Al-Salam ‘Alaykum, this is Syed Ali Imran – and you are listening to the Forties podcast, brought to you by Mizan Institute.
This is episode 25 – The Penalty for Showing Off
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص سَيَأْتِي فِي أُمَّتِي زَمَانٌ تَخْبُثُ فِيهِ سَرَائِرُهُمْ وَ تَحْسُنُ فِيهِ عَلَانِيَتُهُمْ طَمَعاً فِي الدُّنْيَا لَا يُرِيدُونَ بِهِ مَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ يَكُونُ أَمْرُهُمْ رِيَاءً لَا يُخَالِطُهُمْ خَوْفٌ يَعُمُّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابٍ فَيَدْعُونَهُ دُعَاءَ الْغَرِيقِ فَلَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهُم
Hadith #24: Imam Sadiq (a) from the Prophet (p): A time will come in my nation when their internal states will be corrupted while they display a pleasant attitude, all because of their desire of the world. They do not desire what Allah (azwj) has. Their deeds are an act of show-off, they are not fearful, Allah will afflict them with a punishment, whereupon they will please to him like one who is drowning, but He will not respond to their plea.
This narration is speaking about a general punishment that Allah (swt) will afflict upon the show-offs, and that punishment is that He will not listen to their pleas. This is a very serious punishment, imagine for a moment that the only person who could have ever listened to you decides to ignore you and not pay any heed to you. This narration says that those who show off, those who keep their attitudes very pleasant in front of the public, act as if they are very pious and righteous individuals, doing everything for the sake of Allah (swt), but in real they are doing everything only for the sake of people, so that they can gain a reputation and position amongst the community, these people will be punished.
The imagery depicted at the end of the narration where it says, Allah will not listen to their pleas even if the person calls upon Allah as a person who is drowning in the ocean.
In those days, there was no such thing as life-jackets and so you will find the example of a drowning person mentioned in many traditions and even in theoretical discussions on law when scholars want to give examples of certain scenarios. For example, they will say, when you are stuck between having to save a person drowning in the ocean versus trespassing onto someone’s property without their permission, what should you do? They will say you can trespass the property in order to save the drowning person’s life.
A drowning person is a metaphor for an individual who is in an extreme state of emergency. They are desperate, their time is short, if they aren’t rescued soon, they will drown. In this situation, anyone who hears a drowning person’s pleas will feel in themselves a desperation to help the person. This feeling is not just limited to someone who is a friend of the drowning person, or a parent, or someone who cares about them, rather even if it is a complete stranger who they don’t know, the sounds of desperation in their pleas will make anyone want to help them.
It is with this metaphor that the Prophet is saying, that if a show off even pleads to Allah (swt) like a person drowning, a case where even a complete stranger would help you, Allah (swt) will not help them and He will not listen to them. Even though Allah is arḥam al-rāḥimīn, the Most Merciful of those who show mercy, He will deal with the show-offs with the attribute of shadīd al-‘iqāb – One who is severe in punishment. This punishment, as we’ve mentioned, is that Allah (swt) will not listen to their supplications and pleas.
This narration really does point out the severity of the sin of riyā’, and how evil it is, how great of a moral vice it is. We ask Allah (swt) to keep us away from this sin and protect us from it.
In the next episode, we’ll read a narration from Imam Baqir (a) in which he speaks about the problems of doing an act that should have been done for God, but it is done for the satisfaction and contentment of people.
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Sayyid Ali Imran studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from The Islamic College of London in the summer of 2018. He continued his seminary studies in legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is also a regular instructor for Mizan Institute.