To intend committing a sin or to be pleased with that idea is one of the sins related to the heart.
It is obligatory for every Muslim to control his desires. That is, he should make a firm decision that he will always desist from every sin. It also means that whenever his wish tilts towards a sin he should employ self-restrain. He must control his self and stop that desire.
If one intends to commit a sin and desires to fulfill it then this desire is a sin of the heart and which will draw divine anger and result in a punishment that is always awarded to those who disobey Allah's commandments. But, furthering it, if one also actually acts and commits a sin then one also becomes liable to Allah's punishment in addition to His anger.
For example, if someone intends to kill an innocent person, this wish of his will be a sin of heart. It is incumbent on him to remove that idea or thought from his heart and also it is his duty to repent over it. But if he continues that thought he is liable to punishment. If he dies in that state (of having an oppressive thought in heart and mind) his death will be considered as death in sin, which attracts chastisement.
But even if for some other hindering reason, he is unable to enact that sinful deed, he will get the punishment of a sin of heart and he must repent for it.
This shows that, in all these instances of stepping forward there is the existence of sin of heart and hence it is also compulsory to repent over it.
Suppose someone knows that a certain person is innocent, and yet with an intention of killing him unreasonably, actually kills him. But thereafter, he comes to know that the killed one was a hostile infidel or an apostate. Or, for example, somebody indulges in a sexual act with an intention of making love with an unlawful lady but thereafter comes to know that that woman was his lawful wife.
Or, suppose someone gobbles up a cupful of liquid with an intention of drinking wine but afterwards comes to know that it was not wine but a permissible drink. Or, for instance, somebody steals or grabs something from somebody but thereafter comes to know that the grabbed thing was his own property or, for example, has sexual intercourse (knowing that his wife was in menses) but afterwards comes to know that she had already entered the state of purity.
In all such instances, since the fellow who had made such a foolish and sinful intention, he did commit a sin of heart and hence has become liable to its punishment. Therefore, it is incumbent on him to repent.
It is mentioned in Surah Bani Israel:
Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that.1
It means that on the Day of Judgment, man will be asked: Why did you hear a thing the hearing of which was not allowed; why did you look at a scene which was prohibited; why did you intend to do a thing which was not permissible for you?2
In the opinion of Baidhawi and other scholars this verse shows that if a man makes an intention of doing a sinful thing he will be questioned about it.
The Lord of the worlds says in Surah Baqarah:
…and whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it…3
This holy verse has a wide-ranging scope, which includes man's beliefs, faculties and intentions. It means that be the belief and intention good or bad, if you have kept it in your heart and have decided to act upon it, Almighty God will surely ask you to account for it. But as regards the thoughts coming to mind not accompanied by heart's intention, they will not be questioned as they were not intentional.
The author of Tafsir Majmaul Bayan says that man's intention is the only thing, which if intended by heart, and which man continues to entertain, will have to be accounted for. So it is understood that intention belongs to the heart's actions, which will be recompensed. That is, if it is aggressive, punishment will be awarded but with a difference that an intention will attract a punishment only for that intention not for that bad deed which was not actually done.
For example, if a man intends to kill someone but is not able to kill him, then the punishment will be only for entertaining that intention, not for murder, because the act of killing did not take place. But in the matter of obeying Allah's Commandments, the reward will be for the exact act of obedience. This is mentioned in narrations. For example, a man who is waiting for the arrival of prayer time will be considered as in prayer. That is, he will be given the reward of performing prayer. But when that good deed is actually done, the performer will be given a tenfold reward.
Almighty Allah says in Surah Nur:
Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe, they shall have a grievous chastisement in this world and the hereafter; and Allah knows, while you do not know.4
The Almighty Lord explains in Surah Qasas:
(As for) that future abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for those who guard (against evil).5
In this verse, 'mischief' denotes every sin because every sin, be it carried out directly or indirectly creates trouble on the earth. Therefore giving room to any sin in the heart or to maintain it in the heart obstructs the entry to Paradise.
