Ordinarily, when people accuse someone of hypocrisy they mean that the person says something and does something. In dictionaries, it has been defined as the practice of falsely claiming to have higher standards or nobler beliefs. Hypocrisy has been condemned and frowned upon in many cultures and civilizations. Islam too denounces Hypocrisy in strict terms and is quite frank, practical and realistic about this issue. In this post, we shall examine the contours of its meaning in the light of the Holy Quran and other Islamic authentic texts especially Sahih Bukhari that describes the characteristics of hypocrites in great detail.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 48, Number 847: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said,“The signs of a hypocrite are three: 

  • Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie,
  • Whenever he is entrusted, he proves to be dishonest
  • Whenever he promises, he breaks his promise

Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 33: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: The Prophet said, “Whoever has the following four (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless and until he gives it up. 

  • Whenever he is entrusted, he betrays.
  • Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.
  • Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous.
  • Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 639: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Amr: The Prophet said,’Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: 

  • Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; 
  • Whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; 
  • Whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; and 
  • Whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 699: Narrated Abu Huraira: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “You see that the people are of different natures. Those who were the best in the pre-Islamic period, are also the best in Islam if they comprehend religious knowledge. You see that the best amongst the people in this respect (i.e. ambition of ruling) are those who hate it most. And you see that the worst among people is the double-faced (person) who appears to these with one face and to the others with another face (ie a hypocrite).”

Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 84: Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “The worst people in the Sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the double-faced people who appear to some people with one face and other people with another face.

Holy Quran, also speaks in much detail about the hypocrites whom it refers to as ‘Munafiq’. There is a whole chapter in the Quran that talks about hypocrites.

Al Quran 4.61-63 When they are told, ‘Come to what God has sent down and to the Messenger,’ you see the hypocrites turn away from you. How will it be when an affliction befalls them because of what they themselves have done? They will come to you, swearing by God, saying that they were  seeking nothing but goodwill and conciliation. But God knows all that is in their hearts; so ignore what they say, admonish them and speak to them in such terms as will address their minds

Al Quran 4:141-144 The hypocrites wait to see what happens to you and, if God grants you a victory, they say, ‘Were we not on your side?’ And if those who deny the truth have a share of it victory they say to them, ‘Did we not help you win, and protect you from the believers?’ God will judge between you all on Judgement Day. And never will God allow those who deny the truth to harm the believers. The hypocrites seek to outwit God but it is He who outwits them. And when they stand up for prayer, they do so reluctantly and to be seen by others, and they hardly remember God at all. They vacillate between the two, belonging neither to one side nor the other. But for him whom God allows to go astray you can never find the way for him. Do not take deniers of the truth who are at war with you for your allies in preference to believers. Would you give God a clear proof against yourselves?

Al Quran 5.61 When they come to you they say, ‘We believe,’ but they come with the resolve to deny the truth and leave in the same state. God knows best what they are concealing. You see many among them vie with one another in sin and transgression and practice what is unlawful. It is vile indeed what they have been doing! 

Al Quran 63:1 When the hypocrites come to you, Oh Muhammad, they say, “We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah.” And Allah knows that you are His Messenger, and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars. They have taken their oaths as a cover, so they averted people from the way of Allah. Indeed, it was evil that they were doing. That is because they believed, and then they disbelieved; so their hearts were sealed over, and they do not understand.

Al Quran 63:4 And when you see them, their forms please you, and if they speak, you listen to their speech. They are as if they were pieces of wood propped up-they think that every shout is against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?

Al Quran 63:5-6 And when it is said to them, “Come, the Messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you,” they turn their heads aside and you see them evading while they are arrogant. It is all the same for them whether you ask forgiveness for them or do not ask forgiveness for them; never will Allah forgive them. Indeed, Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.

Al Quran 63:7 They are the ones who say, “Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allah until they disband.” And to Allah belongs the depositories of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites do not understand.

What is the difference between a Believer and a Hypocrite?

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 128: Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, The sign of Belief is to love the Ansar, and the sign of hypocrisy is to hate the Ansar.” 

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 579: Narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet said, “The example of a believer who recites the Qur’an and acts on it, like a citron which tastes nice and smells nice. And the example of a believer who does not recite the Qur’an but acts on it, is like a date which tastes good but has no smell. And the example of a hypocrite who recites the Qur’an is like a Raihana (sweet basil) which smells good but tastes bitter And the example of a hypocrite who does not recite the Quran is like a colocynth which tastes bitter and has a bad smell.” 

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 306: Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said,“A believer eats in one intestine is satisfied with a little food, and a kafir (disbeliever) or a hypocrite eats in seven intestines (eats too much).”

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 546: Narrated Kab: The Prophet said,”The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant, which the wind bends it sometimes and some other time it makes it straight. And the example of a hypocrite is that of a pine tree which keeps straight till once it is uprooted suddenly.”

