What Is Riya (Ostentation)?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I live in a country where idols are worshiped and they have picture of it everywhere. Because of that sometimes when I think about Allah I often have some images of these idols in my mind.

Is it disbelief? Is it sinful?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your questions. May Allah increase you in Iman and reward you for striving to worship Him with a pure heart.

Images can have a very powerful effect on the human mind, because the brain processes information more vividly when it is visual. Unless one is purposefully evoking such images, they are not to be blamed if the images come to mind, and are therefore not sinful. Nor is it disbelief, especially when one has full conviction that God is not those images.

Some of the Companions came to the Prophet ﷺ and said to him, ‘We find in ourselves thoughts that are too terrible to speak of.’ He said, ‘Are you really having such thoughts?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘That is a clear sign of faith.’ [Muslim]

If it is a persistent issue, then try to do your best to minimise the effect as much as is possible. You could do this by covering any images or idols that you are able to, praying in rooms without images, spend as much time as you can in Muslim households etc.

Last of all, make du’a to Allah to keep your heart and mind purified. All we can do is strive to do our best, and we leave the rest to Allah.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

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