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Thursday, June 17, 2004  

Ostentation (riya') Beware of ostentation, for it invalidates what you do, leads to the loss of reward [for your deeds], and brings on detestation and punishment. The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, called it the “lesser idolatry.” An authentic tradition says, “The first of God’s creation to fuel the Fire will be three: A man who recites the Qur’an so that it is said, ‘He is a reciter’; a man who is killed, having fought only so it is said, ‘He is courageous’; and a wealthy man who gives charity only so it is said, ‘He is generous.’” Ostentation is to seek importance in people’s eyes with acts that draw nearer to God, such as ritual Prayers and Fasts. Should you perceive ostentation in yourself, do not try to rid yourself of it by abandoning works, thus pleasing the Devil. Works that can only be done in public, such as going on Pilgrimage, jihad, acquiring knowledge, congregational Prayers, and similar things, you should perform publicly as God has commanded you. Strive against your ego and seek God’s help! As for other kinds of works, like Fasting, night vigils, charity, and [Qur’an] recitation, these you should go to extremes to conceal, for performing them in secret is unreservedly preferable, except for those who are safe from ostentation, who hope to be emulated by others, and who are qualified for this. -Imam ‘Abdallah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad, Two Treatises of Imam al-Haddad _____________________________________________________________________________________ An Exposition of the Ostentation which may follow from the Renunciation of Desirable Foods and from Eating Frugally Know that those who renounce desirable foods may be afflicted by two great evils which are even more pernicious than indulging in them. The first obtains when the soul, being unable to forsake some of the things it finds desirable, and not wishing the fact to be known, conceals its desire, and eats things in secret which it does not eat when others are present. This constitutes a form of hidden polytheism. A scholar was once asked about a certain ascetic, and refused to speak of him. ‘Has he any faults that you know of?’ he was asked, and he answered, ‘He eats things in private which he does not eat with others.’ Now this is a serious fault. If a bondsman of God be tried with desires which he loves to gratify, he ought to make them public, for his state will thus be one of honesty, compensating for the absence of acts of spiritual struggle. To conceal one’s shortcomings and to make a show of their excellent opposites are themselves two compounded shortcomings, and to lie, and to hide one’s lying, are themselves a twofold lie, so that a man guilty of this deserves two chastisements, and will not be acceptable again in his works until he has repented twice. It is for these reasons that God has laid such emphasis upon the issue of the hypocrites, saying, Hypocrites shall be in the lowest chasm of Hell (IV:286): the unbeliever makes public his unbelief, and is sincere with it, while the hypocrite keeps his unbelief hidden, so that this concealment becomes another form of unbelief, since he makes light of God’s gazing into his heart, and makes much of the gaze of His creatures by effacing unbelief from his outward aspect. The gnostics too are tried with desires, and even with sins, but are never tried with ostentation, deceit or concealment: the perfect gnostic renounces his desires for the sake of God (Exalted is He!) and affects their presence in himself in order to diminish the respect in which other men hold him. One of them used to go out and buy delicious things, and display them in his house, although he never partook them. This he did merely to deceive people regarding his state and to repel the hearts of the heedless, so that he would not be distracted from his state. The highest form of renunciation is to renounce renunciation itself by outwardly appearing to do its opposite: this is the practice of the Truthful Saints, since it combines two veracities, just as the former combines two lies. It weighs down the soul with two burdens, and forces it to quaff the cup of endurance twice: once by actually drinking it, and once again by suffering insults. Assuredly, such will be given their reward twice on account of their endurance. (XXVIII:54) This is comparable to the way of those who are given and accept money publicly, but who secretly return it, in order to subjugate their souls through public humiliation and private poverty. All those who cannot accomplish this should at least make their desires and weakness public, for the sake of honesty, and should not be beguiled by the devil’s saying to them, ‘If you make these things know, other men will follow you into doing them. So hide them away, and you will reform such people!’ For the man who wishes to reform others should first reform himself. Such a person can only intend sheer ostentation, and the devil encourages him in this by suggesting that he will reform others; for this reason he would find the noising abroad of his desires unpleasant, even if he knew that those who came to know of them would not imitate his actions or renounce something in the belief that he himself had renounced his desires. The second evil arises when a man genuinely engages in the renunciation of his desires, but rejoices that he is known to do so, and that he is famous for his continence in the face of his cravings. By doing this he has merely disobeyed a weak desire, namely that of food, and surrendered to a desire which is far worse: that of the love of status. This is a ‘hidden desire’. When one detects such a desire in the soul, it is more important to defeat it than to defeat the desire of food itself: in fact, it is more appropriate that such a person should eat. Abu Sulayman said, ‘If something is put before you in the nature of desire which you have renounced, then partake of it just a little, but do not give your soul all it hopes for. In this way you will banish a desire without making it pleasurable for your soul.’ Said Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq, ‘Whenever I am confronted with a desire, I look to my soul. If it displays desire, I give it something of it, which is better than to deprive it, whereas if it hides its desire, and displays indifference to it, I punish it by abstaining, and do not give it anything at all.’ Such is the way to punish the soul for this hidden desire. In sum, the man who renounces his desire for food only to fall prey to the desire which is ostentation, resembles a man who flees from a scorpion and takes refuge with a viper, for ostentation is more harmful that the desire of food. -Hujjatul Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Breaking The Two Desires (Kitab Kasr al-Shahwatayn); Book XXIII of The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din)



posted by Abubak'r | 6/17/2004 06:30:00 AM |
As for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains the ego its desires, the Garden is shelter.
(The Snatchers:40)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "The Fire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked, undesirable things."
(Bukhari)
Whoever does good at night is rewarded during the day and whoever does good during the day is rewarded at night. Whoever is sincere in abandoning a desire is saved from catering to it. God is too noble to punish a heart that has abandoned a desire for His sake.
(Abu Sulayman ad-Darani)
Beware of your ego, and trust not its mischief;
The ego is worse than seventy devils.
(Arabic Poem)
Abu Bakar Balkhi
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I seek God's forgiveness, and do not claim that my intention in producing this Blog is confined to good religious purposes; how may I do so when I am aware of the hidden desires, egotistic passions, and worldly wishes that I harbour? I do not claim innocence for myself; the ego is indeed an inciter to evil, save when my Lord shows mercy; my Lord is indeed Forgiving, Merciful. O God! I seek Your protection against my committing idolatry [shirk] knowingly, and Your forgiveness for that of which I am not aware! I ask God to make me and all other believers benefit from this Blog and to render my production of it purely for the sake of His Noble Countenance.

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