What is Riya (show-off) in Islam?
“Riya means to perform worship with any intention other than the pleasure of Allah Almighty. That’s with the intention of informing others about it to gain something, to be praised, to be considered pious or treated with respect.
Just for the temporary pleasure of being praised, admired and considered pious by others, many people fall into the pit of Riya (show-off). They fail to realize how much Allah Almighty would be displeased with them.
For sure, as the Quran asserted, the good deeds performed by ostentatious people, not for the sake of Allah but preferring worldly life to afterlife will never benefit them at all. The Holy Quran stated;
“Whosoever desires the life of the world and its luxuries, to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds therein, and will not make any reduction in it.” (Quran 11:15)
Whoever’s intention, concern, and goal is in the worldly life, then Allah Almighty will surely compensate him for his good deeds in this life. Then, when reaches the next life, he will have nothing like good deeds that will be rewarded. However, concerning the believer, he will be rewarded for his good deeds in this life and in the Hereafter as well.
Many fail to realize that this is a matter of acute anxiety to be in the category of show-offs as a result of our insincerity. What do you think will become of us in this sinful act? How will you endure the wrath of Allah Almighty? Our delicate bodies fear even slight cold or heat, how will they bear the horrific torments of the Hell Fire?
Considering the dangers of Riya, there is a need for us to ponder on our everyday activities to separate the sincere deeds from the fake once. Compiled below are some common examples of a show-off in our everyday life.
Note that the rulings of some of these examples may change due to differences in condition.
Show-off regarding Salah
- To offer Salah regularly so that people will consider him very steadfast in Salah.
- For a Haafiz to lead Taraweeh Salah for money or fame.
- To offer Salah calmly with the humility of the body in the presence of people to impress them.
- If a person who has offered Nafl Salah such as Salat-ut-Tahajjud and rubs his eyes or stretches during the day in the presence of people so that they will come to know that he has not slept at night but has stayed awake performing good deeds, this is an indication of Riya.
- If a person is considered a regular observer good deeds, but in fact, he is not so, there may be a risk of Riya (show-off) for him. For example, when introduced to people as a performer of these virtuous deeds, he lowers his head with a smile on his face giving the impression as if he performs these deeds. It is an obvious example of Riya (show-off).
- If someone who has woken up to offer Tahajjud coughs loudly or does other things so that his wife or other family members can wake up and be impressed to see him offer Tahajjud, it is an example of Riya.
- To stay late at Masjid after offering Salah so that people can consider him a pious person.
- To offer Salah regularly in the first row of Masjid so that people will praise him and be impressed with him.
- To express regret in the presence of people for missing the first row or Jama’at so that people will consider him very enthusiastic about the first row and Jama’at.
Riya (Show-off) for preachers
- To deliver a speech so that people will praise his speech and call him a good preacher.
- To say emotional sentences in a loud roaring voice during the speech or to recite couplets in an enthusiastic way so that the audience will praise the speech by calling him a great preacher.
- To use wonderful sentences, complicated words, Arabic sayings during the speech so that people will consider him a learned preacher and be impressed with him.
- To say such sentences at the beginning of the speech as: I have been continuously travelling for six days; I had to travel for 13 hours before I reached here; I am very tired, I have not yet eaten a meal but have come here to deliver the speech The preacher says such things so that people will consider him a sincere preacher making sacrifices in the Divine path.
- To deliver a speech excellently and eloquently in the presence of some renowned or rich person so that he will get impressed with the preacher and will praise him.
- To try to motivate some minister or officer to come to the home of the preacher so that people will come to know that officers are impressed with him, and come to his house for Du’a or blessings.
- To advise some officer or rich person or point out his mistakes, giving the impression that he (the preacher) is not overawed even by the influential and powerful people, and feels no fear in expressing the commandment of Shari’ah before anyone.
- If a preacher has ever inspired a rich and renowned person to grow a beard or has persuaded a notorious person to repent of sins, and then mentions this incident to Islamic brothers or during his speech so that people will get impressed with him but not to teach them some lessons, it is also an indication of Riya (show-off).
- To keep the eyes lowered, whilst sitting with people or delivering a speech or making conversation with others so that people will get impressed with him, considering that he keeps his eyes lowered with modesty (whereas his eyes roam and wander everywhere when he is not with people).
- To serve Islam or make religious efforts, bearing hardships so that people will praise the sacrifices he has made and will consider him an active and enthusiastic preacher.
- To travel to the various countries of the world in a Divine path so that people will praise the sacrifices he has made, mentions him as an example to others and calls him an international preacher.
Riya (show-off) for reciters and listeners of the Glorious Quran
- To recite the Holy Quran so that people will give them money, food, and clothes; or will praise his voice, the manner of recitation, pronunciation or couplets.
- To recite Na’at from memory without seeing the book so that people will praise him saying that he has learned so many Na’ats by heart.
- To explain a difficult couplet so that people will consider him an intelligent and learned person.
