Is a person who has the attributes of a hypocrite (munafiq) a hypocrite. What are the characteristics of hypocrites?

The Details of the Question

I was very surprised when I read the section on hypocrisy mentioned in the chapter of an-Nisa between verses 138 and 146 in the Quran. It sounded as if it described our nation in general. I feel very bad; have I misunderstood it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Not every attribute and characteristic make a person a hypocrite. For example, lying should not be a characteristic of a Muslim. It is the characteristic of a hypocrite or an unbeliever. However, even if a believer has the characteristic of a hypocrite when he tells a lie, he is not a hypocrite and we cannot say that he is a hypocrite.

Hypocrite (Munafiq): A person who does not actually believe in his heart and looks like a Muslim in appearance. The word munafiq means a person who hides his enmity toward Allah, His Messenger and the believers by pretending to be a Muslim due to various reasons and for the sake of his own interests (al-Baqara, 2/8; Aal-i Imran, 3/167; al-Maida, 5/41)

Our Prophet (pbuh) did not tell everyone who the hypocrites were, and he even led the funeral prayers of some of them. Therefore, it is necessary to be careful.

“If hypocrisy is in the heart, it is unbelief; and if it is in deeds, it is a crime.” (Qurtubi, Tafsir, VIII/212)

In this respect, the state of hypocrisy in hypocrites is divided into two: creed and deed:

1. Hypocrisy in terms of creed: It is the state of hypocrisy which is characterized in the Quran and which will cause a person to be treated as a Muslim in the world but to be treated worse than unbelievers when his unbelief is revealed in the hereafter. (an-Nisa, 4/145)

“It is hypocrisy in belief that is contrary to creed.” (M. Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, VI/4997)

The Quran divides people into three groups as believers, unbelievers and hypocrites (al-Baqara, 2/1-20) and mentions the following characteristics of hypocrites, who are described as “the worst of the people and two-faced”:

- They cause mischief in the Islamic society. When it is said to them, “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say, “We only want to make peace.” (al-Baqara, 2/9-13) When it is said to them, “Believe as the Muslims believe,” they object by saying, “Shall we believe as the fools believe?” When they meet those who believe, they say, “we are with you” but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say: “We (were) only jesting.” (al-Baqara, 2/13-15)

- Hypocrites who falter between belief and unbelief sometimes act as if they remember Allah. However, they try to play tricks on Allah and show off. They also get up to pray lazily (an-Nisa, 4/142-3). They take false oaths in order to turn people away from the path of Allah (al-Mujadala, 58/14; al-Munafiqun, 63/2).

- The hearts of hypocrites are like barren soil (al-A’raf, 7/58); they take shape according to their interests; they are fickle (an-Nisa, 4/141; al-Ankabut, 29/10-11). When it was said to the hypocrites in the Age of Bliss; “Spend sums in charity before your private consultation with the Prophet”, they fled because it harmed their interests. (al-Mujadala, 58/13)

- On the other hand, hypocrites resort to immoral acts to get financial gain. As a matter of fact, the leader of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Ubayy b. Salul forced his female slaves to fornicate in order to earn money. He also established a kind of brothel for this purpose. Upon his effort to earn money from his female slaves through fornication, the verse prohibiting it was revealed (at-Tabari, Tafsir, XVIII/132; an-Nur, 24/33).

- Hypocrites forget Allah, act stingily and are close with their hands. (at-Tawba, 9/67) If they suffer infliction, they fall into mischief (al-Ankabut, 29/10); when they fear that they will be hit by a misfortune, they whisper among themselves (al-Maida, 5/52, 53); if the course of events seems to be in favor of the hypocrites, they rush to the Prophet (pbuh) in obedience (an-Nur, 24/49); they are those who believe in appearance and unbelieve in their hearts (al-Munafiqun, 63/3).

