The four beginning ayaat of Surah al-Baqarah described the believers. The next two ayaat (2:6-7) described the disbelievers. Now, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala talks about the hypocrites. They are those who claim emaan [faith] by their tongues, but in their hearts they conceal disbelief. The matter of the munafiqeen (hypocrites) is vague and many people do not realize their true reality, therefore Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has mentioned their description in various places of the Qur’an. The hypocrites have been described in Surah at-Tawbah (chapter 9), Surah an-Nur (chapter 24), Surah al-Munafiqoon (chapter 63) and other Surahs as well, so that their description would be known and their ways and errors could be avoided.
In ayah 8 of Surah al-Baqarah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ ءَامَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الأْخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they are not believers.”
The Meaning of Nifaq (Hypocrisy):
Nifaq means to show conformity or agreement and to conceal evil. It has several types: nifaq in the creed that causes its people to reside in Hell for eternity, and nifaq in deed, which is one of the major sins, as we will explain soon, Allah willing. About the hypocrites Ibn Jurayj said, “His actual deeds are different from what he publicizes, what he conceals is different from what he utters, his entrance and presence are not the same as his exit and absence.”
The Beginning of Hypocrisy:
The revelations about the characteristics of the hypocrites were revealed in Madina, this is because there were no hypocrites in Makkah. Rather, the opposite was the situation in Makkah. In Makkah, the believers had to hide their faith to protect themselves from the persecution of the strong disbelievers. Afterward, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ migrated to Madinah, where the Ansar [Residents of Madina] from the tribes of Aws and Khazraj resided. They used to worship idols during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, just as the rest of the Arab idolators.
Three Jewish tribes resided in Madinah, Banu Qaynuqa`-allies of Al-Khazraj, Banu An-Nadir and Banu Qurayzah-allies of the Aws. Many members of the Aws and Khazraj tribes embraced Islam. However, only a few Jews embraced Islam, such as `Abdullah bin Salam radhiAllahu ‘anhu. During the early stage in Madina, there weren’t any hypocrites because the Muslims were not strong enough to be feared yet. On the contrary, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ conducted peace treaties with the Jews and several other Arab tribes around Madina. Soon after the battle of Badr occurred, and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave victory to Islam and its people.
`Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, a leader in Madina, was Al-Khazraj’s chief. During the period of Jahiliyyah he was the master of both tribes – Aws and Khazraj. They were about to appoint him their king when the Message reached Madina, and many in Madina embraced Islam. Ibn Salul’s heart was filled with hatred against Islam and its people. When the battle of Badr took place, he said, “Allah’s religion has become apparent.” So he pretended to be a Muslim, along with many of those who were just like him, as well as many among the People of the Book. It was then that hypocrisy began in Madina and among the surrounding nomad tribes.
As for the Emigrants, none of them were the hypocrites; they emigrated willingly (seeking the pleasure of Allah). When a Muslim would emigrate from Makkah, he would be forced to abandon all of his wealth, offspring and lands; he would do so seeking Allah’s reward in the Hereafter.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed the characteristics of the hypocrites, so that the believers would not be deceived by their outer appearance, thus saving the believers from a great evil. Otherwise, the believers might think that the hypocrites were believers when in reality they are disbelievers. To consider the sinners as righteous people is extremely dangerous.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala dislikes self-contradiction. He knows everything that is inside the hearts and how we act. We should have a check and balance on ourselves.
Many people accepted Islam for the worldly benefits. After they saw the success of Muslims in Madina, they desired a share of it. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informed the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about their intentions. It also applies to all those munafiqeen who only say Shahadah and their actions are always opposite, they also lie in the same category.
يُخَـدِعُونَ اللَّهَ وَالَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إلاَّ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ
“They (think) to deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive (it) not.”
In the company of the believers, the hypocrites would pretend to be pious and true Muslims, but as soon as they were asked to make a sacrifice for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (such as performing an act of worship, giving charity, or going on Jihad) they would find it difficult. They thought since nobody knows their internal feelings they are deceiving the Muslims, but in reality they were only deceiving themselves. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows what the hearts conceal.
Therefore, through this ayah He warned Muhammad ﷺ to be careful of these people. They only accepted Islam for the worldly benefits. When it comes to making a sacrifice or changing themselves, they move away. They think that by doing this, they will mislead Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, or that the statements they utter will help them with Allah. This is an indication of their total ignorance. They think that such behavior will deceive Allah, just as it might deceive some of the believers.
It is also bad news for non-believers that their foresight is destroyed with their false intentions. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala takes away their ability to think and see the truth. For the short-term benefit, they leave long-term benefits. This is the description of a hypocrite. He is devious, saying the truth with his tongue and defying it with his heart and deeds. He wakes up in a condition other than the one he goes to sleep in, and goes to sleep in a different condition than the one he wakes up in. He changes his mind just like a ship that moves about whenever wind blows.
We can easily judge a munafiq person by his self-contradictory statements and behavior and should, therefore, deal with him consciously.
We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to cleanse our hearts from all kinds of hypocrisy, ameen.