To my disappointment they had returned once again. I have seen no creatures as persevere as the spiders. It had been only a fortnight since I last swept away their creepy dwellings and here they were back again. As I brushed away those tiny quarters my mind went back to yet another home; the home of emotions and intentions.

Indeed, our heart also requires that we clean it frequently. Riyaa (dissimulation, show-off) creeps in silently and spins its webs in every unheeded nook and cranny. We may start something solely for the sake of Allah Almighty; however Shaitan keeps pitching to sneak his part. We human beings may become negligent but Iblees never misses a chance to deprive us of our good deeds.

Our Loving Prophet (p.b.u.h) warned us beforehand:

The thing that I fear most for you is the minor Shirk; Riyaa” (Ahmad in his Musnad).

In another authentic hadeeth it is narrated that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) said

“Shall I not inform you of what I fear for you more than the maseeh ud-dajjaal? It is the hidden shirk. It is when a man stands up for prayer, and then beautifies his prayer for another to look at.” [Ibn Majah – The hadeeth is Hasan).

Whether it is spending all your wealth in a good cause, or giving up your life in the way of Allah, if done for praise and popularity among people, it’ll all go in vain. One did sacrifice and pay the price, but got nothing in return, only because Shaitan was successful enough to rob the sincerity. This indeed is the ultimate loss! Allah (s.w.t) says in The Quran:

“Say (O Muhammad): “Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds! They are those who deny the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection,

We shall not give them any weight.” [Surah Al-Kahf: 103-105]

Be Vigilant!

  1. Do I ignite up when criticised for an act that I did for Allah?
  2. Do I expect praise for the good that I do?
  3. Do I become angry if people do not thank me, or don’t do me favours in return of what kindness I did to them?
  4. Do I day dream about how one day I will become a ‘famous’ scholar or a ‘popular’ Mujahid etc?
  5. Do I love to brag about how ‘pious’ me and my children are? Do I go about announcing my hasanat (good deeds)?
  6. Are my prayers as lengthy and as beautiful in solitude as they are in front of others?
  7. Do I give some hidden Sadaqah or is it all for the fame?


These questions highlight some of the symptoms of this disastrous disease. Never should we be in a comfort zone regarding this slippery trap. Riya is subtle indeed like a black ant on a black stone in a dark night.

 Our intentions need constant vigilance. Check them every day before going to bed, before every step, before every deed that you perform. There are a number of things that become routine for us and we don’t keep in mind the fact that we are doing them for Allah. An example is Salah; is it just an exercise or our secret meeting with Allah? Another example is how we deal with the people around us; are we being nice just for the sake of it or do we seek Allah’s pleasure? It is our intentions that change the status of our deeds from mere routine work to deeds of worship. A man naturally provides for his family, however if done with the proper intention it can become a Sadaqah for him.

How to Avoid Riyaa?

1. Befriend the Quran: As human beings we tend to be forgetful. One of the ways to keep ourselves reminded is holding fast to the Qur’an. The repetitive reminders and remembrance of Allah will strengthen our heart and make us watchful of the traps of Shaitan.

2. Know Your Rabb: We love to hear the praise of people due to the high status that they have in our hearts. This is because we are not aware and have not yet recognized the greatness of our Creator. His Power, His might, His Knowledge, His beauty and His Love is what should charm us and intrigue us, and create in us the desire to be loved by Him and praised by Him. Ponder over the attributes of Allah and the wonders of His creation. Remember the best gathering that you wished to be mentioned in; that of Allah and the angels!

3. Don’t Fear the People: At times we do an action or forsake an action just out of the fear of people; their anger and criticism, or only because they might form a bad opinion about us. Remember the real worth of people; they are all from mud and will return to it one day. The approval of people is a myriad; a thing that makes one happy shall anger the other. When one seeks the love and pleasure of Allah, Allah also puts his love in the hearts of creation. However, when one seeks the pleasure of people he gets his hands on nothing.

 4. Hide Good Deeds: Try best to hide your good deeds and perform some secret actions just for the sake of Allah. For example, try and wake up for Qiyam ul lail. It is the best remedy for diseased hearts. It is your special secret meeting that no one else knows about.FB Blog post-4

5. Duas: Dua is the greatest helper along the path to Paradise. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) has taught us duas for every occasion and every need.  Repeat this dua often to ward off the hidden shirk that might take roots in the heart:“Allahumma innaa na`oothu bika an-nushrika bika shay`an na`lamuhu, wa nastagfiruka limaa laa na`lamuh. [O Allah, we seek refuge in you from committing shirk knowingly, and ask your forgiveness (for the shirk) that we may commit unknowingly]


It is not just the quantity that matters, quality matters too. The quality of our deeds rests on the state of the heart. We need to strengthen it and purify it so that our inner self is better and more beautiful than our outer self. Ibn al Qayyim writes in Madarij-us-Salikeen: “Ikhlas(sincerity) is when the servant’s internal and external actions are the same. And Riyaa is when the external actions are better than the internal actions (of the heart). Truthfulness in one’s sincerity is when the internal is better (developed) than the external.”



