Abdullah bin Al Zubair Al Humaidi narrated to us , he said Sufyan (bin ’Uyainah) narrated to us, he said Yahya bin Sa’eed Al Ansaari said Muhammad bin Ibraahim Al Taimi informed me that he heard  ‘Alqamah bin Waqqas Allaithi say that – I heard ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab  (May Allah be pleased with him) on the pulpit (minbar), he said : I heard Allah’s Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) saying,

“The deeds are only upon the intentions and every person has only what he has intended for. So  whoever’s emigration was to get the world (i.e. worldly benefits) or for a woman to marry her, then his emigration will be for what he emigrated for.”

(Bukhari – hadith 1)


Explanation from Ibn Hajr’s Fathul Baari


“Al Humaidi narrated to us”

Al Humaidi is a relative of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wasalam) and also his wife Khadijah (from her clan).

It seems as if Bukhari was acting upon the saying of putting the Quraish forward, so he started his book with a narration from a Qurashi.

And there is another reason in narrating from Al Humaidi in the first chapter of “Start of Revelation” in that Al Humaidi is a Meccan, like his teacher Sufyan bin ‘Uyainah, because the Revelation started in Mecca and then the next narration that Bukhari brings in this chapter is from Malik who is a Medinite, because the Revelation then transferred to Medinah.


Relation of this Hadith to the name of the Chapter “Start of Revelation”

Ibn Najjar said: The naming of the Chapter has a relation to the verse (4:163) and this hadith both, because Allah Revealed to the messengers and then to Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) that the deeds are upon intentions, as the Saying of Allah “And they were not commanded except to worship Allah sincerely for His sake only …” (98:5).

Abul ‘Aaliyah said: In the Saying of Allah – “He has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Noah …” (42:13) and He ordained for them sincerity in His worship”.

Others said this hadith is related to the name of the chapter because the Revelation started as intention, as Allah created the nature of Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) upon Tawheed and hatred of idols.

Still others said the relationship of this hadith to the chapter is that just before being granted Prophethood the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) emigrated towards Allah in seclusion in the cave of Hiraa.


The great merits of this Hadith

Imam Abdur-Rahmaan Al Mahdi, Al Shaf’i, Ahmed bin Hanbal, Ali bin Al Madini, Abu Dawood, Al Tirmizi, Al Daraqutni and Al Kinani are agreed that this hadith is a third of Islaam, or at least one-fourth of it; and Al baihaqi explained this by saying that a man’s effort in a deed occurs with his heart, toungue and organs, so intention is one third of it and the most important part of that effort.

Al Shaf’i said it contains numerous branches of knowledge.


Who else narrated this Hadith

All the famous scholars narrated this hadith in their books except Malik in his Al-Muwatta, but Bukhari, Muslim and Al Nasai narrated it from the route of Malik.

From ‘Umar all the way upto Yahya bin Saeed there is only one chain of narrators. From Yahya onwards scores of chains exist as many people narrate this hadith from him. There are other chains which are not authentic.

So in terminology of hadith, this is a fard (singular) type of narration. But the meaning of this narration is found in numerous ahadith, so it can be said that is mutawaatir ma’nawi (continous, i.e. numerous narrations which can give the same meaning but not the same words).


“On the pulpit”

That is the pulpit of Al Masjid Al Nabawi in Medinah.


“The deeds are only upon the intentions”

Both deeds and intentions are plural, i.e. each deed is upon its intention.

Al Khoobi said: it seems as if he pointed out that intentions are of several types just like deeds are of different types, e.g. a person may do a deed intending from it reward from Allah or to get what He promised or to save himself from His punishment.

In other narrations, deeds are plural but intention is singular, like the narration of Malik in Sahih Al Bukhari in “Book of Faith” that “The deeds are upon the intention”, because the deeds are performed by many different organs so they are plural but intention is based upon sincerity which is one.

And there is also a narration in Bukhari which mentions both in singular “The action is upon the intention”.

Here the “deeds” are the “deeds of worship”.


“upon the intentions”

“Upon” either means that the intention is integral part of the deed or that it is the reason for doing the deed. It is said that the meaning is “the deeds are judged based upon the intentions” or “the deeds are completed upon the intentions” or “the deeds are validated based upon the intentions” or “No deed is complete or valid except with the intention” or “the deeds follow the intentions”.

Also the deeds are the actions performed by the organs including the words of the tongue and actions of the heart.


“and every person has only what he has intends”

Al-Qurtubi said, “In this is evidence that intention and sincerity are preconditions for the deeds”, and he was inclined to consider ‘making the intention’ highly recommended (mu’akkadah).

Others said the two sentences “the deeds are only upon the intentions” and “every person has only what he intends for” imply different connotations. The former sentence tells us that the deed follows and accompanies the intention, so the judgment is based upon that. The latter tells us that the doer gets nothing except what he intended for.

Ibn Daqeeq Al-Eid said, “The second sentence implies that whoever intends something gets it, i.e. if he does the deed with its preconditions or even if he is prevented from doing it by a legally acceptable excuse. And whatever he does not intend for, he does not get it.”

