“Religious” Muslims often sabotage their own projects and leadership efforts by using the excuse that they fear riya (showing off) and want their deeds to be purely for the sake of Allah. But the truth is that this thought is itself a form of riya and no one benefits from our inaction. How many of us shut off our deepest hopes and dreams before they even start by using the fear of riya excuse?
If you saw someone driving at full-speed toward a cliff, you wouldn’t just watch contentedly from the shoulder waiting for them to crash and burn. You’d try to help them. I was sitting next to a sister and her cup of almonds fell off the table and instinctively I reached out my hand to try to catch the cup before it spilled. I didn’t fight the impulse or pull my hand away wondering if I or anyone else would think I was showing off. But in other actions, which are of much greater benefit so many of us are comfortable sitting on the sidelines not taking any action using our riya excuse as permission for inaction.
And while we are not taking action, we cede the sphere to other voices who may not share the same moral compass. I remember Sh. Waleed Basyouni mentioning how it’s important for pious Muslims to get involved in society. If the good people all stay at home, hiding behind this or that tradition, we shouldn’t complain when the worst of people are put in positions of power and authority over us.
My fear is not of the critic trying to drag me back down to their level of inaction by questioning my intentions or by name-calling. My fear is that I will be asked on the Day of Judgment why I didn’t do more, why I didn’t live up to my full potential with the blessings I was given. Those who can do and those who cannot make excuses and criticize you.
So will you be one to take action?
Marianne Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.