The Importance Of Purifying Our Intentions |

The Importance Of Purifying Our Intentions

Clichés express our common belief and ideas. However, clichés by their very nature are ideas and phrases that have been repeated so often that they have lost their impact.  That is why it is important that Islamic concepts are not relegated to the category of being a cliché that is ignored.

As Muslims we often give ourselves and each other good Naseeha (advice) as a reminder. The phrase “purify your or our intentions” is one that our Imams, parents, spouses, Khateebs (preachers), Muslim teachers, and brothers and sisters in Islam have said to us or we ourselves have said to others. Its prevalence is indicative of its importance.

In Islam, the word Ikhlas means purity. The idea of purity of intention is a very real and basic concept in Islam and part of every act of worship and action. To have purity of intention is to be wholly sincere. In the Quran Allah, The Most High, teaches us

“And they were not commanded except to worship Allāh, (being) sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give Zakāh. And that is the correct religion.”


A Muslim is one who submits to Allah. We strive to be sincere when we incline toward God and seek to please Him with our acts of worship and good deeds. Sincerity is a genuine feeling that is wholehearted, heartfelt, and offered with no pretense. To be sincere is to be true, earnest, and even devout. Thus, when we are reminded to purify our intentions, that purity or embarking upon our worship and action with the genuine sincere heart is by no means a cliché.

The month of Ramadan is a time when more of us are hyper aware that we need to purify our intentions as we make intention to fast, abstain from bad thoughts, words, and deeds, as well as make the sincere intention to increase our Ibadat (acts of worship).  We read the words in the Quran 2:183 of how Allah has prescribed fasting for the believer as we genuinely seek to obey our Lord. Since fasting is for Allah, then our intention to fast is done with the knowledge that fasting is not an internal cleanse or diet but part of our faith. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, has taught us that to fast for any reason other than to please Allah is a fruitless endeavor.

“A person might fast and he gets nothing from his fast but hunger. A person might pray at night but he gets nothing from his prayer but sleeplessness” (Sunan Ibn Mājah).

When we approach Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power during Ramadan, our purity of intention is immense. When we make Hajj and circle around the Kaba, our purity of intention is with each step. But purity of intention is not just in acts of worship; it is part of the daily life of the believer. The actions that we engage in every day begin with purity of intention. Doing good deeds is a salvation that makes us free from Hellfire:

“And those who believe and do righteous good deeds, they are dwellers or Paradise; they will dwell therein forever.”

(Quran 2:82)

Therefore, we don’t do good deeds to be seen or to gain the approval of our parents, spouse or friends.  We have to remind ourselves that purity of intentions means to come upon a project with the sincerity that the purpose of our participation is to please Allah, The Most High. This may be something as kind as giving food to a homeless person to volunteering at a conference or doing Dawa (inviting others to Islam). Whatever the action is, good deeds are the way in which we act upon what Allah wants us to do and to be as human beings. Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“O people! Make your deeds sincere for Allah Almighty. Verily, Allah does not accept any deed unless it is done sincerely for Him. Do not say: ‘This is for the sake of Allah and this is for the sake of my relatives.’ Verily, it was done for your relatives and none of it was for Allah. And do not say: ‘This is for the sake of Allah and for your sake.’ Verily, it was done for their sake and none of it was for Allah” (Sunan al-Dāraquṭnī).

We do good deeds seeking the pleasure of Allah and the performance of good deeds leads to reward from Allah. When we look at Quranic references that relate to seeking Allah’s pleasure, the Arabic is from the trilateral root letters ‘ra’ ‘dhal’ ‘wa’ to form the word Ridhwan, which means pleasure, satisfaction, approval and even grace. When we seek to please Allah, we are seeking to perform acts of worship or good deeds that meet with His approval and which satisfy what He would have of us. 

The Prophet reminded us: “The reward for deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he (or she) has intended” (Bukhari).

There is a connection between seeking the pleasure of Allah and the reward for doing so. It is connected to sincerity of intention.

“There is no good in most of their secret talks—except those encouraging charity, kindness, or reconciliation between people. And whoever does this seeking Allah’s pleasure, We will grant them a great reward.” (Quran 4:114)

“Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those with him are firm with the disbelievers and compassionate with one another. You see them bowing and prostrating in prayer seeking Allah’s bounty and pleasure…. To those of them who believe and do good, Allah has promised forgiveness and a great reward.

(Quran 48:29)

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