The above verses state a short but very expressive explanation on 'hypocrites' and their spiritual specialties and characteristics illustrated by their actions.
Attention should be attracted to the fact that : in a special period of its sensitive historical course, Islam was faced with a specific group among the whole of the people, who neither had the courage to truly accept the invitation of Islam, nor had the power and boldness to openly oppose it.
This third group, whom the Qur'an calls, in arabic terminology, /munafiqun/ 'hypocrites', are also termed the two-faced ones. they penetrate in the rows of true muslim communities and become a great danger for Islam and muslims. it is usually difficult for the faithful believers to recognize them, because they appear in the society with the same manner as other muslims do. but the Qur'an yields some clear exact signs and specialties about them which identify their hidden routines everywhere and in all centuries. these particular qualifications can provide good criteria for the real muslims to recognize them.
At the beginning, it gives an illustration of hypocrisy itself, saying: And of the people there are some who say : 'we believe in Allah and the last day', but they do not really believe.
* * * *
They imagine this action of theirs as a kind of cleverness or, so to speak, an advantageous policy. therefore : They seek to deceive Allah and those who have faith,...
It is not such as they think : ... but they deceive none save themselves, and they are not aware.
Having deviated from the straight path, they spend their whole lives misled. they apply their power and potentials in vanity where their gain is nothing but failure, infamy, and a painful divine penalty.
* * *
In the next verse, the Qur'an points to the fact that hypocrisy is, indeed, a disease. a safe and sound person does not have two faces. there is complete harmony ruling between his soul and his body, since outward and inward, as well as body and spirit, are complementary to each other. if a person is a believing one, his entire being cries faith and indicates his conviction. and if he goes astray, his deviation is revealed both outwardly and inwardly. this dissimilarity of spirit and body possessed by the hypocrite is a new additional disease. it is a sort of contradiction or duplicity or cleft that governs over the self of a man. then, it says :
In their hearts is a disease, ...
Hence, in the regularity of creation, everybody who choses a path and equips himself with the necessary means to pave it would go forth on that very path. or, in other words, the abundancy of actions and imaginations of a man on his chosen route would make the above idea much more colourful and secure. then, the verse continues saying:
... so Allah has increased their disease...
The investment of the hypocrite is 'lies'. they adjust the contradictions found in their lives, as much as they can; each lie with its own set of excuses. therefore, at the end of the verse, it says :
... and there awaits them a painful punishment for that they were lying .
* * * *
Then, the Qur'an refers to their specialties, the first of which is the claim of being 'reformers', while they are, in fact, mischief-mongers, saying :
And when it is said to them : 'do not make corruption in the earth', they say : ' verily, we are only reformers '.
* * * *
Indeed, they themselves are the corruptors, but they are not aware.
Both their persistence on the path of hypocrisy and their accustomedness to these hideous disgraceful agenda have caused them to think, gradually, that their activities are useful and constructive. and, as it was mentioned previously, when sin is in excess and treads the limits, it seizes the sense of distinction, or even, it reverses the man's
distinction. in this state, impurity and impiety prevail as his second nature.
* * * *
Another specialty of this group is that they think themselves wise and clever while they think the believers are some simple-minded and credulous fools; as the Qur'an says :
and when it is said to them : 'believe as the people believe', they say :
'shall we believe as the fools believe?'...
Thus, they accuse the truth-seeking, pure-hearted people of foolishness, for that these people, observing the signs of reality and rightfulness in the content of the invitation of the prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) , have humbly accepted it. the hypocrites consider corruption, duplicity, and hypocrisy signs of their cleverness and wisdom. yes, in their logic, intellect has changed its place with foolishness.
So, the Qur'an, answering them, says : ... beware! truly, they themselves are the fools, but they do not know.
Is this not, within itself, a kind of foolishness, that a person does not specify his conviction, but changes colour according to whatever group or class of ideology he joins, and assumes duplicity or even multifariousness? is it not silly for a person to spend his faculties and abilities in doing evil and making plots for destruction and, in the meantime, to count himself among the wise?
