Al-Salam ‘Alaykum, this is Syed Ali Imran – and you are listening to the Forties podcast, brought to you by Mizan Institute.
This is episode 21 – Showing Off is Minor Polytheism
وَ قَالَ ص إِنَّ أَخْوَفَ مَا أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمُ الشِّرْكُ الْأَصْغَرُ قَالُوا وَ مَا الشِّرْكُ الْأَصْغَرُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ الرِّئَاءُ يَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ إِذَا جَازَى الْعِبَادَ بِأَعْمَالِهِمْ اذْهَبُوا إِلَى الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ تُرَاءُونَ فِي الدُّنْيَا هَلْ تَجِدُونَ ثَوَابَ أَعْمَالِكُمْ.
Hadith #20: The Prophet (p): The scariest thing I fear for you all is minor polytheism. So the companions asked, what is minor polytheism O Messenger of Allah. The Prophet replied: It is riya’ – showing off. When Allah is giving the recompense to the servants for their deeds, he will say go to those people who you would show off in front of in the world and see if you can find the rewards for your deeds with them.
An insincere act can be of two types: a type which has no reward, but you also do not get any punishment for it in the hereafter, for example if you do Wudhu with the intention of cooling yourself off – the wudhu has no reward since it is not even valid, but there is no punishment for it either.
But another type of insincere act is one where not only is there no reward, but there is a punishment for it as well, and that is when you do the act with the intention of showing off. Riya’ or showing off is haram, and so if you do Wudu with the intention of showing off to people so they think you are always in the state of tahara and purity, not only is the Wudu invalid and you do not get a reward, in fact you may even be punished for it since it is a sin to do Riya’.
So for example, if someone fasts on any given day, but not because it is the month of Sha’ban or Rajab, and that they want to do a recommended fast, but because they just want to go on a diet, they want to do intermittent fasting and they time their fast in a way where it matches with the fast timings of the month of Ramadhan, their Islamic fast is invalid, since they never had the intention to fast, they were actually wanting to do intermittent fasting for a completely different reason. Now if this person instead decides to fast, in the month of Rajab, Sha’ban or even Ramadan for showing off, they want to show off to people that they are religious and engage in worship of Allah in all these three months, then not only is this fast invalid, but it is also a sin.
The narration from the Prophet that was read only speaks of the aspect that an act done for the purpose of showing off is not deserving of any reward from Allah (swt) – since it isn’t even done for Allah (swt). The Hadith says, Allah will tell them to go and seek their reward from the people they were showing off too – this is going to be a humiliating situation for those who would show off, because they will know that those who they would show off to in this world are not going to be able to reward them with anything in the hereafter.
But this narration doesn’t mention that a person showing off will also be punished. Since this narration only spoke about one aspect, in the next episode, we will read a Prophetic hadith in which the second aspect of riya’ is also mentioned, where the Prophet describes the fate of those who show off on the Day of Judgement.
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Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.