Assalamualaikum ustaz. Sometimes, when I do some good there are people who praise me. However, there are no feelings of riya’ in me. I’m asking for an explanation about this issue.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
First, every deed performed must be with sincerity and intended only for Allah SWT. Allah SWT states:
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.”
Surah al-An’am (162)
Ibn Kathir explained that Allah SWT commanded the Prophet PBUH to convey to the idolaters who worship other than Allah and slaughter by reciting names other than His of which in this matter the Prophet PBUH contradict with them. For indeed, the Prophet PBUH’s prayer is only for Allah SWT and slaughter is done only for Him on His name where there are no associates to Him. (See Tafsir al-Quran al-'Azim, 3/337)
Whereas, Syeikh al-Maraghi when explaining the above verse states that the above verse includes all good deeds which is the purpose of a believer who believes in the One and Only Allah and his savings includes his sincerity in his heart for Allah SWT the Lord of the Worlds. Thus, for a believer, he should set his heart to live only for Allah SWT, while his death is also for Allah SWT. Afterwards, he would always do good and subservient as well as improving his worships; seeking perfection in his worship with the hope that he would die in the blessing of Allah SWT.
He further concluded that indeed the worship is only done for Allah SWT, the Sovereignty of all the slaves, for He created them. Thus, whoever with his heart who faces Allah SWT and other than Him, although towards other honoured slaves or creations that is considered noble, then he is considered as an idolater. Allah SWT does not accept the worship except worship performed purely for Him the Most Venerated and honoured Essence. (See Tafsir al-Maraghi, 4/2106)
Allah SWT further states:
وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ
And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion,
Surah al-Bayyinah (5)
Sayyid Qutb explained: The basics of the religion of Allah SWT generally is to worship the One and Only Allah, in sincere obedience, avoiding shirk, performing prayer and pay the zakat. This is the true religion. In short, the characteristics of the true religion is pure faith in his heart. And sincere worships for Allah is the interpreter of this faith. (See Tafsir fi Zilal al-Quran, 17/483)
Regarding your question, we would like to state that it is a form of a blessing for you. This is in accordance with a hadith from Abi Zar RA, where he said: The Messenger of Allah PBUH was asked:
أَرَأَيْتَ الرَّجُلَ يَعْمَلُ الْعَمَلَ مِنْ الْخَيْرِ ، وَيَحْمَدُهُ النَّاسُ عَلَيْهِ ؟ قَالَ : تِلْكَ عَاجِلُ بُشْرَى الْمُؤْمِنِ
“What is your opinion about the person who has done good deeds and the people praise him? He said: It is glad tidings for a believer (which he has received in this mortal world).”
Sahih Muslim (2642), Ibn Hibban (366)
Imam al-Nawawi explained: Scholars said: The meaning of glad tidings is direct goodness as a sign of the blessing of Allah and His love for him. Thus, Allah SWT makes others love him as stated in the previous hadith. Then, it is followed by the acceptance of others on earth for him. All of these are when people praise him without being sarcastic or disparaging towards him. (See al-Minhaj, 16/189)
Ibn al-Jauzi said: When Allah SWT accepts the deed of a person, then the hearts of people are made to accept his deed by praising him. Hence, it is a form of glad tidings for him as a sign of the acceptance of his deeds. This is the same as when Allah SWT love a slave of His, then all the other creations are made to love him too. The reason is they are the witness for Him in this world. (See Kasyf al-Musykil, pg. 245)
While Imam al-Suyuti said: It is the hastening of glad tidings and this is the evidence that the same would happen in the hereafter. (See Syarh al-Suyuti ‘ala Muslim, 5/556)
Thus, compliments of others for us should not make us forget ourselves that it is a blessing of Allah and remind us to always be grateful and at the same time distancing ourselves from riya’ (ostentatiousness) and ujub (conceitedness).
May Allah SWT bless you and all of us goodness in this world and the hereafter. We end with the supplication:
اللَّهُمَّ طَهِّرْ قَلْبِي مِنَ النِّفَاقِ، وَعَمَلِي مِنَ الرِّيَاءِ، وَلِسَانِي مِنَ الْكَذِبِ، وَعَيْنِي مِنَ الْخِيَانَةِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَعْلَمُ خَائِنَةَ الأَعْيُنِ وَمَا تُخْفِي الصُّدُورُ
“O Allah! Clean my heart from nifaq, (clean) my deed from riyak, (clean) my speech from lies, (clean) my eyes from betrayal. Indeed, You are the All-Knowing of the betraying eyes and what is hidden in the chests.”