I heard that one of the Salaf said: "Doing a deed for people is showing off and leaving a deed for the people is polytheism." Could you please explain what is meant by "leaving a deed for the people" and what the evidence for it is?
Al-Fudayl b. `Iyâd had harsh words for those who abandoned performing good works because of the people. He said: “Abandoning deeds because of the people is showing off. Performing deeds for their sake is polytheism. Sincerity is where Allah protects you from both.”
Some people go to the mosque. Then when they get there and see the people there, they become afraid of showing off. They start to come to the mosque late because of this and might sometimes miss the prayer altogether. This becomes their habit. Coming to the mosque early becomes one of the most difficult things for them to do.
Some people who read or memorize the Qur’ân, when they see that others are listening to them, become afraid of showing off. They stop reading the Qur’ân. This is tragic, especially when the people who do so are among those who have memorized the Qur’ân or who teach it to others.
Abandoning one’s good deeds is a grave error. What the worshipper must do is cease to worry about created beings altogether, neither performing anything for their sake nor abstaining from anything for their sake.
One of the reasons for this behavior is that the person who is supposed to perform a given deed has an exaggerated view of his own importance and the importance of what he is about to do. He may have to give the Friday sermon or give a small talk after prayer where he can encourage what is right and discourage what is wrong. He begins to imagine that what he is doing is some great deed and that people will start quoting his words.
Maybe he thinks that what he has to say will become the talk of the town. He may become a bit impressed with himself at this point, and here is where he starts to fear showing off. He sees the only way to play it safe is not to talk and not to act.
This is one of the devil’s tricks. The only way for a person to stay immune to it is to accustom himself to doing good deeds and to see those deeds as small and insignificant when he does them. He must at the same time accustom himself to not attaching any importance to what people say. He must be able to recognize his own faults and realize the shortcomings in his works. Then, when someone offers him unwelcome praise, it will not harm him in any way.
Such praise will then be as the Prophet (peace be upon him) described it: “...glad tidings being presented to the believer early.” [Sahîh Muslim]
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital