Sincerity is the essence of worshipping Almighty Allah. However, it is easier said than done. Man is always tempted to be praised and commended. Gaining favor with people for being religious and pious, and thus, enjoying their trust and respect, drives many people to talk about their acts of worship and use them as means of publicity.
Responding to this, Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid said:
If a person wants to stop himself from showing off, he has to do the following things to be rid of this problem:
1. Be always mindful that Almighty Allah is ever watchful over His servants: This is the status of ihsan which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned to Jibreel (peace be upon him), defining it as “to worship Allah as if you can see Him, and even though you cannot see Him, He can see you.” (Muslim)
When a person feels that Almighty Allah is always watching him, what other people think will become insignificant, and this will make him respect and fear Almighty Allah alone.
2. Seeking the help of Allah to rid himself of the habit of showing off: Almighty Allah says that the believers should say: (You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help.) (Al-Fatihah 1:5) One of the things that will be of benefit in this matter is seeking the help of Almighty Allah and calling upon Him.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “O people, beware of shirk, for it is more subtle than the footsteps of an ant.” The one whom Almighty Allah willed should speak, said to him, “How can we beware of it when it is more subtle than the footsteps of an ant, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Say, Allaahumma innaa na`oodhu bika min an nushrika bika shay’an na`lamuhu wa nastaghfiruka limaa laa na`lam (O Allah, we seek refuge with You from knowingly associating anything with You, and we seek Your forgiveness for that which we do unknowingly).” (Ahmad)
3. Knowing the consequences of showing off and how it will be judged in the Hereafter: Not knowing this leads a person to fall into this sin or persisting in it. The person should realize that showing off destroys all his actions (i.e., cancels out the reward), and that it incurs the wrath of Almighty Allah. The wise person does not waste his energy in doing things that do not bring any reward, let alone deeds that incur the wrath and anger of Almighty Allah.
One of the greatest hadiths concerning the punishment in the Hereafter of those who show off is the following, in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“When the Day of Resurrection comes, Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, will come to judge between His slaves, and every nation will be kneeling. The first ones to be called forth will be a man who learned the Qur’an by heart, a man who fought for the sake of Allah, and a man who had a lot of wealth. Allah will say to the Qur’an-reader, ‘Did I not teach you that which I revealed to My Messenger?’ He will say, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ He will say, ‘What did you do with that which I taught you?’ He will say, ‘I used to read it night and day.’ Allah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allah will say, ‘Rather you wanted it to be said that so and so is a reader of the Qur’an, and that is what was said.’ Then the wealthy man will be brought forth, and Allah will say to him, ‘Did I not give you ample provision so that I did not leave you in need of anybody?’ He will say, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ He will say, ‘What did you do with that which I gave you?’ He will say, ‘I used to keep the ties of kinship and give in charity.’ Allah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allah will say, ‘Rather you wanted it to be said that so and so is generous, and that is what was said.’ Then the one who was killed for the sake of Allah will be brought forth and Allah will say to him, ‘Why were you killed?’ He will say, ‘I was commanded to fight in Jihad for Your sake, so I fought until I was killed.’ Allah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allah will say, ‘You wanted it to be said that so and so was courageous, and that is what was said.’” Then the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) struck my knee, and said, “O Abu Hurairah, these three are the first of the creation of Allah who will be dragged into the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban, and Ibn Khuzaymah)
4. Thinking about the punishment in this world for showing off: Just as there will be a punishment in the Hereafter for showing off, there is also a punishment for it in this world, which is that Allah will expose him and make his bad intentions known to others. This is one of the interpretations of the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “Whoever shows off, Allah will expose him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Ibn Hajar said: Al-Khattabi said that this means: Whoever does something that is not sincerely for the sake of Allah, merely wanting people to see him and hear him, will be punished for that – Allah will expose him and make known what he is concealing.
5. Concealing worship and not making a display of it: The further away a person gets from places where his worship can be seen, the safer he is from showing off. Whoever looks for places where people gather, Satan makes him keen to show off his worship so that they will praise him for it.
The acts of worship which should be hidden are those which are not obligatory or those in which it is not the Sunnah to do them openly, such as Qiyam Al-Layl, and giving charity. This does not apply to giving the Adhan, praying in congregation and other things which cannot and should not – according to Shari`ah – be hidden.