Ostentation

There is an abundance of proof in the Quran and Sunnah regarding the impermissibility of ostentation; and those who show off are often dispraised, as when Allah The Almighty Said (what means): {So woe to those who pray*[But] who are heedless of their prayer -*those who make show [of their deeds]} [Quran 107:4-6]; and, {So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.} [Quran 18:110]. Allah The Almighty also says, in a Divine Hadeeth: "I have absolutely no need of partners; and he who performs a deed wherein he associates others with Me, I will forsake him and his partner."

The Prophet said: “What I fear most for you is minor Shirk (associating partners with Allah The Almighty).” The Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, asked what that was, so he replied: “Ostentation.”

Further, on the Day of Judgment, when Allah The Almighty will judge people for their deeds, He will tell them to: “[g]o to those whom you used to impress, in order to gain their praise; see if you will find your recompense there.”

That is why, when Abu Umaamah, may Allah be pleased with him, saw a man weeping in prostration in the mosque, he asked him: “Would you do the same if you were at home?"

Causes of ostentation

In Arabic, ostentation is Riyaa’, which is derived from the noun Ru’yah, which means vision. Perhaps that is so, because the essence of pretension is seeking praise and high status in the eyes of people, by showing them one’s good characteristics. This is manifest in many, but chiefly five, external aspects, which include every action by which a person tries to be admired by others: in one’s body, clothing, words, deeds and friends.

If we consider religious ostentation, then a person shows off by his or her body, by having a bony figure, so as to seem to people as persevering in worship, being seriously concerned with matters of religion and deeply fearing the Hereafter. As for appearance and clothing, a person may sometimes keep his or her hair unkempt, lower the head while walking, have a slow gait that suggests humbleness and make sure to retain the mark on the forehead that is caused by prostration. In speech, people’s pretension is apparent when they may constantly admonish people regarding matters of their religion; they may also utter words of wisdom to show their concern with the affairs of the righteous and move their lips in Thikr (remembrance of Allah The Almighty) in the presence of people. An example of ostentation in deeds occurs when a person lengthens the standing, bowing or prostration in prayers, or lowers the head in apparent submission and absolute concentration, such that he or she does not look around while praying. Many may also show off their acquaintances, by, for instance, hosting a scholar, so that people talk about the visit.

Objectives of the ostentatious

A flamboyant person always has an ulterior motive for his or her behavior, whether it is to obtain a certain status or some other purpose. It may be of varying degrees:

He or she may be showing off in order to gain power that enables him or her to commit sins. For example, a person may appear to be pious and conscious of Allah The Almighty, in order to be known for trustworthiness, and consequently assume a position of authority over the treasury, so that he or she could steal as much of it as feasible. This is the most detested kind of ostentation in the sight of Allah The Almighty, because it takes obedience as a pretext to disobedience.

Obedience may be exhibited to obtain a lawful pleasure of this life, such as wealth or marriage. A person with such a behavior pretends to have knowledge and piety, to encourage people to marry him or her or trust him or her with their wealth. This is also forbidden, though on a lesser scale than the previous one, because the person seeks the permitted pleasures of the worldly life by means of showing obedience to Allah The Almighty.

A person may not aim at obtaining the pleasures of life such as money or marriage, but worships Allah The Almighty in front of people, to prevent them from looking down on, or thinking of, him or her as being inferior and not as distinguished in worship as ascetics, but as only one of the common people.

Hidden ostentation

Pretension can be either apparent or hidden. The evident kind is what motivates and urges man to do good deeds, even if he desires by them the reward of Allah The Almighty as well. The hidden type is the ostentation that does not actually motivate one to perform an act of worship which was originally intended for the Sake of Allah The Almighty, but makes it easier. For instance, a person may be accustomed to performing voluntary prayers every night, while feeling that it is heavy and difficult; however, when a guest visits, the same worship seems lighter and a person feels more active.

Another manifestation of unseen ostentation is when people conceal their worship but love that others meet them with smiles and reverence, praise them, hasten in fulfilling their needs, show partiality to them in trade by offering special prices and make place for them; and if that is not done for them, they become greatly offended.

Sincere worshippers, however, fear this type of pretension and attempt to conceal their worship more than sinners try to hide their immorality and wrongdoings. Their every effort is based in the hope that they are sincerely performing their good deeds for the Sake of Allah The Almighty, hoping for His reward for that, being fully aware that such deeds are the only type accepted by Him on the Day of Resurrection, when they will be in dire need of Him.

Cure of ostentation

Since ostentation invalidates good deeds and causes the pretentious person to be detested by Allah The Almighty, it is one of the destructive sins a person should try his or her best to cure within oneself. Indeed, anything with such serious consequences must be treated, so a Muslim must do one of two things:

Uproot the foundation of ostentation, namely, love of praise, abhorrence of criticism and the desire to obtain what others possess. These three factors that prompt people to become affected, can only be treated when a person realizes the harm of pretension, which is that it causes a decline in the righteousness of the heart and deprivation from success in the worldly life and of an honorable status with Allah The Almighty in the Hereafter; this, along with the inevitability of punishment, His abhorrence as well as people’s and evident disgrace. Thus, when we compare the pleasure we will obtain from the attitudes of people toward us, with what we will have to forego in the Hereafter and the invalidation of our good deeds, abandoning ostentation will become as easy for us, as it is for a person who knows how delicious honey is, but leaves it if it contains poison.

Try to thwart any rising urge or incentive to be showy during worship, because though we may strive to cut off the roots of ostentation and pay no attention to any praise, or lack thereof, by others, Satan will not leave us and will cast pretentious thoughts in our hearts while we are busy in worship. Therefore, if the notion of people knowing of our obedience crosses our mind, we must dismiss it by reminding ourselves that it holds no importance as long as Allah The Almighty knows our intention and that we have no need for anyone to know. On the other hand, if we happen to long to bask in other’s approval, we must remember what it is that entices us toward ostentation and that its only outcome would be that we will be susceptible to the Wrath of Allah The Almighty and loss in the Hereafter.

Quitting obedience for fear of ostentation

Some people stop performing a good deed out of fear that it may be a pretentious act on their part; however, that is a mistake. Not only does it fulfill Satan’s wish, it is a pretext for laziness and abandoning what is good. As long as the motivation for a deed is sincere, sound and in accordance with Sharee’ah, a person must not stop doing it because of fear of ostentation. Rather, he or she should counter such thoughts and humble him/herself in front of Allah The Almighty, replacing like of people’s praise with His love.

Al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyaadh said: “Doing good deeds for the sake of people is Shirk and quitting [them] for their sake is ostentation; and sincerity is when Allah The Almighty protects you from both.” Someone else once said: “If a person abandons good deeds out of fear of pretension, he [or she] has renounced both good acts and sincerity.”

2017-11-06T17:02:42+00:00 November 6th, 2017|Beliefs, Islam, Muslim|