In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Essence of Deeds
Every deed one performs has certain characteristics which define the value of that deed. Among these characteristics, there is one which is referred to as “the essence of the deed” due to its utmost importance. This characteristics is usually knows as the “intention”.
Intention is the main, heartfelt purpose for performing a deed; it is the root and basis of each deed. Therefore, the criterion for measuring the reward or punishment of a deed is one’s intention for doing it. If the intention is sincerely for the sake Allah (SWT), it will be rewarded; however, if it is based on carnal wishes or worldly desires, it has no value in the eyes of Allah (SWT). In this case, it might even result in darkness of the soul, and entitle one to punishment.
Is it not that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) said, ”Verily (the value and the good and bad consequences of) the deeds are based on the intentions and motives (1)”? Perhaps a minor deed might turn into a great and valuable one through a good intention, and a major deed might turn into an insignificant, valueless as a result of an evil intention.
Based on this, the appearance of an act of a hypocrite and dissolute person might be similar to that of a truthful believer, or even the hypocritical act might seem more appealing; however, what separates these two from each other and sends the former up to the throne of Allah (SWT) and the latter to the deepest place of Hell is the intention.
The significance of intention is somewhat clear: the effect of a deed –for instance prayer- in regards with its performer is not due to the nature of the deed itself, rather it is because of the enlightenment and purity it brings about for the soul. This illumination of soul increases as the deed is repeated. Therefore, there is no doubt that this effect of a deed on the soul takes place only when its performer has a pure intention, and performs it only for the sake of Allah (SWT).
As mentioned before, the intention is the basis of every worshipping act. On the other hand, the grace (Tawfiq) of performing the worshipping acts is bestowed by Allah (SWT). As such, it is appropriate that we refer to Allah (SWT) and ask Him for having sincere intention.
In the supplication of repentance in Sahifah Sajjadyiah, Imam Sajjad (PBUH) asks Allah (SWT):” O Lord! Make my intention in obeying and worshipping You firm and consistent; so that my intention and determination does not turn into agitation and deviation from the path of worship”.
Let us always be careful about our intentions, and make them purely for the sake of Allah (SWT), so that our deeds would be accepted.
(The above is a selection taken from “Repentance (commentary on the 31st supplication of Sahifah Sajjadyiah)”, by Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Zia-Abadi (with some changes))
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1. Jaami al-Sa’adaat, vol. 3, p. 112