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28 replies on “Seeking Sincerity”

    March 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Subhanallah walillahihamd

    March 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Tabaaraka Allahu Ahsanu Lhalikiyn, Ma shaa Allahu wala kuwatta ilaa biLLahi this is very nice article and re-mindful as well. Allaah will give the author mercy and in shaa Allaah it will help us on avoiding shirk and doing our deeds with sincerity. Aamiyn wa Jazakumu Allaahu khayran.

    March 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    JazakAllah for a much needed reminder. It is a fact indeed that we do start somethings only for seeking Allah SWT’s pleasure and before even realizing it,our intentions become corrupt.May Allah guide us all. Ameen.
    I have one question though ,that has confused me a lot of times.when we realize that our intentions regarding a deed have become corrupt… should we abandon that deed at that time or should we continue with it. I have faced this sitaution a numerous times. sometines when I do continue with such a deed i dont feel that good about it kind of leaves me doubtful about which way it went?

    • Umm Salih
      March 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Jazakumu Allahu Khayr for the comments. Everything good comes from Allah. May Allah accept from us, Ameen.

      Jazak Allah for the question sister Sara. I’ll try my best to answer, but I’m not knowledgeable enough. I’d appreciate if someone corrects me if i am wrong.

      About abandoning the deed, I would say no. This may be another trap of Shaitan to make us leave the good deed altogether. Moreover, if it is an obligatory (Fardh) deed then we cannot of course abandon it.
      Remember that we are human beings and do err at times. What Allah loves from us is that we keep turning to him again and again. Keep renewing the intention and ask for forgiveness. Wallahu A’lam

        March 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

        Shukraan for the answer sister.May Allah SWT guide us all and make it easy for us.Ameen
        May Allah bless you.

    March 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Masha Allah. Jazakaalahu Khair for reminder.
    As a Muslim we see that our life in this world is a test for us. And life of this world is a conflict between good and evil. That is the history of mankind. Since the dawn of creation until The Day of Judgement ,there are forces of good and there are forces of evil and they are conflicting with each other.
    May Allah (swt) reward our good deed and protect us from the evil one.

    March 9, 2014 at 1:47 am

    masha Allah wa jazakullahu khairan

    March 9, 2014 at 1:52 am


    March 9, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Mashaallah very imp reminder

    March 9, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Mashallah very imp reminder.

    March 9, 2014 at 3:22 am

    jazakAllah khayr, very beneficial reminder

    March 9, 2014 at 3:43 am

    @ sarah , as for a deed in which our n
    Intentions become corrupt 1. We have to ask Allah to give us IKHLAS bcoz we r unable to control our intentions, 2. Continue to do thAt deed what shaitan wants is , we abandon the deed 3 . After completing the deed ask Allah for acceptance , as Ibrahim & ismail as had asked , even if u don’t fear lack of sincerity. Allah knows best!!!

    Mohd Amin Ibrahim
    March 9, 2014 at 6:12 am

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,
    Good article. As a rejoinder, I would like share my little knowledge and I stand corrected.
    To avoid the dreadful hidden shirk, I always to do the following:
    a) Do not miss the following doa iftitah after takbir because it is a pledge that my prayer, my life and death are all for the sake of Allah.

    اَلله أَكََْبَر كَبِيْرًا وَالحَمْدُلِلَّهِ كَثِيْرًا وَسُبْحَانَ الله بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيْلاً . إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِيْ فَطَرَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ حَنِيْفًا مُسْلِمًا وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ المُشْرِكِيْن . إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِيْ وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ العَالَمِيْن لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا مِنَ المُسْلِمِيًن.

    b) Begin your action with Bismllah.
    c) End your action with alhamdullilah. Always give credit to Allah. Our action will not guarantee success. It is by the rahmat of Allah that our action produces the desired result.
    d) Never forget to say insha Alah when making promise or to perform an action in the future as we have no power to determine the future or an outcome of our action. Read chapter Al Kahf Verse 18:31-43 for illustration

    May Allah forgive me if I had erred.
    Jazakum Allahu khairan
    Was-salamu `alaykum

      Rasheed Lansongreen
      March 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Your contribution has added to my faith and aspiration for living Islam. Jazakumullahu Khaer brother.

    Sheikh Mohsin Ali
    March 9, 2014 at 6:21 am

    May Allah Bless you and Bless all the sacred intentions just like you to share such wonderful knowledge. Zajak Allah Hu Khairaayaan…..And Allah hu Akbar!!!!!

    Billy Esuola
    March 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    JazakAllah. A beautiful reminder indeed. Please keep it up.

    Abduljalil Bin Abdulhameed
    March 10, 2014 at 6:27 am

    may Allah bless and reward u. indeed sincerity separates good actions from faults like separation of milk from dung and blood.

    Rasheed Lansongreen
    March 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    My brothers and sisters, kindly help me to get this right.
    I learn that Allah (SW)does not create any evil or causes any. But does He permit evil to happen and why? Am a bit confused if He allows evil to happen since everything is subject to his permission. I love Allah the most gracious!

