Intentions are held in high regard in Islam. We’re taught repeatedly how to set intentions, when to say them, and the importance of them. During lectures and conferences, we hear our beloved teachers guide us through practices they use to ground themselves when seeking knowledge. (One of our favorites is Shaykha Ieasha Prime reciting Imam Haddad’s intention for seeking knowledge at the beginning of her sessions!). Parents often remind their children to renew their intentions during months like Ramadan going as far as to say, “your deeds won’t be counted if you don’t set your intention”!
But setting intentions isn’t transactional nor something we repeat verbatim or out of fear. Intentions are a core part of our deen because of the comfort, connection, and prospect of barakah they bring with them. They’re part of a mindset shift and what some might call a lifestyle.
Why do we set intentions?
The power of intentionality is beyond our imagination and once we begin to understand this, we discover there are multiple writings and books on this topic. These days, it’s all the rage in new-age spirituality and has been linked to things like worldly manifestation. Through our own teachings, we also know that our reality, in this world and the hereafter, is and will always be determined by our thoughtful intentions.
“Actions are according to intention and everyone will get what was intended.” Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Our reward is elevated and multiplied
What’s often missed is knowledge around the possibility of having numerous intentions for our actions. Imam al-Haddad said in Risalat al-Muawana wa l-Mudhahara wal-Muazara: One can have many intentions for a single action, and for each intention gain the full reward. 
Some of our intentions can be simple and straightforward while others may be lofty and seemingly impossible. The more we purify our hearts and align ourselves with our ultimate purpose, the more openings, abundance, and blessings we will be able to see.
By layering our intentions, we can also get multiple rewards. For example, we may go for a daily walk at a nearby park to take care of our body, which is a trust from Allah and has a right over us. This is a noble intention in itself since we’re caring for our gift from Allah. Alongside this, we can intend to foster a mindful connection with Allah’s creation to in turn strengthen our connection with Him through contemplation, to have more energy so we can focus on our worship and family better, and even earn extra good deeds by smiling at everyone who crosses our path!
It transforms our lives and hearts
Our ultimate purpose in this life is to be in service to Allah SWT, not because He needs us, rather because we need Him. We don’t always quite understand what this means as we juggle multiple dimensions of our lives including professional, personal, and spiritual. But as we shift to living more intentionally, we begin to see our seemingly parallel lives merging into one. Suddenly, every mundane routine act we engage in whether sharing a meal with our friends and family, leading a work meeting, or writing in our Dua Journal becomes a means to nurture our connection to Him.
Our path is illuminated
One of the most beautiful things in our deen is that we are judged by our intentions, not our follow-through.
When we thoughtfully and sincerely set our intentions, they become our guiding light, our measure of success. We know how to take action with more purpose and follow the path as it’s slowly illuminated in front of us. If we find ourselves falling off the wagon, losing steam, or off track, we always can retrace our steps back to our intentions to remind us why we started on this journey to begin with.
There may be times where things don’t seemingly go according to our plan, even with the most sincere intentions. We take this as Allah’s Plan.
Practical ways to set intentions
At this point, your heart is likely all in for intention-based living(*high five*!), but your mind may be coming up with all the excuses in the book. “Of course, you want a better, more present, and meaningful connection to Allah SWT, but you just don’t have the time”, or “a lifestyle shift? That sounds too complicated.”
As the cliché goes, change is never easy, but taking the first next best step is. Here’s what we suggest:
1. Think about the "why"
Take some time to reflect on why you want to live more intentionally. Is it for more good deeds? Closeness to Allah swt? More barakah (blessings)? Reflect on your specific heart’s desire for this and ask Allah swt for guidance, remembrance, and presence. Add in an extra daily dua in your Dua Journal on intentional living.
For additional inspiration, check out this beautiful book by Al-Habib Muhammad bin Alawi Al Aydarus called “The Book of Intentions”. It’s been a helpful read on our own journey to living more intentionally.
2. Start with your existing worship
Scientific research on habit building tells us the easiest place to start is connecting the new with the old. Work on taking 1-2 minutes out before each prayer, Qur’an reading, or meal prep, and think about how you can level up your intention. If you don’t currently have an intention for an activity, add one. If you already have an intention, add another by letting your heart think about where you want your connection to Allah to be. Becoming more mindful and present before taking action will help you become more intentional, reflective, and less robotic.
3. Set time aside for planning in the morning
Each morning, think about the top 3-5 big things you have planned for the day. It might be a big presentation, attending a class, or coordinating the local masjid’s charity drive. Whatever they are, start to mentally prepare and then verbalize your intentions. Remind yourself why you’re doing each of these things. Yes, to earn a living to provide for your family, to gain knowledge, to support your community, but ultimately for spiritual closeness to Allah, to connect with Him. Layer on your intentions and ask Al-Fattah, The Opener, for openings!
We recently heard a story of a young man who has been writing his intentions down daily for years. Through this, he has seen his life expand, connection with Allah SWT increase, and path flourish with opportunity. His thoughtful practice coupled with immense Divine Blessings has inspired us to keep our own notebook and consciously write down our layered- intentions before any task or action we take!
The Dua Journal is here to support you in your journey to more intentional living. With space for intentions and iman goals, The Dua Journal helps to keep you accountable and get back on track even when you fall off. Choose your journal and start your journey today.
As we embark on this journey, we must continue to renew our general intentions, too! We have been created as forgetful human beings and while Allah does indeed come running as we take a step towards Him, our path to a better version of ourselves is rarely linear. Be gentle with yourself, seek the company of those who have chosen to live more intentionally, and, most of all, make dua for His Pleasure and Guided Illumination.
May He enable all of us to live more intentional, mindful, and presence-filled lives. Ameen.