In the name of Allah,
The intention is a resolve (resolution) made in one’s heart regarding every duty or other obligation. An intention only has meaning when it is followed by an action. As a result, an intention isn’t recognized to exist if the desired action isn’t carried out. All acts of worship must be done with an intention.
‘And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion,” [98:5]. Also the hadith of the prophet-
“Actions are to be judged only by intentions and a man will have only what he intended.” [Bukhari:1]. Thus, worship, including ablution, is invalid unless done with intention.
Niyyah for Wudhu
Intention is not a condition, according to Abu Haneefah. The difference is if ablution is pure worship, such as salah, or rational worship, such as filth cleansing. They are all in agreement that true worship necessitates intention, but rational worship does not. Ablution resembles both pure and rational ibadah. For the judgment to be connected to something, fiqh looks at which it resembles more. [I] To put it simply, In the Hanafi school, it is merely worship in the sense that it is a means to an end.
For Hanafis, washing the limbs right away is sufficient for wudhu to be valid. They claim that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) did not instruct the Bedouin who asked him about the wudu to have an intention when performing it. They also use Allah’s word [O believers! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces!][ii] there is no indication of intention here. Abu Hanifa stated that if one does not have intention, the wudu is legal, but the rewards are reduced[iii].
Thus, the absence of intention and sequencing suggests that if one carelessly immerses himself in a pond of water while opening one’s mouth, his wudhu is legitimate. The other three Imams would consider this to be illegitimate.
The classical Hanafi Book Al Hidaya says:
It is preferable (mustahabb) for the person performing ablution to resolve that he is performing ablution (formulate the niyyah). The niyyah (intention) in ablution is a sunnah in our view (that is, it is a sunnah), while it is an obligation according to al-Shafil (God bless him), because (in his view) it is an act of worship, which is not valid without intention, as in the case of tayammum (substitute ablution with clean soil).[iv]
The correct opinion is that of the majority. Imam An Nawawi said:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every person will have but that which he intended.” If he did not intend to do wudoo’ then he has not done wudoo’, and so on.’ End quote from al-Majmoo’, 1/356
[i] The Distinguished Jurist’s primer, Bidayat al Mujtahid wa Nihayat al Muqtasid, Ibn Rushd Vol 1- page 3
[ii] Soorah al Maidah verse 6
[iii] Nur-Al Idah, The light of clarification, Hasan Shurunbulali, Page 51
[iv] Al-Hidayah THE GUIDANCE, Burhan Al Din Al Farghani Al Marghinani, Vol 1 page 13