“Niyyah” in the Qur’an: ibn Rajab

In part of his celebrated and exhaustive commentary on al-Arba’een al-Nawawi, al-haafidh ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentioned the following important points regarding the one’s intention for worship and how this is discussed in the Qur’an:

واعلم أن النية في اللغة نوع من القصد والإرادة وإن كان قد فرق بين هذه الألفاظ بما ليس هذا موضع ذكره. ـ

You should know that the word “niyyah” linguistically refers to a type of intention or desire even if one could further delineate these terms, but now is not the time to go into that.

والنية في كلام العلماء تقع بمعنيين: ـ

When the scholars talk about niyyah it can have one of two meanings:

أحدهما: تمييز العبادات بعضها عن بعض كتمييز صلاة الظهر من صلاة العصر مثلًا وتمييز رمضان من صيام غيره أو تمييز العبادات من العادات كتمييز الغسل من الجنابة من غسل التبرد والتنظيف ونحو ذلك وهذه النية هي التي توجد كثيرًا في كلام الفقهاء في كتبهم. ـ

First: Distinguishing different acts of worship from one another, such as differentiating between the Thuhr prayer and the ‘Asr prayer or between fasting during Ramadan and fasting outside of it, or distinguishing an act of worship from an act of habit such as differentiating between a ghusl one takes to remove ritual impurity verses a bath one takes to cool off or wash up or the likes. It is this usage of the word “niyyah” that you will find most commonly in the speech and writings of the scholars of fiqh.

والمعنى الثاني: بمعنى تمييز المقصود بالعمل وهل هو لله وحده لا شريك له أم غيره أم لله وغيره وهذه هي النية التي يتكلم فيها العارفون في كتبهم في كلامهم على الإخلاص وتوابعه وهي التي توجد كثيرًا في كلام السلف المتقدمين . ـ

Second: That it comes with the meaning of distinguishing the intention behind one’s action: is it for Allah alone with not partners, or is it someone other than Allah, or for Allah and someone else simultaneously? This is the niyyah that those devoted to worship speak about in their writings and speeches, referring to ikhlaas and what accompanies that, and this is the usage of the word that you will find most commonly in the speech of the early generations of the salaf.

وقد صنف أبو بكر بن أبي الدنيا مصنفًا سماه كتاب الإخلاص والنية وإنما أراد هذه النية وهي النية التي يتكرر ذكرها في كلام النبي ﷺ تارة بلفظ النية وتارة بلفظ الإرادة وتارة بلفظ مقارب لذلك. ـ

Abu Bakr ibn Abi’l-Dunya wrote a book entitled Kitaab al-Ikhlaas wa’l-Niyyah which is strictly dealing with this second meaning of the word “niyyah“. This is the niyyah that is frequently referred to in the sayings of the Prophet, sometimes being referred to by the word “niyyah” itself, other times being referred to by the word “al-iraadah” – “want/desire” – and other times with other words of close meaning.

وقد جاء ذكرها كثيرًا في كتاب الله عز وجل بغير لفظ النية أيضًا من الألفاظ المقاربة لها… ـ

And this second meaning is also frequently mentioned in the Qur’an but without using the word “niyyah” itself and instead using other closely-related words …

Continue reading

Two Factors Which Lead to Jannah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After describing the some of the punishments of the people of the hellfire in surah al-Haqqah, Allah then mentions the following two reasons for their punishment:

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ الْعَظِيمِ * وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Indeed, he did not used to believe in Allah, the Most Great, * Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor. [69:33-34]

Commenting on this, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

فإن السبب الذي أوصله إلى هذا المحل: { إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ } بأن كان كافرا بربه معاندا لرسله رادا ما جاءوا به من الحق. { وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ } أي: ليس في قلبه رحمة يرحم بها الفقراء والمساكين فلا يطعمهم [من ماله] ولا يحض غيره على إطعامهم، لعدم الوازع في قلبه، وذلك لأن مدار السعادة ومادتها أمران: الإخلاص لله، الذي أصله الإيمان بالله، والإحسان إلى الخلق بوجوه الإحسان، الذي من أعظمها، دفع ضرورة المحتاجين بإطعامهم ما يتقوتون به، وهؤلاء لا إخلاص ولا إحسان، فلذلك استحقوا ما استحقوا.ـ

The cause which brought this person to this place is that

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ

Indeed, he did not used to believe in Allah, the Most Great

for he used to disbelieve in his Lord, obstinately oppose His messengers, and reject the truth that the messengers brought to him.

