the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî
There is no disagreement that if a person performs a deed and from the beginning has the intent of showing off to others, then his deed is totally bereft of virtue. However, often the desire to show off enters a worshipper’s heart after his intention had been pure. What then?
There is no doubt that if a person is engaged in sincere worship and the desire to show off enters his heart and he suppresses it, then his worship is sound. This is the battle that a Muslim must sometimes wage in his heart. Misgivings and feelings can creep up on us all the time. It is how we respond to these tendencies that is important.
However, if this desire takes hold on the person and endures, then it will have negative consequences on his deed. If the deed is self-contained, like prayer and fasting, then the deed can very easily become bereft of all blessings.
For example, consider a person who starts his prayer with full sincerity and then realizes that certain important people are seeing him. His intention changes. He now wants to impress them. Instead of fighting this inclination, he allows it to take hold of him and for the remainder of his prayer they are at the forefront of his mind. He may even improve the performance of his prayer on their account.
On the other hand, if the deeds are of a nature that they could be divided into separate acts, then he will be rewarded for what he did for the sake of Allah and will be sinful for what he did to show off to the people. This applies to acts like giving in charity, reciting the Qur’ân, or imparting knowledge. The blessings will not be lost for the acts that were done with sincerity. However, after the intention turns sour, the blessings will stop increasing.
A Muslim must be worried about his intentions. However, he should never stop performing good deeds on account of his trying to correct his intentions. Just like deeds have no meaning without the proper intentions, intentions have no meaning unless they are accompanied by the proper deeds. Therefore a Muslim must continue to perform good deeds and be vigilant.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught Abû Bakr a supplication by which we can ask Allah forgiveness when insincerity strikes us unawares. He instructed him to say: “O Allah! I seek refuge with you from associating partners with you knowingly and I seek your forgiveness for what I do unknowingly.” [al-Bukhârî in al-Adab al-Mufrid]
The fact that a Muslim is truly worried about his intentions is proof enough that he is sincere. As long as he renews his intention whenever other motives try to creep into his heart, he will be safe. He should never despair of Allah’s understanding, mercy, and forgiveness.
Source: Islam Today