When I make up mind to do something for Islam, something in my heart stops me. I ask myself, “What will others think if I do this? Will they like it or will they offend me?” But then a sister told me, ”Why should you be bothered about what others think when you are doing it for Allah’s sake?” She added, “Whether you get a positive remark or negative remark, don’t be bothered and just keep in mind that you are doing it for Allah’s sake.”
For one minute I thought that if I am bothered about any remarks, be it positive or negative, then I am not doing it solely for Allah. My aim should only be to win the pleasure of Allah and not anything else.
It is natural for any human being to wish to avoid negative remarks and always love to be praised. It feels really good when someone speaks well about us, but we should try not to become addicted to appreciation as this can lead us to commit Ar Riyaa.
The Arabic word Riyaa is taken from the word ra`aa (to be seen). Therefore, Riyaa is performing various forms of religious acts in order to be seen, to impress, and be praised. Deeds done to earn the appreciation of others destroys the benefits of the righteous deed and becomes merely a vain act.
Mahmood ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet (PBUH) came out and announced, ’O people, beware of secret Shirk!’ The people asked, ’O messenger of Allah, what is secret Shirk?’ He replied, ’When a man gets up to pray and strives to beautify his prayer because people are looking at him; that is secret Shirk.’"(Collected by Ibn Khuzaimah)
Mahmood ibn Lubayd reported, "Allah’s messenger (PBUH) said: "The thing I fear for you the most is ash-Shirk a’-Asghar (minor shirk)."The companions asked "Oh! messenger of Allah, what is minor Shirk?" He replied "Ar-Riyaa (showing off), for verily Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection when people are receiving their rewards, "Go to those for whom you were showing off in the material world and see if you can find any reward from them." (Ahmad at-Tabaraanee and al-Bayhaqee in az-Zuhd. See Tayseer al-’Azeez al-Hameed, p. 118)
Riyaa is a very dangerous sin because it is common for any human being to enjoy the praises of others, but we don’t always know when we have improperly succumbed to these praises. When one gets addicted to praise, it becomes a habit for the misguided one to do things to impress others rather than Allah.
Aboo Moosaa al-Ash`aree reported that Allah's Messenger delivered a sermon to them one day and said, "O People! Fear this Shirk (meaning riyaa), for it is more inconspicuous than the crawling of an ant." [Authenticated in Saheeh al Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, no. 33]
"He who allows the people to hear of his good deeds intentionally to win their praise, Allah will allow the people to know his real intention (i.e. on the Day of Judgment and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of people, Allah will disclose his real intention and humiliate him (i.e. on the Day of Judgment)." [Al-Bukhari & Muslim].
And Allah says,“Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He Who deceives them. And when they stand up for As-Salat (the prayer), they stand with laziness and to be seen of men, and they do not remember Allah but little.” [Qur’an 4: 142]
Now why do we say when a person does an act to earn the appreciation of others he commits shirk? We say that because any act should be done only to win the pleasure of Allah. When an act of worship is done to seek the pleasure or appreciation of others then the person is worshipping appreciation, not the Creator.
Riyaa is considered as a hidden shirk because when one does any deed of worship to seek the pleasure of the creation (that is, anything other than the Creator), then they are secretly either worshipping praise, appreciation, or the creation with the mask of trying to show others that they are trying to please Allah.
Allah says in the Quran:
"Verily, We have sent down the Book to you (O Muhammad) truth: So worship Allah (Alone) by doing religious deeds sincerely for Allah's sake only, and not to show off and not to set up rivals with Him in worship. Surely, the religion (i.e. the worship and the obedience) is for Allah only..." [Qur’an 39: 2, 3]
Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) has warned us about a severe “disease of the heart,” which praise causes in a human being. Over praising, he taught us, should be avoided as it destroys a believer and puts them at high risk of being infected with this “disease.” Once overtaken, we can become obsessed with pleasing other people also for the sake of appreciation.
Abu Bakrah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Mention of a man was made to the Prophet (PBUH) and someone praised him whereupon he (PBUH) said, "Woe be to you! You have broken the neck of your friend!'' He repeated this several times and added, "If one of you has to praise his friend at all, he should say: `I reckon him to be such and such and Allah knows him well', if you think him to be so-and-so, you will be accountable to Allah because no one can testify the purity of others against Allah.'' [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) heard a person lauding another person or praising him too much. Thereupon he said, "You killed the man,'' or he said, "You ruined the man.'' [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Hammam bin Al- Harith (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: A person began to praise `Uthman (May Allah be pleased with him), and Al-Miqdad (May Allah be pleased with him) sat upon his knees and began to throw pebbles upon the flatterer's face. `Uthman (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "What is the matter with you?'' He said: "Verily, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, `When you see those who shower undue praises upon others throw dust upon their faces.''[Muslim]
When our iman (faith) weakens we tend to become a prey to Riyaa. I.e., our iman weakens when our love for praise, fear of criticism, and greed of possession becomes stronger and rules us.
One thing I always noticed is that Satan sometimes uses this Riyaa as a weapon to stop us from doing good things. Many times I used to think that if I do this deed or that, and if someone appreciates me, I might be committing Riyaa myself. The very possibility would really scare me and I would stop myself from doing such deed.
Fortunately, the same sister who made me think about my positive or negative remarks also told me, “ Be conscious of Riyaa, but don’t ever let that ruin you from doing any Ibadaah [or the worshipping of Allah by performing an intended good deed]. Let your heart remind you that you are doing it for Allah sake “.
I realized this is indeed a jihad (struggle). When Satan comes to spoil your deed and you might be on the verge of giving in to Satan,it is only with Allah’s mercy that you will be reminded of Riyaa. At such a time, seek forgiveness and pray to purify yourself. (Remember, as it is a common human weakness to enjoy being praised and hearing good about oneself, we tend to commit riyaa unknowingly). We can seek remedy from this only by gaining our knowledge of Riyaa, purifying our intention by sincerely reciting the du’aa which the Messenger of Allah recited and taught his companions:
"O Allah! I seek refuge with You from knowingly associating anything with You and I seek forgiveness from You for that which I am unaware of." [Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2876]
© Amatullah Abdullah
This article first appeared in Al Jumuah
AL JUMUAH VOL 18 ISSUE 01 MAG 18.1 Page 48
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