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor

i.e. he did not have any mercy in his heart to take pity of the poor and the needy, so he didn’t use his money to feed them nor did he encourage others to feed them, for he had no sense of propriety left in his heart.

These two factors are mentioned because attaining everlasting joy revolves around two things: Continue reading

The Objective of Hajj: Ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah wrote the following words concerning the purpose of our worship, and Hajj in particular:

والعبادات التي شرعها الله كلها تتضمن إخلاص الدين كله لله تحقيقا لقوله تعالى وما أمروا إلا ليعبدوا الله مخلصين له الدين حنفاء ويقيموا الصلاة ويؤتوا الزكاة وذلك دين القيمة . فالصلاة لله وحده والصدقة لله وحده والصيام لله وحده والحج لله وحده إلى بيت الله وحده فالمقصود من الحج عبادة الله وحده في البقاع التي أمر الله بعبادته فيها ولهذا كان الحج شعار الحنيفية حتى قال طائفة من السلف حنفاء لله أي حجاجا فإن اليهود والنصارى لا يحجون البيت

All of the worship which Allah has legislated is comprised of making the religion exclusively, sincerely and truly for Allah. This is like His statement:

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ

And you have not been commanded except to worship Allah, making the religion exclusively for Him, as monotheists, and to establish the salah and to give the zakah. And that is the upright religion [98:5] Continue reading

A Warning For Those Who Desire to be Seen: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah Faatir:

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّـهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا 

إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ

وَالَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ ۖ وَمَكْرُ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُوَ يَبُورُ

Whoever desires ‘izzah, then to Allah belongs all the ‘izzah

Good speech ascends to Allah and righteous action raises it

And those who plot evil will have a severe punishment, and the plots of such people will perish [Faatir 35:10]

We have already translated several articles on this ayah. See here for a brief explanation of the entire ayah from sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, here for an explanation of the first section from sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee, and here for an explanation of the second section from the statements of the sahabah and the tabi’oon. What follows is an explanation of the last section from al-haafidh ibn Kathir:

وقوله : ( والذين يمكرون السيئات ) : قال مجاهد ، وسعيد بن جبير ، وشهر بن حوشب : هم المراءون بأعمالهم ، يعني : يمكرون بالناس ، يوهمون أنهم في طاعة الله ، وهم بغضاء إلى الله [ ص: 538 ] عز وجل ، يراءون بأعمالهم ، ( ولا يذكرون الله إلا قليلا ) [ النساء : 142 ] . وقال عبد الرحمن بن زيد بن أسلم : هم المشركون . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَالَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ

And those who plot evil …

Mujahid, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr and Shahr ibn Hawshab explained this by saying, “These are the people who like for their deeds to be seen by others,” meaning: they deceive people; the people are tricked into thinking that these pretenders are working in obedience to Allah when in fact they harbor resentment towards Allah and only want for their actions to be seen by others

وَلَا يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّـهَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

and they do not remember Allah except for only a little [al-Nisaa’ 4:142]

However ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam explained this ayah to be referring to the mushrikoon. Continue reading

What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

Abu Muhammad Makki ibn Abi Taalib (died 437 AH) was one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences in his era, having produced enduring works in the fields of the qiraa’aat, tajweed, tafsir, and the Arabic language. What follows is a small excerpt from al-Ri’aayah li-Tajweed, a definitive work on tajweed among the earlier generations:

