Hadith · Kitab Al-Wahi · Knowing the Prophet · Saheeh Al-Bukhari

Hadeeth # 1: The Reward of Deeds depends upon the Intentions

Hadeeth 1

Commentary: Saheeh Al-Bukhari: Kitab al-Wahi [the Book of Revelation]

Since we are studying the hadeeth of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, from its adaab [etiquette] it is to recite the Durood. This book contains a collection of the circumstances in which the Divine Inspiration [Wahi] started to be revealed to Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu:

I heard Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying,

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.”

[Volume 1, Book 1, Hadeeth # 1]


Intention is hidden deep in one’s heart. The word niyyah is derived from the root noon-wau-ya (nawa) which is also used for seed. A seed is either hidden inside in a fruit or buried deep under the soil. It is not visible on the surface. Likewise, niyyah or intention is hidden deep in one’s heart. It is not apparent.

The quality of the fruit depends on the quality of the seed. If the seed was good, your produce will be fruitful. If, however, the seed was of poor quality your harvest will not be fruitful. Similarly, if our intention is correct and only for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, the quality of our actions will be superb. On the other hand, if our intention is corrupt and for some other reason (such as seeking praises of other people) our actions will be rejected. Through this hadeeth we learn that acceptance and rejection of deeds or reward and punishment for actions is based on one’s intention.

Success is not just the outcome of one’s action but also the condition of one’s heart. For example, you do a good deed of helping someone in their crisis. The person does not thank you in return. What is the condition of your heart? Are you upset/infuriated that this person on whom you have done a favor has not acknowledged your generosity? Or is your heart at peace knowing that you did it only for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and He has noticed the good deed? Our intentions tell us about ourselves. Whether one is helping someone else, doing ibadah [worship] or acquiring religious knowledge, one should check the state of his heart. Is there pride in our heart? Is it only to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala or to gain praises from people?

It is also said that this hadeeth means that there is no action without intention. For example, you remain hungry the entire day and when the day is over you say: Oh I spent this day in fasting. If you had not intended to fast the night before or at the beginning of the day, then this is not fasting. You starved yourself and got no reward. Similarly, you help someone financially four months ago, now that Ramadan is coming and your Zakat is due, you say: Oh I helped so-and-so, four months ago and I will count that as my Zakat for the year. This is absolutely wrong. Every act of worship requires intention. This does not mean reciting particular words as people do in some cultures but you make the intention in your heart. For example, you will not wake up for Sahoor if you don’t intend to fast or you will not make ablution unless it’s time to pray. It is the intention to fast or pray that makes you get up and take an action.

If the intention is correct Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will facilitate the action. If you truly intended to wake up for Tahajjud then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will make sure you get up in the middle of the night. If you said that casually, you might even miss your Fajr prayer. If we intend to make reconciliation with someone and we truly mean it, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will ease the way. Therefore, we should be conscious of what we utter because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows what’s inside our hearts.  

[The Prophet’s Tahajjud Prayer]

Migration is an action that deserves high rewards because of the difficulty of the journey, but only if one migrates for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. For example, leaving a country where you are unable to practice your religion to a Muslim land. It can also include migrating from a Muslim country to a non-Muslim country for the sake of Da’wah. However, if a person moves abroad for a better job or marriage then such a migration does not reward a person. He will only receive the benefits for which he migrated such as a good salary and spouse but no special rewards from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Similarly, leaving something is also a kind of migration; if a person gives up sins for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then he will get the reward for it. However, if it was to please someone else then there will be no benefit.

[The Gifts of Repentance]

The scholars say that the reason that Imam Bukhari placed this hadeeth in the beginning is that when one begins doing anything he must be sincere. No matter what a person is doing his concern should be the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. As we begin the study of the book Saheeh Bukhari, we need re-check our intention. Is it for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, so that we will learn more about our beloved salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and reform our actions or is it so that people will consider us learned? Is it to argue with people and demean them or is it to call people to a righteous action?

Knowledge gets wasted between shyness and pride. Let us not waste our ‘ilm and ‘aml. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect our hearts from corruption, aameen.

[Adapted from the talks of Sister Taimiyyah Zubair]

2 thoughts on “Hadeeth # 1: The Reward of Deeds depends upon the Intentions

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