From the morals and manners of the Salaf was their abundant sincerity (al-ikhlaas) in their knowledge and actions, fearing the presence of vanity (ar-riyaa’). Allaah the Most High said, ‘Is it not to Allaah that sincere religion is due?“(1) The Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu ‘alayhe wasallaam) said, “Allaah does not accept any action without it being sincerely devoted to Him and seeking His Face.”(2)
Ibraheem at-Taymi (rahimahullaah) would say, “The sincerely devoted one is he who conceals his good deeds like he conceals his bad ones.”
Ash-Sha’bi (rahimahullaah) said, “(It is) from the manners of scholars that if they know some knowledge, they would practice it. Once they had practiced that knowledge, they would preoccupy themselves with practice rather than with people. With their preoccupation, their presence amongst the people would be missed, and when missed, they would be sought after, and when sought after, they would flee fearing tribulation in their deen (practice).“
Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyaad (rahimahullaah) used to say, “If you saw a scholar or a worshipper taking pleasure at their righteousness being mentioned in front of the rulers and the children of the world, then know that he is one who is a show-off.”
The reason being that sincerity is to desire through knowledge and practice, the things which are with Allaah the Most High. Amongst the signs of the discreet showing off (ar-riyaa’ ul-khaafee) is to feel cheerful being praised or noticed for one’s action. The Salaf used to count this as greater than a major sin since it is a minor form of shirk (associating partners with Allaah), the greatest of sins.
O brother! Search yourself in your knowledge and action. Weep over them if you find in them the love to be seen (ar-riyaa’) or heard (as-sam’aah), knowing that whoever loved to be seen or heard is shown up with humiliation and exposed in the world and the Hereafter.
We ask Allaah for His protection in the two worlds.