* * * *
The third specialty is that they change colour everyday, and choose the direction of every group they meet. as the holy Qur'an says:
And when they meet those who believe, they say : 'we believe (in what you believe) '....
They tell the believers that they follow the same school of thought as theirs, that is, they have accepted Islam eagerly and there is no difference between them.
... but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say : 'verily, we are with you; ...
They tell their fellow men that they are mocking the believers when telling them that they have believed : ... we were only mocking'.
they say to them that they are deceiving them and, actually, they are supporters of their fellow men whom they have taken friend with and, keep their secrets safe and hidden.
* * * *
Then, the Qur'an, with a beating and decisive tone says:
Allah shall pay them back for their mockery, and he leaves them alone in their inordinancy, blindly wandering on.
* * * *
The concluding verse, on this subject, expresses their final fate which is a very grievous, inauspicious, and dark end, thus :
These are they who have bought error (in exchange) for guidance, hence their transaction yields them no profit, nor are they guided (aright) .
For this very reason, their purchase not only is of no avail for them, but also they have lost even their investment.
* * * *
The appearance of hypocrisy and its roots
When a revolution takes place in a society, particularly a revolution like the Islamic revolution which was founded on the virtues of right and justice, the interests of an oppressive, tyranical, and selfish group will be exposed and possibly placed in danger. at first, this group mock it, then they apply the power of guns, economic sanctions, and continuous social propagation in order to try to subvert it. but when the signs of triumph are made manifest for all of the forces and authorities of the region, some of the opponents change their practical style of opposition and apparently resign themselves, but, in fact, they organize a hidden antagonistic group against the revolution.
These vicious individuals who are termed 'hypocrites', because of their actual duplicity, are the most harmful enemies of the revolution, because their position is not quite clear so that the revolutionists can
recognize them and avoid them. they deceitfully imitate and join the faithful people and occupy some social positions in the rows of the pure,truthful believers. they sometimes attain the sensitive posts, even.
Until the time when the holy prophet (p.b.u.h.) emigrated from mecca to medina, muslims had not established a government. the prime essential basis of the Islamic government was founded when the holy prophet (p.b.u.h.) arrived in medina. this process was made more manifest with the occurrence of the triumph of badr, viz., a small but progressive government was formally organized.
It was at that time that the profits of many authorities in medina, particularly that of the jews, who were respected by arabs, were being threatened. the jews were respected at that time, mostly because they were of ' the people of the book '. (1) they were fairly learned, and they were economically advanced. it was they who, before the advent of the prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) used to give the good news of his coming.
There were others, too, who were aspiring for the leadership of the people of medina and were disappointed due to the migration of the messenger of Allah. the cruel, selfish chieves of medina and their plunderous adherents saw that people, even their relatives, were tending to Islam and abundantly believing in the prophet (p.b.u.h.) . they, after resisting for a short time, understood that they could not help but to accept Islam, though only outwardly. they realized that if they had opposed and stood against the new process, besides the damages of war and economical problems, they would have faced the danger of destruction; particularly because the total power of the arab was his tribe, but their tribes had separated from them for the most part.
For this reason, they had developed a grudge in their hearts against the holy prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his mission. so, they secretly planned to subvert Islam. therefore, they selected a third way. they decided to accept the prophet (p.b.u.h.) apparently, and to follow their own plots hiddenly. (2)
In short, the appearance of hypocrisy in a society is usually the effect of one of these two causes. the first is the triumph and power of the existing revolutionary school of thought in the society. the second cause is the spiritual weakness and the lack of nobility and courage needed to challenge such a force.
The Necessity of Knowing the Hypocrite
Undoubtedly, hypocrisy and the hypocrite were not only particular to the time of the prophet (p.b.u.h.) ; they are found in any society and at any time. they should be recognized, of course, according to the defined criteria that the Qur'an has introduced them with, in order to prevent their probable damages or harms.
There are various characteristics mentioned about the hypocrite in the former verses, as well as through sura al-munafiqun, no. 63, and, also, in numerous Islamic traditions. here are a few of these characteristics :
1. Great public outbursts and high claims with lots of boasting, but little action making their claims and actions unparallel.
