What Is Riya (Ostentation)?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

My sister has not been fasting for over 30 years. She admits that she has not any physical reason or illness that makes fasting difficult. She gives money to poor people, but not in any calculated method or order. She also didn’t pray for all that time. How can I help her?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. May Allah reward you for your concern over your sister.

It can be difficult to advise one’s adult siblings in religious guidance, and one has to be careful not to push too far or quick, so as not to put them off practicing all together. Usually what happens is that subtle seeds have to be sown in the heart first, and when they realise for themselves that it’s time to take stock, then they will decide to make changes with confidence and conviction.

Steps to Take

1. The first step is to pray for your sister. Allah is the One who guides, so we should always turn to Him first and foremost. The following du’a is narrated by the Prophet ﷺ as a supplication for oneself, however, one could change the word قَلْبِي (my heart) to قَلْبِها (her heart):

يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِك
O Turner of the hearts, make my heart steadfast in adhering to Your religion [al Tirmidhi]

2. Avoid talking about make up prayers or fasts for now. The most important thing is that she wants to start practicing and fulfilling her current obligations. By reminding her of the many years of make up worships she has, your sister may be put off practicing all together. The time to discuss make-up should come later, when she has established herself in the religion and practicing out of her own desire.

3. Be subtle and gentle in your advice. For example, rather than telling her she should pray or fast, perhaps invite her to pray with you sometimes, or have suhur together. Make Ramadan special.

4. Buy her Islamic gifts such as a special, beautiful quality prayer rug or sibha (beads), as it will remind her of the beauty of faith and worship.

5. Invite her to general social gatherings where good Muslims will be and where there is a relaxed atmosphere. This may help her see that she could adapt her lifestyle and still socialise.

6. Buy her a few Islamic books/CDs on interesting subjects such as history or seerah and biographies (rather than fiqh or Hereafter topics).

7. Be kind and thoughtful, but principled in your own practice, and hopefully she will see that it is a better lifestyle choice than her own.

I hope the above is of some help. May Allah guide your sister to the religion with love and dedication.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)