All thanks and praises are due to Allāh Who warned against Nifāq and ordained the best types of conduct. 1 bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh; a Testimonial that saves whoever says it and adhered by its implications from the evil of the Day of Gathering (Day of Judgment). I testify that Muḥammad (SAW) is the slave and Messenger of Allāh whom He sent to perfect the best types of conduct and behavior. May Allāh’s peace and blessings be on Muḥammad, his progeny and Companions.
Dear brothers and sisters in Islām! In today’s khuṭbah, we shall be talking about a serious and dangerous disease that believers should be reminded of all the time. It is the disease of hypocrisy or nifāq, as it is called in Arabic.
What is nifāq and who is a munāfiq? What are some of the misconceptions surrounding nifāq? What are the signs and consequences of nifāq? What is the cure to this spiritual disease of the heart? These are some of the points that will be discussed inshā’Allāh.
The word nifāq is derived from the same root letters (ن ف ق nūn-fā’-Qāf) from which we have the word nafaqun, which means an underground tunnel with openings at its two ends. The word nāfaqah refers to a desert lizard that Arabs used to hunt for food. It lives in a tunnel, using one of the openings of the tunnel to escape whenever it feels its life to be threatened from the other opening of the tunnel. The underlying principle of this phenomenon is that in reality, the hypocrite or munāfiq is a person who wants to play safe.
The dictionary describes hypocrisy as a behavior in which somebody pretends to have moral standards or opinions that they do not actually have. From the Islamic framework, it means making an outward display of Islām while inwardly concealing kufr (infidelity). In other words, a hypocrite in Islām is one who embraced Islām, accepted its principles, went along with it, but when his lifestyle and preferences were challenged, Islām had failed with him.
This goes further to show that a hypocrite is a Muslim; he is not an apostate (murtadd), nor a polytheist or idol worshipper (mushrik), nor an atheist (mulḥid). He makes loud profession of his faith by declaring Islām as his religion, and sometimes, even observes prayer and fasts in the month of Ramaḍān. This he does in order to hoodwink honest and unsuspecting believers into thinking that he is sincere and faithful follower of Islām like themselves; and thus by winning the believers’ confidence, he seeks to create mischief among them. At one time, he is inclined towards the believers and at the other time, he is inclined towards the unbelievers. Thus he is referred to as false, two-faced individual (Dhū Wajhayn). The Qur’ān describes him succinctly in this way:
مُّذَبۡذَبِينَ بَيۡنَ ذَٰلِكَ لَآ إِلَىٰ هَٰٓؤُلَآءِ وَلَآ إِلَىٰ هَٰٓؤُلَآءِۚ وَمَن يُضۡلِلِ ٱللَّهُ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُۥ سَبِيلٗا
(They are) Wavering between that (and this), (belonging) neither to these nor to those; and whomsoever Allāh causes to err, you shall not find a way for him. (Q 4:143)
Hypocrites are a set of people described in many portions of the Qur’ān. In fact, a whole chapter, ᾽Al-Munāfiqūn (Qur’ān 63) takes its name after them, exposing their acts of infidelity and dishonesty and condemns their loud profession of faith as false and treacherous. In the beginning of Sūratu’l-Baqarah, Allāh classifies mankind into three categories: the believers, the infidels and the hypocrites. He revealed four verses (Q. 2:2-5) with respect to the believers and two verses (Q. 2:6-7) in reference to the infidels while thirteen verses (Q. 2:8-20) with respect to the hypocrites due to their large number and severity of their affliction and commonness of their deception; and severity of their hostility against Islām and its people. For the affliction Islām suffers through them is intensive because they are counted as Muslims and supporter of Islām, while in fact, they are its enemies.
In view of the above classification, it is disheartening to note that hypocrisy is more dangerous than kufr (infidelity) and the punishment for it is more severe, because it is a mixture of kufr with Islām and its harmful effects are greater.
Hypocrisy or nifāq, as the Qur’ān says, is a disease of the heart.
فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ
There is a disease in their hearts. (Q 2:10)
We learn from other places in the Qur’ān that the consequences of having this disease are very grim, both in this world and in the next. At one place, referring to the hypocrites who have reached a point of no-return in their hypocrisy, Allāh (SWT) addresses the Prophet (SAW) in the following words,
اسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ أَوْ لَا تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ إِنْ تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً فَلَنْ يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ
It makes no difference whether you ask forgiveness for them or not: Allāh will not forgive them even if you ask seventy times, because they reject Allah and His Messenger. Allāh does not guide those who rebel against Him. (Q 9:80)
This is how serious the disease is that Allāh (SWT) would not even accept the du῾ā’ of the Prophet (SAW) in their favor. The hypocrites, however much they declare themselves to be Muslims are branded in this āyah as ‘the rebellious ones’ (al-fasiqūn). There is another āyah that should make those who have the germs of hypocrisy in them tremble with fear:
إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيرًا
The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell, and you will find no one to help them. (Q 4:145)
There are certain misconceptions among Muslims regarding nifāq that need to be addressed and clarified. The first misconception is that the hypocrites existed only at the time of the Prophet (SAW), and that there are no hypocrites among us today. This statement may only be partially true. The hypocrites did exist in the time of the Prophet (SAW), and Allāh (SWT) even disclosed their names to him. Yet, it is wrong to think that hypocrisy or nifaq is not prevalent among Muslims today. Hypocrites exist today and will continue to exist till the end of times. However, while the Prophet (SAW) knew the hypocrites of his time by name, as he was informed about them by Allāh (SWT), we are not in a position to say anything or pass any judgment about the degree or state of nifāq (hypocrisy) of a Muslim.
The second misconception regarding nifāq is that Muslims are secure from or immune to nifāq. As a matter of fact, the disease of nifāq is so dangerous that no one should claim to be immune from it. This matter is brought to light through a story from the history of the Prophet (SAW): A companion by the name of Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman (RA) used to keep a list of the hypocrites, given to him by the Prophet (SAW) with instructions to keep the names in the list a closely guarded secret. After ‘Umar (RA) became the caliph (khaliīah), he would go to Hudhayfah (RA) and request him to let him know if his name was there on the list. Such was the fear of ‘Umar (RA) from the disease of nifāq that even he did not consider himself secure from being infected by it. We can now perhaps appreciate that no one should feel himself or herself immune from nifāq. We should be alarmed as soon as we see any symptoms of nifāq within ourselves and we should take immediate steps to check them.
The third misconception about nifāq is that all hypocrites are conscious of their nifāq. This is not so. The majority of the Muslims are not even aware of their nifāq. We have to take lessons from the story of ‘Umar (RA) to be able to become conscious of the disease of nifāq.
What are some of the common signs of a munāfiq? We learn from the following Ḥadīth of the Prophet (SAW) from both Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, the hypocrites are easily identified by four character traits:
Whoever has the following four (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of them will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless, and until, he gives it up. They are, whenever he, speaks, he tells a lie; whenever he gives a promise, he breaks it; whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent and mean manner, and whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous.
In the first instance, a munāfiq (hypocrite) whenever he speaks, he lies. This means that there is some element of a lie in his speech. Lying becomes a part of his speech, whether this lie is to impress others or to get out of trouble or to make someone happy for unfair reasons or out of fear. People lie for different reasons. A habitual liar, therefore, is a hypocrite. So, one should get rid of the habit of telling lies. There should be complete agreement between a true Muslim’s words and deeds; he should carry into effect whatever he says, hence Muslims must refrain from the habit of lying.
Secondly, whenever he is entrusted with something, he violates that trust. After all, a person is trusted to do his job right. He is trusted to show up on time and leave on time. He is trusted to take a 30 minute break from work. He is trusted to give his employees check on time. He is trusted with things at his work, at his business, within his family, and elsewhere. There is a trust between a student and a teacher. There is a trust between an employer and employee. To be entrusted with something and not to take it seriously is a sign of hypocrisy. In order words, as Muslims, whenever we are entrusted with something, we must do our best to protect it and to render it back to its owner intact in accordance with the following passage of the Qur’ān:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأمُرُكُم أَن تُؤَدُّواْ ٱلأَمَٰنَٰتِ إِلَىٰ أَهلِهَا
Surely Allāh commands you to make over trusts to their owners… (Q 4:58)
Thirdly, he gets mad and insults anyone who argues with him. Actually, it is quite normal to get into disagreements. One could get into disagreement about so many things; about which service or device or product is better, for example. But, if any discussion or argument, whether it may have to do with something trivial or it may have to do with a business or family matter; whatever it may be, if it takes very little for someone to get overly angry, then that is a sign of hypocrisy.
Finally, whenever he promises, he does not fulfill it. This person makes a promise, “I will see you,” but doesn’t see you. “I will call you,” but doesn’t call you. “I will show up” but he doesn’t show up. This is a sign or character trait of hypocrisy. Muslims should always be mindful of the fact that every promise and agreement that is not fulfilled would be questioned by Allāh.
وَأَوفُواْ بِٱلعَهدِ إِنَّ ٱلعَهدَ كَانَ مَسُٔولا
.. And fulfill the promise; surely (every) promise shall be questioned about. (Q 17:34).
We seek Allāh’s protection from all these and other symptoms of hypocrisy.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say this and ask Allāh for forgiveness for me and you, so invoke Him for forgiveness, for He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة noوالسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين
All thanks are due to Allāh the Lord of the worlds, and may the peace of blessings be upon the leader of the messengers of Allāh, his household, companions and the entire Muslims.
Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, it is very clear from all indications that hypocrisy is a serious sickness and a dangerous crime which is said to be worst and dangerous than disbelief (kufr). This is because the kuffār (disbelievers) are obvious enemies from without, while the hypocrites are hidden enemies from within.
In the meantime, let me also share with you a few signs of the munāfiq given in the Qur’ān. We have in āyah 142 of Sūratu’n-Nisā’,
وَإِذَا قَامُوا إِلَى الصَّلاةِ قَامُوا كُسَالَى يُرَاءُونَ النَّاسَ وَلا يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلا
And when they stand up for prayer, they do so reluctantly and to be seen by others and they hardly remember Allāh at all. (Q. 4:142)
In the time of the Prophet (SAW) no one, unless he prayed regularly, could be considered as belonging to the Islamic community. In those days a person’s absence from congregational prayers was considered a clear indication of his indifference towards Islām. If he absented himself from congregational prayers repeatedly, he was no longer held to be a Muslim. In those days, therefore, even the worst hypocrites had to attend the five daily prayers in the mosque. What distinguished a true believer from the hypocrite was that the former came to the mosque with devotion, fervor, and eagerness. Everything about him indicated that his heart was in the prayer. However, the call to the prayer for the hypocrite seemed like the announcement of a calamity. When such a person set off for the mosque, he did so very reluctantly. His entire behavior testified that the remembrance of Allāh was not what he really had his heart in.
In contemporary times, and in the environment and circumstances we live in, it may be genuinely difficult to pray all the five prayers in congregation in the mosque, but this is not an excuse for not coming to the mosque at all or for being lazy towards our prayers, because doing so is one of the characteristics of the munāfiq.
Another sign of the hypocrites according to the Qur’ān is:
وَلَا يُنْفِقُونَ إِلَّا وَهُمْ كَارِهُونَ
And they do not spend but reluctantly. (Q. 9:54)
The āyah here refers to spending for the sake of Allāh (SWT). Nothing comes out of their pockets for the sake of Allāh except that they think twice about it. When the call is being made to give something for the sake of Allāh the first thing that goes in their mind is: What about the groceries this week! What about the utility bills, the house rent, the car insurance, the tuition for college, and so on? And it’s hardly ever that they think twice when they are on a shopping spree or when they spend on their own luxuries.
When it comes to giving for the sake of Allāh, immediately Shayṭān begins to whisper to them: Listen! You need to think about this! You need this money! You could be doing so much more with it.
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا
Shayṭān promises you with poverty and commands you to do foul deeds. But Allāh promises His forgiveness and His bounty. (Q. 2:268)
Brothers and sisters in Islām! Without being judgmental about the hypocrisy of others, we have to look for the signs of hypocrisy in ourselves. According to a Ḥadīth, “Nobody feels safe from nifāq except a munāfiq and nobody is afraid of it except the mu’min (the believer).”
Some of the ways to cure hypocrisy are to make du῾ā’ and beg Allāh to protect us from this disease. Do everything in a way that if people knew it, you are not ashamed of it. Do not do in secret anything which if made open, you are ashamed of it. Speak the truth. Keep your promises. Perform Ṣalāh on time. Spend in the way of Allāh without the desire to show off. Seek knowledge. Be mindful of Allāh. Reflect on the punishment of the hereafter for the hypocrites. Purify your heart by seeking repentance from Allāh (SWT).
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الشِّقَاقِ وَالنِّفَاقِ وَسُوءِ الأَخْلاَقِ
O Allāh! I seek refuge in you from opposing the truth, hypocrisy and bad manners.
The invocation of blessing upon the Prophet (SAW) is so central for Muslims that it might said to be the only act that is performed by Allāh (SWT), the angels, and the human beings, for as the Qur’ān says,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
Indeed, Allāh and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, invoke blessings on him and invoke peace upon him in a worthy manner.” (Q. 33:56)
O Allāh, please confer Your blessings and grant peace upon our Prophet Muḥammad (SAW), his family and all of the companions.
May Allāh be pleased with the Rightly Guided Caliphs: Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān and ‘Alī, and all of the noble Companions.
O Allāh, we seek Your grace to make us amongst those who remember you much and are steadfast on performing acts of worship. O Allāh, please forgive us all.
O Allāh, we seek refuge in Your perfect words from the evil of that which descend from the sky and from the evil of that which ascends in it, and from the evil of what is created in the earth and the evil of that which comes out of it. O Allāh we seek refuge in You from the trials of the night and the day, and from the visitations of the night and day, except for one that knocks with good. Indeed, You are the Most Merciful.
© Imam Mubin Olatoye Raji