GOOD MORNING YOGIS –
“Buckle up” as they say, “it is going to be bumpy ride”. I have sent out this special Saturday newsletter for those people who are sincerely studying yoga and yogic philosophy, and wish to apply it to their lives. Over covid lockdown we studied Rumi and wandered into the Qur’an, and I still do. These words below are primarily from one of my Arabic Teachers (Luqman, at fluent Arabic) . I am not a good student of Arabic language, but I LOVE the philosophy. I have tried to make things a little clearer, carrying on from yesterdays newsletter I sent around which touched on INTENTION.
“Assalamu Alaykum”. What does it mean to have a sincere intention? We have heard many times the Hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that says: إنّما الْاَعْمَالُ بِالنِّیَّات “Actions are by their intention”. But, what does it really mean and why it is important to us, as Arabic and Quran (and Yoga) students, to understand?
We can start with a brief look into the literal meaning. A kind of Arabic language exercise. إنّما Inna is a particle of emphasis. The maa after it is called the maa al-kaaffa, and it adds exclusivity to the sentence. So for example if you say, Innama ana mudarris, it means ‘Verily, I am only a teacher’ الْاَعْمَال The root word is ‘ain-mim-lam and it is related to the act of doing something. It’s not the action itself, it’s a transitive verb which needs an object to complete its meaning.
That means that it refers to all kinds of actions, and not just a particular one. We could understand it as “Every action that we undertake”. We can say that, so far, the Hadith means “Every action that we undertake is by, or is connected to, or is because, or is swore upon by…”النِّیَّات An-niyyah. The first two letters are the article “The” and the following are nun-ya-ha. This word means ‘intention’ and it is also related to the root nun-waw-ya. The plural of intention is نيَّات و نَوَايا.
The word nawah means, amongst other things date pit, fruit kernel and core. A similar word, based on the same root, nawa, means remoteness and distance. We could say then that intention is the core of something, like the pit is the core of a fruit. In this example, the pit also holds within it the seed of a new fruit tree. The intention, being the pit of the action, contains in it the possibility of everything that ensues by the action.
But everything that ensues in the action, which is contained in the pit, is a possibility that has not yet been realised. There is a distance between the intention and the action.
Another way to understand this is that the intention reaches far into the distance. In, fact, it reaches further into the distance than the action itself. With this, we may better understand this Hadith as “Every action that we undertake is connected, is because of and by, its core, which is its intention”
This hadith was transmitted by Umar ibn al-Khattab and it is compiled in the Sahihayn. Commenting on it Ibn Abbas said: “A man is protected only to the degree of his intention”. In this context, we may say that for those who study yoga, or any discipline, it’s of the utmost importance to have a sincere intention. But what does a sincere intention mean?
A sincere intention is to do something solely for the sake of Allah/God. That is part of what the Prophet, peace be upon him, meant and what has been transmitted by our pious predecessors. Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri said, “Sincerity is to single out the Real [God] in obedience with full intention: meaning, through obedience, we desire only to draw near to God nothing else: not ostentation for the sake of others, gaining praise with people, loving praise from them, or something else that shows [an objective] other than drawing closer to God ” He also said, “It is correct to say that sincerity is purifying the action from being observed by people.”
We could say that having a sincere intention when studying yoga, Qur’an and Arabic is to do it for sake of drawing near to Allah. That is something that for many of us might seem obvious because it is the main reason why we are studying.
But how do we know if our intention is sincere? We can once again look at what our predecessors have said: Dhu’l-Nun said, “Three signs of sincerity are when praise and censure from the masses are equal; forgetting to see your involvement in deeds; and wanting a reward for one’s actions in the Hereafter.”
That is, we do not care about what people say or expect their approval. We understand that our good intentions and actions are a gift from God, hence we do not look for the reward that those actions can bring us in this life, but we expect their reward in the hereafter. That is not to say that, God Willing, we might not enjoy the reward of our actions in this life, but that is not our focus and priority.
I will see you on the mat (if you want to discuss any of the above please email me firstname.lastname@example.org)