By saying “whatever he does not intend for” he meant that no intention is made specifically or generally. For if he does not intend something specific, but he had a general intention which covers what he did not specifically intend for, then the scholars have differed in this instance and numerous cases can be derived from it.

Sometimes a person doing a specific deed also gets what he was not specifically intending for, e.g. a person entering a mosque prays the obligatory (fardh) or recommended (raatibah) prayers before sitting, then he has indeed performed the ‘tahiyyatul masjid’ (two units of prayers recommended before sitting for the one who enters the mosque) whether he specifically intended to pray tahiyyatul masjid or not, because the reason behind tahiyyatul masjid has been achieved and that is not to sit before praying two units.

And this is different from the case of the person who bathes on a Friday because of ritual impurity (janabah). The stronger position is that this person is not considered having done the recommended Friday bath, because the Friday bath is a worship not just cleansing, so it is a must to have a specific intention for that, and this is different from tahiyyatul masjid, where a general intention was sufficient. And Allah knows best.

Al-Nawawi said, “The second sentence – ‘every person has only what he intends for’ – tells us that it is a precondition to make a specific intention, e.g. the one who has to pray a missed prayer, it is not sufficient that he intends only to pray a missed prayer but he should specify whether it is Zuhr or ‘Asr prayers.”

This is obviously when he has to pray more than one missed prayers.

Ibn Sum’aani said, “This (‘every persons has only what he intends’) means that deeds which are not worship are not rewarded (by Allah) except when the doer intends by it closeness to Allah, like eating with the intention of gaining strength to obey Allah”.

Other scholars said, “It means that making the intention cannot be delegated. This is the original principle. The cases in which e.g. the wali (guardian) makes the intention for the child (in Hajj and ‘Umrah pligrimages) are exceptions to the original principle.”

Ibn Abdil Salaam said, “The first sentence (‘the deeds are only upon the intentions’) is meant to specify what are counted as (valid) deeds, and the second (‘every person has only what he intends for’) shows what are the consequences of those deeds. It also implies that intention is a precondition only in those worships which are themselves distinguishable (from non-worship acts). So the deeds of worship which are clearly distinguishable as such e.g. remembrance (Dhikr), invocations (D’uaa) and recitation (tilaawah) are deducible from the manner in which they are performed”.

It is obvious that this is for the original manner for worship, so that if these worships happen as a habit e.g. saying “Subhanallah” in surprise/praise, then the above is not applicable. Besides doing Dhikr is done with an intention of seeking closeness to Allah, then the reward is more.

So, in sum every deed (of worship) needs an intention. This includes the deed of not doing something. That is, if a person leaves a certain deed by stopping himself from doing it, fearing the punishment from Allah, then indeed he is rewarded for stopping himself from doing it. This is unlike the person who gives no weight to the enormity of disobeying Allah, and leaves doing that deed without any intention.


“So whoever’s emigration was to get the world”

[Imam Bukhari’s leaving out (kharm) part of the hadith “So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), his emigration is for Allah and his Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)”]

Imam Bukhari while narrating this hadith here, narrated it without the words above, and left out the above mentioned words.

The complete narration, found elsewhere in the Sahih of Bukhari is – “The deeds are only upon the intentions and every person has only what he has intended for. So whoever’s emigration was to get the world (i.e. worldly benefits) or for a woman to marry her, then his emigration will be for what he emigrated for. And whoever emigrated for Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), his emigration is for Allah and his Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)”, as in the chapter (Baab) on Hijrah.

This can have several explanations.

Firstly, some scholars said that by narrating this hadith as the first Hadith in his book, Imam Bukhari placed it as a preface for his book, like many other authors who write prefaces to explain their methodology in their books. So Bukhari prefaced his book by specifying his intention, and referring the sincerity of that intention to Allah, so that if it is in Allah’s Knowledge that he wanted to earn worldly gains from this work, then Allah will Judge him according to what he intended. So, he knowingly left out the other part of the narration “whoever emigrated for Allah and His Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) …” to free himself of self-praise and self-purification, because here the author is telling us about his intention in writing this book.

Also it is Bukhari views it permissible to narrate part of the hadith and to narrate the meaning of the actual words, both of which he applied here. It is Bukhari’s way to sometimes narrate a narration by leaving out some words, even if he leaves out the words from the middle of the narration. It is his methodology that if he has the same text with more than one chain of narrators, then he mentions the text with one chain at one place and with a different chain at another place (i.e. in another chapter).

This is if the narration reaches the level of authenticity according to standard that Bukhari set for a hadith to be authentic in his Sahih, but if it is not upto the standard he has set, then he mentions it without a chain or leaving out part of the chain (mu’allaq).

This he does either with definiteness like saying “He said such and such”, if it is authentically reported but not up to the standard he has set up, or passively (tamreedh) like saying “It is narrated that he said such and such”, if it has some weakness. And if he has a text with only one chain of narrators (i.e up to the standard set by him), he takes liberty in reporting the text, reporting part of it in one place and part in another place according to the requirement of the chapter he has named. It is very rare that he would mention one narration with the same text and same chain, completely at more than one places in his Sahih. A scholar I (Ibn Hajr) met told me he took care to count the places in Bukhari where he mentions the complete text with the same chain at more than one places, and he was able to count them as about twenty places only!