باب ما يكمل به حال طالب القرآن
What the Seeker of the Qur’an Needs in Order to be Proficient

ينبغي لطالب القرآن أن يتعلم أحكام القرآن فيفهم عن الله ما فرض عليه ، ويلقن عنه ما خاطبه به ، فينتفع بما يقرأ ويعمل بما يتلو وأن يتعلم الناسخ والمنسوخ فيعلم ما فرض عليه مما لم يفرض عليه وما سقط العمل به مما العمل به واجب ، وأن يتعلم الفرائض والأحكام ، فما أقبح حامل القرآن أن يتلو فرائضه وأحكامه عن ظهر قلب وهو لا يعلم ما يتلو ، فكيف يعمل بما لا يفهم معناه ؟ فما أقبح أن يسأل عن فقه ما يتلوه ولا يدريه ! فما مثل من هذه حالته إلا كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفارا . ـ

The one seeking to learn and memorize the Qur’an ought to learn the legal rulings of the Qur’an so that he can know and understand from Allah Himself what Allah has mandated for him and comprehend what He is addressing him with. In doing so he can benefit from what he is reading and act according to what he is reciting.

He should also learn what is naasikh and what is mansukh[1] so that he can distinguish what is binding on him from what is not mandatory on him, and that which is no longer acted on from that which is he required to carry out.

So let him learn the legal obligations and rulings, for what is worse than a person who carries the Qur’an and recites its obligations and rulings by heart but doesn’t know what he is reciting? How will he act according to something he does not understand? What is worse than someone who asks about the meaning of something he recites while not even knowing it? There is nothing more fitting to describe the condition of such a person than a donkey hauling around tablets. Continue reading

Three Categories of Love: Imam al-Sa’di

In part of his explanation of the famous Kitaab al-Tawheed of Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

أصل التوحيد وروحه: إخلاص المحبة لله وحده وهي أصل التأله والتعبد له، بل هي حقيقة العبادة، ولا يتم التوحيد حتى تكمل محبة العبد لربه، وتسبق محبته جميع المحاب وتغلبها، ويكون لها الحكم عليها بحيث تكون سائر محاب العبد تبعا لهذه المحبة التي بها سعادة العبد وفلاحه. ـ

The foundation of tawheed and its very essence is this: sincere love for Allah alone, and this is the foundation of deifying Him and worshiping Him; rather it is the reality of worship and tawheed is not completed until the slave’s love for his Lord is perfected and it supersedes and prevails over one’s love for all other beloved things, and that that love becomes the measuring scale over them to the extent that all of the slave’s other inclinations follow in accord with this love. It is through this that the slave attains ultimate joy and success.

ومن تفريعها وتكميلها الحب في الله، فيحب العبد ما يحبه الله من الأعمال والأشخاص، ويبغض ما يبغضه الله من الأشخاص والأعمال، ويوالي أولياءه ويعادي أعداءه، وبذلك يكمل إيمان العبد وتوحيده. ـ

And part of its branches and completeness is love for the sake of Allah. So the slave loves those actions and personalities which Allah loves, and he hates the persons and actions which Allah hates, and he aligns himself with Allah’s allies and shows enmity to Allah’s enemies. Through this is the slave’s eemaan and tawheed perfected. Continue reading

The Means and Objectives of Calling to Allah: Imam al-Sa’di

In part of his small work of miscellaneous benefits derived from the Qur’an, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di mentioned the following valuable point:

