What is riyāʾ and can you please advise how to fix it?


Bismillahi Taʿālā

Assalāmu ʿalaykum waraḥmatullāhī wabrakātuh,

Riyāʾ means “show off”. It is an illness of the heart which remains hidden, unless accountability is made of it. Riyāʾ can creep into many different forms and can afflict even the righteous.

Scholars have written numerous treatise on rectification of riyāʾ in one’s thoughts, actions and ʿibādāt. It has a tendency of eating away one’s good deeds like fire.

Many actions and ʿibādāt are affected by insincerity leading to Riyāʾ where one starts to do actions to please one’s nafs instead of Allah. If one were to think hard then making our nafs’s pleasure a goal instead of pleasing Allah is nothing short of ascribing partners to Allah. Imām Tirmiẓī raḥimahullāh has pointed towards this while quoting the hadeeth, “Indeed riyāʾ is shirk”

In our times, we seek quick fixes for everything. While there is no quick fix for a life long misplaced sincerity, one prescription given by our teachers for shunning riyāʾ and strengthening one’s ikhlās is through sincere “Istighfār“.

For every action you do, follow it with sincere Istighfār from Allah for not having sincere intention in it. InshāʾAllāh, over time this will rectify the intention and diminish the riyāʾ.

At the same time, keep close guidance from pious scholars and guides who can assist you in progress of your heart’s rectification.

Finally, one should also be mindful that many individuals who realize the gravity of riyāʾ tend to abandon their ʿibādāt in fear of falling prey to riyāʾ. This retaliation itself is nothing less than the calamity of riyāʾ itself. The idea is to gain closeness of Allāh, inward and outward. Hence if avoidance of riyāʾ leads one to abandon the very act which was to take him closer to Allah, then shayṭān has fooled such an individual into abandoning good action. It is at this juncture, the above prescription is most useful. Carry on with the ʿibādah, while continuing to seek istighfār from Allāh.

May Allah Taʿālā assist you in abundance and provide you freedom from riyāʾ like the pious aslaaf (predecessors), Ameen.

And Allāh Taʿālā Knows best,

Wassalamu ʿalaykum,

Mufti Faisal al-Mahmudi


سنن الترمذي – شركة مكتبة ومطبعة مصطفى البابي الحلبي  (4/ 110)

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