Shaykh Abû Ammâr Yasir al-Qadhî




The Definition of Riyâ'


Linguistically, riyâ' comes from the root ra 'â . which means "to see. to behold, to view." The derived word riyâ ' means "eyeservice; hypocrisy, dissimulation; dissemblance.'"[1]

From a Sharî'ah point of view, it means "to perform acts which are pleasing to Allâh. with the intention of pleasing other than Allâh". The intention may be a totally false intention, where the person who does this act has no consciousness of Allâh whatsoever, or it may be a partially false intention, where the person does have Allâh in mind, but at the same time desires praise from other people.

From this definition, it can be seen that riyâ ' originates in the heart. The scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamâ'ah are agreed that belief (îmân) comprises actions of the heart (such as fear, love, trust and hope), actions of the tongue (such as the utterance of the shahâdah), and actions of the limbs (such as the performance of the prayer and pilgrimage). Shaykh al-Islâm Ibn Taymîyah said. "[The actions of the heart] are part of the fundamentals of belief, and the foundations of religion. Included in it are: love for Allâh and His Messenger trust in Allâh, sincerity of religion for Allâh. thankfulness to Him, patience with His Decree, fear of Him. ... and all of these actions are obligatory upon all of the creation, according to the unanimous agreement of all the scholars."[2] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzîyah said. "The actions of the heart are the foundation (of belief), and the actions of the limbs follow and complete them. Intention is like the soul, and actions like the body : if the soul leaves the body, the body dies. Therefore, knowledge of the affairs of the heart is more important than knowledge of the affairs of the limbs ... How else is a hypocrite distinguished from a believer except by the deeds of the heart? The worship and submission of the heart is greater than the worship and submission of the limbs, they are more in number, and more continuous, since it (i.e. worship by the heart) is obligatory at every instance."[3]

1 A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, p.320.

2 Ma/moo' al-Fatawâ, vol. 10. p.5.

3Badua'i' al-Fuwâ'id, vol.3, pp.224 & 330.


Source: http://www.islaam.net/main/display.php?id=1115&category=12


Warning Signs of Riyâ'


Certain actions do not directy fall under riyâ' but are the preliminary steps leading to it. They are like signs. warning of the impending arrival of riyâ'. If a person finds himself involved in any of these actions, he should honestly question his motives in doing them in order to avoid actually falling into riyâ'. The following are some of the warning signs of riyâ ':


If a person is very careless in performing those acts which Allâh has made obligatory on him. such as compulsory formal prayer (Salâh). compulsory charity {Zakâh). or the pilgrimage (Hajj or 'Umrah). it is an indication that his îmân is very weak. An example of this is the habit of delaying the prayers, until the very last possible moment. For example, some people regularly pray 'Asr just a few minutes before sunset, while Allâh says:



"So woe to those who pray. Those who delay their prayers from its stated time, those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men), and who refuse even the smallest kindness." [1]


In these verses, Allâh has linked riyâ with laxity in performing the obligatory acts. If a person is not motivated by his îmân to perform these acts at their stated times, then it is very likely that his motivation for doing them will be riyâ '.


Similarly, if a person is not eager to worship his Lord, it is to be expected that he would be eager to receive praise from the people. Concerning the hypocrites. Allâh says in the Qur'ân:



"Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allâh, but it is He who deceives them. And when they stand up to pray, they stand up with laziness, only to be seen of men, and they hardly remember Allâh at all." [2]


In these verses, Allâh links laziness in worship with the evil of riyâ'.


When a person discovers that he is doing good deeds only in public, and doing evil deeds when he is alone, this is an indication that he is falling into riyâ'. The following advice from the scholars of the past is worth considering:



"Remove the causes of riyâ' 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 Allâh alone.'[3]

1 Al-Mâ"oon, (107):4-7.

2 An-Nisâ, (4): 142.

3 Quoted in al-Ikhlâs wa ash-Shirk al-Asghar, p. 15.


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The Causes of Riyâ'


The primary cause of riyâ' is a weakness in Îmân. When a person does not have strong faith in Allâh, he will prefer the admiration of people over the pleasure of Allâh. This weakness in îmân causes a person to ignore the blessings and rewards of the Hereafter, and increases a person's desire for fame and prestige in this world. This desire causes a person to fall into riyâ'.