2. To swing to every side in any environment with any group; to speak among any society with the ideas of that society's school of thought, and to show themselves adherents in the society of true followers but, in the meantime, to cooperate with the oppositional group.
3. To separate their affairs from those of the people and to form secret hidden societies with specific plans.
4. Characterized by tricks, deceit, lies, flattery, breach of promises, and treachery.
5. To act before others with self-aggrandizement and self-conceit, counting people silly, simple, and foolish, while knowing themselves wise and clever.
In short, duplicity of personality, or contrast between internal and external, which is the clear characteristic of the hypocrite, has different effects on their personal and social behaviour, which can be easily figured out by the keen observer.
How beautifully the Qur'an puts it when it says : In their hearts is
a disease, .... Which sickness can be worse than the sickness of duplicity of outward and inward character? what disease is more painful than the illness of self-aggrandizement or lack of courage for challenging the things that we do not believe in ?
However, the disease of hypocrisy, though it is hidden, is recognizeable by its different features. It is similar to heart disease which cannot be concealed wholly; although it is unseen, its signs and symptoms can be seen in one's face and limbe quite vividly.
Hypocrisy, in its specific meaning, is the condition of some faithless persons who are apparently counted among muslims, but their hearts are actually pledged to infidelity. They are the most dangerous group, not only for Islam but also for any revolutionary progressive school of thought. The hypocrites penetrate into the communities of muslims and misuse any chance or opportunity for hindering affairs. For this very hostile position that they have, they are the object of serious attacks in the Qur'an. One complete sura of the Qur'an is revealed about their circumstances which is entitled ' Al-Munafiqun '. They have also been reproached and condemned very strongly in the narrations of ahlul-bait (a.s.) .
To introduce the hypocrite, a tradition from imam sadiq (a.s.) who has narrated from the prophet (p.b.u.h.) says : There are three specialities that when they are in a person, he/she is a hypocrite even the one who observes the fast, practices prayers and considers oneself a muslim: he who is treacherous when he is trusted, when he speaks he tells lies, and when he promises he fails it.(3)
Here, we attract your attention to the noble words of imam amir-ul-mu'mineen ali (a.s.) about the hypocrites. He says :
" O' creatures of Allah! I advise you to fear, and I warn you against the hypocrites. They themselves are misguided and they will misguide you. They are lost in the labyrinth of sins and vices and will make you lose your straight path in that tortuous maze. They change their colours to suit their surroundings, and their words always have double meanings. To convert you to their views and to win your sympathies they will resort to every sort of fraud and pretence, will adopt varieties of artifices and
pretexts and will apply all possible allurements and deceptions. They always lie in ambush to seduce you. They pretend to be sincere and honest but their hearts are full of hypocrisy and vileness. Their movements are very subtle. To mislead you they work so artfully and cunningly that you cannot easily find out their purpose. They poison your minds without your knowing it, like a disease spreading inside your body without your realizing the fact. They behave as if they are ministering cures to your ailments. They talk as if they really feel for your troubles, but the result of their activities and their persuasions will affect you like an incurable disease.
Happiness and prosperity of others make them jealous and unhappy. They will do their worst to drag others into difficulties, reverses, and troubles. They will exert themselves to convert hopes of others into disappointments and despairs. And they have their victims in every walk of life.
They know how to touch your heart and how to gain your ears. For your every sorrow they have crocodile tears to shed and for every pain they offer you a balm, ineffective or injurious. If they praise you, it is with the hope of getting louder praises out of you. If they want to get something out of you, they will pester you with their demands. If they wish to slander anybody they will expose him threadbare. If they pass judgments they always forsake equity and justice .(4)
(1) For the meaning of ' People of the book ' see p. 202.
(2) This example also happened in the Islamic revolution of Iran where they played the same role but, luckily, under the light of Allah's grace and through the awareness of this honourable nation, they failed.
(4) Nahjul-balaqah, Sermon 194 Arabic print, and No. 199 , p.172 English version
source : http://www.imfi.ir