20 Ways to Show Off

Salman ibn Fahd al-'Awdah

Praise be to Allah; we praise Him, seek His forgiveness, and turn to Him in repentance. We seek refuge with Him from the evils of our souls and the evils of our deeds. Whomever Allah guides, none can misguide, and whomever Allah leads astray, none can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone without partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.

Allah created the human being and exalted him above all other creatures. First of all, He gave him the most perfect physical form. Allah says: “Truly, We have created the human being in the best of forms.” [Sûrah al-Tîn: 4] Nothing in Creation comes close to the human being in the perfection and harmony of its form and the excellence of the parts of its body.

Then Allah exalted the human being with something far greater, something that clearly sets him apart from all other things in existence. He graced him with the gift of reason and the honor of being directly accountable to his Lord. Hence, Allah speaks to us directly in the Qur’ân, saying: “O human being!” Allah is not addressing merely our bodies, but our minds and souls. This is why a person who is insane is not held accountable in Islamic Law. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The pen has been lifted from three: a sleeping person until he awakens, a small child until he matures, and an insane person until he comes to his senses.”1

It is clear to all sensible people that the gifts of reason and true humanity, and the honor of direct accountability before Allah are the greatest blessings that Allah has bestowed upon mankind. Allah, from above the seven heavens, calls out to us and addresses us directly. Surpassing all of these honors is the fact that Allah chose His Messengers from our kind. Allah says: “Allah did confer a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves.” [Sûrah آl `Imrân: 164]

The greatest honor that Allah has conferred upon humanity is our direct accountability to Him, and the highest expression of this accountability is to worship Allah with true sincerity and devotion. Therefore, we shall discuss in this short treatise a great threat to that sincerity. This threat is the human tendency to show off.

Our discussion will be divided into two chapters:

1. The first chapter will discuss inward and outward aspects of worship.

2. The second chapter will discuss the problem of showing off and investigate twenty ways that this ignoble quality can creep up on a person.

I ask Allah to bless us to be able to avoid this problem and save us from our tendency to show off. I ask him to make this short treatise beneficial to the people. Truly Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.


Inward and Outward Aspects of Worship

Allah created the human being, his most noble creation, to worship Him. Allah says: “I did not create the Jinn and humanity except to worship Me.” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât : 56] Worship is any lawful activity by which a person seeks Allah’s pleasure. It may be an act of formal worship that is only done for Allah’s sake and never for worldly gain, like the prescribed prayers, the fast, payment of alms, or the pilgrimage. It may also be a lawful, mundane act like engaging in business, agriculture, manufactur e, study, or employment, if such an activity is pursued sincerely, honorably, in the best manner, and with the hope of attaining Allah’s pleasure. In this way, the most mundane acts can earn Allah’s reward.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is the reward of giving charity when you approach your wives.”

The Companions were startled by this and said: “O Messenger of Allah! When one of us fulfills his desires, he receives a reward for it?’

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “Can you see that if you approached a woman in a forbidden manner, you would be punished for it? Likewise, when you approach your wife in a lawful manner, you receive a reward for it.”

Outward Aspects of Worship

Every limb of the body has some act of worship to perform. Let us take the eyes as an example. The eyes worship Allah by looking at what they are commanded to look at. Allah says:

“Will they not look at the kingdom of the heavens and the Earth.” [Sûrah al-A`râf : 185]

“Say: Travel through the Earth and look upon what was the end of those who rejected faith.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 11]

Using the gift of sight can be an act of worship. It is worship to look upon the Creation of Allah and marvel at its perfection. It is worship to use one’s eyes to read and acquire knowledge.

The ears also have their designated acts of worship. They are used to listen to what pleases Allah, like the recitation of the Qur’ân, the remembrance of His name, and the acquisition of knowledge. This is why Allah says: “Surely the hearing, the sight, the heart, all of these shall be questioned.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 36]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) has told us that Allah says: “My servant continues to come closer to me with voluntary acts of worship until I love him, and if I love him, I become his hearing by which he hears, and his sight by which he sees.”2 – meaning that he hears and sees only what is pleasing to Allah.

The hands have their worship to do as well. They give in charity and engage in numerous good works. They are used for the prevention of evil. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever amongst you sees something wrong being done, he should change it with his hands. If he cannot do that, then with his tongue. If he cannot do that, then at least in his heart, and this is the weakest of faith.”3

Greeting ones brethren and shaking hands with them is worship, since this wipes away sins and purifies the heart.

The same can be said for all physical exertions made for the sake of Allah, like fighting to defend the faith against the enemies of Islam.

A believing woman is no different than a man in this respect. Her acts of worship are by her own hands. We can add to what we have already mentioned her taking care of her children and all the work that she does in the home. This also falls under obedience to Allah and is a means of attaining nearness to Him as well as a way of pleasing her husband.

Even the feet have there share of worship designated to them. With them, the worshipper walks to the daily prayers at the mosque and the Friday prayer. Allah says: “Verily We shall give life to the dead and We shall record that which they send forward and the traces they leave behind.” [Sûrah YâSîn: 12]

When the tribe of Banû Salamah wished to relocate in order to be closer to the Mosque, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told them to stay at their present homes, explaining to them that every step they take while walking to the mosque is recorded with Allah, saying: “Your homes record the traces you leave behind.”4

And Allah describes in the Qur’ân how this recording takes place “...in a Book wherein my Lord never errs nor forgets.” [Sûrah TâHâ: 52]

Allah also says: “It is He who made the Earth traversable, so walk through its tracts…” [Sûrah al-Mulk: 15] Traversing the Earth to ponder over the lessons to be found therein is worship which the feet can engage in.

Just as the devotions of the limbs are mentioned, so are their sins. The sin of the eyes is for them to gaze upon forbidden things. The sin of the ears is for them to listen to backbiting, slander, calumny, curses, music, and whatever else displeases Allah. The sin of the tongue is for it to utter lies, to backbite, slander, and curse, and to ridicule the believers. The sin of the hands is for them to steal, abuse others, and transgress against the Muslims. The sin of the feet is for them to walk towards sin, whether it be in the home, the marketplace, or a foreign land. All of these are sins of the limbs.

Look how Ma`n b. `Aws boasts in verse how he has safeguarded his limbs from sin, neither stretching his hands toward sin, nor letting his feet carry him towards disobeying Allah:

Upon your life! I never stretched my hand towards a dubious affair,

Nor have my feet ever carried me towards denigration.

Neither has my hearing nor my sight guided me there,

Nor have my thoughts or ideas brought me hither.

I know that no affliction has ever befallen me

That has not afflicted a young man in times gone by



1 Musnad Ahmad (24173, 24182, 24590). Sunan Abî Dâwûd (4398). Sunan al-Nasâ’î (3432). Ibn Mâjah (2041). These narrations are all from `آ’ishah, and there are other chains of transmission from other Companions. The hadîth is authentic (sahîh).
2 Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6502).
3 Sahîh Muslim (49).
4 Sahîh Muslim (665).

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