Avoiding the sin of Riya (showing off)

Modern muslim people talk to each other
Muslim Man turning to others for approval of what he does © Artinspiring | Dreamstime.com

The term ‘Riya’ in Islam describes the concept of ostentation and showing off a possession or quality with the aim of pleasing people. Our religion teaches us to avoid Riya, as our only aim should be to please our Lord, not his creation – only then will we be rewarded. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

“Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reminders [of it] or [other] injury will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Qur’an 2:262)

We should not do our Ibadah and good deeds just because someone can see us or because people may think highly of us. Doing so places importance on those around us instead of our Creator. Riya will cause us to lose out on the reward for our good deeds. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

“Like those who spend from their wealth to be seen by men, and they do not believe in Allah and the Last Day. Their example is like the example of a hard rock on which is a little soil, then on it falls heavy rain which flows off it and they will not be able to do anything with whatever they have earned and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an 2:264)

We should not risk losing the reward for our good deeds just because we aimed to please people instead of our Lord. We may not realise the times when we are doing good things to achieve the praise of others. We should try our best to avoid this. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in a hadith:

“Shall I not inform you of what I fear for you more than the Masih ad-Dajjal? It is the hidden shirk. It is when a man stands up for prayer, then beautifies his prayer for another to look at.” (Ibn Majah)

Our religion teaches us that when we help others or do things which are considered generous and kind, we should be very careful about what our Niyyah (intention) is. We should not boast about what we have done for other people, as our sincere intention should only be to please our Creator. It is stated in hadith that:

“There are three (types of) people to whom Allah will neither speak on the Day of Resurrection nor look at them nor purify them, and they will have a painful chastisement.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) repeated it three times. Abu Dhar (May Allah be pleased with him) remarked: “They are ruined. Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?” Upon this, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “One who lets down his lower garments (below his ankles’) out of arrogance, one who boasts of his favours’ done to another; and who sells his goods by taking a false oath.” (Muslim)