Chapter 1 – Hadith 11: Sincerity and Significance of Intentions and all Actions, Apparent and Hidden
وعن أبي العبَّاسِ عبدِ اللهِ بنِ عباسِ بنِ عبد المطلب رضِيَ اللهُ عنهما ، عن رَسُول الله فيما يروي عن ربهِ تباركَ وتعالى قَالَ : « إنَّ اللهَ كَتَبَ الحَسَنَاتِ والسَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ بَيَّنَ ذلِكَ ، فَمَنْ هَمَّ بحَسَنَةٍ فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَها اللهُ تَبَارَكَ وتَعَالى عِنْدَهُ حَسَنَةً كامِلَةً ، وَإنْ هَمَّ بهَا فَعَمِلَهَا كَتَبَهَا اللهُ عَشْرَ حَسَناتٍ إِلى سَبْع مئةِ ضِعْفٍ إِلى أَضعَافٍ كَثيرةٍ ، وإنْ هَمَّ بِسَيِّئَةٍ فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَهَا اللهُ عِنْدَهُ حَسَنَةً كَامِلةً ، وَإنْ هَمَّ بِهَا فَعَمِلَهَا كَتَبَهَا اللهُ سَيِّئَةً وَاحِدَةً » . مُتَّفَقٌ عليهِ .
11. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (radhiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) said that Allah, the Glorious, said: “Verily, Allah has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then He explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed but he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, then Allah the Exalted, writes it down for him as from ten to seven hundred folds, and even more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen says in his explanation of this hadith:
The first meaning: the writing in the lawh al-mahfuth (the Preserved Tablet). Allah ta’ala has written everything in al-lawh al-mahfuth as He said,
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍَ
Indeed, all things We created with predestination. (al-Qamar 54:49).
and Allah says,
وَكُلُّ صَغِيرٍ وَكَبِيرٍ مُّسْتَطَرٌَ
And every small and great [thing] is inscribed. (al-Qamar 54:53).
So Allah, subhanahu wata’ala, wrote the bad and good deeds in al-lawh al-mahfuth, if the slave acts upon them, then Allah ta’ala writes them in a manner that is in accordance with His Wisdom and befits His Justice and Grace.
So these are two writings:
1. A ‘previous’ writing: this is known to Allah – ‘azza wa jal – alone. Every one of us has no knowledge of what Allah has written for him of good or bad until it actually occurs.
2. A forthcoming writing: when a person does a certain act, it is written in a manner befitting (Allah’s) Wisdom, Justice and Grace. “Then He explained it clearly” meaning, the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) explained clearly how this writing takes place. He explained that when a person intends to do a good deed, but does not do it, Allah ta’ala records for him a full good deed.
For example: a man performs wudhu in order to recite Quran, but then did not do so, for him a full good deed is recorded.
Another example: a man intends to give out sadaqah (charity) and sets aside the money that he wants to give. Then he withholds and does not give this charity; it is still recorded for him as a full good deed. Likewise is the example of one who intended to pray two rak’ahs (voluntary), but then he does not pray, it is still recorded for him as a full good deed.
The answer: to this, we say that the favor and grace of Allah is broad. This intention that occurred to the person (to do good) is considered as a good deed because the heart yearns; either in pursuit of good or bad. So if one is determined to do a good deed, then this is a good deed recorded for him. If he actually does it, then Allah records it as 10 good deeds to seven hundred folds, or even more.
This variance in the reward depends on the level of ikhlaas (sincerity) and mutaba’a (performance of the deed in accordance to the way of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam). Hence, the more sincere a person is to Allah in their acts of worship, the greater the reward. And the closer a person’s worship is to the way of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam), the more complete it is and the greater the reward. So the level of reward is dependent on the levels of sincerity and adherence to the way of the Messenger of Allah (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam).
As for the bad deed, he (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) said about it: “But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed.” An example of this is a man who wanted to steal, but remembered Allah – ‘azza wa jal –, was overcome by fear of Him, and abandoned stealing. In this case, a full good deed is recorded for him. Because he left an act of disobedience to Allah, he was rewarded, as is clarified in another narration: ‘for he desisted from doing it for My sake.’ (Muslim). So if he intended to do commit an evil, such as backbiting, then recalled that it is forbidden and left it for the sake of Allah, then he is rewarded with a complete good deed.
But if he actually committed the bad deed, it would be written as only one bad deed, none more. Allah ta’ala says
مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ۖ وَمَن جَاءَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلَا يُجْزَىٰ إِلَّا مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُون
Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [to his credit], and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. (Al-An’aam 6:160).
In this hadeeth: there is evidence that one’s intention is taken into account; and that it may lead one to good.
We mentioned before that if a person intended to do evil, and proceeded with the actions that lead to this evil, but was eventually unable to do it, then the sin of the doer is recorded for him, as in the hadeeth of two Muslims who meet with their swords: ‘When two Muslims fight (meet) each other with their swords, both the murderer as well as the murdered will go to the Hell-fire.’ They said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right for the murderer but what about the murdered one?’ he replied, “He surely had the intention to kill his companion.” (Agreed Upon).
And Allah is the Granter of Success.