Though this word 'mischief' has a common connotation, which covers every sin, it has been applied to greater sins as seen in this verse:
If you will refrain from those greater sins, which have been prohibited, we will overlook your little sins.6
What is intended to be conveyed through this verse is that to entertain a wish to commit a Greater Sin, which also includes, showing oneself higher than others, comes in the way of reaching Paradise.
It is mentioned in Surah Ali Imran:
Why then did you kill them if you are truthful?7
In this verse, addressing the Jews of the time of the Holy Prophet (S), it is asked: Why did you kill the prophets? Though those who murdered messengers were the Jews of the earlier times, not the addressees; but since they were pleased and happy at the misdeeds of their predecessors they too were considered as the killers. This shows that a man's satisfaction at a sin also draws punishment.
…but He will call you to account for what your hearts have earned…8
It is mentioned in Tafsir Jawame that here, “what your hearts have earned”, means intention.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says in Wasaelush Shia, “On the Day of Judgment people will be gathered on the basis of intentions.”9
He further said, “The people of Hell will remain therein forever because, in the world, their intention was to disobey Allah forever if they were to live there forever. But the people of Paradise will remain in Paradise forever because, in the world, their intention was to obey Allah forever if they were to live there forever. Thus the people of Hell and the people of Paradise will live in their respective abodes because of their own intentions.” And then he recited the verse in which it is mentioned that whatever a man does shows his intention.10
The Holy Prophet (S) has said, “A believer's intention is better than his deed and a denier's intention is worse than his deed.”11
Shaykh Saduq narrates from Imam Baqir (a.s.) in Ilalush Sharai that he said, “A believer's intention is better than his deed because a believer intends to do many good deeds which he cannot perform and a denier wants to do a big number of bad deeds which he is not able to do.”
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said, “If two Muslims draw daggers against one another and intend to kill one another and consequently if one of the two gets killed, then both will go to Hell.”12
Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah! The killer's going to Hell can be understood but how that of the killed?” The Holy Prophet (S) replied, “It is because he too had already intended to murder his Muslim brother. So though he could not enact his will, he will go to Hell on account of his intention.”
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) is reported to have said, “The Holy Prophet (S) has cursed ten persons in connection with wine:
1 - One who plants a tree for wine producing
2 - One who guards it
3 - One who extracts it (wine)
4 - The drinker
5 - One who supplies the drink (intoxicant)
6 - The carrier of such a drink
7 - One who supplies it to others
8 - Wine seller
9 - Wine purchaser
10-Who uses the income of wine trade.”13
The point for more contemplation in this tradition is that here most of the cursed people are cursed on the basis of their intention.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says, “One who threatens a believer of the anger of the oppressor king with an intention of harming him but without success then his penalty is Hell. But one who frightens a believer with an intention of harming him and also succeeds in harming him, his abode in Hell will be with Pharaoh and his people.”14
Thus we come to know that if somebody tries to attack the life, property and honor of a believer through a king (despotic ruler) then, even if that believer is not harmed, one whose intention was to see the believer at a loss will go to Hell on the basis of his intention.
Amirul Momineen (a.s.) says, “One who felt happy with the deed of a group is just like a partner in that performance.”15 One who intends to commit a sin will be burdened with the punishment of two sins: one for committing a sin and the other for being pleased with the act. But one who feels happy at a sin will get the punishment for liking that sin.
Most of the religious jurisprudents say about Commanding Good and Prohibiting Evil (Amr bil Maroof and Nahy anil Munkar) that every responsible person must disown a sin in his heart. It is explained in the Allamah's Qawaid, Sharhe Irshad of Ardebeli, Jawahir and other books that denial by hearts means being unhappy with a sin.
The author of Jawahir says that it is prohibited to be pleased over a bad deed and according to other traditions in this connection it is compulsory to express disgust from the heart for every sin. Therefore, to be happy over one's sin and to intend for it is all the more prohibited and sinful. Here, let us pay more attention to this saying of Amirul Momineen (a.s.), “May Allah curse every caller for good who does not act accordingly himself and may He also curse the one who prohibits others from sinning but indulges in that sin himself.”16
Hence, one who is unhappy over the sinning of others but is himself pleased with his own sin and also intends to do that deed, deserves a curse. There are other narrations too regarding this topic. Although this brief sentence exposes the prohibition of the intention of sinning. It is said: There is no disagreement regarding the fact that to make an intention of sinning is also prohibited.
