This article was originally published on Al Madina Institute, with the contributors permission we have published it on Amaliah
The Spiritual Danger of Fame
Traditionally, Islam considers self-promotion and seeking fame a spiritual ailment and a destructive desire for a worldly matter, similar to wealth. While seeking wealth is a hunger to possess material things, seeking fame is the desire to possess people’s hearts, and to capture their love and attention. 
A believer’s goal should be something nobler and higher — to seek God’s countenance, free of the craving for people’s attention and approval. This outlook on fame, which stands in sharp contrast to today’s norms, must be understood by any Muslim who puts themselves in the spotlight. The Prophet ﷺ likened a passionate desire for fame to a ravenous wolf that would tear apart one’s religious commitment.  Seeking celebrity and to be talked about can lead one to making more and more compromises religiously and spiritually, eventually causing critical damage to one’s faith. Even when done in the name of Islam or to promote the Muslim cause, fame can tap into one’s vanity and ego, and muddle the heart’s sincerity and connection with Allah.
It is for this reason that many of the scholars and ‘knowers’ of our tradition were extremely wary of fame, and would encourage its opposite — that is, deflecting attention from one’s self, and avoiding positions of authority or prominence. 
Lastly, we must find a balanced way to criticize those who have fallen into error while in the spotlight. We often fall into two extremes when a famous Muslim errs — on the one hand, some respond with over the top, excessively harsh condemnation and emotional outrage, that is not proportionate to the action at hand. On the other, some reject the idea of criticism at all, and label any and all objections as ill-spirited hate. Mature, constructive, compassionate criticism, that is done with adab and good-will, while clearly and honestly censuring matters that contradict Islamic teachings, is the pressing need of the hour.
May Allah Most High help us, as a community, push forward the best among us to be our leaders, representatives, and role models. May He help us encourage each other towards good and to use our talents and resources in the best way. May He guide those in the spotlight to make the best use of their fame, protect them from its harms, and help them to be beacons of light in an abyss of darkness. Ameen.
1. See al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum ad-Deen, Book 28.
2. The Prophet said: “Two hungry wolves sent against a flock of sheep cannot cause more damage to them than one’s eagerness for wealth and prominence does damage to their religious commitment.” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi)
4. This is why, for example, one who sins privately is not punished as severely as one who sins in public, and also why one whose good deeds inspire others is rewarded manifold. For example, see the following hadith in Imam Nawawi’s Riyadh as-Saliheen: and Chapter 19.
Shazia Ahmad grew up in upstate New York and studied with local scholar and teacher Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui before beginning her studies overseas. In Syria, she studied briefly at the University of Damascus and then at Abu Nour University where she completed an Arabic Studies program (Ad-Dawraat) and a program in Islamic Studies (Ma’had at-Taheeli). She also studied in a number of private classes and attained her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Sh. Muhiyudin al-Kurdi (rahimahullah). She then spent the following six years in Cairo, Egypt furthering her education through private lessons and study. She has ijazaat in a number of introductory texts in various Islamic subjects and has written on Islam for Jannah.Org, VirtualMosque.com, Al-Madina Institute, and various other blogs and publications. Shazia also holds a B.A. in Psychology and History from the State University of New York. IG: @shaziatheseeker
By Afroze Fatima Zaidi