Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (may Allah have Mercy on him) said:
“Know that intention (niyyah), will (iradah), and goal (qasd) are various terms that all mean the
same thing, and it is a description of the state of the heart when it is a source for two things:
knowledge and action.
Knowledge comes first - as it is the foundation and condition - and action follows it, since it
is the fruit that branches from knowledge. This is because every action – that is, every
intentional movement and motion – does not occur without three things: knowledge, will,
and ability. Nobody does something without knowing of it. So, he must have knowledge.
Likewise, nobody does something without having the will to do it. So, one must have the
will to do something, and the meaning of will (iradah) is that the heart reaches out to what it
sees as being in accordance with what it seeks...
The human was created such that he sometimes does that which is in accordance with what
his heart seeks, and sometimes does that which conflicts with what his heart seeks. In such a
case, he needs to draw near to that which is good for him, and to drive away what will harm
him. This requires that he know and understand what will benefit and harm him, such that
he can bring this close and avoid that, since whoever does not see or know what food is
cannot reach over and pull it towards him, and whoever does not see fire cannot escape
from it. So, Allah has Created guidance and knowledge, and has provided certain means of
attaining them, and these are the external and internal senses.
So, intention is essentially the will and the act of reaching out to and leaning towards what
one seeks, whether this occurs retrospectively or at the time of seeing what is sought after.
Therefore, the first step in one being pushed to do something is that he has a goal which
motivates him to act, and goal is the target of one’s intention. One is pushed to go out and
do something when he has a goal and intention, and directs his power and ability towards his
goal by way of physical movement, and this is known as action.”
Extract of 'The Manners of the Knowledge Seeker' by Abu ‘Abdillah Muhammad Sa’id Raslan