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Golden Advice on the Pitfalls of Fame

Fame along with wealth are two things that man aspires to attain in this world. However these are the same two things whose quest often spells ruin and destruction for many a seeker.

The seeker of fame is so often blinded in his quest that he sacrifices his Hereafter for a few words of praise in this world. In our worldly life we always seek to get the most for our efforts, while for the Hereafter we become satisfied with such a paltry price – bargaining away our deeds for praise.

Our pious predecessors went to extreme lengths to hide their good deeds in an effort to maintain their sincerity and realize all their reward in the Hereafter.

There are many instances among our pious predecessors where their hidden acts of virtue would only be discovered many years later by coincidence or even after their death.

You will find in the biographies of our awliya and ‘ulama such eminent men who fasted for years on end without even their families knowing.

You will find among them one who passed away and when his body was being prepared for burial it was discovered to have deep marks on the shoulders and the back. Upon further inquiry the people discovered how many widows and orphans this person had provided for in the dark of the night – carrying heavy sacks of food on his back that resulted in those deep marks – avoiding recognition and being discovered his entire life. The only evidence that he could not hide were the marks on his body – that too being discovered after his death!

Examples such as these are vast and numerous but all are centered on one important premise: sincerity in deeds. Deeds are done for the sake of Allah and never to seek fame or praises of the masses.

Many of us are aware of the importance of ikhlas (sincerity). The famous hadith: “Deeds are based on intentions…” is among the most oft-recited hadith in our study circles and masajid.

When we perform good deeds – we keep the principle of this hadith in mind and act accordingly to the best of our abilities. However, there is a second trap to watch out for. A trap that is more sinister and hidden and takes us by surprise. This trap is the secret hope we harbor in our hearts that somehow people should come to know of this deed and praise us for it.

We seek to be praised and commended by people for being truly humble since we didn’t disclose our deed apparently – it was “discovered” by others. We want people to identify us as those who don’t seek or like fame for ourselves. We want people to think of us as bastions of humility. This is the second trap of Shaytan, more perilous than the first.

To avoid this trap of Shaytan, one must first of all seek the refuge of Allah from the traps and tricks of one’s own nafs and Shaytan. It is Allah, Who guides us and we must turn to Him, first and foremost and seek His help in all our affairs. It is He who prevents us from being misguided.

Secondly, we should follow a golden piece of advice given by one of the friends of Allah:

لا تحب أن تعرف ولا تحب أن يعرف أنك ممن لا يحب أن يعرف

“Don’t like that you should be known, and don’t like it that it should be known

that you are among those who don’t like to be known.” [i]

Before and after we have performed a good deed we must always work on our hearts, always check it and cross-examine it. Seek not only to avoid fame, but to avoid that second trap: Avoid it being known that you don’t like fame.

Thirdly, we need to practice muraqabah (always being aware of Allah’s presence). This is certainly not an easy task that comes in one or two days. However with the help of a Shaykh of Tasawwuf, this concentration can and should be developed.

By following these steps and working diligently on our hearts we will Insha-Allah become better aware of this silent virus and be better equipped to deal with it.

May Allah protect us all, purify our intentions for His sake alone, and help us in remembering Him, thanking Him and worshiping

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