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Some Forms of Reprehensible Boasting

By Sheikh Abdul-Bari ibn Awwad al-Thubaiti – 09 THul Qadah 1437

His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Bari ibn Awwad al-Thubaiti, may Allah preserve him, delivered the Friday Khutbah entitled, “Some Forms of Reprehensible Boasting,” in which he talked about Islam’s disapproval of boasting, paying too much attention to outward appearances, and showing self-admiration, showing that boasting distorts the sublime meanings of generosity and leads to spoiling one’s good deeds. He mentioned several forms of boasting, which is dispraised in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Praise be to Allah – praise that is bountiful, good, and blessed. To Him belong all praise and grace, as He has made the hearts of His servants good with mercy towards one another. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone, Who has no partners. He has made the law of mutual repulsion one of the laws of life. I also bear witness that our Master and Prophet, Muhammad, is His servant and messenger, who warned us against insulting one another, turning our backs to one another, and boasting about what we possess. May Allah bestow His peace and blessings upon him and upon his family and Companions, whose brotherly ties were characterised by pardoning and forgiveness.

Now then,
I advise you and advise myself to fear Allah. Allah, Exalted be He, says: “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah: 119)

When we contemplate the guidance and the life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, we realize that he was far removed from affectation in words, deeds, and way of life. Islam teaches us that however great and honourable one’s deeds may be, it is not acceptable to boast about them if they are devoid of the value of faith. Allah, Exalted be He, also says: “Do you consider the providing of drinking water for the pilgrims and the maintenance of Al-Masjid al-Haram (at Makkah) as equal to the one who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and strives hard and fights in the Cause of Allah? They are not equal before Allah …” (At-Taubah: 19)

Boasting, showing off one’s honourable traits, high social standing, and noble descent, bragging about praising one’s own personality traits, showing self-admiration, and displaying Allah’s favours haughtily are reprehensible qualities, a form of weakness, and a sign of a fragile personality. Allah, Exalted be He, says: “… Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.” (Luqman: 18)

The most dangerous form of boasting, which threatens a Muslim’s creed, is riya’ (showing off), which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, once described as the lesser Shirk (assigning partners to Allah). To illustrate this, he gave the example of a person who stands up to pray and when he realises that someone is watching him, he tries to improve his prayer. Another form of boasting is to brag about committing sins openly, and those who do so are sternly warned of a bad ending.

Boasting and bragging distort the sublime meanings of generosity through falling into excessiveness and squandering of money, to such an extent that they can reach the level of foolishness, ingratitude for Allah’s favours, and extravagance, which Islam has strictly prohibited. Boasting and bragging also include competing with one another and rivalry for worldly gains, which are based on vanity, showing off, and pride. Allah, Exalted be He, says: “The mutual rivalry (for piling up of worldly things) diverts you, until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).” (At-Takathur: 1-2)

Those who are taken to boastfulness stick to outward appearances due to reversed principles and criteria and because of the false thought that power lies in the resources of this transient life. Every sensible person knows that wealth, health, beauty, and position are gifts from Allah, Might and Majesty be to Him, and that they are changeable and fleeting worldly matters. Anyone who is granted such gifts must respond to them by showing humility, not by bragging and boasting about them. The Noble Qur’an makes plain the state of those who boast about their wealth and children, telling us that they say: “…We are more in wealth and in children, and we are not going to be punished.” (Saba’: 35)

In response to this statement of theirs, Allah, Might and Majesty be to Him, says: “Verily, those who disbelieve, neither their property nor their offspring will avail them whatsoever against Allah …” (Al ‘Imran: 10)

Fame is a terrible disease sought by those running after mirage-like desires even at the cost of deviating from religion and morality. Those seeking fame live their lives as slaves to the looks of their admirers. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If anyone wears a garment for gaining fame, Allah will clothe him with a garment of humiliation on the Day of Judgement.”

One of the most detrimental effects of boasting and bragging is that they spoil a Muslim’s religion. Indeed, religion becomes spoiled as a result of seeking esteem in this life, especially if this is done with the intention of showing off and gaining fame and popularity. This kind of behaviour begets humiliation, debasement, and disgrace. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If anyone wants to have his deeds widely publicised, Allah will publicise (his humiliation); and if anyone makes a hypocritical display (of his deeds,) Allah will make a display of him.”

Boasting about acts of worship makes deeds devoid of Allah’s blessings and even makes them unworthy of reward. Allah, Exalted be He, says: “Would any of you wish to have a garden with date-palms and vines, with rivers flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits for him therein, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are weak (not able to look after themselves), then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt? …” (Al-Baqarah: 266)

Good deeds are here compared to a vast orchard with high-yield crops, while displaying good deeds with the purpose of boasting and showing off is compared to a whirlwind that strikes and completely burns out the orchard. Thus, boasting completely destroys good deeds, making them devoid of blessings and unworthy of reward. A person may be affected by bragging and boasting in his own home and within his own family circle. This can be seen in the unnecessary display of social status and extravagance in furniture, fabrics, or antiques. This also includes excessive spending on mahr (the dowry given by the husband to the wife) and wedding feasts.

Boasting leads one to forget to show gratitude to the Bestower of favours and praise Him for them. Allah, Exalted be He, says:  “And when some hurt touches man, he cries to his Lord (Allah Alone), turning to Him in repentance. But when He bestows a favour upon him from Himself, he forgets that for which he cried for before …” (Az-Zumar: 8)

This means that man shows vanity and boasts about the favours bestowed upon him, and therefore forgets about his Lord, Whom he had asked and supplicated before that. Boasting causes one to look down upon others. This is clearly manifested in the example of Satan, for Allah tells us that Satan said to Him about Adam, peace be upon him: “…I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.” (Al-A‘raf: 12)

By saying so, he attributed inequity to his Lord by claiming that he is better than Adam.

Boasting and bragging hinders a Muslim’s mind from fulfilling his mission of effecting growth and development. Running after shallow propaganda and deceptive appearances leads a Muslim to embrace carnal pleasures and indulge in vain pursuits. Boasting and bragging also lead to the defeat of the Ummah. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah grants victory to this nation because of the weakest in it – because of their supplication, prayers, and sincerity.” This indicates that showing off and paying too much attention to outward appearances lead to the defeat of the Ummah.

Boasting and bragging provoke the feelings of Muslims who are in straitened circumstances and suffer hardships due to their limited source of income. Bragging also leads to the spread of envy, as boastful people tend to speak of the bounties of Allah arrogantly and conceitedly, or in a manner which invites the envy of others. It is for this and other reasons, servants of Allah, that Islam vehemently warns against boasting and bragging in all their types and forms, even in one’s gait. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “While a man was walking haughtily in his fine mantles, pleased with himself, Allah caused the earth to swallow him, and he will continue to fall in it until the Day of Resurrection.”

May Allah bless you and me with the Great Qur’an and make us benefit from its verses and wise words. I have said what you have heard and I ask forgiveness of Allah, the Most Great, for myself, for you, and for all Muslims for any sin we have committed. Ask Allah for forgiveness. He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.



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