    Mohd Amin Ibrahim
    March 17, 2014 at 2:25 am

    الســــلام عليـــــكم
    Dear Bro,
    بســــــــــم الله الرحـــــــمن الرحـــــــــيم
    The answers to you questions are found in the following quranic verses:
    Say: “I seek refuge with (Allâh) the Lord of the daybreak, (1) “From the evil of what He has created; (2) “And from the evil of the darkening (night) as it comes with its darkness; (or the moon as it sets or goes away) (3) “And from the evil of those who practise witchcrafts when they blow in the knots, (4) “And from the evil of the envier when he envies.” (5) Verse Al Falaq
    So Allah does create evil as mentioned in Verse 113 قُلۡ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ ٱلۡفَلَقِ (١) مِن شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ (٢)
    But you must see them as a Test from Allah to raise your level of faith as clearly stated in the following verse:
    1) “We will definitely test you with some kind of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and fruits so give glad tidings to those who have patience (“Sabr,” )(Surah Baqarah 2:155)”

    The classic example of this test is the case of Prophet Ibrahim (as) who had been told to sacrifice his son, Ismail,

    Allah tests us with a purpose:

    تَبَـٰرَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ (١) ٱلَّذِى خَ ٱلۡمَوۡتَ وَٱلۡحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبۡلُوَكُمۡ أَيُّكُمۡ أَحۡسَنُ عَمَلاً۬‌ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡغَفُورُ (٢
    2) Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. (1) Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed.[2] And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving; Verse AlMulk 67:

    3) And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much. Verse asy-Syura 42:30 (Also see the Qur’ân Verse Fatir – 35:45)
    However man will be tested according to the strength of his faith. If his faith is strong, then the distress with which he is tried will be greater; if his faith is weak, he will be tested in accordance with the level of his faith. Distress will keep on befalling the slave until he walks on the face of the earth free from sin.”(Bukhari)
    In the above Hadith, some misfortunes are not tests to raise our status but a punishment for wrong doings. A case in point is the story of Prophet Yunos(as) who was swallowed by a big fish as a reminder for abandoning his responsibility to guide his tribe. Refer ayat below:
    Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.
    Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah,
    He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection.—Qur’an, chapter 37 (As-Saaffat), verse 139-144[10
    So our reactions when we encounter problems in life are as follows:
    a) If it is a punishment then do what Nabi Yunos had done: Repent by saying: laillaha illah anta subhanaka inni kuntu minadzalimin.
    b) If it’s a test of faith like Prophet Ibrahim (as) then accept the challenge , be patience and tawakkal and say: قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٲجِعُونَ (١٥٦) ( “We are Allah’s and we shall certainly return to Him,”156 ) Their Lord will bestow great blessings and mercy upon them; such are the people who are rightly guided.
    Furthermore, in the following sentences Allah give us great comfort:
    لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفۡسًا إِلَّا وُسۡعَهَا‌ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتۡ وَعَلَيۡہَا مَا ٱكۡتَسَبَتۡ‌ۗ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذۡنَآ إِن نَّسِينَآ أَوۡ أَخۡطَأۡنَا‌ۚ
    God does not burden a soul more than it can cope with. It is rewarded for whatever good deeds it has done. But it is punished for whatever (bad deeds) it has done. Al-Baqarah 2:286
    فَإِنَّ مَعَ ٱلۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرًا (٥) إِنَّ مَعَ ٱلۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرً۬ا (٦)
    Verily, along with every hardship is relief, (5) Verily, along with hardship is relief Surah Ash-Sharh V94:4-5
    Finally, Ibn ‘Ata’illah in his book al Hikam,( The Book of Aphorisms) gives this beautiful piece of advice
    “To assuage the sufferings of tribulations, He has taught you that it is He who trials you-the Cherisher and Creator. Considers any adverse situations, in life as an opportunity to display his true dedication and commitment to Allah and to understand his Lord from a different angle. In tribulations you His fairness and justice, in His blessings you see His Generosity & kindness. It is through trials & tribulations you will recognize and understand with convictions all His attributes – the 99 beautiful names of Allah.”
    I pray that you will find guidance and enlightenment. Insya Allah
    Jazakum Allahu khairan
    Was-salamu `alaykum
    Mohd Amin Ibrahim

      March 23, 2014 at 2:22 am

      Mohd Amin Ibrahim, your added comment was so helpful and detailed! jazakAllah khairan, may Allah bless you and yours.

    March 23, 2014 at 2:18 am

    JazakAllah khair. This was a really great article and helped in my understanding. I plan to share this with my loved one inshaAllah as a good reminder

      Mohd Amin Ibrahim
      March 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

      الســــلام عليـــــكم

      Alhamdullilah you find it useful. Please do share with your friends as part of dakwah work.

    March 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

    You do good deeds. Pray Qiyam-ul-Layl. Enjoin others towards righteousness and forbid them from evil. With the countless good deeds that you do, there still is a danger of earning the displeasure of Allaah.
    Know how?

    Read the following article and get-to-know ‘HOW to protect yourself from Riyaa(the . Shield yourself from the wrath of Allaah.

      Mohd Amin Ibrahim
      March 27, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Thank you for the reminder. I always stand to be corrected.

    March 26, 2014 at 11:57 am


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