What is Riyaa’ (Hypocrisy) 

Riyaa’ (Hypocrisy) 


Riyaa’ (hypocrisy) is manifested in the intention to win people by acts of piety. The love of wealth and of dominance over the hearts of men (Jah) is the root of all Riyaa’. If, however, Jah comes without a person’s desiring or seeking it, there is no harm in it. The Prophet and the early Caliphs had it.

Hypocrisy may betray its presence in innumerable ways, e.g., in a thin, lean and neglected body, neglect of dress, virtuous and pious talk, long prayers, ostentatious charity and a meek deportment. All kinds of hypocrisy in worship are the objects of Allah’s wrath.

There are two kinds of hypocrisy: Manifest and Concealed.

Manifest hypocrisy is the obvious cause of an action. It is manifest because it is known to the hypocrite and can be easily understood by others.

Concealed hypocrisy by itself is not the cause of action, yet the action which is seemingly done for its own sake is often encouraged by this concealed hypocrisy. In some cases concealed hypocrisy is neither the cause of action, nor does it make the action easier, and yet it is hidden in the heart. As it has no influence on actions, it is difficult to detect it in the absence of its symptoms. The most evident symptom of this is a sort of pleasure on knowing that the people know of one’s worship. A still more concealed hypocrisy is that in which there is neither a wish to know that the people know one’s worship, nor any pleasure in the publicity of one’s worship, and yet one finds it agreeable when the people greet I him first, or they are friendly to him or make concessions to him in dealing with him and one feels a little pain if such treatment is not accorded to him. This shows that the worship was not wholly sincere but that there was subtly concealed hypocrisy behind it.

The kinds and divisions of concealed hypocrisy are innumerable. As long as one finds a difference between men and animals with regard to their knowledge about one’s worship, there remains an admixture of concealed hypocrisy in the sincerity of one’s actions. If one is sincere in one’s actions, one is concerned with the knowledge of Allah alone.

The remedies for hypocrisy are stringent and unpalatable and its cure difficult, but hypocrisy is a deadly disease, and must be cured. The chief cause of hypocrisy is the love of Jah which has three forms:

(a) love of the pleasure of praise,

(b) dislike of the pain of censure, and

(c) greed and the desire for the possession of things belonging to others. The greed for the possession of things belonging to others may be cured by acquiring the conviction that the real giver of things is Allah and that greed leads to humiliation and pain very often in this world, and invariably in the next. The knowledge of the dangers and harms of hypocrisy is the only way of curing it. There are also practical remedies. One must make it a rule to perform acts of worship in secret, except when he participates in congregational prayers. Though we cannot quite control the entry of harmful ideas into our hearts, we must learn to hate such ideas, and nip them in the bud. Constant vigilance and great solicitude for the purity of one’s actions is necessary.

The most successful way of combating hypocrisy is not only to keep fighting it down inwardly, nor merely to dislike or hate it, but to concentrate on its opposite, and to strive all the more along the way leading to Allah.

(Extract from:Vices of the heart by Imaam Ghazaali)