There are three symptoms that are indicative of riyâ', and it is essential that a believer avoid all of them. [1]


This symptom is mentioned in the previously mentioned hadîth concerning the first three people to be thrown into the fire of Hell: the scholar, the martyr and the person who gave his money in charity. All three of these people desired the praise of people, over and above the pleasure of Allâh. 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. Abû Hurayrah quoted Allâh's Messenger (saws) as saying:



"Allâh - Most Great and Glorious - said: Pride is My cloak, and greatness my Robe, so whoever competes with Me, with respect to either of them, I shall cast him into Hell. "[2]

In another hadîth Abû Hurayrah quoted Allâh's Messenger's (saws) 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! "[3]

Allâh also warned against falling into the category of those Christians and Jews whom the Qur'ân 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."[4]


This is why the Prophet's Companions, may Allâh's pleasure be on all of them, feared greatly to even be put in a situation where they would be praised. 'Abdur-Rahmân ibn Abî Laylî [5] reported:


"I met over one hundred and twenty of the Prophet's Companions from among the Ansâr. Whenever any of them was asked for a religious verdict, he wished that someone else would answer it for him." [6]

Their reluctance to give religious rulings was also due to their great fear of saying something incorrect about the religion.


No one likes to be criticised. The dislike of criticism regarding religious practises may be divided into two categories.

A. The first category is that of a person who neglects a commandment of Allâh in order to avoid the criticism of his peers. He prefers to disobey Allâh rather than be unpopular among people. For example, some men do not wish to keep beards, and some women do not wear the proper Hijâb because they fear the criticism of their peers. This, obviously, is something prohibited (harâm). but does not fall under the heading of riyâ'. The believers are described in the Qur'ân as follows:


"...(They) do not fear the criticism of those who criticize. And this is the blessing of Allâh; He gives it to whomsoever He wishes. Verily, Allâh is Self-Sufficeint, All-Knowing."[7]


The true believer realizes that the criticism by created beings is nothing in comparison to criticism by the Creator.

B. The second category is that of a person who obeys certain commandments of lslâm, not for the sake of Allâh, but because he fears people will look down on him and criticise 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 criticise him for praying at home, or to think that he is not praying at all. Or, a lady may wear the Islamic outer-garment and scarf when attending religious gatherings because she does not want her religious friends or the lecturer to think bad of her. This category falls under the general topic of riyâ'.


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 the 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. Religious acts will likely be incorporated into the show leading inevitably to the major sin of riyâ'. These three categories are implied in the following statement of Prophet Muhammad (saws): Abû Mûsâ related that a person came to the Prophet and asked,



"A person fights to defend his honour (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 Allâh?"He (saws) answered:''Whoever fights to make the Word of Allâh prevalent [i.e. to bring honor to Islâm, and to establish it in the land], he is the one who fights in the way of Allâh."[8]

1 Quoted from ar-Riyâ' by Salîm al-Hilâlî.

2 Sahih Muslim, vol.4, p. 1381, no.6349 and Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.3, pp.1141-2. no.4079.

3Authenticated in Mishkâh al-Masâbîh. no. 5122. The English text can be found in Mishkat Al-Masahih. vol.2, no. 1061.

4 Âl 'Imrân, (3): 188.

5 'Abdur-Rahmân ibn Abî Laylâ (15-83 A.H.) was born during the caliphate of "Umar ibn al-Khattâb. He narrated hadîths from 'Alî, Ubayy ibn Ka'ab and many other Companions, of. Tahthîb al Kamâl, no.3943 and Tahthîb at-Tahthîb, no 4134.

6 Reported by ad-Dârimî (Sunan ad-Dârimî. vol.1, no.53) and lbn Sa'd in at-Tabuqât al-Kubrâ, and authenticated by al-Hilâlî in ar-Riyâ.

7 Al-Mâ'idah,(5):54.

8 Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.4, p.50, no.65, Sahih Muslim, vol.3, p. 1054, no.4684 and Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.2, p.698. no.2511.

Riyaa: Hidden Shirk published by Al Hidayaah


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