The intention (niyyah) is essential for all acts of worship; no act of worship is valid without the intention.
The place for the intention is the heart, and speaking it out loud is bid3ah. It was not proven that the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam or his companions spoke the intention for any act of worship out loud. (1)
Uttering the Intention (Niyyah)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah replied to a question asked about the intention:
The intention of purifying oneself by doing wudoo’ ghusl or tayammum, of praying, fasting, paying zakaah, offering kafaarah (expiation) and other acts of worship does not need to be uttered verbally, according to the consensus of the imaams of Islaam. Rather the place of intention is the heart, according to the consensus among them. (2)
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Speaking the intention is a bid3ah (innovation) and doing so loudly is even more sinful. Rather the Sunnah is to make one’s intention in the heart, because Allaah knows that which is secret and what is even more hidden. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say: Will you inform Allaah of your religion while Allaah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth?” [al-Hujuraat 49:16]
It was not narrated from the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam or the Sahaabah or any of the most prominent imams that they spoke the intention out loud. From this we may understand that it is not prescribed, rather it is an innovation that has been introduced into the religion. And Allaah is the Source of strength. (3)
Ibn al-Qayyim said:
When the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam stood up to pray, he would say: “Allaahu akbar,” and he did not say anything before that, or utter the intention (niyyah) out loud at all. He did not say, “I am going to pray such-and-such a prayer, facing the qiblah, four rak3ahs, as an imaam or following an imaam.” And he did not say “ada’an (on time)” or “qadaa’an (making up a missed prayer)” or “fard al-waqt (the obligatory prayer of this time).” These are all bid3ahs which were not narrated by any scholar with any isnaad, be it saheeh, da3eef, musnad or mursal … Neither was this narrated from any of the Prophet’s companions, and none of the Taabi3een or the four imaams described it as mustahabb. (4)
Shaykh Ibn 3Uthaymeen said:
With regard to uttering the intention for actions other than Hajj or 3Umrah, this is something which it is well known is not prescribed. It is not Sunnah for a person to say, when he wants to do wudoo’, “O Allah, I am going to do wudoo’” or “O Allah, I intend to do wudoo’”, or when he wants to pray to say “O Allah, I am going to pray” or “O Allah, I intend to pray.” None of that is prescribed. And the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam. ” (5)
No one has mentioned any difference of opinion concerning this matter, except that some of the later followers of al-Shaafa3ee expressed approval of that, but some of the leaders of this madhhab said that this was wrong. But in the dispute among the scholars as to whether it is mustahabb to utter one’s intention, there are two points of view. Some of the companions of Abu Haneefah, al-Shaafa3ee and Ahmad said that it is mustahabb to utter the intention so as to make it stronger.
Some of the companions of Maalik, Ahmad and others said that it is not mustahabb to utter it, because that is a bid’ah (innovation). It was not narrated that the Messenger of Allaah SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam or his Sahaabah did it or that he commanded anyone among his ummah to utter the intention. That is not known from any of the Muslims. If that had been prescribed then the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam and his companions would not have neglected it, as it has to do with worship which the ummah does every day and night. This is the more correct view.
Indeed, uttering the intention is a of irrational thinking and falling short in religious commitment. In terms of falling short in religious commitment, that is because it is bid’ah (an innovation). In terms of irrational thinking, that is because it is like a person who wants to eat some food saying, “I intend to put my hand in this vessel, take out a morsel of food, put it in my mouth and chew it, then swallow it, and eat until I have had my fill.” This is sheer foolishness and ignorance.
The imaams are agreed that speaking the intention out loud and repeating it is not prescribed in Islaam, rather the person who has made this a habit should be disciplined and told not to worship Allaah by following bid3ah and not to disturb others by raising his voice. And Allaah knows best. (6)
The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’ said:
Uttering the intention out loudly or secretly in Salah, Wudu’, and other acts of worship is impermissible, for the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam did not prescribe this either by saying or action, also because the place of intention is not the tongue, but the heart. You should start your prayer whether it is Fard or Nafilah by saying – Allahu Akbar and start your Wudoo by Tasmiyah to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam.
