Developing Taqwa (continued from Part 1)

In Part 1 we discussed ostentation — showing off (riyâ)— as a deadly disease which works against living in the conscious awareness and ‘fear’ of Allah (taqwa). We warned against being a munâfiq (hypocrite) because hypocrisy opposes sincerity (ikhlâs) in pleasing Allah.  We also introduced the term hayâ, meaning shame, modesty or humility before Allah.  We continue in illustrating these concepts.

A believer first of all should be shy, or ashamed, having humility (hayâ) in front of Allah, careful not to allow ostentation in his behavior. Hence, he should perform his worships regularly and with sincerity (ikhlâs).

A lesson in hayâ is found in the following story:

Narrated by ‘Ali bin ‘Emrullah:

Once, one of the scholars of the of Bukhara saw the children of the ruler playing an unpleasant game on the street, He hit the children with his staff, the children ran away and complained to their father, the ruler called the scholar to his presence and asked him whether he did not know that anyone who opposed the ruler would be imprisoned, The scholar answered him by asking whether he did not know that anyone who opposed Almighty Allah would go to Hell.

The ruler asked him how he [the scholar] had got the authority to make commands for doing good deeds, the scholar replied by asking him who had appointed him as a ruler. The ruler answered that the Caliph had appointed him as a ruler. Then, the scholar responded that the Lord of the Caliph had assigned him [the Caliph] the duty to command the doing of good deeds.

The ruler then told [the scholar] that he was giving him the authority for making commands for doing good deeds in the city of Bukhara. Thereupon the scholar answered that in that case he was resigning from that duty, the ruler told him that he was surprised by his rejection and said to him: “First you tell me that I am making commands for doing good deeds without permission, and when I give you permission to do that, this time you give up [the duty] and reject [this permission]. What kind of business is this?”

The scholar answered, “You may give permission now but later when you don’t like my applications you will take that permission back. But, when my Lord gives me the duty to make commands for doing good deeds, no one can take away that authority.”

The ruler was pleased with his answer and told him that whatever he wished would be granted, so the scholar told him that he wished to have his youth back, the ruler answered that he could not do [that].

The scholar then told [the ruler] that he should write an order to the chief angel Michael, who is in charge of the angels of Hell, that he should not put him, the scholar, into Hell. The ruler answered that he could not fulfill that wish, either.

The scholar answered that he had a “Sultan” who would give him whatsoever he wished and who had never said, “I cannot,” about anything he had hitherto asked for. The ruler asked him that he should include him in his prayers and let him go.  (Ḥikmah Al-Islâm)

The following ahadith communicate the need for hayâ and ikhlâṣ if one is going to develop taqwa and avoid shirk (associating partners with Allah) or riyâ (pretention):

Narrated by Fudayl ibn ‘lyad (RA):

 “Leaving out an action for [fear of] people is [an example of] riyâ; doing a deed [in show before] people is shirk. ikhlâṣ is that Allah protects you from these two qualities.” (Shu’ayb Al-Imân, Hadith 6469)


Narrated by Mahmud ibn Labid (RA):

“Verily, what I fear most for you is the lesser idolatry [shirk al-asghar].” And he elaborated, “It is showing off [riyâ].” Allah the Exalted will say to them [who show off], on the Day of Resurrection when the people are being rewarded for their deeds: ‘Go to those [with] whom you wished to show off in the world and look for your reward with them.’” (Musnad Ahmad, 23119)


Narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA):

“….  Allah says, ‘Was I not so generous with you that I did not leave you without any needs from anyone?’ He will say, ’Of course, O lord, I used to nurture the ties of kinship and give charity. ‘Then Allah will say to him. ‘You have lied; rather, you wanted it to be said that so-and-so is so generous, and that was said.” …  (Sunan Al-Tirmidhî, 2382)


Al-Dahhak (RA) reported:

The Messenger of Allah said, “Allah Almighty says: I am the best partner. Whoever associates another partner with me, it is only done for the sake of my partner.” Then, the Prophet said, “O people, make your deeds sincere for Allah Almighty. Verily, Allah does not accept any deed unless it is sincerely for him. Do not say: This is for the sake of Allah, and this is for the sake of my relatives. Verily, it was done for your relatives and none of it was for Allah. Do not say: This is for the sake of Allah and for your sake. Verily, it was done for their sake and none of it was for Allah.” (Sunan Al-Dâraqutnî, 111)

The purpose of acts of worship to Allah is to obtain His approval. So then, any worship performed for the purpose of gaining someone else’s favour or love would mean, in effect, to ‘worship’ that person. We are commanded to perform our acts of worship only for the sake of Allah.

Other hadith communicates to us that if one is going to avoid shirk, he needs to be ever mindful of ikhlâs:

Abu Umamah (RA) reported:

The Prophet () said, “Allah Almighty said: The most beloved act with which my servant worships me [is with] sincerity [ikhlâṣ] for my sake.” (Musnad Ahmad, 21687)


Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA) : “Verily, the people will be raised for judgment only in accordance with their intentions.”  (Sunan ibn Majah, 4229)


Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA):

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intention, and every person will get [his] reward according to what he has intended [in his heart]. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration was for Allah and His Apostle. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits, or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.”  (Saî Al-Bukhâ 54)


Narrated  Ka’b Ibn Malik (RA):

Whoever seeks knowledge in order to impress the scholars, or to argue with the foolish, or to attract the attention of people, Allah will admit him into Hellfire.’’ (Sunan Al-Tirmidhî 2654)

Riyâ(pretention, ostentation, showing off) is always a human hazard, and we must guard ourselves against it, focusing instead, on ikhlâṣ and hayâ‘, which are closely linked with taqwa.

