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What Is Riya (Ostentation)?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Answered by Shaykh Riad Saloojee

Question: Assalamu alaykum

What is Riya (ostentation) actually? Is telling to someone else my good deeds Riya?

Answer: Waalaykumsalam wa rahmatullah,

I pray you are well, by the grace of Allah.

Riya, showing-off or ostentation, is to do an act of worship to be seen or praised, and thereby desire a benefit other than Allah’s reward or nearness.

The place of riya is the spiritual heart. Speaking about acts of worship does not necessarily constitute riya. Although it is safer not to mention our religious works, mentioning them where there is no riya in our heart and where there is benefit for others is something commendable.

Riya has many levels. We become more sensitive to riya and its various shades as we draw nearer to Allah and as our hearts cleanse.

One practical way to cleanse our hearts and become more aware of our motives and impulses is to struggle to remain vigilant that Allah is Ever-Watchful (al-Raqib) over our hearts. This is called Muraqabah or Divine Mindfulness.

… And Allah is watchful over all things. (33:52)

As our Muraqabah deepens, we will become more experientially aware of Allah’s majesty and beauty, and less attached to seeking the praise of others.

Ibn Ata’illah (may Allah have mercy on him) notes in one of his spiritual aphorisms:

Efface the concern with the glance of creation by being concerned with the glance of the True Reality (Allah) upon you.

We should also supplicate to Allah for genuine sincerity to Him in words, actions and the inner states of our heart. May Allah grant us true sincerity. Amin.
Warmest salams,

Your brother,
[Shaykh] Riad Saloojee

Shaykh Riad Saloojee graduated and taught in an Islamic seminary in Cape Town, South Africa.  He is a lawyer by training and worked in the field of civil rights advocacy. Currently, he teaches and translates.

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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