To my disappointment they had returned once again. I have seen no creatures as persevere as the spiders. It had been only a fortnight since I last swept away their creepy dwellings and here they were back again. As I brushed away those tiny quarters my mind went back to yet another home; the home of emotions and intentions.
Indeed, our heart also requires that we clean it frequently. Riyaa (dissimulation, show-off) creeps in silently and spins its webs in every unheeded nook and cranny. We may start something solely for the sake of Allah Almighty; however Shaitan keeps pitching to sneak his part. We human beings may become negligent but Iblees never misses a chance to deprive us of our good deeds.
Our Loving Prophet (p.b.u.h) warned us beforehand:
“The thing that I fear most for you is the minor Shirk; Riyaa” (Ahmad in his Musnad).
In another authentic hadeeth it is narrated that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) said
“Shall I not inform you of what I fear for you more than the maseeh ud-dajjaal? It is the hidden shirk. It is when a man stands up for prayer, and then beautifies his prayer for another to look at.” [Ibn Majah – The hadeeth is Hasan).
Whether it is spending all your wealth in a good cause, or giving up your life in the way of Allah, if done for praise and popularity among people, it’ll all go in vain. One did sacrifice and pay the price, but got nothing in return, only because Shaitan was successful enough to rob the sincerity. This indeed is the ultimate loss! Allah (s.w.t) says in The Quran:
“Say (O Muhammad): “Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds! They are those who deny the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection,
We shall not give them any weight.” [Surah Al-Kahf: 103-105]
- Do I ignite up when criticised for an act that I did for Allah?
- Do I expect praise for the good that I do?
- Do I become angry if people do not thank me, or don’t do me favours in return of what kindness I did to them?
- Do I day dream about how one day I will become a ‘famous’ scholar or a ‘popular’ Mujahid etc?
- Do I love to brag about how ‘pious’ me and my children are? Do I go about announcing my hasanat (good deeds)?
- Are my prayers as lengthy and as beautiful in solitude as they are in front of others?
- Do I give some hidden Sadaqah or is it all for the fame?
These questions highlight some of the symptoms of this disastrous disease. Never should we be in a comfort zone regarding this slippery trap. Riya is subtle indeed like a black ant on a black stone in a dark night.
Our intentions need constant vigilance. Check them every day before going to bed, before every step, before every deed that you perform. There are a number of things that become routine for us and we don’t keep in mind the fact that we are doing them for Allah. An example is Salah; is it just an exercise or our secret meeting with Allah? Another example is how we deal with the people around us; are we being nice just for the sake of it or do we seek Allah’s pleasure? It is our intentions that change the status of our deeds from mere routine work to deeds of worship. A man naturally provides for his family, however if done with the proper intention it can become a Sadaqah for him.
How to Avoid Riyaa?
1. Befriend the Quran: As human beings we tend to be forgetful. One of the ways to keep ourselves reminded is holding fast to the Qur’an. The repetitive reminders and remembrance of Allah will strengthen our heart and make us watchful of the traps of Shaitan.
2. Know Your Rabb: We love to hear the praise of people due to the high status that they have in our hearts. This is because we are not aware and have not yet recognized the greatness of our Creator. His Power, His might, His Knowledge, His beauty and His Love is what should charm us and intrigue us, and create in us the desire to be loved by Him and praised by Him. Ponder over the attributes of Allah and the wonders of His creation. Remember the best gathering that you wished to be mentioned in; that of Allah and the angels!
3. Don’t Fear the People: At times we do an action or forsake an action just out of the fear of people; their anger and criticism, or only because they might form a bad opinion about us. Remember the real worth of people; they are all from mud and will return to it one day. The approval of people is a myriad; a thing that makes one happy shall anger the other. When one seeks the love and pleasure of Allah, Allah also puts his love in the hearts of creation. However, when one seeks the pleasure of people he gets his hands on nothing.
4. Hide Good Deeds: Try best to hide your good deeds and perform some secret actions just for the sake of Allah. For example, try and wake up for Qiyam ul lail. It is the best remedy for diseased hearts. It is your special secret meeting that no one else knows about.
5. Duas: Dua is the greatest helper along the path to Paradise. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) has taught us duas for every occasion and every need. Repeat this dua often to ward off the hidden shirk that might take roots in the heart:“Allahumma innaa na`oothu bika an-nushrika bika shay`an na`lamuhu, wa nastagfiruka limaa laa na`lamuh. [O Allah, we seek refuge in you from committing shirk knowingly, and ask your forgiveness (for the shirk) that we may commit unknowingly]
It is not just the quantity that matters, quality matters too. The quality of our deeds rests on the state of the heart. We need to strengthen it and purify it so that our inner self is better and more beautiful than our outer self. Ibn al Qayyim writes in Madarij-us-Salikeen: “Ikhlas(sincerity) is when the servant’s internal and external actions are the same. And Riyaa is when the external actions are better than the internal actions (of the heart). Truthfulness in one’s sincerity is when the internal is better (developed) than the external.”