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What Is Niyah And Why Is It So Powerful In Islam?

Setting a proper niyah before any act of worship or even daily chore ensures we keep our hearts and minds active and that we receive the best of blessings for our works.

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Setting a proper niyah before any act of worship or even daily chore ensures we keep our hearts and minds active and that we receive the best of blessings for our works.

“And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred, but [only for] what your hearts intended” (Quran 33:5).

As Muslims, we dedicate so much of our time to doing good deeds, but do we really think about doing these things with niyah, (also known as intention)? 

Acts like giving charity, helping our neighbors, or simply praying for those we love are constants in our lives, and we are always striving to increase our good deeds. But how often do we pause to think about why we’re doing what we do?

This is where the concept of niyah in Islam becomes crucial and, if used properly, can help us improve the quality of our deeds and our lives. 

Defining Niyah

The term niyah in Islam refers to the intention behind any action one does in life. Ideally, one’s niyah is pure throughout all one’s deeds, and it is connected to the Islamic ideals of supporting our fellow human beings and taking care of our own bodies and souls. 

Niyah forms the foundation for all our deeds and gives explicit purpose to what we do in this life. In fact, niyah occupies such a high position in Islamic culture that the first narration in the esteemed hadith collection Sahih Bukhari is about niyah:

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab related that the Prophet (on him be peace) said: “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will receive their reward according to what they have intended…” (Bukhari).

Having a pure intention behind every action is crucial for every Muslim, especially when it comes to acts of worship. Our prayers, fasting and charity are deeds we want to dedicate in God’s name. Failure to set a proper niyah could result in our deeds becoming routine, and almost subconscious, rather than intentional. 

Another hadith regarding the month of Ramadan illustrates this clearly: 

Abu Huraira related that the Prophet (on him peace) said: “Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness” (Darimi).

Setting a proper niyah before any act of worship or even daily chore ensures we keep our hearts and minds active and that we receive the best of blessings for our works.

Practicing Niyah

After understanding what the significance of mindfulness in Islam is, it becomes important for us to practice setting niyah in our everyday lives.

Like any good deed, the keys to setting a good niyah regularly are starting small and being consistent.

Try pausing before you do your next good deed, even if it’s something as simple as texting a friend or comforting a loved one. This pause will shift your thinking to becoming more conscious of your thought patterns and create space for you to set a powerful intention for your actions.

Through daily practice, setting niyah will easily become a new habit that will have a big impact on your soul and deeds. You can even keep a niyah journal to keep track of which intentions are most important to you and have those in your close circle join you in your niyah practice.

The practice of setting niyah, and thus bringing a pure motive behind every good deed, is a powerful tool for every Muslim. Through having the best intentions for ourselves and others, we will purify our hearts and set good examples for those around us to follow. 

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