The essence of life and the core of all of ones activities are based on a person's intention. Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have said,
On the Day of Judgement, the deeds of man will be divided into two groups; that which was done for the world, and that which was done for the hereafter.
This Tradition of the Prophet (pboh) confirms what the Merciful Lord tells us in His Holy Words. He says:
What is with you must vanish and what is with Allah will endure. (16:96)
As you go through life the one question that you must always ask yourself is what is my purpose for doing this? It is only the deeds that have been done for the hereafter will be of benefit to you. Allah (swt) says in Surah Baqara,
وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا ِلأَنفُسِكُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah. for Allah sees Well all that ye do. (Chapter 2, verse 110)
Hazrat Umar reported that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said,
"The reward of deeds depends upon the intention and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration was for Allah and His Apostle. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for."
Prophet Abraham (pbuh) was a wealthy man. This was evident when he slaughtered 300 camels in the space of three nights. In spite of his material wealth he remained humble and obedient. He is reported to have said,
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَاي وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds: (Chapter 6, verse 162)
This is one of the best expressions that sums up our intention of doing things in this world. There is no problem in going about your worldly affairs, however you must always remember that Allah (swt) is watching and all you actions are being recorded.
Allah (swt) says about Prophet Muhammad (saw),
وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنْ الْهَوَى
Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. (Chapter 53, verse 3)
Whatever Prophet Muhammad (saw) said was on the basis of revelations/inspiration. Look at how he lived. During the early phase of his mission the Quraish offered him wealth, power, women (whatever he desired) and in return he would have to stop preaching about there being One God. Prophet Muhammad (saw) firmly replied,
If they placed the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand to cause me to renounce my task, verily I would not desist there from until Allah made manifest His cause or I perished in the attempt."
Prophet Muhammad (saw) gave us an indication of how beneficial a person’s intention can be. He narrated the story of a sinful woman who gave water to a thirsty dog and saved his life. Prophet (saw) told his companions that the woman's past sins had been forgiven because of this one sincere deed and she was granted Paradise.
One day, the Sahaba, Hanzalah al-Usaydî met Hazrat Abû Bakr and confessed to him that he was convinced he was a hypocrite because he felt divided between contradictory feelings. In the Prophet’s presence, he almost saw paradise and hell, but when he was away from him, his wife and children and his affairs caused him to forget. Hazrat Abû Bakr in turn admitted that he experienced similar tensions. They both went to the Prophet to question him about the seemingly dismal state of their spirituality. Hanzalah explained the nature of his doubts and Prophet Muhammad (saw) answered,
“By He who holds my soul in His hands, if you were able to remain in the [spiritual] state in which you are when in my company, and remember God permanently, the angels would shake your hands in your beds and along your paths. But it is not so, Hanzalah: there is a time for this [devotion, remembrance] and a time for that [rest, amusement].”
Their situation therefore had nothing to do with hypocrisy: it was merely the reality of human nature. Angels are commanded to glorify Allah (swt) at all times.
Your intention is a scared thing that is deep down inside of you. Only Allah (swt), the angels and shaitan can see your intention, and shaitan will try his utmost best to divert you.
We have to be honest to ourselves because only you will know when you’re doing something for the sake of Allah (swt) or if you have another motive. Remember that we are in the presence of Allah (swt), so try to earn His pleasure by doing good.