fulfil the rights to our body and to ensure we are in the best state to perform the most acts of worship efficiently. This is fortified in the narrations:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You will never spend anything that you spend for the sake of Allah, but you will be rewarded for it, even the morsel of food that you put in your wife’s mouth.” Narrated by al-Bukhari (56).
Mu’adh (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I sleep and I get up (to pray at night), and I seek reward for my sleep as I seek reward for my getting up. Narrated by al-Bukhari (4088).
He (may Allah be pleased with him) sought reward for his sleep just as he sought reward for his getting up to pray at night, because he intended by sleeping to gain strength to do acts of worship.
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said in al-Fath: What this means is that he sought reward by resting just as he sought reward by striving, because if the intention in resting is to enable one to do acts of worship, one attains reward.
We can then see that we can actually make every act we do with a noble intention that is aligned with our desire to attain the highest level of Jannah.
May Allah azza wa jal recitfy our intentions, keep them pure and for His sake alone Ameen