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‘God is not grateful to he who is not grateful to others’

Despite the emphasis that is often placed on presenting as dominant in Islam the question of the practical implementation of the law, according to Muslim tradition no obedience to religious precepts is valid if it does not have good intentions and a solid morality.

In our contemporary world, thinking about a Muslim means thinking about someone who must engage in certain actions and must refrain from performing others. And it is true that Islamic discourse, especially in the West and for obvious reasons, revolves for the most part around the fulfilling of the obligations of the law at their practical level. And it is specifically the emphasis on the exterior aspect of religion that generates, on the Western side, an impression of an Islam totally centred around practice. However, although there remains the inescapable ethical-juridical component of the religion that was inaugurated by Mohammed, other component parts of the Islamic religion, which are more subtle but equally essential, should not be underestimated by Western sensibility and culture and by the Muslim faithful.



It is commonly known that according to the Tradition of the Prophet or the Sunna no obedience to religious precepts has validity if this is without a religiously directed resolution known as niyya or ‘intention’. ‘Actions are [that is to say they are valuable and are evaluated] according to intention’, the Prophet is said to have declared to the first converts who were preparing for the Hegira, the transfer of the community from Mecca to Medina, ‘and he who emigrates seeking God and His Messenger, he moves towards God and His Messenger, whereas he who emigrates seeking a material advantage to be obtained or a woman to marry, well, he moves towards these latter things’. Indeed, the idea that every action that is valid at a juridical level must be supported by a good interior intention had already emerged in the etymology of niyya, which is the same as the nawât, ‘nucleus’, ‘core’ or ‘substance’ of a thing: that is to say that without the element of conscience any example of observance is an empty exterior, lacking its essential constituents. It is equally well known that Islamic doctrine lays emphasis on the interior aspect, recognising, within an all-embracing islâm, the necessary presence of ‘faith’ or îmân, this last being in its turn a heading charged with meanings whose root is at the origin of amân, ‘safety’ ‘calm’ or ‘guaranteed protection’, and amâna, that is to say ‘trust’ and also ‘faithfulness’ to a pact that has been signed. In this way, Islam specifically defines itself as submission to the will of God which, on the one hand, is full trust and, on the other, pre-supposes, on the part of man as of God, a mutual loyalty of intentions.



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