What are the signs that a person is seeking to build an 'image' instead of developing true faith by way of righteous deeds?
In his book, Riyaa: The Hidden Shirk, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi writes:
"Linguistically Riyaa comes from the root "ra'aa" which means to see; to behold; to view. The derived word 'Riyaa' means "eye-service; hypocrisy; dissimulation; dissemblance."
From a Sharee'ah point of view, it means: "To perform acts which are pleasing to Allaah, with the intention of pleasing other than Allaah."
The primary cause of Riyaa' is a weakness in faith (Eemaan). When a person does not have strong faith in Allaah, he will prefer the admiration of people over the pleasure of Allaah."
There are three symptoms that are indicative of Riyaa', and it is essential that a believer avoid all of them.
1) The love of praise:
A Hadeeth mentions the first three people being thrown into hellfire—the scholar (who taught for fame), the martyr (who fought for fame), and the person who gave his money in charity (so people would say he is generous). All three of these people desired the pleasure of people over the pleasure of Allah. 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.
The Messenger of Allah ( peace be upon him) said:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ النَّاسِ يُقْضَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَلَيْهِ رَجُلٌ اسْتُشْهِدَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ قَاتَلْتُ فِيكَ حَتَّى اسْتُشْهِدْتُ . قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ قَاتَلْتَ لأَنْ يُقَالَ جَرِيءٌ . فَقَدْ قِيلَ . ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ
"The first of men (whose case) will be decided on the Day of Judgment will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought (before the Judgment Seat). Allaah will make him recount His blessings (i. e. the blessings which He had bestowed upon him) and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his life). (Then) will Allaah say: 'What did you do (to requite these blessings)?' He will say: 'I fought for Thee until I died as a martyr.' Allaah will say: 'You have told a lie. You fought that you might be called a "brave warrior". And you were called so.' (Then) orders will be passed against him and he will be dragged with his face downward and cast into Hell.
وَرَجُلٌ تَعَلَّمَ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمَهُ وَقَرَأَ الْقُرْآنَ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ تَعَلَّمْتُ الْعِلْمَ وَعَلَّمْتُهُ وَقَرَأْتُ فِيكَ الْقُرْآنَ . قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ تَعَلَّمْتَ الْعِلْمَ لِيُقَالَ عَالِمٌ . وَقَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ قَارِئٌ . فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ حَتَّى أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ .
Then will be brought forward a man who acquired knowledge and imparted it (to others) and recited the Qur'aan. He will be brought And Allaah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Then Allaah will ask: 'What did you do (to requite these blessings)?' He will say: 'I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur'aan seeking Thy pleasure.' Allah will say: 'You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called "a scholar," and you recited the Qur'aan so that it might be said: "He is a Qari" and such has been said.' Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire.
وَرَجُلٌ وَسَّعَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَعْطَاهُ مِنْ أَصْنَافِ الْمَالِ كُلِّهِ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ فَعَرَّفَهُ نِعَمَهُ فَعَرَفَهَا قَالَ فَمَا
عَمِلْتَ فِيهَا قَالَ مَا تَرَكْتُ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ تُحِبُّ أَنْ يُنْفَقَ فِيهَا إِلاَّ أَنْفَقْتُ فِيهَا لَكَ قَالَ كَذَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّكَ فَعَلْتَ لِيُقَالَ هُوَ جَوَادٌ . فَقَدْ قِيلَ ثُمَّ أُمِرَ بِهِ فَسُحِبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ ثُمَّ أُلْقِيَ فِي النَّارِ " .
Then will be brought a man whom Allah had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth. He will be brought and Allaah will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them and (admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Allaah will (then) ask: 'What have you done (to requite these blessings)?' He will say: 'I spent money in every cause in which Thou wished that it should be spent.' Allaah will say: 'You are lying. You did (so) that it might be said about (You): "He is a generous fellow" and so it was said.' Then will Allah pass orders and he will be dragged with his face downward and thrown into Hell." (Saheeh Muslim)
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
مَنْ طَلَبَ الْعِلْمَ لِيُمَارِيَ بِهِ السُّفَهَاءَ أَوْ لِيُبَاهِيَ بِهِ الْعُلَمَاءَ أَوْ لِيَصْرِفَ وُجُوهَ النَّاسِ إِلَيْهِ فَهُوَ فِي النَّارِ
"Whoever seeks knowledge in order to argue with the foolish, or to show off before the scholars, or to attract people's attention, will be in Hell." (Sunan Ibn Maajah, Da'if [Weak].)
