Riyah (Outward Piety) in the Acts of Worship

There is no firm proof that Riyah is Harām in the pure worldly acts, which are not considered acts of worship. Consequently the Fuqaha have not given any verdict concerning this. But the true believers refrain from all types of Riyah; even with the worldly acts and the mubah actions. The root of Riyakāri is the love of this world. Hence if one falls into this habit, he may even begin to make it a part of his worship.

The respected scholar, Faiz al-Kashani writes in his book, ‘Muhajjatul Baidha’, “People resort to Riyakāri in five types of actions.

(1) Bodily Riyah

(2) Riyah of beauty and dress

(3) Riyah of speech

(4) Riyah of actions

(5) Riyah of the outward kind.”

The above types of Riyah are explained below.

Bodily Riyah
Bodily Riyah with regard to the actions pertaining to the hereafter is that someone tries to show that his body has become weak due to excessive fasting and night worship. Or he may keep his lips dry so that people think that he is fasting. Or he may show himself to be pious so that people praise him, and day and night he remains busy in religious acts. Bodily Riyah with regard to worldly matters is that he displays his body and tries to create a position in the eyes of the people.

2) Riyah of Beauty and Dress
This type of Riyah with regard to the hereafter consists of shaving ones moustache so that people think that he is following the recommended acts or walking slowly with head turned downwards or wearing dirty clothes to show that one has disregard for the world.

The riya of beauty and dress with regard to this world is to show off ones dress and handsome appearance so that people are attracted towards the person.

3) Riyah of Speech
Riyah of speech with regard to the hereafter is for example uttering Zikr (i.e. Alhamdu lil-Lah) to show-off to the people. To exhibit one’s knowledge and greatness by preaching to the people in assemblies. To forbid evil and enjoin good to the audience by making people fearful of Divine wrath without having any pure intention.

In the worldly connection this Riyah could take the form of boasting of ones achievements and capabilities so that the people adore him. To be extremely social and greet beyond limit, even strangers, to achieve popularity, etc.

4) Riyah of Actions
In connection with actions of the hereafter Riyah consists of praying Salāt to show-off. For example reciting lengthy chapters or remaining for a long time in Ruku or as-Sajda. To pray Salāt extremely slowly. Performing the Wajib and the mustahab fast, Hajj and Ziarat, giving charity and feeding people so that one is regarded as pious.

With regard to the worldly actions, it is to behave with people in consonance with their way of thinking and to spend in similar ways. That is, to strive to become honourable in the eyes of these people. To spend lavishly upon people by inviting them in large numbers for dinner etc.

5) Riyah of the External Kind
All the four types of Riyah explained above are concerned with the person himself. The fifth type of Riyah is that which is connected with the external affairs. This type of Riyah also is with regard to the Hereafter as well as this world. With regard to the Hereafter it consists of a person sitting in the assembly of the learned people without any pure intention; just to exhibit his interest in religion etc. Or to go out to meet pious people or invite the learned scholars to his home for dinner so that people consider him to be religious. In the same way Riyah is prohibited with regard to the worldly actions. For example visiting frequently the courts of Kings and rulers so that people realize his influence and reputation and the gullible people are deceived by his outward show.

Riyah is Associated With Intention
It must be understood that Riyah of a person depends upon his intention. In other words all such actions which a person performs to show off are Riyah whether those actions are related to the hereafter or this world. In all types of actions related above, riyah is not committed till one has the intention to show-off. But if one performs an action solely for the pleasure of Allah (S.w.T.) it is worship. For example if one dresses up nicely or decorates his house with the intention of fully expressing the bounties of Allah (S.w.T.); this action is worship. However if his intention is to show-off to people it is Riyah.

From Greater Sins by Ayatullah Dastghayb Shirazi