Showing-off…A Type of Shirk?

April 17, 2008

Riyaa – Defined

Riyaa is showing off and can include the desire to seek praise or a reputation. It includes worrying what people think of one. Showing-off includes performing one’s deeds for someone else’s sake when they should be done for the sake of Allah (SWT). Does this not sound hypocritical?

Mahmood ibn Lubayd reported that Rasoolullah (SAW) said: “For you, my greatest fear is minor shirk.” The companions said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is minor shirk?” He replied: “Showing off (ar-riyaa), for verily Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection when people are receiving their rewards: ‘Go to those whom you were showing off to in the world and see if you can find any reward from them.'” (Ahmad, at-Tabaraanee, al-Bayhaqee)

Ibn ‘Abbas said: “Riyaa is more hidden than a black ant on a black stone in a dark night.”

Types of Riyaa

Riyaa’ of the body – This occurs by appearing to be emaciated and pale so that others may see the intensity of his striving and the abundant fear of the Hereafter. Also included in this is lowering the voice and sinking of the eyes, showing that one has a weak and feeble body in order to show others that he is diligent in observing fast.

Riyaa’ of the outward appearance – Such as the effects of prostration on the face or wearing a specific type of clothing which only a few people wear and whom people consider to be scholars. So he wears this apparel so that it may be said: “He is a scholar.”

Riyaa’ by one’s speech – This occurs mostly by admonishing others, reminding them, memorising details and narrations for the sake of argumentation, making it open and know that one has copious and abundant knowledge, moving one’s lips for the remembrance of Allaah in the presence of others, becoming angry when evil occurs between people, lowering the voice and making it soft and tender when reciting the Qur’aan so as to show otehrs his fear, sadness and other such things.

Riyaa’ with one’s actions – Like the showing off of the worshipper by lengthening the standing and prolonging the bowing and prostration during prayer. Outwardly displaying humility and showing off with fasting, going on military expeditions, pilgrimage, giving charity and other such things.

Riyaa’ on account of one’s friends and visitors – Like the one who burdens himself in order to visit a scholar or a pious worshipper so that it may be said: “So and so visited so and so”. This also occurs by inviting people to one’s house so that it may be said: “The people of the deen frequently visit him.”

Remedy to Avoid Riyaa:

1. Increasing knowledge of Islam
2. Du`a – The prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa salam) taught the specific Du`a for Riyaa: “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”]
3. Reflecting upon Heaven and Hell and having complete dependence on Allah (SWT)
4. Hiding one’s good deeds as some scholars advise: “Remove the causes of Riyaa` 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 Allah alone.”
5. Reflection upon one self’s shortcomings
6. Accompanying the Pious
7. Knowledge of Riyaa
8. Always renewing one’s intentions (!) and continuously making istighfar


Sources include,, Riyaa: The Hidden Shirk by Yasir Qadhi and Bilal Philips


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