What Is Riya (Ostentation)?

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Recently a speaker at a mosque has come and said to love to humiliate yourself for others is “Shirk Akbar”. This has given me large waswas as I may tell a joke to my family and get doubts as wether I have done shirk. Can you help me?

Answer: Wa alaykum al-Salam

Al-Shirk al-akbar or the greater shirk is when one ascribes partners to Allah. Based on this definition, loving oneself or humiliating oneself is not greater shirk.

There’s a possibility that either you misunderstood the speaker or he made a mistake. RasuluLlah sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam did say that doing things for the sake of others is minor shirk or al-shirk al-asgar [Musnad Ahmad]. It is very possible that the lecturer may have been referring to minor shirk which the Messenger sallaLlahu alayhi called riya’ or showing off.

Accordingly, the one who humbles himself, or does any other action for the sake of people, would be guilty of minor shirk, as our actions should all be sincerely for Allah.

May Allah grant us all sincerity.

And Allah knows best

Wassalam
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Shaykh Abdurragmaan
received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)