“whoever’s emigration”

Hijrah (emigration) literally means to leave something and “emigrate to something” means to transfer to that thing from some other thing.

And in Islamic law it means to “leave something Allah has forbidden from”.

And emigration in Islam occurred in two forms:

Firstly, in the transfer from a place of fear to a place of peace, as in the emigration to Abyssinia and the earlier part of emigration from Mecca to Medina,

Secondly, in the transfer from a place of disbelief to a place of Islam like the emigration to Medina after the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) was established in Medina. After the conquest of Mecca, this latter form was not limited to Medina, but became general to all places of Islam.


“or a woman”

Even though, the woman may be counted as coming under the generality of the word “the world” i.e worldly benefits, but she is mentioned separately because the fitnah (trial) from her (upon men) is greater and so special care was taken to warn in this regard.

Some people say that the reason for this hadith is a certain instance in which a person emigrated to Medina to marry a woman called Qaylah Umm Qays, so due to that the man was called “Muhajir Umm Qays” (emigrant to Umm Qays), form the saying of Ibn Masood narrated by Al-Tabarani, but it is not clear whether this was the specific reason for the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) saying this hadith.


“then his emigration will be for what he emigrated for”

This does not mean that the one who emigrates for marriage or worldly benefits, then his emigration is invalid or blameworthy completely in all cases.

For example, a person who emigrates intending marriage and leaving the place of disbelief both, then his reward would be less than the one who emigrated only for the sake of Allah. The one who is to be reproached is the one who emigrates purely for the sake of the woman.

Similarly a person who intends from his emigration marriage, but as a means of gaining Allah’s reward by remaining chaste, is also rewarded. An example of this is that Umm Sulaym (Anas’s mother) embraced Islam before Abu Talhah. When he proposed her, she promised to marry him if he too embraced Islam. So he did that and the dowry (sadaaq/mahr) between them was the Islam of Abu Talhah. This was narrated by Al-Nasai. It can be said that Abu Talhah wanted to embrace Islam of his own will and added to it the intention to marry, similar to the one who intends from his fasting (sawm) worship and fitness both.


Fiqh (understanding) of the hadith

This narration can be used as an evidence to derive the following jurisprudence:

1. It is not permissible to do a deed before knowing its ruling, because it is not correct to intend doing something except after knowing its ruling.

2. The person who does not know, is not held accountable, because the intention is made if the thing intended for is known which this person does not intend for since he does not know it.

3.A person, who intends for a voluntary fast later in the day, gets the reward from the time he made the intention, as this is what this hadith implies. But it can be said that he gets the full reward with evidence from another hadith – “Whoever catches up one rak’ah (unit) of prayer (with congregation), indeed gets it (i.e. the superiority of the congregational prayer over singular one)”. This is due to the Bounty of Allah.

4, If a trustworthy person was present in a gathering and then narrated from that gathering something they all listened to, then this does not harm his reputation as being truthful and trustworthy, even if no one else present at that gathering narrated what he mentioned. Here ‘Alqamah is the only one who is authentically narrated what ‘Umar said on the pulpit.

5. Whatever cannot be counted as a “deed”, then the intention is not a precondition for it. For example, the combining of two prayers is not a “deed” in itself, the deed is praying (salaat). This is substantiated by the fact that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) combined the prayers in Tabouk and did not inform those praying behind beforehand.

6. If multiple actions result in a single class of deeds, then intention can be made only for that class of deeds. For example a person may free a slave as penalty (kaffarah, this is the class of deeds) but does not specifically intend due to what sin (the reason requiring this class of deeds) he is doing that penalty, because the hadith means “every intention is based upon its intention”. The intended deed here is to do what frees oneself of the obligatory penalty and that does not need specifying the reason that obligated the penalty. So if the person knows he has to pay a penalty but does not remember why he has to do it, it is sufficient that he pays the penalty without specifying the reason that obligated it.

7. If the reason for the hadith was the story of “Muhajir Umm Qays” (mentioned above), then this means that the mentioning of worldly benefits was something extra to generalize the warning. Thus sometimes a specific reason results in a specific ruling, but that ruling then can be generalized, and so the general meaning of the text can be used even if the original reason was something specific.


Other instances of this hadith in Bukhari

More discussion of this hadith will come in “Kitabul Iman”, when Bukhari narrates it again.

[It can be found as hadith no. 1, 54, 2529, 3898, 5070, 6689 and 6953 in Bukhari, Darus Salaam publication with Fathul Baari.].



Translation project of Fath ul bari (in english) –  bukhariexplanation.wordpress.com



  1. Pingback: Hadith explanations from classical texts

  2. Pingback: Hadith explanations from classical texts

  3. Aselamu aleyikum werahmetullah, brothers in a healthy sprit of Islamic. Am in desperate need of fath al bari whole volume in english, how can i get it?

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