Can Our Intention Save Us?
Is Man’s Intention Enough to Save Him?
An intention, which leads to the appropriate intended action, being taken may save a person. An intention, which does not result in determination, in an ardent effort to bring about the intended result, cannot do so.
To have an intention is to have an aim, a purpose; it is also a state of mind and a commitment. To have a clear intention means to have realized clearly what one desires and the direction one wants to follow. Intention clearly realized means attaining the appropriate state of mind and, then, seeking out the means out to achieve the purpose envisaged.
Intention is the spring of all actions. Whether conscious or not conscious, intention gives a person the right to claim responsibility for particular actions; it is also the firm ground of will and power to bring about particular results. Everything related to man himself and the world in general, in its inception or continuance, depends on some intention. Without intention, it is impossible to bring something into being and ensure its continuance.
Everything first comes into the mind as an idea, and then one goes on to make plans for it. The idea may, later, become a reality as a result of resolve and perseverance. Without the initial idea, clarified as an intention, even to initiate a project will be difficult, probably futile. Without perseverance, intent sustained through determination and resolve, no project can be carried through to the purposed conclusion.
With regard to good and bad deeds, intention has a decisive role. The quality of intention can act like a cure all that overcomes every disease or disadvantage; equally, it can be the hidden catastrophe, which destroys all one’s achievements in a single moment. Some deeds appear very small and insignificant, but such is the efficacy and the power of the intention within them, they can realize consequences of huge dimensions-just as a single grain can turn into a mighty harvest. Conversely, some efforts, which appear mighty on the scale of great mountains, may come to nothing or be insignificant-as a result of bad intentions.
All actions undertaken in the consciousness of servanthood to God, such as sitting or standing or bowing in prayer, or fasting, or otherwise refraining from some permitted pleasures for a while, increase one’s rewards and lifts one’s spiritual state to a high level. On the other hand, the very same or similar actions done with a consciousness far removed from that of servanthood, result in nothing but suffering and punishment. Man pleases God as a result of actions done or renounced and so attains the best stature. And yet he may do the same or other actions a thousand times but without the proper intention, and so these actions amount to nothing in the eyes of God.
Intention is a key that opens the door of the infinite in this finite, transient world. Used properly, this key opens the door to eternal happiness. For, if the daily, weekly and monthly duties are performed properly and sincerely, the benefits and rewards for them are not measured according to the time spent on them in this world, but according to the degree they involve and affect the whole life. If this key is not used properly, it leads to eternal misery and wretchedness.
A believer may attain paradise as a result of even a short life in this world, whereas an unbeliever who has lived as long will attain eternal punishment and misery. Otherwise, according to outward justice, every person must be rewarded as much as his good and virtue or chastised as much as his wrongs and vice, and this would mean his staying in paradise as long as he lived righteously in the world, or in hell as long as he committed evil in the world. However, eternity is the ultimate end for both the good and the bad, and there is no other choice apart from that. So, eternal happiness or punishment lies in the quality and content of one’s intention. An intention to live faithfully and righteously forever will result in eternal happiness. In the same way, an intention to live in denial and rejection and in corruption forever will result in eternal misfortune.
If, in his last minutes, one whose heart has been full of consciousness of servanthood to God were given the chance to live another thousand years, he would certainly lead a life of obedience and submission to God. Since he intends to do so, his intention will be accepted and rewarded accordingly. Similarly, if a disbeliever who intends to live in his denial and rejection of God were given a chance to live longer, he would certainly continue to live as he did before. That is why, in accordance with his intention, the disbeliever is to be punished eternally. Thus, the essential in whether paradise or hell earned derives from the intention as it is reflected over the whole life span, not on the passing occasion when one undertook someone or other particular thing. The intention to acquire true faith, and to preserve it righteously after its acquisition, results in eternal bliss; the opposite results in eternal torment.
In the same way that any disbeliever who willfully nurtures disbelief, his own or another’s, will suffer the consequence thereof, so also Satan, who leads people astray and causes all sorts of evil and corruption, will pay most dearly for the consequences of the everlasting disbelief he encourages or nurtures.
Satan has undeniable effects on people as a result of which some of them improve their innate capacities, discover and refine the values and virtues hidden in their natures, become more alert and conscious in mind, heart and soul. Satan attacks individuals and peoples. By sowing poisonous seeds in the hearts of mankind, he endeavors to turn them into fields of vice and evil of every kind. Against the temptations and corruption of Satan, a man’s spiritual faculties raise the alarm and so do battle, just as in the body particular cells raise the alarm and resist when infection invades. And just as resistance to disease improves the body’s immunity, so also one’s spiritual state grows in strength as it seeks refuge in the All Mighty against temptation. Thus, on this account, a man stands to gain much more from the efforts against him of Satan than he risks of harm. Any testing of the spirit increases its alertness, consciousness and power to resist Satan, all of which makes the spirit still more determined, more ardent of the good, and more prudent where there is danger.
Yet Satan whose vain efforts result in such good has no share in the reward of those who attain high virtues by struggling against him. For Satan’s intention was never to bring about good; rather his intention was ever to lead people astray, to corrupt them out of his spite and rancor. Therefore, he is eternally chastised for his intentions and his deeds, both bad.
“God said: What prevented you from bowing down when I commanded you? He said: I am better than he (Adam). You created me from fire and him from clay. God said: Get you down from this. It is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of the meanest. He said: Give me respite till the day they are raised up. God said: Be among those who have respite. He said: Because you have thrown me out of the Path, I will lie in wait for them on Your Straight Path(7.12-16).”
After his jealous and arrogant disobedience, Satan willfully chose the way of rebellion and disbelief. His oath to lead people astray from the Straight Path is the beginning of mankind’s never-ending tragedy.
In sum, intention is almost everything for a believer. It can elevate even his most routine acts and makes his life fruitful. It is the quality and the content of intention, which opens the door that leads to the eternal and blissful life. It is also intention, which brings about eternal punishment and misery. Actions are worthy by the intentions that produced them.
By M. Fethullah Gulen