Islamic Laws (Fiqh)

What Is Niyyah? (for 9 years old and more)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

What Is Niyyah? (for 9 years old and more)


Whatever we do in life, we do it for a reason. This reason is called our “intention” or “niyyah” in Arabic. For example, we sleep because we are tired and our intention is to rest. When we watch TV, it is because we enjoy watching a program, so our intention is to enjoy ourselves.   

Similarly, when we perform any Islamic act like wudu, salah or sawm, we must have the correct niyyah. The niyyah, or intention, for all Islamic acts of worship is one and the same: qurbatan ilallah, meaning "to gain proximity to Allah [SWT]". For example, if we are praying a wajib salah, like salah az-zuhr, we say:

what is niyyah1“I am praying salah az-zuhr qurbatan ilallah.

Once we become baligh and we fast in the month of Ramadan, our niyyah is:

“I am fasting for the month of Ramadan, qurbatan ilallah.”

When we perform wudu, our niyyah is: 

“I am performing wudu, qurbatan ilallah.”

Even when we give charity, our niyyah has to be: 

“I am giving some money to the poor, qurbatan ilallah.”

Islam teaches us to perform all our actions for the sake of Allah [SWT]. 

Imam Sadiq [AS] says:

“Anyone who performs a small act for the sake of Allah, Allah will make the deed greater than the person had intended. And anyone who performs a great act for the sake of people, Allah will make it trivial in the sight of others.”

By doing everything we do for the sake of Allah only, and to please Him alone, we get closer to Him.

In a beautiful hadith, Imam Sadiq [AS] says:

“The heart is the sanctuary of Allah; so do not allow anyone to dwell in the sanctuary of Allah except Allah.”

what is niyyah2Allah [SWT] does not accept our good actions unless they are done only for His sake and to get closer to Him. If we perform any wajib or mustahab act without the correct niyyah of wanting to come closer to Allah [SWT], then it is not accepted.

For example, if a person does wudu only because he is feeling hot and he wants to cool himself, then his wudu is not accepted and he cannot pray until he does wudu again with the proper niyyah.   

Similarly, if a person prays salah to show off to others or fasts in the month of Ramadan to go on a diet and lose weight, then Allah [SWT] does not accept his/her salah and sawm and it is as if he/she has not prayed or fasted at all!


Allah [SWT] tells us in the Quran that on the Day of Judgement, for every good deed we bring with us from this world, He will reward us 10 times its worth:

“مَنْ جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَنْ جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ”

Whoever brings a good deed, he shall have ten like it, and whoever brings an evil deed, he shall be recompensed only with the like of it, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly. [Surah al-An’am6:160]


We often perform good deeds with the right intention. However, the second part of our duty, as per the verse above, is to protect our good deeds after we have performed them, so that we can bring them with us to the Hereafter and be rewarded for them. 

Sometimes we perform good deeds, but after performing them, we show off about them to others. At this point, our intention has changed and those deeds are no longer counted as having been performed solely for the sake of Allah [SWT]. Hence, such deeds are no longer counted among our good deeds on the Day of Judgement! 

Let’s read a real story about this:

Once a man was praying in the mosque sincerely for the sake of Allah [SWT]. After some time, while he was still praying, he heard some footsteps behind him and realised that someone was watching him. He started praying very slowly and recited his prayers loudly and in a beautiful tone. 

what is niyyah3After finally finishing his prayers, he turned around to see a dog sitting near the door of the mosque. He then realised that he had just wasted his prayer. He had prayed to show off to a dog instead of praying sincerely to Allah [SWT]!

So, be careful about your intention!




Key points of this text:

  1. Niyyah means intention.
  2. The niyyah is the most important step before every action.
  3. The niyyah for all acts of worship should be “qurbatan ilallah”, which means that we are performing the act to get closer to Allah [SWT].
  4. Any act which is not done with the intention of getting closer to Allah [SWT] is not accepted.


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