الداعي إلى الله وإلى دينه له طريق ووسيلة إلى مقصوده ، وله مقصودان . فطريقة الدعوة : بالحق إلى الحق للحق فإذا اجتمعت هذه الثلاثة ، بأن كان يدعو بالحق أي بالحكمة والموعظة الحسنة ، والمجادلة بالتي هي أحسن ، وكان يدعو إلى الحق – وهو سبيل الله تعالى وصراطه الموصل لسالكه إلى كرامته – وكان دعوته للحق ، أي : مخلصا لله تعالى ، قاصدا بذلك وجه الله ؛ حصل له أحد المقصودين لا محالة ، وهو : ثواب الداعين إلى الله ، وأجر ورثة الرسل بحسب ما قام به من ذلك ، وأما المقصود الآخر ، وهو حصول هداية الخلق وسلوكهم لسبيل الله الذي دعاهم إليه ؛ فهذا قد يحصل وقد لا يحصل ، فليجتهد الداعي في تكميل الدعوة كما تقدم ، وليستبشر بحصول الأجر والثواب ، وإذا لم يحصل المقصود الثاني – وهو هداية الخلق – أو حصل منهم معارضة أو أذية له بالقول أو بالفعل ؛ فليصبر ويحتسب ، ولا يوجب له ذلك ترك ما ينفعه ، وهو القيام بالدعوة علة وجه الكمال ، ولا يضق صدره بذلك ؛ فتضعف تفسه ، وتحضره الحسرات ، بل يقوم بجدٍ واجتهاد ، ولو حصل ما حصل من معارضة العباد . ـ

There are certain ways and means for the one who calls to Allah and to His religion to achieve his goals, and his goals are twofold.

The methodology of calling to Allah is: with what is right, to what is right, and for what is right. So he calls with what is right – meaning with wisdom, good exhortations, and arguing with what is best -, and he is calling to what is right – which is Allah’s way and straight path which leads those who traverse it unto His ultimate goodness -, and he is calling for what is right, meaning that he is sincere to Allah and doing so while seeking the sake of Allah.

So if these three matters are all in place together, then he will definitely achieve one of his two objectives, the first of which is the reward which is given to those who call to Allah. And that reward is the inheritance of the Messengers, according to the level at which he fulfilled that role. Continue reading

The Multiplication of Rewards and its Causes: Imam al-Sa’di

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di mentioned the following benefit in his book of thematic tafsir:

فائدة: ورد في القرآن آيات كثيرة فيها مضاعفة الحسنة بعشر أمثالها، وورد أيضا آيات أُخر فيها مضاعفة أكثر من ذلك، فما وجه ذلك ؟ ـ

A point of benefit: In the Qur’an, there are many ayaat which mention the multiplication of good deeds by ten, and there are also other ayaat which mention the multiplication by more than that, so what is the explanation of that?

فيقال: أما مضاعفة الحسنة بعشر أمثالها فلا بد منها في كل عمل صالح كما قال تعالى: { مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ‌ أَمْثَالِهَا }  [ الأنعام: 160 ]. ـ

One can respond: As for the multiplication of good deeds by ten, then this must happen for every righteous good deed, just as Allah said:

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ‌ أَمْثَالِهَا

Whoever comes with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [6:160]

وأما مضاعفة العمل أكثر من ذلك فله أسباب، إما متعلقة بنفس العامل، أو بالعمل ومزيته أو نتائجه وثمراته أو بزمانه أو مكانه. ـ

But as for the multiplication of deeds by more than that, then there are certain causes for that – either something related to the doer himself, or related to the deed being done and its merit, or the outcome of the deeds and its fruits, or to its time or place.

فمن أعظم أسباب مضاعفة العمل إذا حقق العبد في عمله الإخلاص للمعبود، والمتابعة للرسول، فمضاعفة الأعمال تبع لما يقوم بقلب العامل من قوة الإخلاص وقوة الإيمان. ـ

So one of the greatest causes of the multiplication of deeds is when the slave actualizes both al-ikhlaas (sincerity) to the Object of worship as well as following the example of the Messenger. So the multiplication of deeds follows from and corresponds to the strength of his ikhlaas and the strength of his eemaan that is enacted in the heart of doer. Continue reading

Three Conditions for the Acceptance of Deeds: Imam al-Shinqitee

In the year 1378 AH (1958 or 1959 CE), the King of Morocco Muhammad the Fifth visited the city of al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia. While he was there, he requested that Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee give a lecture on the subject of the completeness of the Islamic religion. This lecture was comprised of ten points and what follows is an excerpt covering one of those points:

وأما المسألة الثالثة : التي هي الفرق بين العمل الصالح وغيره . ـ

As for the third issue: It is the difference between the actions which are righteous and those which are not.

