How Should I Formulate Intentions for Worship?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


“An intention is a condition for the validity of the prayer. Thus, at an absolute minimum, you should intend that it is [1] a makeup and [2] which prayer it is (i.e. Dhuhr, `Asr, Maghrib, etc.)”

I read Ustadh Tabraze Azam’s answer on the ruling for the Hanafi madhab. Is this ruling the same for the Shafi’i madhab, and if someone has one or more make-up prayers to perform?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him. Amin.

In formulating one’s intention, one must be acutely conscious of the following:

That one is going to pray;
Specify which prayer one is going to perform;
And that it is an obligatory prayer. [Jarhazi on al-Minhaj al-Qawim; Tuhfat Al-Muhtaj]

The above must be present in the heart at the start of the prayer, and there is no need to utter it. One does not have to specify that it is a make-up prayer, and Allah knows best. [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]


The intention is an integral of formal worship. Ibn Al-Mundhir states in his work collecting the consensus of the Muslim scholars (Ijma‘), “The scholars have consensus (Ijma‘) that Prayer is not accepted without an intention.” [Al-Ijma‘, 41]

However, formulation and execution of one’s intentions are acts of the heart, and merely being acutely conscious of the nature and basic details of the worship you undertake suffices as an intention, and Allah knows best.

Internal or Verbal Intentions

It must be formulated internally, i.e. in the heart. Realising and being conscious of one’s purpose is what is required. Even if one articulated (with the tongue) an intention contrary to what is in the heart, this would not be a problem. In contrast, if one articulated an intention while the heart remained inattentive, it would be invalid. [Hashiyat Al-Tarmasi v. 1, p. 572-73]

Imam Al-Khatib Al-Shirbini (Allah have mercy on him) stated in Al-Iqna‘, “And the niyyah is within the heart according to the consensus of the Jurists (ijma‘). It does not suffice to say the intention upon the tongue while being heedless within the heart according to the Ijma‘ of the Muslims, and this pertains to the rest of the issues [of prayer as well].

If one were to say the intention with the tongue and it contradicts the intention of the heart, it does not harm [the validity], such as intending the Dawn Prayer while saying upon one’s tongue that one intends the Dhuhr Prayer. It is recommended (mandub) to say the intention with the scheduled prayer right before the opening Takbir for the Prayer….” [Al-Bujayrimi ‘ala Al-Khatib, Vol. 2 pg. 138]

Specifics of the Intention

In formulating one’s intention, one must specify the following:

That one is going to pray;
Specify which prayer one is going to perform;
And that it is an obligatory prayer. [Jarhazi on al-Minhaj al-Qawim; Tuhfat Al-Muhtaj]

In clarifying the ruling of mentioning the intention upon the tongue, the relied upon view of our School is that it is only recommended–not obligatory – to articulate the intention. Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) says in his Al-Minhaj, “…and the Niyyah is within the heart, and pronouncing it before the saying of the Takbir is recommend (mandub).”

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan (Allah have mercy on him), where he taught.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Shaykh Muhammad Awama, Shaykh Muhammad Hasan Hitu, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has been the Director of the Discover Islam Centre, and for six years, he has been the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has fifteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic podcast, education, and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy Prophetic living and fitness.