The day hasn't started yet, so before it does I wanted to write this post on neya (intention).
Intention has always been something I have struggled with, and yesterday I was reminded of its importance in two classes.
In one class, we're studying Imam Nawawi's 40 hadith, and the first one talks about how actions are by intention—that what you do is not as important as why you did it.
There are three types of people—those who do things purely for the sake of Allah, those who do things for the sake of Allah and other reasons, and those who do things purely for reasons other than Allah.
I fall squarely into the second category, and I'm honest enough to admit it. I am never ever sure of my intentions.
In our second class, we began reading The Beginning of Guidance by Imam Al-Ghazali. And on the very first page, I read:
"You should be sure that, if in your quest for knowledge your aim is competition, showing off, surpass your fellows, to attract people's attention to yourself, and to stockpile these worldly vanities, then […] your bargain is dead loss, your trading without profit."
And then about the people who fall into the second category:
"[He is] aware of that ultimate truth [that his intentions aren't pure] and in his heart has some perception of the worthlessness of his condition and the vileness of his aim."
The first quote resonated with me, and the second one is me.
I've struggled with intentions for the last couple of years. At one stage, I got so scared of falling into reya' [ostentation that leads to hypocrisy] that I actually stopped performing a lot of good things that I did, just to cancel out the possibility that my motives may not be as pure as I hoped. I eventually learned that it was wrong to do so.
One of the verses that scares me most in the Qur'an says:
"Say: shall we tell you of those who lost most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?" –Qur'anic translation by Yusuf Ali (18: 103 & 104).
The following verse answers that they are "those who deny the Signs of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him." For me though, the verse scares me because likewise, if you're doing all these good deeds with intentions that aren't pure, they aren't being accepted.
Elsewhere in the book, Imam Ghazali continues:
"If people really judged objectively, they would realize that it is only people's hypocrisy which is the motive of most of their intellectual pursuits and acts of Worship, not to mention their customary activities; and this hypocrisy renders their acts of no avail."
I feel that these mentions of neya were reminders for me, on my first day on this Dowra, to refocus and restate my intentions, and to work as hard as I can to make sure they are as pure as possible.
And that also relates to this blog as well. Stating your intention helps you focus on it, so for the record, I'm working on this blog to:
- Provide a glimpse into a life that many think could not possibly exist in this day and age, a life that I think is similar to what life was like hundreds of years ago—with added amenities, of course. A life I think highlights the best things about being a Muslim, things that if everyone implemented the image of Islam and Muslims in the world would be very different.
- Help anyone who is thinking of coming here—to show them what the experience is like. I know I would have loved to have a blog like this to read before I came here.
- Be a reminder for me and everyone with me on this Dowra of our experience here and the amazing things we did and saw. I used to have a scrapbook when I was a kid; I used to stick everything I could get my hands on in it. But truly, taking mental 'snapshots' and remembering them by writing them down is much better. So I'm writing down our experiences to give us an 'injection' when we go back to our lives and ultimately begin forgetting how it was.
And since, as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
God loves a servant who when performing a task does so skilfully.
I will try my best to write faithfully in this blog every day and to recount our experiences to the best of my ability.