The word "riyā" (pretension) is derived from "ru'ya" (vision, eyesight), just as the word "sum'a" (reputation) is derived from "sam`'" (hearing). In essence, the meaning of pretension is that one seeks, through the medium of his good deeds, distinction and prominence in the hearts of people, even if this can be achieved through good deeds. But the term, according to the Sharī`a, requires this intention to materialize in the rituals and in the deeds intended for seeking nearness to Allāh as a condition for their acceptance according to the Sharī`a.
Thereupon, the meaning of pretension is "doing what is supposed to be a deed for the sake of nearness to Allāh with the intention to seek a status among the people". The leading imām, al-Khomeini, may Allāh prolong his shade, has made a statement in this regard. Its gist is that pretension, according to him, is not exclusively relevant to an act of worship but is broader than that. He says, "Be informed that pretension is showing people some good deeds, or commendable attributes, or true beliefs in order to achieve a status in their hearts and fame among them that he is kind, sound of belief, trustworthy and pious without truly seeking to please the Almighty. This materializes in certain levels: