Niyya (Arabic: نیّة) means the intention and determination to do something. According to hadiths, the value of any deed is determined by the "niyya" of the doer of it. In hadiths, niyya is introduced as the base and foundation of any act and the deeds as the fruits of it. In addition, the Muslims are advised to have pure and sincere intentions, while the corrupted and insincere intentions are introduced as the cause of disappearance of blessings and suffering calamities and troubles. According to Shi'a faqihs, niyya is necessary in acts of worship, and it is one of the rukns of salat. However, it is not necessary to express niyya verbally.
Literally, niyya means "intention", "will", "determination" or "thought". Technically, it means the intention and determination that lead a person to an action. It is quoted from Al-Shaykh al-Tusi that niyya is the intention of doing an action and it is mediator between knowledge and practice. Misbah Yazdi defined niyya as "the optional and deliberate motivation for performing actions".
According to hadiths, every deed is evaluated based on the niyya and the motivation of its doer. In addition, insincere niyya cause the invalidation of deeds, while sincere ones and those that include the proximity to God causes the perfection of deeds. As it is stated in a famous hadith, human's deeds depend on the intentions. In numerous hadiths, the Imams (a) have emphasized the importance of pure and sincere niyya and introduced the corrupted and insincere niyya as the cause of disappearance of blessings and suffering calamities and troubles.
Comparing between niyya and practice, some hadiths have introduced niyya as the foundation of practice, superior to it and the deeds were counted as the fruits of niyyas. It is also mentioned that a niyya will receive the divine reward even without any practice. As it is narrated from Imam Ali (a), the deeds of humans have different levels and degrees; it is niyya that determines the value of an act of worship or a moral conduct.
In Ethics, intention is introduced as the base of moral value and the origin of goodness and badness of human's deed. Ethics scholars believe that Tajarri or the intention of committing sin (without putting it into practice) is unaccepted morally, although it is not haram jurisprudentially.
Niyya in Worship
Niyya accompanied by the intention of proximity to God is necessary and wajib for al-wajib al-ta'bbudi (compulsory acts of worship, such as: wudu, salat, sawm, hajj). One of the conditions of validity of acts of worship in faqih's opinion is niyya before beginning the act and also the continuation of niyya during the act until the end of it. According to their viewpoint, niyya is mental issue and it need not be expressed verbally. Along with ruku', sajda, takbirat al-ihram and qiyam, niyya is a rukn (essential part) of salat. Islamic scholars believe that having the intention of proximity to God while doing Mubah (regular, not having special ruling) actions will change them to mustahab deeds, which will receive divine reward.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from نیت in Farsi WikiShia.