Intentions Purely for Allah

Ustadh Salman Younas explains how one can improve one’s intentions and how to make them purely for the sake of Allah.


Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

How do I know that I am doing things for God? How do I set my intentions?



Wa alaykum assaalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Being sincere in our actions – especially religious ones – is something we are commanded with in the Qur’an: “They have not been commanded except to worship God, sincerely devoting their religion to Him.” (98:5)

Imam al-Ghazali describes sincerity as “the purification of an an action from all blemishes… until the goal is exclusively to draw nearer to God with no other motive.” (Ihya’ Ulum al-Din) This can only arise from someone who constantly opposes the desires of his self, is well-acquainted with the ruses of the devil, loves God, and solely concentrates on the Hereafter such that the world is no longer desirable to him.

This particular degree of sincerity is extremely lofty and rare. Indeed, Sah al-Tustari when asked what was the most difficult thing for the self replied, “Sincerity, because the self has not share in it.” (al-Qushayri, al-Risala) For most, our acts of worship are admixed with intentions and motivations that are not god-centered. Some of these are apparent and easy to detect, while others are more subtle. Thus, for example, acting religious in order to impress a prospective spouse is clear ostentation. On the other hand, take the example of a person whose public acts of worship are sounder and better than when he is in private. He feels ashamed at such a discrepancy between his actions in front of people and when he is alone. So, he strives to make sure his private actions are just as good. This is a blemish on his sincerity since he pays heed to people and rectifies his private acts to feel better about his public ones.

Even though the rank of true sincerity is difficult to attain, this is not meant to discourage the believer in striving to attain it. God is merciful and aware of our limitations, our efforts, and sincerity. He will judge us based on our sincere efforts. Some practical steps we can take to ensure our intentions are pure:

(i) Ask God for sincerity in all of your actions. The core of sincerity is returning to God in all matters.

(ii) Exercise self-vigilance over your actions. One of the approaches recommended by some of my teachers is the ‘what/why/who’ approach. Before every action, ask yourself what you are doing, why you are doing it, and for whom it is being done. Keep at this and it will become second nature to be more aware of one’s actions and the motivations that underlay them.

(iii) Keep reminding yourself of death and the hereafter in order to diminish the value of this world.

(iv) Have a steady routine of good works that you do and especially works that no one is aware of. As Imam al-Qushayri mentioned, “Sincerity is to protect one’s actions from being observed by people. It is also true that sincerity means pious concealment [of one’s good deeds] from being observed by people.” (al-Risala)

(v) Always consider your deeds as imperfect and seek God’s repentance. Boasting and being proud of one’s actions even to ones self alone is a sign that it not fully sincere.

(vi) Surround yourself with people who keep your intentions in check and motivate you to oppose your self.



Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Forget Others, Begin Purifying Yourself First – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said encourages us to question ourselves at each point of speaking, doing and engagement with others: what do I want by saying this, what do I want from doing this and what do I want from this relationship.

Consider this, in the context of the Quranic verse, “Indeed, I want nothing but good and goodness.”

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Prophetic Sunna of Making One’s Actions Firm – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at UTM

Prophetic Sunna of Making One’s Actions Firm – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at UTM

An insightful khutba by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani of SeekersHub Toronto ( and SeekersGuidance ( explaining the implications of Sayyida `A’isha’s words that if the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) did anything, he would make it firm. The meanings of consistency, deeply-rooting one’s actions, and making them fruitful–not just in the short-term, but also long-term–are highlighted.

Shaykh Faraz also shows how this relates to our spiritual works, our activism, our seeking knowledge, and our life.

Contentment, Reliance on Allah, and Pure Intention – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Contentment, Reliance on Allah, and Pure Intention – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Words of wisdom from Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

“What Allah subhana wa ta’ala really wants is good intention: pure hearted, sincere honest people. And when we make that the basis on which we create relationships with others than we will succeed- not is his aqeedah absolutely identical to myself.”

“There is too much judgment of others and not enough judgment of ourselves. There is too much self-righteousness and not enough self-knowledge. And one way in which we can heal that, is to remember that people’s weakness in this age is very much understandable.”

“The message for us if we have ridda and serene acceptance and we don’t just panic and bang at the cell doors, screaming to be let out, complaining about our situation, that Allah in His extraordinary omnipotence and power can turn our situation over, so that from being in the depths of a prison, we become second in command of the most powerful state in the world- which was the position of Sayyiduna Yusuf alayhi-salam. That’s one of the messages of that story.”

Click here to support the work of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and the Cambridge Mosque project.