Intention is an integral part of Islamic practice. In the first hadith that is mentioned in Imam Nawawi’s famous compilation of 40 hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is narrated to have said: ‘Actions are only by their intentions.’
As a general rule, obligatory religious acts require a specific intention (such as what time of prayer is about to be offered) whereas voluntary religious acts can have multiple intentions. Without intending ritual prayer, one’s prayer is not valid. Likewise in some schools of thought, taking ritual ablution requires intention. When fasting in Ramadhan, one must intend to fast prior to the entrance of dawn. As for voluntary acts of worship, for example, one can intend to offer two voluntary rak’ahs of prayer to show gratitude towards Allah, for a safe & blessed day and for forgiveness. Likewise, any act in our daily lives outside of obligatory religious acts can be carried out with a multitude of meaningful intentions. Islam is not simply the five pillars. Intentions add meaning to our lives. We can eat simply to be satiated, or we can begin to eat by mindfully reciting the Basmala, with our right hand to follow the Sunnah, with thankfulness and with the intention that we will use the energy provided by this meal to carry out good. What a big difference.
As a stay-at-home mother of two, I try to be mindful of what my intentions (or goals, really) are in many decisions I take in my daily life. However, because a big portion of my daily routine is spent in the kitchen, there’s a lot of intentionality that goes on inside this small space. Intentionality can be applied to any part of your daily routine, so if the kitchen is not your primary hub, you may still apply this to other parts of your life.
I know that spending long hours everyday in the kitchen, or tidying up, raising children from the morning till the evening (and in the middle of the night), being at everyone’s service, can sometimes have you question whether you’re doing anything meaningful or not. At least I’ve been there. This seemingly never-ending house work that keeps repeating itself every time you think you’re done with a chore. I am all for getting help as needed and taking a break every now and then. However, on your day-to-day life, intentionality will keep you from the unhealthy & deceptive feeling that you’re not doing anything worthwhile.
I didn’t want to keep this post long and I feel it’s already gotten long so I am going to jump right into some actions you can implement in your cooking area! I want to just begin by mentioning wudhu (ablution; ritual purity). Only Allah knows all the merits of being in a state of wudhu and its reality, but it clearly holds an important place as per the hadith of the Prophet where he describes angels accompanying the person who goes to sleep in a state of ritual purity until he awakes. I understand the difficulty this may bring, especially for mothers who barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone take their time to take wudhu when it’s not prayer time but I urge you to try to at least implement it for some meals, with mindfulness, that you are intending to cook with wudhu and intend for the benefits of this state to manifest in your food. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been baking my family’s bread for the last few months now. Ever since I began, I try my very best to remain in a state of wudhu while feeding my sourdough starter, kneading the dough and baking the bread. I try to remain in this way when I do my other cooking, as well as while eating. Ladies who are on their moon cycle may consider taking a symbolic wudhu, with the intention of receiving the spiritual benefits of wudhu without resuming ritual acts of worship. In addition to having wudhu, I recite al-Fatiha while I stir my sourdough starter during a feed, or salawat while cooking as I remember, and when I bake a bread for a friend or cook a meal for my family, I intend for that food to bring healing, physical as well as spiritual wellbeing and give thanks for it. If you believe in spirituality, you most likely understand how our feelings and energy can have a strong impact on what they are directed at. While cooking, whether just for yourself or for others, avoid all unhealthy thoughts and feelings to the best of your ability. If you find your mind roaming to undesirable territory, try to refocus and renew your intentions. Trust me, you don’t want yourself or your loved ones to eat food that was prepared with negative energy. (Who knows what state meals might have been prepared in in restaurants!). Try to include Prophetic foods in your diet. I highly suggest Zainab Ismail if you want some ideas and inspiration on how to do just that, very easily. Learn about the sunnan of eating and implement them with the intention of following the Prophet’s way. He ﷺ did not pick certain foods or eat a certain way simply out of desire but because they are superior and better for us.
As a side note: if you feel like you can’t focus in the kitchen for the life of you, consider what state the kitchen might be in when you’re trying to make a meal. Is it unorganized, cluttered, and you don’t know where is what? Maybe that’s a good place to start!
For the stay-at-home mom… If you are in charge of your kitchen, you are actually in charge of your family’s wellbeing. Your spiritual state in this territory will impact the physical & spiritual wellbeing of your spouse, children and/or other family members. The meal cooked with love, du’a and with mindful intentions will nourish your family and so, their accomplishments within their own duties and responsibilities will be connected to the nourishment you are providing them with. That’s a big and praiseworthy role, if you ask me. So next time (and if ever) you feel down about ‘wasting’ ‘all your time’ in the kitchen, think of this.
I hope & intend that you find benefit in this post!