Allah Ta’ala says:
“They display to people (their acts of Ibaadat).”
Rasulullah ﷺ said:
“Most certainly, even a little riyaa is shirk.”
Riyaa is the intention to enhance one’s dignity in the eyes of the people by means of acts of obedience to Allah Ta’ala. This attitude totally defeats the purpose of Ibaadat. The purpose of Ibaadat is to gain the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. Since show or display of Ibaadat involves division of purpose, riyaa is termed shirk-e-asghar (the lesser shirk). By means of riyaa one splits the purpose of Ibaadat by endeavouring to attain both public acclaim as well as the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. In this regard the Qur’aan Shareef says:
“He who hopes for the meeting with His Rabb should practise righteousness and associate none with the Ibaadat of his Rabb.”
The Mufassireen have explained that the meaning of “and associate none with the Ibaadat of his Rabb” is “to refrain from riyaa”.
Qadhi Thanaa-ullah explained this aayat in Tafseerul Mazhari as follows:
“He (the worshipper) does not exhibit his good acts nor does he seek reward or praise for his virtuous deeds from anyone besides Allah Ta’ala.”
It is also mentioned in the Hadith Shareef that on the Day of Qiyaamah when Allah Ta’ala will be compensating people for their deeds, the peo ple of riyaa will be commanded to proceed for reward to those for whom they had intended the exhibition of their acts of Ibaadat. In a hadith it is said that on the Day of Qiyaamah three persons will be ushered into the presence of Allah Ta’ala. These three will be an generous person and a Mujaahid who had waged jihaad. These three proffer their respective acts of Ibaadat to Allah Ta’ala Who will say to them: lengthy Aalim, a”You have rendered these deeds for riyaa and acclaim. You rendered these acts so that people may say:
“You are a great Aalim, a generous person and a great mujaahid. You have already obtained what you had sought. People have already praised you on earth. You have therefore no right here. Enter the Fire.”
Rasulullah also said that a deed contaminated by even an atom of riyaa is unacceptable to Allah Ta’ala. Heed this and reflect! In view of the afore-going, never intend to display any act nor intend to conceal it.
Concern yourself with the act itself, intending thereby only the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. Ignore all diversionary waswasah (stray thoughts and whisperings of the nafs and shaitaan) which enter your mind. You may at times be assaulted by the thought that your act is to obtain the acclaim of the people. Ignore this waswasah which in fact is a ploy of shaitaan or the nafs engineered to side-track you from executing the righteous act.
Prior to rendering a good deed, reflect and ascertain your motive. What is your intention for doing the act? Is it to seek the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala or the pleasure of others? If you discern any of the contamination in your niyyat, then purify your intention. Divest it of the contamination and firmly resolve to render the deed for the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala.
The cure for riyaa is the expulsion from the heart of the desire for fame and name.
Riyaa in fact is a branch of hubb-e-jah (love for name, fame and glory). Execute your acts of Ibaadat in solitude. This Ibaadat in solitude refers to such Ibaadat which does not have to be performed in jamaat. However, regarding congregational Ibaadat the elimination of hubb-e-jah will be sufficient to combat riyaa in this avenue. Another efficacious remedy regarding riyaa developing in an act of Ibaadat is to render that specific act of Ibaadat in abundance. Within a short while the riyaa will be dispelled and by force of habit the Ibaadat will become sincere.
“Shariat and Tasawwuf” pg 89,90 by Hadhrat Moulana Maseehullah Khan Rahimahullah- translation by Majlisul Ulama