فقد بيّن القرآن العظيم أنّ العمل الصالح هو استكمل ثلاثة أمور ، ومتى اختلّ واحد منها فلا نفع فيه لصاحبه يوم القيامة . ـ

The Majestic Qur’an has clarified that righteous actions are made complete by three factors, and when any one of them is not in place then the deed contains no benefit for its doer on the Day of Resurrection.

الأول : أن يكون مطابقا لما جاء به النبي ﷺ ، لأن الله تعالى يقول : < وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّ‌سُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا > [الحشر 7] ، ويقول تعالى : < مَّن يُطِعِ الرَّ‌سُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّـهَ > [النساء 80] ، ويقول تعالى : <  قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّـهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي > [آل عمران 31] ، ويقول تعالى : <  أَمْ لَهُمْ شُرَ‌كَاءُ شَرَ‌عُوا لَهُم مِّنَ الدِّينِ مَا لَمْ يَأْذَن بِهِ اللَّـهُ > [الشورى 21] ، ويقول تعالى : < ءَآللَّـهُ أَذِنَ لَكُمْ ۖ أَمْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَفْتَرُ‌ونَ > [يونس 59] . ـ

The First: That the action is in accordance with what the Prophet (ﷺ) came with, for Allah says:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّ‌سُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا

And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain [59:7]

And He says: Continue reading

“There is no good in much of their private conversation, except…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Nisaa’:

لَّا خَيْرَ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّن نَّجْوَاهُمْ إِلَّا مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ أَوْ مَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ إِصْلَاحٍ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ فَسَوْفَ نُؤْتِيهِ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

There is no good in much of their private conversation, except for those who enjoin sadaqah or that which is right or reconciliation between people. And whoever does that seeking means to the approval of Allah – then We are going to give him a great reward. [4:114]

In his well-known book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di mentioned the above ayah and then wrote:

أي: لا خير في كثير مما يتناجى به الناس ويتخاطبون، وإذا لم يكن فيه خير، فإما لا فائدة فيه كفضول الكلام المباح، وإما شر ومضرة محضة كالكلام المحرم بجميع أنواعه. ـ

Meaning: There is no good in much of what is exchanged secretly among the people or what they speak about together. So if it there is no good in it, then either it contains no benefit – such as idle curiosity which is neither good nor bad – , or it is evil and plainly harmful – such as any form of forbidden talk.

ثم استثنى تعالى فقال: { إِلَّا مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ ْ} من مال أو علم أو أي نفع كان، بل لعله يدخل فيه العبادات القاصرة كالتسبيح والتحميد ونحوه . ـ

Then Allah provided an exception, for He said:

إِلَّا مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ

except for those who enjoin sadaqah

which could be wealth or knowledge or any other thing of benefit. In fact, even acts of individual devotion – such as making tasbeeh, praising Allah, etc. – could be included in this.

كما قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: “إن بكل تسبيحة صدقة، وكل تكبيرة صدقة، وكل تهليلة صدقة، وأمر بالمعروف صدقة، ونهي عن المنكر صدقة، وفي بضع أحدكم صدقة” الحديث. ـ

This is just as the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Verily, every tasbeeh is a sadaqah [charity], and every takbeer is a sadaqah, and every tahleel [saying laa ilaaha illAllaah] is a sadaqah, and enjoining the good is sadaqah, and forbidding evil is a sadaqah, and in a person’s sexual intercourse there is a sadaqah,” until the end of the hadeeth. Continue reading