The hypocrites who say “We believed in and obeyed Allah and the Prophet” (an-Nur, 24/47; al-Munafiqun, 63/1) on the one hand whisper among themselves for rebellion and enmity to the Prophet (pbuh) on the other hand (al-Mujadala, 58/9-10). They are just like devils (al-Hashr, 59/16); they are in opposition to Allah and the Prophet by their nature (al-Mujadala, 58/20); but they are also very afraid of the revelation of the verses that reveal what they hide in their hearts (al-Infitar, 82/4-5; at-Tawba, 9/64).

Hypocrites, men and women, who have bad thoughts about Allah (al-Fath, 48/6) are complementary parts of one another; they call people to evil and try to discourage them from doing good deeds. They are the eternal inhabitants of Hell (at-Tawba, 9/67-69). They want bad words to spread among Muslims (an-Nur, 24/19); they rejoice when they do evil; they like to boast about what they did not do (Aal-i Imran, 3/188);

- They ridicule the verses of the Quran (an-Nisa, 4/140);

- They spread false and wrong news within the Islamic community (al-Ahzab, 33/60-61).

- Even though they swear that they will go to jihad, they flee when it is time for jihad (an-Nur, 24/63); they fall unconscious from the fear of the enemy (al-Munafiqun, 63/4); they look for a cave to escape in such an environment (at-Tawba, 9/57). When the believers are victorious, they say, “Were we not with you?” in order to share in the success and benefit from the booty. When the unbelievers are victorious, they say, “Did we not guard you from the believers?” (an-Nisa, 4/141). If there are many martyrs in the war, the hypocrites say, “Allah did favor us in that we were not present among them” but if the booty is to be shared, they say, “Oh! I wish I had been with them; a fine thing should I then have made of it.” (an-Nisa, 5/72, 73)

Almighty Allah warns His Prophet about the hypocrites, whose characteristics He introduces and mentions in the Quran:

“When thou lookest at them, their exteriors please thee; and when they speak, thou listenest to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them.” (al-Munafiqun, 63/1-4)

It is equal to the hypocrites, who will come together with the unbelievers in the hereafter (an-Nisa, 4/140), whether you pray for their forgiveness or not because Allah will not forgive those rebellious transgressors (al-Munafiqun, 63/6).

The Quran states that the hypocrites will want the benefits they gain from being in the Islamic community to continue in the hereafter, but that it will not be possible:

“One Day will the Hypocrites - men and women - say to the Believers: “Wait for us! Let us borrow (a Light) from your Light!” It will be said: “Turn ye back to your rear! then seek a Light (where ye can)!” So a wall will be put up betwixt them, with a gate therein… The hypocrites will call out to the believers, “Were we not with you?” They will reply, “True! But…ye looked forward (to our ruin); … and (your false) desires deceived you...” (al-Hadid 57/13-14)

Thus, the hypocrites and the unbelievers will come together in Hell (an-Nisa, 4/140).

In the Madinah period, believers were reminded not to be friends with hypocrites who made friends with Jews (al-Maida, 5/51) and the Prophet (pbuh) was informed through revelation that the real enemy was hypocrites, that he needed to fight them and even act harshly. The Prophet applied a very cautious policy towards hypocrites and did not treat them in the same way as he did to non-Muslims; on the contrary, it is observed that he did not separate them from the Islamic community, but neutralized them with the powerful authority he established over them.

2. Hypocrisy in terms of deed: The state of the Muslims in whom there is no open hypocrisy in terms of their faiths though there is a partial resemblance to hypocrisy in terms of creed in some of their attitudes and behaviors. The type of hypocrisy mentioned in the hadiths emphasizes hypocrisy in terms of deeds (ethics). For example:

“There are three signs of a hypocrite: He lies when he speaks, breaks his promise when he makes a promise, and betrays the trust when he is entrusted with something.” (Tirmidhi, Iman, 14)

The hadith above and similar hadiths are orders in the form of warnings and precautions taken to prevent hypocrisy in creed. For, when hypocrisy in terms of creed increases, there may be a danger that a Muslim might approach hypocrisy in the future.

(see Ahmet SEZİKLİ, ŞİA, Münafık article)

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