Taking Seriously, One’s Fear of Allah —and Balancing it with Hope in His Mercy

Worldly possessions are transitory, and their life span is very short, so trying to obtain them by sacrificing one’s faith is absurdity. All are incompetent in re-writing the rules set in place by Allah. Unless Allah decrees permission, no one can do any favour or harm to any other person. Allah is sufficient for the needs and satisfaction of human beings.

One should have fear of Allah [taqwa] as well as hope in His mercy; one’s hope should exceed his fear, so that anyone having this balanced mixture of fear and hope will derive great pleasure from worshipping his Lord.

Some scholars have stated that youngsters should have more fear than hope and that the elders should have more hope and expectation than fear, while unhealthy people should have more hope and expectation., In fact, it is not permissible to have one without the other. This means that one should not allow himself to have hope without having fear —nor to have fear without having hope. The former case would mean certainty, and the latter means to lose one’s hope.

Abu Hurairah (RA) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah the Exalted says: ‘I am as my slave expects me to be, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me inwardly, I will remember him inwardly, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I will remember him in a better assembly (i.e., in the assembly of angels). (Riya Al-Saliîn 16.28: Saî Al-Bukhâ; Saî Al-Muslim)

 Allah in the Holy Qur’an communicates His promise of hope that the believer is to expect:

 “Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all the sins of His slaves, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful.”  [Sûrah Al-Zumar, 39:53]

Other communications tell us that one’s hope of Allah’s mercy should be more than his fear of Allah. On the other hand, these hadiths inform us that the fear of Allah is necessary:

Narrated by Abu Dharr (RA):

 ‘’Fear Allah wherever you are; follow a bad deed with a good deed and this will erase it; and behave with good character towards people’’ (Sunan Al-Tirmidhî, 1987)


Narrated by Anas ibn Malik (RA):

 “If you knew what I know, you would laugh less than you cry.” (Saî Muslim 2359)

Beware of Your Self-Confidence before Allah

If your belief in yourself is’ I am better than others,’ you are enveloped in a vast ignorance. Rather, you should look at others as better than yourself, in accord with what Imam Ghazali mentions in his Kitâb Bidâyah Al-Hidâyah (pp 59 of the Arabic text published by Capital International Books, Calicut):

  • If you see a child, you should say [to yourself], “He hasn’t disobeyed God while I have disobeyed him, so there is no doubt that he is better than me.”
  • If you see an elder person, you should say, “This man started worshiping Allah before me, so there is no doubt that this person is better than me.”
  • If you see a scholar, you should say, “This man has been given what I haven’t been given, has reached a good level that I haven’t reached and knows what I am ignorant of, so how can I be like him?”
  • If you see an ignorant person, you should say, “Maybe this man has disobeyed Allah by his ignorance, but I am disabled [before Allah] by knowing disobedience, so Allah’s evidence against me is stronger. And furthermore, I don’t know how my end will be —or how will be his end.”
  • If you see a non-believer, you should say, “I don’t know, perhaps his end will be by accepting Islam and maybe his sins will be cut down ‘like removing a hair from dough’ [gently]. But I fear that Allah will make my end evil as a non-Muslim, and that he [the current non-believer] will be among those drawn near to God, while I shall be among those punished.”

The Weightiness of Riyâ

In short, ostentation amounts to hidden polytheism —putting yourself alongside Allah— in seeking status in the minds of other people in order to obtain esteem and veneration. The love of getting esteem is devilish and many people have been destroyed due to this.  In fact, their choices are the real reason for [their pretension and hypocrisy].

But if we think it’s easy to know whether most of them are truly seeking knowledge or performing ibadât [acts of worship] for showing off to others, then consider that on the Day of Resurrection orders will be given to take the supposed martyr to hell, where he will entreat Lord, ‘‘I was martyred fighting in your Path.’’ Then Allah will reply: ‘’You wanted it to be said that So-and-So is brave, and, in fact, that has already been said —which is [the extent of] your reward.’ The same will be said to the religious scholar, to the man who has performed the Pilgrimage to Mecca, and to one who has recited from the Quran —just for showing off.

May Allah grant us protection from ostentation, which is the deadly disease of the heart, and may He instead grant us taqwa and hayâ and ilkhlâṣ. May Allah preserve us as believers to the end, and grant all of us Janna. Ameen.

Syed Nihal Muhalar

Syed Nihal Muhalar

Syed Nihal Muhalar, is a determined young scholar in the field of Sharia, currently in his third-year at Markaz Sharia City, in Calicut, India, where he is pursuing an integrated professional course of BBA; LLB at Markaz Law College. Nihal is intent on pursuing a successful career in the field of Islamic studies, as related to the areas of social, eschatological, theological and literature through his own articles and through translations of eminent scholars in Islamic theology. Nihal had completed his basic Islamic studies under one of the prominent Islamic institutions in India: Markaz Garden, Group of Institutions in Poonoor, India (State of Kerala). As part of his career he aspires to present professional papers in various international conferences and to publish Islamic and other relevant works.

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