Abdus Salam bin Salih Hirvi has reported that he said to Imam Ridha (a.s.), “O son of the Messenger of Allah! It is mentioned in a tradition of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that when our Qaim will appear he will kill the progeny of the killers of Husain on account of the sins of their predecessors.”
Imam Ridha (a.s.) said, “It is correct.” He said, “The Holy Quran says, 'Nobody will carry the burden of sins committed by others.' So what is its meaning?”
The Imam replied, “Allah has said the Truth. But since the successors of the killers of Husain are not only happy over the misdeed of their predecessors but are also proud of it, they also will be killed. One who is happy with another's deed is also his accomplice. If someone is killed in the east and another living in the west is happy over that killing, then in the sight of Allah, the latter is also a partner in that crime. This is the reason why they shall be killed by Imam Mahdi (a.s.).”
Amirul Momineen (a.s.) says in Nahjul Balagha, “O people! To be pleased with evils and to be angry with good deeds is what makes people liable to divine chastisement. Verily, the she-camel of Shuaib was killed by one man but Allah destroyed the entire community, as the whole community was pleased with that fellow's deed. That is why Allah said that they all killed the animal jointly. Then all were put to shame. Then all were subjected to God's wrath.”17
It becomes quite clear from the above narration and many such other narrations which have not been quoted here for the sake of brevity that it is a sin to be pleased with a prohibited act, because that which follows a sin is all the more prohibited and sinful.
It is noteworthy that what has been stated quoting verses and narrations is enough to prove the entitlement to divine wrath because of the religious ban on an intention of sinning. One who makes an intention to commit a sin, makes himself subject to the order of reason that he should be made to account for it and given a fixed punishment as it is the time when he leaves obedience of God and adopts rebellion. But if he goes a step further to commit that particular sin, he will be entitled to a severer punishment. One who asks for the Judgment of his reason will not differ with this. Quranic verses and traditions also support it.
That is why Shaykh Bahai says: In the opinion of our (Imamiyah) jurisprudents an intention of sinning is definitely prohibited. Similarly a great deal is written about this in books of Quranic exegesis and jurisprudence of both Sunnis and Shias. It would be better to say that this topic is one of the necessities of religion. The Shaykh has quoted from books of Sunnis and Shias also and he concludes that Sayyid Murtada writes in his book Tanzeehul Anbiya that to make an intention of sin or disobedience too is a sin in itself.
Yet another group says that intention of a greater sin is a greater sin and that intended disbelief is also disbelief. Moreover jurisprudents are also of the opinion that to continue an intention of committing a lesser sin becomes a greater sin and that this includes both the actual deed and an intention of doing that deed.
Commentators and scholars have given many explanations for this. Anyone who studies books of both Sunnis and Shias on this matter will not remain in any doubt in this connection.18
There have been two objections to this stand. First, an intention to sin is something beyond the control of man and hence to catch and to punish one on account of it is unwise. Secondly, there are several narrations saying that intention of a sin is a pardonable offence.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said, “Verily if a believer intends to do a good deed and does not yet act on it, one good (reward) is recorded in his sheet. But if a believer also carries out his intention, ten good deeds are entered in his account. Verily, if a believer intends to do wrong but does not carry out that intention, it will not be entered in his scroll of deeds.”19
Three more traditions are available on this subject. Similarly the Martyr has, in Qawaid as well as two more scholars have expressed the same view that mere intention to sin, without carrying out that intention, is not a cognizable offence.
The reply to the first objection is that though the inclination of heart, desire or wish is certainly a thing beyond control but so far as the intention to commit an offence is concerned it is not so uncontrollable. That is, if a wish to do a sin takes place in somebody's heart, it is quite possible that he may not do so due to either a feeling of shame or for fear of God.
