**Disclaimer: The last name in the title is not a specific family, it is just a common Muslim name used to illustrate a point (it was also close to Kardashians which is why I selected it).**
It is the last ten days of Ramadan and I am terrified. Why is that? There is the strong possibility that even though I strove very hard to commit good deeds during Ramadan, there is a disease of the heart that could essentially wipe those good deeds away. Now what can possibly be so harmful that is can obliterate a whole month’s of hard earned good deeds?
It is called ar riyaa. For those of you who don’t know this term, it is an Arabic word that means to be a show-off. Specifically, it is someone who does something in order to gain the praise of others. In this day of social media, it is easier than ever to fall into this without even realizing it. In fact, in American society, we are encouraged to step with our best foot forward. Just take a look at what rappers say and you can get the gist of what ar riyaa at a superficial level is. It is all about their swag, their game, how many people of the opposite sex want them, etc. However, this post is not about rappers. This post is about American Muslims. Muslims who strive to be better people and may not even realize when they are showing off. Sometimes, we Muslim Americans can overdo even good deeds and fall into the trap of showing off.
Now what does Islam say about showing off? Why is it so bad for us?
According to a lecture by Suhaib Webb, the Prophet Muhammed ﷺ said, “The one who prays and wants people to see them has committed shirk. The one who fasted and they want the people to know about their fasting has committed shirk. The one who gave sadaqah (charity) and wants people to know about their charity has committed shirk.”
The Prophet ﷺ even said that it’s so dangerous that it’s like the black ant on the black rock in the night with no moon.
If you question why showing off is harmful, just think about how you feel when you see someone else showing off. Yes, you are happy for that brother or sister, but doesn’t a part of you think to yourself with an eyeroll, “yeah okay hot shot.”? How does that promote the sisterhood or brotherhood that Islam wants to foster in our community? Even non Muslim communities are not really too kind about people who show off. There are terms like “keeping up with the Joneses” and countless stories of regular people eyeballs in debt just to show people they have a fancy house, car, clothes, etc. This disease of the heart transcends time. It was present in ancient times as well as present day. In fact, even the ancient Greeks created stories of tragic heroes whose downfall was hubris (pride) which is one of the rooted causes of showing off.
So this is why I get scared, I am human and I like to share snippets of my life with all of you. I like praise too, However, do I like that enough to literally wash away all of my good deeds? Not really. I don’t want to be the next Kardashian in the sense that I want people to emulate what I do unless it is for the sake of Allah (swt)’s pleasure. So this Ramadan, please pray for me and for yourself that we don’t trip ourselves up with this very human flaw.
Insha’Allah, Ameen! Sometimes the shaytaan tries to trick us into thinking these things, that… if you do this, you will be showing off, so you sit there and miss out on the good deeds and acts of worship, so it comes back to renewing your intention, which is something I always do when I get a thought like that in my head. My Allah keep us on the straight path and keep our intentions pure.
Ameen! Yes, we should never lose hope and still strive to commit good deeds as they give us pleasure three times: while we do the good deed, whenever we remember doing that good deed, and when we meet Allah (swt).