- To recite unique couplets or to recite couplets in a newly-prepared or copied tune on some special occasion e.g. a holy night so that the audience will get excited.
- To gain expertise in the recitation of Quran and speech so that people will call him an expert in all areas.
- To get his CD or VCD released for the purpose of becoming a renowned Quran reciter (or preacher).
- To pretend to weep or wear a weeping look delivering or listening to a speech, or making or leading Du’a, or reciting or listening to the Quran, so that people will be attracted to him and look at him with praising eyes.
Riya (show-off) for people who spend money in Divine path
- To donate money for religious activities so that people will call the donor a generous person.
- To distribute charity to the poor so that they will gather around him, begging.
- To serve and help patients, the grief-stricken and flood victims etc. so that people will call him a well-wisher of the troubled and a sincere social worker.
Other Different examples of Riya (show-off)
- To use words that show humility for oneself such as a sinful or worthless person so that people will consider him a humble-natured person, praising his humility. (To use such words for oneself without the willingness of the heart is hypocrisy besides riya (show-off).)
- To meet people warmly and politely so that people will consider him a sociable and well-mannered person.
- To wipe tears from eyes, when weeping during Du’a etc. in the presence of others, so that people will get the impression that he is wiping tears to avoid Riya (show-off).
- To say such sentences to impress others as I am very fearful of sins, I am in constant fear of losing my faith, how can I face accountability on the Day of Judgement!
- To have a sad look on the face or to say comforting sentences to those in trouble so that people will consider him a kind-hearted and sympathetic person. (To do so with the intention of comforting a troubled Muslim and that of gaining Divine pleasure is an act of worship and reward of the Hereafter.)
- To act upon Sunnah properly, when eating, drinking, standing up or sitting etc. in the presence of others, so that people will consider him a steadfast follower of Sunnah. If only we would develop the mindset of acting upon Sunnah whilst eating, drinking and doing other things in loneliness as well.
- To eat less, when in a gathering or in the presence of others, so that people will consider him a less-eating person and a steadfast follower of Sunnah.
- To tell one’s own virtuous deeds to someone and then ask him not to tell them to anyone so that he will get impressed and will consider him a sincere person not wanting his deeds to be revealed to others.
- To use the title ‘Haafiz’ with one’s own name so that people will admire him saying: treat him with respect and request him to make dua for them. (If there is no intention of Riya (show-off), it is not prohibited for the Haafiz to use the word ‘Haafiz’ with his name.)
- To perform I’tikaf in Ramadan or recite the Holy Quran in the presence of others or make Du’a in an extremely humble manner so that people will consider him a pious person.
- To perform I’tikaf in Ramadan so that he can eat food for free, at Sahari and Iftari, gifted to Mu’takifeen in the Masjid.
- If someone finds a wise and nice piece of advice while studying, and keeps it secret from others for the purpose of relating it to the attendees in a big Ijtima’ so that they will raise slogans to praise him and acknowledge him as a learned preacher, this is an indication of Riya (show-off).
- To call Azan very melodiously in the holy night so that people will praise his voice and melody.
- To include admonitory quotes [i.e. ones containing warning], interesting parables with wisdom in the book or article one is writing, with the intention of being admired and appreciated.
- To perform Hajj and let others know that one has performed it so that they will call him Haji Sahib.
Remember! The above examples of show-off are aimed at motivating the reader to detect show-off only in their own deeds, not in that of others. Riya is in fact related to the heart and not everyone can be aware of the intentions of others’ hearts.
Therefore, one should never form a negative opinion about a Muslim by suspecting him to be involved in the evils described in the examples. To form a negative opinion (about a Muslim) is a Haram act leading to Hell (May Allah forbid).
I urge fellow Islamic brothers and sisters to please check your virtuous deeds for hidden show-off as it enters into a good deed slower than even the pace of an ant. It’s a fact that the pleasure that lies in show-off cannot even compare the pleasure of delicious foods and wealth. Refraining from this cheap pleasure is very essential.
Therefore, if anyone suspects even a bit of show-off in any of his deeds, he should fearfully repent of it as soon as possible. You can use the following as general signs to spot and deal with Riya in your deeds.
- Being lazy in performing good deeds when alone but active in the presence of people is a sign of Riya.
- Increasing one’s deeds when praised and
- Decreasing the deeds when criticized.
Telling you how to identify ostentation is not enough for you and me. So I’ll like to complete it by giving you some tips on how to stare it off Insha-Allah.
- Get Help from Allah Almighty by making Du’a.
- Always be aware of the harms in Riya.
- Delete all causes of show-off in your life.
- Sincerely perform Good Deeds.
- Guard your intentions very well.
- Avoid satanic whisper during worship or while performing good deeds
- Perform all deeds, in the same manner, be you alone or with people
- Try as much as possible to always hide your good deeds.
- Engage only with righteous people.
- Continue making Dua to Allah.
I hope you find this useful and will spread it to others who may also benefit from it. Jazaakallah Khairan Kaseeran.