2) Fear of criticism:
No one likes to be criticised.
The dislike of criticism regarding religious practices may be divided into two categories:
a. The first category is that of a person who neglects a commandment of Allaah in order to avoid the criticism of his peers. However, the true believers are described in the Qur'aan as follows:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ
وَلَا يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لَائِمٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
"...They do not fear the criticism of those who criticise. And this is the blessing of Allah; He gives it to whomsoever He wishes. Verily, Allaah is Self-Sufficient, all Knowing. " [Al-Maa'idah : 54]
b. The second category is that of a person who obeys certain commandments of Islaam, not for the sake of Allaah, but because he fears people will look down upon him and criticise him if he does not do it. For example, a man may make his formal prayers in the Masjid because he does not want people to criticise him for praying at home, or to think that he is not praying at all.
3) Greed for people's possessions
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 a certain person's position 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.
How does one go about seeking sincerity?
Imaam Ibn-al Qayyim al Jawziyyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) says:
"If your soul informs you to quest for Ikhlaas, turn first towards your yearning [of showing off] and slaughter it with a knife [in a state] of desperation. Then turn [in a state of] asceticism upon (i.e. against) praise and commendation... If your quest in slaughtering the yearning [of showing off], and [the acquisition of] asceticism [against] praise and commendation is successful, your [journey] shall be facilitated in your [quest] for Ikhlaas."
Tameem ad-Daaree (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said thrice (to lay stress): "The Deen is Naseehah (sincerity and sincere advice)." We said: "To whom?" He said: "To Allaah, His Book, His Messenger and to the leaders of the Muslims and the general people." [ Saheeh Muslim]
Imaam an-Nawawee (may Allaah have mercy on him) has a lengthy commentary on this Hadeeth in Sharh Saheeh Muslim, in which he says:
"Sincerity to Allaah means:
- Having faith in Him...
- Avoiding disobedience to Him;
- To love for His sake and to hate for His sake;
- To keep good relations with those that obey Him and to have enmity with those that disobey Him...
- To recognise His favours and to give thanks to Him for them;
- To have sincerity in all affairs...
- To show kindness to all the people, all those whom you are able to, in this call...
- ..Sincerity to the general Muslims ... is to guide them to what is beneficial for them, both in the Hereafter and this life. To keep harm away from them;
- To teach them that which they are ignorant of regarding the Deen...
- To help them by words and actions;
- To hide their faults and to fulfil their needs and wants;
- ... To bring that which is of benefit to them;
- Enjoin them with good and forbid them from evil, with gentleness, sincerity and compassion for them.
- Having respect for their elderly and mercy for their young.
- ...Not acting deceitfully towards them.
- To love the good things for them, which he would love for himself. To hate the bad things for them, which he would hate for himself.
- To protect their wealth and reputation,
- and encourage and advise them to take on the character of all that we have mentioned, form all the types of sincerity..."
If you skipped the last three paragraphs, I urge you to scroll up and read them slowly and carefully – they contain the prescription to our problems as an Ummah.
As Muslims, our main concern is not to score points over each other—it is to help each other gain Allaah's pleasure.
As Muslims, our job in this world is to establish the Truth—how can we presume to do that when we fail to be honest in our innermost motives?
As Muslims, our supplication is, as was the prayer of the righteous predecessors:
اللهم اجعل باطننا خيراً من ظاهرنا، واجعل ظاهرناً خيراً
Allaahummaa ij'al baatinanaa khayran min dhaahirina; wa-ija'al dhaahiranaa khayran
"O Allaah! Make the hidden aspects of our personality better than our outer persona; and make our appearance good".
How can we assume vicegerency over the Earth when we fail to be sincere slaves to our Lord; when we are concerned with outward appearances more than the state of our soul?