This can be further explained. Four things are necessary to come to the heart of a man before he does something possible: (1) Coming of an idea to mind, (2) Inclination (3) Belief or trust and (4) Intention. For example, one gets a thought of a sin in his mind. Then he inclines towards doing that sin. Thereafter his heart says that this sin should be committed. Now, if there is no external factor or internal deterring element like modesty or fear then only he makes an intention or decision to do that work and thereafter he commits it actually.
The first condition is called idea, desire, call of the heart and enticement. The name of the second condition or state is inclination, tilting and longing. The third state is known as belief or trust and that of the fourth is intention or decision. Now that all the four states have been explained it should also become clear that the first and the second condition is uncontrollable and unintentional because sometimes, to stop unwise thoughts coming to mind is not only very difficult but also impossible. Therefore it is not cognizable. From the viewpoint of reason also it cannot be considered a desirable action to hold someone responsible for it.
So far as the third condition is concerned, that is, to order the heart to carry out that wish, this too can happen unintentionally against which no action can be taken and hence it is non-cognizable. Sometimes it is intentional. That is, one may issue order to the heart or may not. In that case it becomes a cognizable thing. The fourth condition is clearly a controllable matter because in the first three states of mind intention is not yet final. It is quite possible that the idea may be removed because of an inward or outward influence. Of course, if intention is made, commitment becomes practicable and final. Therefore, making of an intention is an act, which is cognizable. Reason also does not rule out such cognition and punishment.
It we think over narrations we will come to know that an intention of sin is such an offence which has been pardoned and which will not be recorded in the scroll of deeds. But it should not mean that it is not a sin. Ponder over the following narrations:
Abdullah bin Musa bin Ja'far asked his respected father, “If a man makes an intention of doing something good or something bad will the angel appointed over him become aware of that intention?” The Imam asked, “Is good and bad smell similar?” He replied, “No.” He said, “Verily, when a man intends to do a good deed his breath gives out a good smell. So the angel on the right (who records good deeds) tells the one on the left (who has to record sins), 'Just wait! (do not record) This person intends to do a good thing.'
When that man carries out that good deed, his tongue becomes a pen and his saliva serves as ink. Then he records that deed. Likewise when a person intends to commit a sin his breath gives out a foul smell. At that moment the right side angel will tell the left side angel, 'Just a moment, this fellow intends to do something bad.' Then he commits that sin, his tongues turns into a pen and his saliva into ink and that bad deed is then noted down in his scroll of deeds.”
In short when a man intends to do something bad a bad smell of his sinful desire will reach the nose of the angel. But if he does not actually sin his fault is pardoned and nothing is added to his scroll. It is mentioned in yet another tradition, “If there arises a desire to sin, unless its is carried out, it is forgiven.” 20
Obviously the mention of 'forgiven' itself shows that to wish for a sin is a sin. Now when, on the basis of reason and tradition, a wish to sin is a sin, then it is also necessary to explain the meaning of the tradition about forgiveness. The traditions about 'Afw' (forgiveness or pardoning) are concise. Several meanings have been extracted therefrom. Therefore first there will be a description of the possibilities of meanings and thereafter the exact meaning will be arrived at.
The narrations about 'Afw' relate to desire, inclination and belief, which do not encompass intention. For elaboration of this point it can be said that suppose a man has a wish about sinning, then he gets inclined towards that wish, then he thinks of carrying out that wish but he is unable to do so due to a feeling of shame or modesty or any such deterrent.
Thereafter he puts off that idea. In this case though his intention or desire makes a sin, yet according to narrations, he can get pardon. In fact, to give up the intention of sinning is in itself atonement or expiation. But if he gave up the intention of sinning due to fear of God or because of his fear of chastisement in the Hereafter, then, in addition of pardon of his intention of sinning, a good deed will also be noted in his scroll of deeds because he changed his intention for the sake of God.
To suppress passion or desire because of Allah is also wise from the viewpoint of reason. Let us look at the following narrations.
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said, “When a slave intends to commit a sin, the angels say, 'O God! This slave of Yours intends to commit a sin (meaning an inclination towards sin has taken place in his heart) and God is the better observer.' God will say, 'Just keep a watch over him. If he acts upon that foul desire, the punishment on account of that sin will be recorded in his account. But if he puts off that intention, then a good deed should be added to his account because he has put off a sin for My sake.'”
