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 24 – Showing Off is Polytheism Manifested Through Deeds
وَ فِي رِوَايَةِ أَبِي الْجَارُودِ عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ ع قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص عَنْ تَفْسِيرِ قَوْلِ اللَّهِ «فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا » فَقَالَ: مَنْ صَلَّى مُرَاءَاةَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ- وَ مَنْ زَكَّى مُرَاءَاةَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ- وَ مَنْ صَامَ مُرَاءَاةَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ- وَ مَنْ حَجَّ مُرَاءَاةَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ- وَ مَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلًا مِمَّا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ- مُرَاءَاةَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ- وَ لَا يَقْبَلُ اللَّهُ عَمَلَ مُرَاءَاةٍ.
Hadith #23: Imam Baqir (a) says that the Prophet was asked regarding the verse: [18:110] 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.”
So he (p) replied: One who prays to show off to people, he is a polytheist, one who gives Zakat to show off to people, he is a polytheist, one who fasts to show off to people, he is a polytheist, one who performs the Hajj to show off to people, he is a polytheist, one who does an act which Allah has commanded to do, but only to show off to people, then he is a polytheist, and Allah does not accept a deed that was done to show off.
What is really fascinating to observe is that when we read the verses of the Quran and narrations, we find that two distinct groups of people have constantly been referred to as polytheists – the idol-worshippers and the show-offs. The only difference is that idol worshipers are truly and literally referred to as polytheists, whereas show-offs are figuratively referred to as polytheists.
This is because, an idol worshiper’s actual act, his actual worship is polytheism, just like Allah is deserving of worship, an idol worshiper believes these idols are deserving of worship and praise.
On the contrary the show off’s actual physical act is not polytheism – no, his act may be praying, or fasting, or performing the hajj, but its his intention that is considered polytheistic and this manifests through the act that he’s performing.
The idol-worshipers have replaced Allah or have taken partners with Allah in the very act of worship, they prostrate to the idols just as they would also prostrate to Allah. Such a person is a real polytheist, a disbeliever and the legal verdicts deeming the impurity of such individuals is applicable upon them.
But a show-off does not prostrate to someone other than God, rather his or her prostration is to God, but they are prostrating to God for the sake of people. They aren’t associating partners with Allah by prostrating to more than one God, they are prostrating to God just like the believers generally do, but the only difference is that a believer would prostrate sincerely, not for anyone else except for Allah alone, where as a show off associates partners with Allah in his or her intentions, and instead of prostrating to seek proximity to Allah – he does so to seek proximity in the eyes of people.
The narration we read goes on to apply this principle on the Zakat, on fasting, on the Hajj, or on any action where a person shows off. A person who gives Zakat for the sake of people commits a polytheistic act from the perspective of his intentions, or a person who goes to Hajj for the sake of people, he commits an act of polytheism due to his or her intentions – he performs the sacred pilgrimage, but for the sake of people, a person does the divine fast ordained by Allah, but for the sake of people – and this is the way his polytheism manifests its self.
Riyā’ is such a severe moral vice, that we’ll see in the next episode, how Imam Sadiq (a) explains one of the consequences of a person who has polluted their soul with this vice.
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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.