Ar-Riyaa: The Hidden Shirk

Abu Saeed reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came to us while we were discussing about Dajjal and said,
Should I not inform you of that which I fear for you even more than the dangers of Dajjal? It is the hidden Shirk (Riya); A person stands to pray, and he beautifies his prayer because he sees the people looking at him.” (Sunan Ibn Majah vol. 2, #3389)

Riyaa is to perform acts which are pleasing to Allah with the intention of pleasing other than Allah.

The primary cause of riya is a weakness in Iman (Faith).

When a person does not have strong faith in Allah, he will prefer the admiration of people over the pleasure of Allah.

There are three symptoms that are indicative of riya, and it is essential that a believer avoid all of them.

1. The Love of Praise –
As mentioned in a hadeeth of the first three people being thrown into the 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.

 2. Fear Of Criticism –
No one likes to be criticized.

The dislike of criticism regarding religious practices may be divided into two categories:

The first category is that of a person who neglects a commandment of Allah in order to avoid the criticism of his peers.

The second category is that of a person who obeys certain commandments of Islam, not for the sake of Allah, but because he fears people will look down on him and criticize him if he does not do it.

For example, a man may make his formal prayers in the mosque because he does not want people to criticize him for praying at home, or to think that he is not praying at all.

3. Greed for Peoples 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 position of a certain person 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.

Ways to avoid Riyaa
1. Increasing knowledge of Islam
2. Dua (Supplication)
The Prophet (pbuh) taught the specific dua for riyaa:
“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
4. Hiding ones good deeds
5. Reflection upon oneselfs shortcomings
6. Accompanying the pious
7. Knowledge of Riyaa