Warning Signs of Riyâ’ (Showing Off)

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Certain actions do not directy fall under riyâ’ (doing good deeds to show off, instead of for the sake of Allah) but are the preliminary steps leading to it. They are like signs warning of the impending arrival of riyâ’. If a person finds himself involved in any of these actions, he should honestly question his motives in doing them in order to avoid actually falling into riyâ’. The following are some of the warning signs of riyâ.

1) DELAYING THE OBLIGATORY ACTS OF WORSHIP

If a person is very careless in performing those acts which Allâh has made obligatory on him. such as compulsory formal prayer (Salâh). compulsory charity {Zakâh). or the pilgrimage (Hajj or ‘Umrah). it is an indication that his îmân is very weak. An example of this is the habit of delaying the prayers, until the very last possible moment. For example, some people regularly pray ‘Asr just a few minutes before sunset, while Allâh says:

  “So woe to those who pray. Those who delay their prayers from its stated time, those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men), and who refuse even the smallest kindness.” [1]

In these verses, Allâh has linked riyâ with laxity in performing the obligatory acts. If a person is not motivated by his îmân to perform these acts at their stated times, then it is very likely that his motivation for doing them will be riyâ ‘.

2) LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FOR WORSHIP

Similarly, if a person is not eager to worship his Lord, it is to be expected that he would be eager to receive praise from the people. Concerning the hypocrites. Allâh says in the Qur’ân:

  “Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allâh, but it is He who deceives them. And when they stand up to pray, they stand up with laziness, only to be seen of men, and they hardly remember Allâh at all.” [2]

In these verses, Allâh links laziness in worship with the evil of riyâ’.

3) PUBLIC PERFORMANCE OF GOOD DEEDS

When a person discovers that he is doing good deeds only in public, and doing evil deeds when he is alone, this is an indication that he is falling into riyâ’. The following advice from the scholars of the past is worth considering:

  “Remove the causes of riyâ’ 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 Allâh alone.’[3]


1 Al-Mâ”oon, (107):4-7.

2 An-Nisâ, (4): 142.

3 Quoted in al-Ikhlâs wa ash-Shirk al-Asghar, p. 15.

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