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Rīyāʾ (Arabic: الرياء) means showing off and pretending to do good actions, without having the real intention for doing it. It is mentioned five times in the Qur'an. Riya' in worship means that one worships not for God, but intends to show off.

According to verses of the Qur'an, riya' in prayer is among the characteristics of hypocrites and a sign of hypocrisy. Riya' is haram and invalidates the action.


Riya' is derived from the root "R-'A-Y" (Arabic: ر-أ-ي) meaning that a person performs an action to attract people's attention.[1] It is also used meaning "to pretend and show off to others".[2] The meaning of riya' in religious context is that a person does a good action to pretend and show off to people, not for the sake of God. Riya' may happen both in worship such as in prayer and also in actions not considered as worship such as in infaq ["spending without asking for any favor or hoping for a return"].

In the Qur'an

The word riya' is mentioned five times in the Qur'an: three times as infinitive and twice as verb and in all the five times, it has been used in its technical sense.

  • Riya' in infaq: "O you who have faith! Do not render your charities void by reproaches and affronts, like those who spend their wealth to be seen by people and have no faith in Allah and the Last Day."[3]
  • Riya' in fighting with the enemy: "Do not be like those who left their homes vainly and to show off to the people, and to bar [other people] from the way of Allah"[4] In this verse, God considered pride and riya' among the drawbacks of power in battlefields.
  • Riya' as an independent concept: "those who show off"[5]

Who are they?

The Qur'an has mentioned examples of those who show off:

  • Those who have no faith in Allah and the Last Day[6] With regards to the interpretations made for this verse, God Almighty likens those who do charity followed by make reproaches and affronts, to faithless pretentious people who invalidate their charities;[7] meaning that a hypocrite's action is invalid from the beginning, because such a person basically has no faith in God and the Day of Judgment whose actions will not be accepted.
  • Hypocrites:[8] according to the Qur'an, pretending in prayer is among characteristics of hypocrites and a sign of hypocrisy.
  • Deniers of the Day of Judgment[9]
  • Associates of Satan[10]

Ruling of Riya'

Ikhlas (sincerity) is a condition for the validity of worship whereas riya' is forbidden in it and invalidates it.

Different Types of Riya' in Worship

In a Part of Worship

Riya' invalidates the worship and it is not important whether it happens in all parts of an act of worship or only in a single part of it. Also, it does not make any difference between obligatory and recommended parts;[11] however, some faqihs maintain that riya' in recommended parts of worship such as qunut does not invalidate the action.[12]

In Requirements of Worship

Riya' in requirements of worship and other actions which are not regarded as worship does not invalidate the worship itself; for example, if someone goes to mosque pretentiously, but he performs the prayer with sincerity, his prayer is valid.[13]

In the Manner of Performing the Action

If someone is sincere in his act of worship, but some of the characteristics of his action are to show off, some believe that his worship is invalid while some others have rejected it; such as a person who performs his prayer in congregation or on time for riya'.[14]

Subjects of Riya'

Riya' has different types:

  • In the faith itself: meaning that the person says shahadatayn (testimonies of faith) in appearance, but in his heart, he denies them. This riya' is disbelief and hypocrisy.
  • In acts of worship, while accepting the religion: the person who accepts the religion itself and performs acts of worship in front of people, but abandons obligations when alone.
  • Riya' in Recommended Actions.
  • In the manner of performing obligatory or recommended acts of worship: such as attending congregational prayers before others in order to find place and stand in the first row or as such.

Effects and Consequences

According to verses and hadiths, some of the consequences of riya' are:

  • Invalidation of infaq.[15]
  • Deprivation from the Love of God[16]
  • Association with Satan[17]
  • Relation with Polytheism: it is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that, "any kind of riya' is polytheism, for anyone who acts for the sake of people, his reward is upon them and anyone who acts for the sake of God, his reward is upon Him."[18]


Some treatments have been suggested for riya' including:

  • Reflecting upon the wrath of God toward riya'
  • Thinking about worthlessness of people's rewards and praises in comparison with the reward of God Almighty.
  • Considering the fact that riya' spoils rewards of one's actions in the hereafter.
  • Habituating oneself to do good actions secretly.

Permissible Cases of Showing Actions to Others

In many cases, performing action openly is not considered riya' and is even recommended; such as performing good and righteous actions for the purpose of motivating others, preaching religion or fighting against temptations of Satan.


  1. Ibn Fāris, Muʿjam maqāyīs al-lugha, p. 473.
  2. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 3, p. 30.
  3. Qur'an, 2:264.
  4. Qur'an, 8:47.
  5. Qur'an, 107:6.
  6. Qur'an, 2:264.
  7. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 2, p. 597.
  8. Qurʾān, 4:142.
  9. Qurʾān, 107:6.
  10. Qurʾān, 4:38.
  11. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 9, p. 187.
  12. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, p. 442-443.
  13. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, p. 444-445.
  14. Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, vol. 9, p. 188-189; Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, p. 443.
  15. Qurʾān, 2:264.
  16. Qurʾān, 4:36-38.
  17. Qurʾān, 4:38.
  18. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 13, p. 407.


  • Ibn Fāris, Aḥmad. Muʿjam maqāyīs al-lugha. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Aʿlām al-Islāmī, 1404 AH.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūna. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1380 Sh.
  • Najafī, Muḥammad Ḥasan al-. Jawāhir al-kalām. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1362 Sh.
  • Qarashī, ʿAlī Akbar al-. Qāmūs al-Qurʾān. Sixth edition. Qom: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, [n.d].
  • Ṭabāṭabāyī, Muḥammad Ḥusayn. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Muʾassisa-yi Maṭbūʿātī Ismāʿīlīyān, [n.d].
  • Yazdī, Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓīm al-Ṭabāṭabāyī al-. Al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā. Qom: Miytham-i Tammār, [n.d].