This narration makes it clear that only having an idea of sinning when it is not actually carried out is worth forgiveness. But if he changes his intention for the sake of God, he will earn a reward. But, in the light of previous arguments, mere making an intention of sinning, notwithstanding his carrying out that intention or being unable to carry it out due to external or internal causes, is a cognizable offence and it draws punishment.
Second meaning: The narrations relating to 'Afw' (pardon) are about a sin for which intention was made. But since it was not actually carried out, that intention is not included in sin. For example, someone makes an intention to commit a sin, like adultery, but does not commit it.
According to narrations that sin will not be noted in his scroll of deeds and he will not be liable to punishment. But the sin of the intention to commit a sin and the liability of being caught do not come in the scope of these narrations. Therefore, it is compulsory to repent for the intention. Shaykh Bahai has also recorded this argument.
Third Meaning: The narrations relating to 'Afw' apply only to that man who gives up the intention after having an idea of sinning. In this case the giving up of the sin will be considered as repentance for his desire to sin and nothing will be recorded in his scroll of deeds. But if he sticks to his intention till the time no internal or external deterrent comes in his way, his intention of sinning is not pardonable.
This sin will be recorded in his scroll of deeds. This sin must be repented for. The difference between this argument and the first argument is that, according to the first argument, the coming up of an intention to sin is in itself a sin which is unpardonable while according to this argument to maintain sinfulness and to stick to it, is a sin.
The fourth meaning: Narrations regarding pardon apply only to that person who keeps himself limited to the intention of sinning and does not try to enact that sin. But if he also tries to commit that sin, he will be a sinner and will not be pardoned. For example, someone intends to drink wine. So long as he does not try to implement his wish his intention is pardonable.
But if he tries to catch hold of a glass for drinking, even if he is not able to drink it or he does not find a glass or after drinking finds that what he drank was not wine but some permissible beverage or someone prevents him from drinking or he dies before drinking, his condition will not be pardonable. In all these states wherein he remained engaged in the preliminaries, that intention will be unlawful and he would be considered a sinner. Shaykh Ansari has mentioned these two arguments in his Wasael.
After gaining knowledge about several different narrations concerning 'Afw' there remains no scope not to consider an intention to sin a sin. Caution demands that considering an intention to sin as a sin, man must refrain from it (making any intention to sin). He must control his self. If he happens to intend a sin, he must repent at once.
But if he remains careless and entertains that intention, then too it is compulsory to repent for continuing the intention. But if he also indulges in the preliminaries of that sin then his intention is definitely illegal and it is incumbent on him to repent forthwith.
Just as it is proved that the sin of making of an intention to sin and the liability of its punishment and the following states are forgivable, the states of making an intention of a good deed and the stages following that intention are definitely rewardable. Of course difference is that if the intention to sin is not enacted there is no punishment.
The only punishment will be chastisement due to intention of sin. But in case of intention for a good deed, even if one cannot act upon it, he will get a reward of that good. This distinction is a special favor for a believer. There are numerous narrations regarding this subject. We quoted only a few of them. Here are a few more, which can make the faithful hope in Allah's grace:
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “A penniless faithful slave says, 'O Allah, give me money so that I may spend it in such and such good deed.' Since Allah is aware of the piety of his intention He enters that good deed in his scroll of deeds as it is written after its actual performance. Verily, God's Grace is vast and He is Merciful.”
He also said, “Verily a believer intends to do a good deed but is unable to do it. Allah enters his good deed for him in his account. But if he also carries out that good deed then ten good deeds are entered in his account. Verily a believer sometimes makes an intention of sinning but does not carry out that bad deed. In this case that bad deed is not entered in his scroll.”21494
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “A believer makes an intention during daytime to offer prayers during the night. Then sleep overtakes him and he cannot offer that prayer. In this case Allah enters the reward of that prayer in his account. And for his breathing, the reward of Allah's glorification is recorded and his sleep also is considered as charity.”
