Ostentation (Riya’)

Ostentation (Riya’)

قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: من سمع سمع الله به ومن يراء يراء الله به.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
“Whoever publicises (his deeds), Allah will publicise him (and his faults), and whoever displays (his deeds), Allah will make a display of him.”

وقال صلى الله عليه وسلم لمن سأله: ما النجاة غدا يا رسول الله؟ فقال: ألا تخادع الله، فقال: فكيف أخادع الله؟ فقال: أن تعمل ما أمر الله ورسوله وتريد غير وجه الله.
And he (s.a.w.) said to the one who asked:
“How can we be saved tomorrow (i.e., on the Day of Resurrection), O Messenger of Allah?”
He said: “Do not cheat Allah.” The man said: “But how can we cheat Allah?” The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “By doing what Allah and His Messenger have commanded, desiring thereby something other than the Pleasure of Allah.”

In the Muslim Ummah, there are unfortunately many religious people who commit ostentation by making great efforts to appear very pious and obedient to Allah, but with the intention of doing so to show off and gain respect and honour among other people. This is Haram. The Prophet has described such ostentation as being the “secret Shirk”, which is less detectable than a black ant creeping silently on a black rock in the deepest darkness of night.

Through ostentation, evil thoughts enter the mind. Ostentation is a disease which gradually consumes good deeds like a fire. A great effort is needed to detect ostentation in a man, and an even greater effort is needed to deal with it effectively.

وقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: يؤمر يوم القيامة بناس من النار إلى الجنة حتى إذا دنوا منها واستنشقوا ريحها ونظروا إلى قصورها وما أعد الله لأهلها فيها، نودوا أن اصرفوهم عنها لا نصيب لهم فيها، فيرجعون بحسرة ما رجع الأولون بمثلها فيقولون: ربنا لو أدخلتنا النار قبل أن ترينا ما أريتنا من ثوابك وما أعددت فيها لأوليائك كان أهون علينا. قال عز وجل: ذلك أردت بكم كنتم إذا خلوتم باردتموني بالعظام وإذا لقيتم الناس لقيتموهم مخبتين، تراءون الناس بخلاف ما تعطوني من قلوبكم. هبتم الناس ولم تهابوني، وأجللتم الناس ولم تجلوني، وتركتم للناس ولم تتركوا لي: اليوم أذيقكم أليم العذاب مع ما حرمتم من الثواب.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, some people will be commanded to be taken from the Fire to Paradise until, when they are near it, they will we able to smell its fragrance and see its palaces and what Allah has prepared for the dwellers therein, and it will be called: “Take them away from it, they will have no portion of it!” So, they will be returned, in such distress and anguish that no-one has ever experienced before, and they will say: “Our Lord! If You had caused us to enter the Fire before showing us what You showed us of Your reward and what You have prepared for Your friends, it would have been more bearable for us.” Allah, the Majestic and Almighty, will say: “That is what I wanted for you: You used to face Me with great sins, and when you met the people, you would meet them feigning humility” you showed to people something different to what you brought before Me in your hearts. You feared the people, and you did not fear Me. You glorified the people, and you did not glorify Me. You left things for the people, and you did not leave anything for Me: Today I will make you taste the pain of the torment, along with (the regret due to) the reward of which you have been deprived.”

Ostentation has been forbidden in many places in the Qur’an. Ostentation, or Riya’, is opposite to sincerity, or Ikhlas. It is a very dangerous enemy which lurks in the innermost depths of a man’s mind and renders all his deeds void. Allah says:

فويل للمصلين الذين هم عن صلاتهم ساهون الذين هم يراءون
Woe, then, to those who perform Salah, but who are unmindful of their Salah: Those who want only to be seen…

This is further emphasised by the Hadith:

يخرج في آخر الزمان رجال يختلون الدنيا بالدين يلبسون للناس جلود الضأن من اللين ألسنتهم أحلى من العسل وقلوبهم قلوب الذئاب. يقول الله: أبى يغترون أم علي يجترئون أمني؟ حلفت لأبعثن على أولئك منهم فتنة تدع الحكيم حيران.
‘There will appear in the end of the age men who prefer this world to the Din, they will appear to the people dressed in the skins of lambs on account of their gentleness, their tongues sweeter than honey, their hearts the hearts of wolves’. Allah says: Are they arrogant before Me? Or do they feel secure from Me? I have sworn to call upon those of them such a tribulation that will puzzle and confuse the wise.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
إن أخوف ما أخاف عليكم الشرك الأصغر. قالوا: وما الشرك الأصغر يا رسول الله؟ قال: الرياء.
“The thing that I fear the most for you is the minor Shirk.” They said: “And what is the minor Shirk, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Ostentation.”

Ostentation is a detestable evil, which ruins one’s Dunya and Akhirah. It causes a man to praise someone in front of his eyes and to backbite him in his absence. Once, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (r.a.a.) saw a man walking with his neck bent down to the ground. He said to him: “O owner of the neck! Raise your neck because reverence is not in the neck but in the heart.”

A Mu’min should be frank with himself and should not deceive himself. He should be frank with the people and not hypocritical with them. And he should not do things for show.

Let us all listen to the words of Ibn as-Sammak:

How many are those who remind others of Allah and yet themselves forget Him.
How many are those who inspire the fear of Allah in others but are themselves daring in front of Him.
How many are those who lead others closer to Allah but are themselves far from Him.
How many are those that call towards Allah but that themselves flee from from Him.
And how many are those that recite the Qur’an but are themselves ignorant of it.

I will end this Khutbah with reference to one Hadith in which the Prophet (s.a.w.) informed us that among those who will be sheltered under Allah’s Throne on the Day of Judgement is the man whose left hand was unaware of the charity that his right hand had given. Meaning that one’s good deeds must be performed without expecting anything from others.

May Allah protect us from the fitnah of Riya’. May He instil in our hearts Ikhlas so that we perform every deed for His sake only. May He free us of the disease of craving for the fame, glory and respect of the Duniyah.

سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك
أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت
أستغفرك وأتوب إليك