There are sixty important maladies of the spiritual heart. One of the malady is ostentation (riyâ). “Riyâ” means to present something in a manner opposite to its true nature. In short, it means pretension, i.e., a person’s performing deeds for the next world to impress the idea on others that he is really a pious person with earnest desire of the next world (âkhirat) while in fact he wants to attain his worldly desires and the wealth of this world. In other words, it means to use the religion as a tool to obtain worldly riches, or to bring oneself into other people’s favour by making a show of one’s acts of worship. [If a person whose actions and words are intended for hypocrisy possesses religious knowledge, he is called a hypocrite (munâfiq). If he does not possess religious knowledge, he is called religious fanatic. Any enemy of Islam who does not possess scientific knowledge but introduces himself as such in order to preach his own ideas as scientific knowledge for the purpose of deceiving Muslims and undermining their beliefs and religion, is called a sham scientist (zindiq). Muslims should distrust both these types of people.
Hypocrisy could only be permissible in case of ikrâh (duress) which is mulji’ (coercive, compulsory). “Ikrâh” means to force someone to do something which they do not want to do. If the duress subsumes threats to kill or mutilate a part of the body, then it is called “ikrâh mulji’ (duress which is coercive).”
Opposite of hypocrisy is ikhlâs, which means to do the acts of worship only for the purpose of pleasing Allâhu ta’âlâ, without any worlly considerations. A person with ikhlâs never thinks of showing his worships to others. Others’ seeing a person with ikhlâs doing acts of worship will not detract from his ikhlâs. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ states in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Worship Allâhu ta’âlâ as if you were seeing Him! Though you don’t see Him, He sees you!”
Helping others in their worldly affairs in order to obtain their love and praise is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy which is done through worships is much worse than this. The hypocrisy which is done without thinking the consent of Allâhu ta’âlâ is the worst of all of the above. Performing worships so that one may ask assistance from Allâhu ta’âlâ for worldly affairs would not be hypocrisy. For example, performing prayer for rain, or performing istihâra prayers for the purpose of seeking guidance from Allâhu ta’âlâ is not hypocrisy. Some scholars also said that the following actions do not constitute hypocrisy: getting paid for being a religious leader (Imâm) or preacher or teacher or for reciting âyats of the Qur’ân in order to get rid of worldly troubles like distress, sickness, or poverty. These actions contain both intentions of worships and worldly benefits. Going on a pilgrimage (hajj) for commercial or business purposes also does not constitute hypocrisy. If these actions did not include intention of worshipping at all then they would be hypocrisy. If the intention of worshipping outweighs other intentions then one will also be rewarded for them. Showing one’s worships to others in order to encourage them to do the same or in order to teach them also does not constitute hypocrisy. On the contrary, it is a very good deed and one will earn much thawâb for doing so. Fasting during the “Ramadân” month does not constitute hypocrisy. If one starts to perform (the daily prayer called) namâz for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ but later on sinks into hypocrisy, that later materialized hypocrisy will not harm that person.
Writing books, preaching or giving advice to others with the intention of becoming famous is also hypocrisy. Preaching means encouraging good deeds (amr-i-ma’rûf) and dissuading from deeds which Islam prohibits (nahy-i-munkar). Learning and studying for the purpose of winning arguments or for being seen superior to others or for boasting also constitutes hypocrisy. Studying knowledge in order to gain worldly possessions or ranks also constitutes hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is forbidden (harâm). The knowledge which is gained for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ increases one’s sense of fear of Allâhu ta’âlâ. It causes one to see one’s own defects and causes one to be protected against the deceits of the devil. Religious men who use their knowledge as a vehicle to gain worldly possessions or ranks are called wicked religious people (’ulemâ-i-sû’). Their destination is Hell. Another example of hypocrisy is to perform the acts of worship with thorough attention to detail in the sunnats when there are people around and to perform them in a manner quite heedless of the sunnats while praying alone.
In order for worships to be acceptable (sahîh) their intention has to be done for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ. Intention is made with the heart. Intention made only with a labial utterance is not acceptable. According to some scholars it is permissible to intend simultaneously through the heart and by repeating through the lips. If the intention in the heart is different from what is said through the lips, the intention in the heart will be valid.
The following hadîth-i-sherîfs communicate: “Those who perform their ‘salât’ prayers beautifully while they are among others in order to boast and then do not pray the same way while they are alone are insulting Allâhu ta’âlâ,” and “What I am most afraid of is that you may lapse into ‘shirk al-asgari’, i.e., small ‘shirk’ or in other words it is hypocrisy ‘riyâ’,” and “To those who perform their prayers with hypocrisy ‘riyâ’ in this world, will be said in the Day of Gathering ‘Qiyâmat’: O you, wicked person! There is no reward for you today. Whomever you prayed for during your worldly life go back and ask reward from them,” and “Allâhu ta’âlâ says: I do not have any partner ‘sharîk’. Whoever attributes a partner to Me should seek his rewards from him. Perform your prayers with sincerity! Allâhu ta’âlâ accepts prayers done with sincerity.” The purpose of worships is to obtain the consent of Allâhu ta’âlâ. Any worship performed for the purpose of gaining someone’s favor or love would mean to worship that person. We are commanded to perform our worships only for the sake of Allâhu ta’âlâ. A hadîth communicates, “Allâhu ta’âlâ will be pleased with anyone who believes in the oneness of Allâhu ta’âlâ and who performs his ‘salât’ and obligatory almsgiving ‘zakât’ with sincerity.”
Ref: This paragraphes are quoted from the book “Ethics of Islam” page 46, which is the translation of the book Berîka written by Abû Sa’îd Muhammad bin MustafâHâdimî ‘rahima hullâhu ta’âlâ’, who passed away in 1176 Hijrî, 1762 A.D. in Konya / Turkey and the book Akhlâq-i-Alâî written in Turkish by Alî bin Amrullah ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ,’ who passed away in 979 Hijrî, 1572 A.D. in Edirne / Turkey. You can find the whole book and the other valuable books in the web site www.hakikatkitabevi.com.tr and download in PDF format for Adobe Acrobat Reader, EPUB format for iPhone-iPad-Mac devices and MOBI format for Amazon Kindle device.