Islamic Studies

Reflections on Riya’ published in November 2008

One can be very sincere before an action, very sincere during an action, and then become arrogant/people-seeking after the action is done, thereby removing the blessings and reward from what already transpired. This arrogance and seeking to be seen by the people is what is known as riya’. Riya’ comes from the Arabic root, ra-hamza-ya, from the verb which means to see, behold, perceive, notice, regard, consider, deem appropriate, and be amazed at. The third form of this verb refers to wanting all of the aforementioned for oneself, i.e.  acting ostentatiously, making a show before the people, and behaving hypocritically. The noun riya’ refers to this eye-service and admiration seeking. Allah (swt) warned us of this trait in His Book, “So woe to the worshipers, who are neglectful of their prayers, those who only want to be seen (yura’un).” (107:4-6)

The Prophet (saw) described riya’ to be as subtle as a black ant crawling on a blackstone on a dark night, and he taught us the du`a’, “Oh Allah! We seek your protection from associating partners with you knowingly, and we ask Your forgiveness for doing so unknowingly.” While volumes have been written about riya’, one teacher gave me a very useful advice, “Keep up a good action that no one but Allah (swt) knows about, not even your closest family members, such as praying qiyam (late night prayers) or giving a regular charity.”

May Allah protect us before, during, and AFTER the good works He allows us to do. May He help us recognize the Shaytan’s whispers and help us fight them through His remembrance, and turning back to Him in deep repentance. How amazing and beautiful that trying and hoping sincerely for Allah’s pleasure is the only intention that brings a sense of real inner peace and happiness in both worlds.

Allah (swt) describes the welcome in the next life is only for one with qalbin saleem: a sound/peaceful heart (Qur’an 26:89).  Allah is so Merciful that He made the acquisition of our own happiness an inextricable part of fulfilling the purpose of our creation, worshiping Him through sincere and righteous works. Much of the superficial pop-culture doesn’t allow us to introspect. Society is distracted with shapes and forms, while Allah (swt) is looking directly at our hearts! This poem is dedicated to those students of knowledge and Muslim activists who are afflicted with the struggle for sincerity amidst the challenging environment of praise, attention, and recognition. May He allow us all to continue to do good publicly and privately but not be driven by any motive other than seeking His pleasure, His Face. May Allah always be our goal. Ameen.

Repelling Riya’

Creeping ant, so dark and black,
Upon my surface, it makes its tracks,
The night is dark, as am I,
Can I feel his footsteps, if I try?
My hardened surface, so cold and dry,
Does not sense his army, now passing by,
Their darkness covers, so much of me,
My vision is blocked, I cannot see
I’m overwhelmed, who can I call?
My problem is masked, from those enthralled,
Who would even notice, a stone like me?
The eyes are captured, by the majestic trees,
“O God! Save me!” My prayers soar,
Rain erupts, and begins to pour,
The ants wash off, and I am soaked,
An ant’s footstep now…and I feel poked,
Softened, warm, now sensitive,
“Forgive my neglect!” I’m penitive
The commander ant, tries to cling on,
The Powerful protects, he’s easily gone!
Now constant in prayers, I’m soft, on floors,
So ants be afraid, When it rains, It pours!

About the author

Muslema Purmul

Muslema Purmul

Shaykha Muslema Purmul was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and raised in San Diego, California. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in the Study of Religion and a Bachelor’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California at San Diego. She was a scholarship student with the Islamic American University and participated in the International Union of Muslim Scholars “Future Scholars Program” in 2008/2009. She has completed the Bachelor’s degree program in the College of Shari`ah at al-Azhar University in Cairo. Currently, she is a busy new mom and gives weekly classes at the Islamic Center of Irvine.


  • mashaAllah, well said! There’s also a really helpful chapter on riya’ in the book, “Rising Soul.”

    We miss you Muslema!

  • “Keep up a good action that no one but Allah (swt) knows about, not even your closest family members, such as praying qiyam or giving a regular charity.”

    A gem.

    JazakAllahu Khairan, may Allah reward you and amin to your dua.

  • as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,

    beautiful post muslema, Allah iftah alayki. May He honor us with ikhlaas and accept our deds as done liwajhihi, ameen. Hope to read more from u.

  • As salamu alaykum,

    Thanks for the beautiful post and may Allah grant you tawfiq with your studies.
    Would it be possible to post the arabic or transliteration of the dua,

    “Oh Allah! We seek your protection from associating partners with you knowingly, and we ask Your forgiveness for doing so unknowingly.

  • Assalam alaikum,

    JazakAllah for this post!

    Does anyone know where on the web we could find this dua for riya in ARABIC??….

    “Oh Allah! We seek your protection from associating partners with you knowingly, and we ask Your forgiveness for doing so unknowingly.”


  • Assalamu alaikum,

    The dua in ARABIC, for protection from Shirk can be found in a PDF document at In the Texts section, click on Aqeedah (creed), select Shirkul Asghar (Minor shirk), the dua in arabic is on Page 7 of Shirkul Asghar.

    The transliteration is:
    “Allaahumma inne a’udhubika an ushrika bika wa anaa a’lamu
    wa astaghfiruka limaa la a’lamu”


  • Assalamualaikum….. once i had a conversation with my freind on islam ….. we spoke .. later i said about one hadiz that he should know … to impress immediately i realised its Ria shirk but on saying that it did not strike my mind that this is shirk … i am scared …and i am reallly feeling for that incident .. please clarify would ther be forgiveness ……i am very much depressed … if i am in the verge of committiong a sin … some verses in Quran would stop me from doing it but on this incident … it din strike …. i am terribly scared i cant make any move .. this keesps striking my mind

  • this explains what I noticed about Muslims practising and non-practising, That they all worship the west.

    half love the west more than they love Allah, these people are always trying to change islam to please the west. Always making excuses, appeasing and trying to change themselves and islam to fit in with the west’s political correctness.

    the other half hate the west more than they love allah, and they are willing to change islam in order to hurt the west. these guys are the suicide bombers, child soldier creators, torturers, murderers etc.

    both groups have in effect taken the west as their god. or as partners with god. as they choose to be guided by the west, instead of god.

  • Assalamu alekoum Muslema Purmul,

    I am trying to find mention of the hadith about the black ant and am having a hard time tracking it down. Some friends mentioned that it is in Musnad Ahmed, but the number they gave is incorrect as far as I can tell (was told 4/430, which I assume might mean volume 4, hadith 430? but the Dar-ul-salam english translation is not even numbered that way, though the Arabic versions might be. But the search is also made hard for me because Musnad Ahmed has not been thoroughly translated into English. Can you point me in the direction of which scholars taught you this hadith and which book(s, hadith collections or oterwise, it is in? Jazzakallahu kheir.

    I can’t seem to find it in any of the six sahihs.

    Assalamu alekoum,

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