You should intend practicing the acts of worship that you want by heart, except in case of Hajj and 3Umrah , for it is prescribed to utter the rites of Hajj or 3Umrah by saying: Allahomma Labayk Hajj or (Labayk 3Umrah). (7)
Intention (Niyyah) for Hajj & 3Umrah:
Shaykh al-Fawzaan said:
“… Except in two cases. The first case is when entering ihram for Hajj or 3Umrah, in which case one says “Labbayka 3Umratan (here I am for 3Umrah)” or “Labbayka Hajjan (here I am for Hajj)”.
The second case is when slaughtering the hadiy or udhiyah or 3aqeeqah, when one should say Bismillaah and state which type it is, whether it is 3aqeeqah or ‘udhiyah or hadiy, and on whose behalf it is being offered. So he should say: In the name of Allaah and on behalf of So and so” or “In the name of Allaah on my behalf and on behalf of my household,” then he should slaughter it.
In these two cases it is prescribed to utter the intention out loud; in all other cases it is not permissible to utter the intention out loud for any act of worship, prayer or anything else. (8)
The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’ said:
You should intend practicing the acts of worship that you want by heart, except in case of Hajj and 3Umrah , for it is prescribed to utter the rites of Hajj or 3Umrah by saying: Allaahumma (O Allaah) (Labayk [Here I am! At your service] Hajj) or (Labayk 3Umrah).
The same goes for Hady (sacrificial animal offered by pilgrims) and Udhiyah (sacrificial animal offered by non-pilgrims), as it is prescribed for the person offering Hady or Udhiyah to utter after Tasmiyah. (9)
Shaykh Ibn 3Uthaymeen said:
If a person says “Labbayka 3umratan (Here I am for 3Umrah)” or “Laybbayka hajjan (Here I am for Hajj)”, that does not come under the heading of forming the intention, because he formed the intention before that. Hence it is not prescribed to say, “O Allaah, I am going to do 3Umrah” or “O Allaah, I am going to do Hajj.” Rather you should form the retention in your heart and recite the Talbiyah out loud.
With regard to uttering the intention for actions other than Hajj or 3Umrah, this is something which it is well known is not prescribed. It is not Sunnah for a person to say, when he wants to do wudoo’, “O Allaah, I am going to do wudoo’” or “O Allaah, I intend to do wudoo’”, or when he wants to pray to say “O Allaah, I am going to pray” or “O Allaah, I intend to pray.” None of that is prescribed. And the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad SallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam.” (10)
This is not uttering the attention, because if the one who is offering the sacrifice says, “This is on my behalf and on behalf of my household,” he is stating what is in his heart. He has not said, “O Allaah, I want to offer a sacrifice,” as would be said by the one who wants to utter his intention. Rather he is only expressing what is in his heart. The intention was already there, from the time he brought the animal, lay it down and slaughtered it, so he had already formed the intention.” (11)
An Amusing Story:
Shaykh Ibn 3Uthaymeen mentioned an amusing story in his sharh of 40 Nawawee ahadeeth when speaking about saying intention out loud:
It was told that a layman from Najd was in al Masjid al Haraam, wanting to pray Dhuhr, and there was a man beside him who only knows how to do niyyah (intention) out loud, so when it was iqaamah, the man said: “O Allaah! I intend to pray Dhuhr prayer, 4 rak3ahs for the sake of Allaah, behind the imaam of the Masjid al Haraam”.
And when he wanted to make takbirat al Ihram, the layman said to him: “Be patient O man, you still need to say the date, the day, the month and the year” so the man was in wonderment.” (12)
Compiled by TowardsHuda
(2) Al-Fataawa al-Kubra, 1/214, 215
(3) Fataawa Islamiyyah, 2/315 (https://islamqa.info/en/31821)
(4) Zaad al-Ma3aad (1/201) (https://islamqa.info/en/37841)
(5) Majmoo3 Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 22/20 (https://islamqa.info/en/109179)
(6) Al-Fataawa al-Kubra, 1/214, 215 (https://islamqa.info/en/13337)
(8) Al-Muntaqa min Fataawa al-Fawzaan, 5/30 (https://islamqa.info/en/144650)
(10) Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 22/20 (https://islamqa.info/en/109179)
(11) Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 22/20 https://islamqa.info/en/109340)