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The Role of Intention (Niyya) Under Saudi Arabian Hanbali Law

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On the authority of the Shari'a, the part that intention (niyya) holds in religious matters ('ibādāt) is undisputed. However, a number of schools of thought have questioned its significance with respect to secular transactions (mu'āmalāt). The very first hadīth reported in the Compendium of Tradition, Sahih al-Bukhari says in substance: “Deeds are judged according to intention and every human being will have to take responsibility for what he intended”. Sunni schools of law are divided with regard to the extent of application of that hadīth. Whilst Hanafī and Shāfī'ī schools interpret it narrowly to cover only religious matters, Hanbalī and Mālikī teachings extend it to mu'āmalāt. This article looks at intention and its possible relevance in matters concerning breach of contact, abuse of rights and the validity and construction of contract when governed by Saudi/Hanbalī law.

Affiliations: 1: Law Consultant, London, UK;, Email:


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