Ali bin Hamzah says that Imam Musa bin Ja'far said, “May Allah shed His Mercy on such and such person, O Ali, did you not participate in his funeral?” I replied, “I did not. I intended to, but could not, for some reason.” Imam said, “Because of your intention, Allah has given you the reward of participating in that funeral.”22
Explaining the verse:
Say: Every one acts according to his manner…23
The author of Tafsir Qummi quotes Imam Ridha (a.s.) that, “Allah will take an account of the deeds of a faithful. He will be shown the record of his bad deeds so he will become very sorrowful and tremble due to fear. Then his good deeds also will be brought before his eyes. So he will become happy.
Then Allah will say, 'Let him see that book in which the reward for those of his good deeds has been recorded which he did not actually perform.' Looking at it he will say, 'By Your Might, O Merciful God! I did not enact these good deeds.' God will say, 'You are right that you did not do these good deeds but as you intended to carry them out, We have entered their rewards in your scroll.'”
When the Almighty gave victory to Amirul Momineen (a.s.) in the battle of Jamal, one of his companions came to him saying, “I wished such and such of my brother had participated in this battle with us. The Imam said, “Did he wish to participate in the battle with us?” He replied, “Of course, it was so.”
Ali (a.s.) said, “Doubtlessly he was with us and those people are also with us in this battle that are yet in the loins of their fathers and wombs of their mothers. Very soon, time will bring them forth. Faith will gain strength through them and mischief-makers will be defeated by them.”24
Shaykh Saduq, quotes Imam Ridha (a.s.) that he told Raihan bin Shabeeb, “If you want to get the reward reserved for the companions of Imam Husain (a.s.) in Karbala’, then whenever you remember the Imam say, 'Alas, would that we had accompanied him in Karbala’, so as to attain the supreme victory.'”25
Addressing the self-sacrificing companions of the Chief of the Martyrs, Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari says in the Ziyarat of Arbaeen (40th day of martyrdom): By God, we are with you where you had entered. Atiya says: How are we with them when we have not done any work nor did we suffer any troubles whereas they were separated from their near and dear ones, massacred and cut into pieces?
Jabir said, “I have heard the Holy Prophet (S) say, 'A man is with the group which he loves and so he will be raised with that group on the Day of Judgment.' Man is with a group the deeds of which are liked by him. By God, the intention of me and of my companions is the same as that of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his companions.”26
Quoting some narrations from the Holy Prophet (S) and the Infallible Imams, Allamah Majlisi writes: The best deed of the Muslims is to await for the reappearance of the Imam of the Age (Imam az-Zaman). One who dies waiting for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is like one who performs holy war (Jihad) with him. Its reward is like that of twenty-five martyrs.27
Muhyiddin Arbali says: One day I was with my father. I saw a man sitting near him and dozing. Suddenly his headgear fell down and there was a deep gash on his head. My father asked him about it. He replied, “This is the wound inflicted in the battle of Siffin.” My father asked, “Where are you and when was the battle of Siffin! What is the actual matter?”
He replied, “I was traveling to Egypt when a man from Gaza also joined us in the journey. The talk of Siffin came up for discussion during the journey. My fellow traveler said, 'Had I been in the battle of Siffin I would have dipped my sword in the blood of Ali and his companions.' I also retorted, 'Had I been there I would have quenched the thirst of my sword with the blood of Muawiyah and his companions. Now you and I are among the companions of Ali (a.s.) and Muawiyah respectively.
Why not fight it out?' So we fought for quite a long time. Suddenly I felt that I had received a wound on my head and I fainted. At that time I felt someone waking me with the point of his spear. When I opened my eyes he dismounted his horse and passed his hand over my head. My wound healed.
Then he said, “Stay here!” and he disappeared to return after some time. I could see the head of my fellow traveler in his and he was also leading my companion's mount. He told me, “This is the head of your enemy. You fought in our favor (to help us) so we also helped you. Whoever helps God, the God of the universe also helps him.” I asked him who he was. He replied, “I am the Master of the Affair (Sahibul Amr), the Imam of your time.” Then he said, “If anyone asks you about this wound, say that it is a wound of the battle of Siffin.”
Wa aakhiru daawaanaa anil hamdo lillaahi rabbil aalameen