Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) relates that: “I heard Rasulullah (saw) saying, “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended…” (Bukhari; Muslim)
In a hadith Qudsi, the Prophet (saw) tells us that Allah (swt) said, “And My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved to Me than the religious duties I have obligated upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to me with nawaafil (extra good) deeds until I Love him. When I Love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge.” (Bukhari)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “Those who are the closest to Allah are the ones who have their Mubaah (allowed acts like sleep) turned into acts of worship and into a means of approach to Allah, on account of their good Niyyah. They no longer have a Mubaah that is equal on both sides (where doing or abandoning it are the same). All their deeds are leaning to one side, (that is, they always gain a reward).”
The first thing we need to do in preparing for the month of Ramadan is renewing our intentions, yes all the way from now! One of my teachers in Egypt had mentioned to me that the companions in order to increase the amount of reward they would get for a single good deed, would compete in seeing who can come up with the most amount of good intentions for that deed. Our practical tip for the day in renewing our intentions is two-fold:
- The first part is to make a list of all that you want to accomplish in Ramadan.
This includes doing acts that are obligatory, recommended, and allowed as well as staying away from discouraged and prohibited acts. This list should cover every aspect of your life: your spiritual relationship with Allah, your knowledge, your activism and volunteering in teamwork in the community, your relationships (family, bonds of brotherhood, sisterhood, your neighbors, etc.), your speech and character, your career, your finances, everything. And think about making each goal something you seek sincerely for Allah (swt)’s pleasure. Make your goals challenging but within reach. If they are too easy you will take them for granted and if they are too difficult then they may discourage you. It has to be doable for you.
After you make your list, spend a few minutes making dua that Allah (swt) grants you success in achieving each and every intended act, and in achieving sincerity in them all. Give yourself at least 15-20 minutes for this tip! Also keep in mind, some of the goals you have will be covered in our Count-Down, and some won’t be. Try to practice in a gradual way the goals you have set for yourself all throughout the Count-Down days, and as such you will have habituated your soul on the good action even before entering Ramadan insha Allah!
- The second part is something you can practice today and continue practicing during the count-down. That is try to renew your intention for everything you have to do today as many times as possible.
When you eat, seek Allah’s pleasure by intending to gain energy through the food in order to serve Him better. When you sit down at the internet, seek to gain or deliver beneficial knowledge that would draw you and others closer to Him (swt). When you send an email, seek to increase your bonds of ukhuwwah and better the relationship with the other person for the sake of Allah (swt). When you pray, seek to have the most concentration in order to increase the reward of that prayer, etc. etc. etc.
You will find, insha Allah—the more you renew your intentions, the better each act becomes, and the more blessings you find in them. Even chores will have a sweetness to complete when the remembrance of Allah (swt) is present in the heart. You will find that just by renewing your intentions constantly, you will also find yourself speaking to Him more and making more dua. Remember and rejoice in Allah’s Generosity! There is reward and Allah’s pleasure just in having good intentions, even if we were not able to accomplish the specific actions we wanted!
In a hadith Qudsi, the Prophet (saw) mentioned, “he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah (swt) writes it down with Himself as a full good deed; but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah (swt) writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah (swt) writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah (swt) writes it down as one bad deed. (Bukhari and Muslim)
May Allah (swt) bless both the quantity and quality of our intentions, and grant us success in them in this life and in the hereafter. Ameen.