Question # 18: Is there any authentic hadith regarding ‘Namaaz ki niyyat’ (Intention of the Prayer). Is it correct to say ‘niyyat’ (intention) in words?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The place of the niyyah (intention) is the heart and not the tongue in all forms of ‘ibaadah – and that is agreed upon by all the Muslim scholars…”  (Majmoo’ il-Kubraa) Hence, uttering the intention by the tongue, due to the lack of proof concerning that from the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), is considered as bid‘ah.

Long Answer: “Actions are judged by intentions …” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).  Hence, Intention is required for performing all acts of worship, and it is to be expressed with the heart and not with the tongue because it means determination and purposing. So, whoever intends in his heart that he will perform the prayer; he will have fulfilled the condition of intention. It is not a condition at all that a Muslim says [“I am praying for the sake of Allah, such and such prayer while facing the qiblah, four rak’ahs as lmam or follower” or “in fulfilling the prayer on time or making the prayer up” All of those statements are innovations in religion (bid’ah),] for it has not been narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) or any of his Companions expressed intention with the tongue. Rather, the following has been authentically narrated,

[‘Aishah (رضي الله عنه) said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to begin his Salat with reciting Takbir” (Muslim)

Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) said: ‘I saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) begin his Salat with Takbir raising his hands.” (Al-Bukhari)] and he never said anything before it. (‘Simplified Islamic Jurisprudence’ by Abdul-Fattah)

The following are some other statements from Ulamah prohibiting Niyyah by the tongue:

Qadi Abur Rabi’ Sulaiman Ibn ‘Umar Ash-Shafi’i (Shafi’i scholar) said: ‘Articulating Niyyah [for Salat] and reciting Qur’an with the Imam are not of the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) Sunnah’, on the contrary, they are detested acts. If articulating Niyyah causes annoyance for other Muslims in Salat, it is then considered Haram [forbidden]; believing in the opposite is one of the great mistakes. Besides, it is prohibited for anyone to deliver rulings about things in religion without having the sufficient knowledge.”

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Al-Qasim Al-Tunisi Al-Maliki (Maliki Scholar) said: “Niyyah lies in the heart, so articulating it is Bid‘ah not to mention causing annoyance for other Muslims”.

Shaikh ‘Ala’ud Din Ibn Al-’Attar said: “Articulating Niyyah loudly and causing annoyance for other Muslims is Haram. If no disturbance is caused then articulating it is considered Bid‘ah. If this act was done out of dissimulation then it turns to be of the great sins. Those who condemn others for articulating Niyyah are on the right way unlike those who believe in its legality in the religion of Islam; they indeed have committed an act of Kufr, or at least disobedience if they do it out of ignorance. Every Muslim should fight this Bid‘ah according to one’s capacity for this act is not of the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) Sunnah nor did his Sahabah practice it nor those who followed their footsteps of the Muslim ‘Ulamah” ( Majmu‘atur Rasa’il Al-Kubra)

Abu Dawud asked Imam Ahmad: “Should the one doing Salat say anything before reciting Takbiratul Ihram?” Imam Ahmad answered in the negative. (Masa’il Imam Ahmad and Majmu‘ Al-Fatawa)

As-Suyuti said: “It is Bid‘ah to articulate the Niyyah for Salat, it is not of the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) Sunnah nor was it the way of his Sahaba (رضي الله عنه). They used to recite Takbir only [at the beginning of Salat].”

Ash-Shafi‘i said: “The existence of was-wasah [in one’s heart] concerning the Niyyah for Salat and Taharah is the product of ignorance in the Shar’ or foolishness of mind”. (Al-Amru bil Ittiba‘ wan Nahyu ‘An Al-Ibtida, Ibn Al-Qayyim publication)

Abu ‘Abdullah Az-Zubairi, one of the Shafi’i followers misunderstood and misinterpreted Ash-Shafi’i’s statement and claimed that Imam Ash-Shafi’i believes in the necessity of articulating Niyyah in Salat. Ash-Shafi’i’s statement says: “Doing Hajj and ‘Umrah without articulating their Niyyah is correct unlike Salat which its Niyyah must be articulated to be considered valid” (Al-Majmu)

An-Nawawi said: “Ash-Shafi‘i followers said that he [Abu ‘Abdillah] misunderstood Ash-Shafi’i’s statement; Ash-Shafi‘I meant by “Niyyah” reciting Takbir [atul Ihram]” (Al-Majmu‘ and At-Ta ‘alum by Bakr Abu Zeid)

Defending Ash-Shafi’i’s view, Ibn Abi Al-Izz Al-Hanafi said: ‘None of the four Imams held that a Muslim must articulate his Niyyah; it indeed resides into the heart, some late scholars held the opposite opinion and falsely attributed it to Imam Ash-Shafi‘i as An-Nawawi stated. This is something upon which there is a unanimous agreement’ (Al-Ittiba)

Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to recite Takbir whenever he stands for Salat and say nothing before it. He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) never articulated the Niyyah for Salat such as saying: ‘I intend to do Salat so and so for Allah’s sake facing the Qiblah four Rak’at being an Imam (or Ma’mum), at its due time (or Qada’), nor did he say’ I perform this Salat done in such a time’. These are all bid’ah which were not transmitted from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) neither through authentic, sound, weak, connected or disconnected ahadith, nor were transmitted from his companions, not even approved by the Tabi’in, nor any of the four Imams. Some late scholars misunderstood Ash-Shafi’i’s statement and falsely attributed to him that he believes in the necessity of articulating Niyyah in Salat, unlike Sawm. (Zad Al-Ma‘ad, Igathalul Lahfan, I‘Laml Muqi‘in, and Tuhfatul Mawdud)

Hence, it is unanimously agreed upon that articulating Niyyah is Bid‘ah, whoever claims it to be of the Sunnah has indeed ascribed falsehood to Imam Ash-Shafi‘i (‘The Clarified Ruling of Mistakes Done in Salat’ by Mashhur Hasan Al Salman)

Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Declaring intention overtly is neither obligatory nor desirable as uniformly agreed upon by Muslim scholars. Rather, one who pronounces it overtly is regarded to be an innovator in religion who contradicts the Shari’ah. If one does so intentionally. thinking that it is an act of Shari’ah, one is deemed an ignorant, straying Muslim who deserves discretionary punishment for that. If such a person insists on declaring intention overtly upon each prayer after being informed and enlightened, especially if he disturbs his prayer mates with his voice or repeats it several times, he deserves to receive severe discretionary punishment for that… Some of the modern scholars maintained the obligation of doing so (i.e. pronouncing intention overtly) basing their opinion on the misinterpretation of an opinion of Imam Ash-Shafi’i. However, the majority of the followers of Imam Ash-Shafi’i viewed the invalidity of such an interpretation of the Shafi’i ‘s opinion. This is because, Imam Ash-Shafi’i said about prayer, ‘It is obligatory to begin it with overt pronunciation.’ So, those modem scholars mistakenly thought that lmam Ash-Shafi’i meant that it was obligatory to pronounce one’s intention overtly upon each prayer. However, all the followers of Imam Ash-Shafi’i deemed this a misinterpretation, pointing out that Imam Ash-Shafi’i only meant the overt pronunciation of the opening takbir of prayer, not the intention …”

To sum up, Allah is Knowing the intention of the heart, so a Muslim does not have to pronounce it overtly whether upon performing prayer or in any other act of worship. (‘Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence’ by Salih Al-Fawzans)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.