In the first part of this post, I laid out what it means to have (or not to have) pure intentions behind good acts. These good acts are ones which our God, Allah, commands us to perform or encourages us to do. The diametric opposite of such acts are the prohibited ones. [Read here a list of the major acts or sins prohibited or condemned in Islam.]
Unfortunately, we wrongly apply the ‘intentions behind actions‘ hadith in this case too, often distorting facts of our religion to suit our purposes. A common misapplication is when our mistakes end in wrongdoings. For e.g. forgetting to fulfill a crucial promise meaning serious harm to the other party or inconvenience at the least. Often, we attempt to save our face in such a situation by saying that our intentions had been good, ‘it was just a mistake’. The assertion serves as a quick cover for guilt feelings. Instead, the guilt should have led to a healthy acknowledgment of our responsibility for the bad result.
Another serious misapplication is attempting to justify the outright bad or prohibited acts by claiming good intentions, using an ‘ends-justify-the-means’ sort of logic. Sometimes we are weak and knowingly engage in a sin: Some external pressure is too great and we are just not courageous. Some internal urge is pushing and we succumb. Will we repent, ask for forgiveness from Allah, get stronger, stay away from the sin in the future? These are crucial issues. But the issues become far-fetched if we start believing in some rationalization for the sin that apparently ‘redeems‘ its badness. This is self-deception and distorting one’s own religion for one’s sake.
Many people today cannot keep all their money-dealings totally free from interest. Does it mean interest is no longer a major sin, one upon which Allah has announced war in the Holy Quran? No! We have been unable to purge our society of interest, but this doesn’t change the facts of the case.
I have seen many people arguing intensely to the effect that no, hijab is not Islam. Okay, you don’t feel like doing hijab, have no understanding for the significance of hijab in a true muslim society. But who gave you the right to redefine our religion?
The same applies to those who have invented new rituals (bid’aat) in the name of religion propped up with elaborate arrays of explanations and justifications to prove them right. The Prophet’s warning on promoting fabricated ‘acts’ in the name of religion is very clear. No amount of flaunting the act as sacred, an act of piety, or an expression of love to the Prophet or some other religious figure can make the innovation authentic. It remains squarely beyond and outside the domain of Islam. Your proclaimed niyyat will not earn you any profit in the hereafter.
The same goes for being unnecessarily careless or innovative with the clearly described procedures of worship and social dealings such as marriage and divorce. “Good intentions do not repair a bad act” [Khalid Baig, First Things First, p. 169]. If we do not perform our Hajj the way it’s instructed to be, well, it’s no Hajj. If we do not pay zakat as per the detailed guidelines, the zakat is not paid.
The moral of this little discussion is:
Let us not use our alleged intentions as excuses or shields to commit the bad that we are weak enough to engage in!
Stay with me to read about the third part of this post. Jazakallah!