By Abu Ammar Yasir al-Qathi
[Edited by Dr. Bilal Philip, 1997, Darul-Fatah].
In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, May Allāh blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.
Linguistically, the word of riya’ comes from the root word "ra’a" which means ‘‘to see, to behold, to view’’. The derived word ''riya’' means "eye service, showing off, hypocrisy, pretense, deception, insincerity, dissimulation, dissemblance."
In term of Syari’ah point of view, it means: "To perform acts which are pleasing to Allāh, with the intention of pleasing other than Allāh". Thus riya’ originates from the heart.
Mahmud ibn Labid (Radiallāhu`anhu) reported that the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
"The thing that I fear most for you is the minor Syirik: Riya"
(Ahmad in his Musnad)
Abu Sa’id (Radiallāhu`anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) came to us while we were discussing about Dajjal and said:
"Should I not inform you of that which I fear for you even more than the dangers of Dajjal? It is the hidden Syirik; A person stands to pray, and he beautifies his prayer because he see as the people looking at him."
(Sunan Ibn Majah vol. 2, No.3389)
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (Radiallāhu`anhu) reported that Allāh's Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) delivered a sermon to them one day and said:
"O People! Fear this Syirik (meaning riya’), for it is more inconspicuous than the crawling of an ant."
(Sahih al Targhib wat-Tarhib, no. 33)
The Causes of Riya’.
The Causes of Riya’.
The primary cause of riya’ is a weakness in the Emān. It is when a person does not have strong faith in Allāh; he will prefer the admiration of people over the pleasure of Allāh SWT.
There are three symptoms that are indicative of riya’, and it is essential that a believer avoid all of them.
1. The love of Praise
As mentioned in a Hadith of the first three people being thrown into the hellfire; the scholar (who taught for fame), the martyr (who faught for fame), and the person who gave his money in charity (so people would say he is generous). All three of these people desired the pleasure of people over the pleasure of Allāh. The person who desires the praise of people must feel some pride in himself, for he feels himself worthy of being praised. There is a danger, therefore, of him becoming arrogant and boastful.
Abu Hurairah (Radiallāhu`anhu) quoted Allāh's Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) as saying:
"Allāh, Most Great and Glorious said: Pride is My cloak, and greatness is My robe, so whoever competes with Me, with respect to either of them, I shall cast him into Hell"
(Sahih Muslim, vol. 4 No.6349, Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 3 No. 4079)
Abu Hurairah (Radiallāhu`anhu) quoted Allāh's Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) warning about a person's adoration of himself:
"There are three destructful things: desires that are followed, greediness that is obeyed, and a person's self-admiration and conceit; and this is the worst of the three"
Allāh also warned against falling into the category of those Christians and Jews whom the Qur’an mentions:
"Do not assume that those who rejoice in what they have done, and love to be praised for what they have not done, think not that they are absolved from punishment, (but rather) for them is a painful torment." (Al-Imran: 188)
2. Fear of Criticism
No one likes to be criticised. The dislike of criticism regarding religious practices may be divided into two categories’:
a. The first category is that of a person who neglects a commandment of Allāh in order to avoid the criticism of his peers. However, the true believers are described in the Qur`an as follows: "...They do not fear the criticism of those who criticize. And this is the blessing of Allāh; He gives it to whomsoever He wishes. Verily, Allāh is Self-Sufficient, all Knowing. “(Al-Ma’idah : 54)
b. The second category is that of a person who obeys certain commandments of Islam, not for the sake of Allāh, but because he fears people will look down on him and criticize him if he does not do it. For example, a man may make his formal prayers in the mosque because he does not want people to criticize him for praying at home, or to think that he is not praying at all.
3. Greed for people's Possessions
If a person covets what other people possess, whether it is rank, money or power, then he will wish them to envy him similarly. For example, if he is jealous of a position of a certain person in society, he will try by every possible means to attain the same position. Such desires lead people to spend their lives putting on a show for other people so that they will admire their rank, money, or power.
These three categories’ are implied in the following statement of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam). Abu Musa (Radiallāhu`anhu) related that a person came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) and asked: "A person fights to defend his honor (i.e. to avoid criticism), another to prove his bravery (i.e. to be praised for it), and a third to show off (i.e. so that his position can be seen); of these three, which one fights in the way of Allāh?” He (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) answered:
"Whoever fights to make the word of Allāh prevalent [i.e. to bring honor to Islam, and to establish it in the land], he is the one who fights in the way of Allāh"
(Sahih al-Bukhari vol. 4 No.65)
Some scholars advised:
"Remove the causes of riya’ from yourself by considering the opinion of people as important to you as animals and small children. Do not differentiate in your worship between the presence of people or their absence, or between their knowledge of your actions and their ignorance. Rather be conscious of the infinite knowledge of Allāh alone."
Ways to Avoid Riya’
1. Knowledge of Islam and the Faith in Almighty Allāh.
2. Knowledge of the destructive Riya’
3. Reflecting upon benefit of Heaven and consequence the dreadful Hellfire
4. Duā’. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) taught the specific duā’ for riya’: "Allāhummainna na’udzubika an-nushrika bika shai’an na’lamuhu, wa nastaghfiruka lima la na’lamuh. [O Allāh, we seek refuge in you from committing syirik knowingly, and ask your forgiveness for (the shirik that we may commit unknowingly"]
5. Be humble and always ikhlas over one's Good Deeds
6. Reflection upon's one self’s shortcomings
7. Be close and mixes with the Pious