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 31 – Attaining Fame Through Worship
عَنْهُ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ الْعَلَوِيِّ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَحْمَدَ الْمُكَتِّبِ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ الْكُوفِيِّ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ عَلِيِّ بْنِ فَضَّالٍ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ أَبِي الْحَسَنِ الرِّضَا ع قَالَ: مَنْ شَهَرَ نَفْسَهُ بِالْعِبَادَةِ فَاتَّهِمُوهُ عَلَى دِينِهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ يَكْرَهُ شُهْرَةَ الْعِبَادَةِ وَ شُهْرَةَ اللِّبَاسِ ثُمَّ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ إِنَّمَا فَرَضَ عَلَى النَّاسِ فِي الْيَوْمِ وَ اللَّيْلَةِ سَبْعَ عَشْرَةَ رَكْعَةً مَنْ أَتَى بِهَا لَمْ يَسْأَلْهُ اللَّهُ عَمَّا سِوَاهَا وَ إِنَّمَا أَضَافَ إِلَيْهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مِثْلَيْهَا لِيَتِمَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ مَا يَقَعُ فِيهَا مِنَ النُّقْصَانِ وَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُعَذِّبُ عَلَى كَثْرَةِ الصَّلَاةِ وَ الصَّوْمِ وَ لَكِنَّهُ يُعَذِّبُ عَلَى خِلَافِ السُّنَّةِ.
Hadith #30: Imam Riḍā (a) said: One who popularizes himself with his worship, then be suspicious of their religiosity, for Allah (azwj) dislikes popularity of one’s worship and popularity of clothing. Then he (a) said: Allah (azwj) has made 17 units of prayer obligatory during the day, anyone who performs them, Allah will not ask them about anything other than that. The Messenger of Allah (p) added two times these units of prayers in the form of the Nawāfil, in order for one to make up for any defects in the obligatory prayers. Allah (swt) will not punish due to the quantity of one’s prayers and fasts, but He (swt) will punish for going against the requirements.
This narration is saying that Allah (swt) will primarily question us about our obligations, He (swt) could potentially punish us if we do not fulfil the obligations, not if we abandon the recommended acts. In the previous episode we said that in order to ensure the sincerity of an act, we had to conceal it, so that its protected from the evil of riyā’. But to popularize your worship and even worse, to want to become popular in society because of your worship is in complete contradiction with concealment.
Such popularity is usually attained by quantity, the more a person performs worship in the sight of public, the more they get known for it, the more popular they become because of it, and the more prone they become to showing off, or perhaps that was their intent to begin with. But what this narration is saying is that quantity was never the measuring stick and criteria in the eyes of Allah (swt). Allah does not reward or punish based on quantity. Allah judges based on the obligations He has ordained upon us – in the example of prayers, it is the 17 units of prayers we must pray daily.
This narration is also saying another thing and that is, the Nawāfil prayers were actually there to fill up for any deficiencies in our obligatory Ṣalāt, a ṣālāt that was done sincerely, but there were other types of deficiencies in it such as lack of concentration and so on. But if these nawāfil prayers are being used to show off, and gain attention, such that people begin saying Mashallah, this person is so strictly adherent even with all of his or her nawāfil, and this person becomes popular because of this reason and as they wished for, then that is a huge problem. Remember riyā’ is a sin, and we have already mentioned in previous episodes that Allah (swt) can punish people for showing off, while at the same time, Allah (swt) was never going to ask us about our Nawāfil anyways – they were not obligatory. So if these nawāfil are truly being done sincerely in order to cover up for deficiencies in the obligatory prayers, then go for it and perform them; but if these nawāfil are simply a means to show off and do riyā’ then you should avoid them.
Sayyid Zanjāni says, sometimes we see in war strategy, one side may pretend like they have lost and have decided to give up. In this case they retreat back, making the opponent think they have finally won and overcome their enemies. As the retreating party sees that the opponent has come forth, they quickly go around behind them and attack them from behind. This is similar to what Shayṭān is doing with us in this case. If he see’s we are strong and sincere with our obligations, we know that doing riyā’ will result in our obligatory ṣālāt being rejected and so we will not do such a thing, he will retreat. As get a bit confident, he will attack us from behind and make us want to seek popularity and do riyā’ in the nawāfil, because even though we will not be questioned regarding the nawāfil, the objectives of Shayṭān will be achieved, which was to make sure you show off and seek popularity in the community because of your worship.
In the next episode we will read a narration from Imam Sadiq (a) in which we will see how sincerity is what gives value to our deeds and not their quantity.
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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.