Are there chances of reformation and rehabilitation?

No one is hypocrite by birth and if one acts like hypocrites that do not necessarily mean that he will remain so till eternity provided they sincerely repent, seek forgiveness from God and mend their ways accordingly.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 53, Number 403: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever has (the following) four characteristics will be a pure hypocrite: If he speaks, he tells a lie; if he gives a promise, he breaks it, if he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; and if he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent evil insulting or unjust manner. And whoever has one of these characteristics, has one characteristic of a hypocrite, unless he gives it us.”

Al-Quran 4:145-146 Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers.

Punishment for Hypocrites

Al Quran 33:73 God will punish the hypocrites, both men and women, and polytheists, both men and women, but God will turn in His mercy to believing men and believing women; God is most forgiving and most merciful. 

Al Quran 63:6 It is all the same for them whether you ask forgiveness for them or do not ask forgiveness for them; never will Allah forgive them. Indeed, Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.

Al Quran 4:140 And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation. Indeed, you would then be like them. Indeed Allah will gather the hypocrites and disbelievers in Hell all together.

Al-Quran 4:145-147 Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward. What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing.

Al Quran 9:73 Oh Prophet, strive against those who deny the truth and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode shall be Hell: an evil destination.

Al Quran 63:4 And when you see them, their forms please you, and if they speak, you listen to their speech. They are as if they were pieces of wood propped up-they think that every shout is against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?

Al Quran 66.9:10 Oh Prophet, exert yourself to the utmost against those who deny the truth and the hypocrites. Deal severely with them. Hell will be their abode a vile destination

Will Hypocrites be forgiven?

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 126:  Narrated Al-Aswad-“While we were sitting in a circle in ‘Abdullah’s gathering, Hudhaifa came and stopped before us, and greeted us and then said,“People better than you became hypocrites.” Al-Aswad said: I testify the uniqueness of Allah! Allah says: “Verily! The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire. (4.145) On that Abdullah smiled and Hudhaifa sat somewhere in the Mosque. ‘Abdullah then got up and his companions (sitting around him) dispersed. Hudhaifa then threw a pebble at me (to attract my attention). I went to him and he said, “I was surprised at ‘Abdullah’s smile though he understood what I said. Verily, people better than you became hypocrite and then repented and Allah forgave them.” 

Al-Quran 63:5 And when it is said to them, “Come, the Messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you,” they turn their heads aside and you see them evading while they are arrogant.

Al-Quran 4:145-147 Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward. What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing.

How to treat/deal with the Hypocrites? 

Islam does not lay down a strict hard and fast rule concerning the dealing with the hypocrites. It all depends on the facts and circumstances of particular cases. At some places, it asks believers to admonish them and at other places, the prophet has dealt with them kindly and even attended their funeral prayers.

Al Quran 4.61-63 God knows all that is in their hearts; so ignore what they say, admonish them and speak to them in such terms as will address their minds.

Al Quran 4.140-147 He has instructed you in the Book that, when you hear people deny or ridicule God’s revelations, you must not sit with them unless they engage in other talk, or else you yourselves shall become like them. God will gather all the hypocrites and those who deny the truth together in Hell. 

Al Quran 4:140-147 The hypocrites wait to see what happens to you and, if God grants you a victory, they say, ‘Were we not on your side?’ And if those who deny the truth have a share of it victory they say to them, ‘Did we not help you win, and protect you from the believers?’ God will judge between you all on Judgement Day. And never will God allow those who deny the truth to harm the believers. The hypocrites seek to outwit God but it is He who outwits them. And when they stand up for prayer, they do so reluctantly and to be seen by others, and they hardly remember God at all. They vacillate between the two, belonging neither to one side nor the other. But for him whom God allows to go astray you can never find the way for him. Do not take deniers of the truth who are at war with you for your allies in preference to believers. Would you give God a clear proof against yourselves? The hypocrites shall surely be in the lowest depth of the Fire; and you will find no helper for them. But those who repent and mend their ways, who hold fast to God and are sincere in their worship of God will be joined with the believers; and God will bestow a great reward upon the believers. Why should God punish you, if you render thanks to Him and believe in Him? God is appreciative and aware

Al Quran 9:73 Oh Prophet, strive against those who deny the truth and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode shall be Hell: an evil destination.

Al Quran 66.9:10 Oh Prophet, exert yourself to the utmost against those who deny the truth and the hypocrites. Deal severely with them. Hell will be their abode a vile destination

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 194: Narrated Ibn Umar: When Abdullah bin Ubai died, his son ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdullah came to Allah’s Apostle who gave his shirt to him and ordered him to shroud his father in it. Then he stood up to offer the funeral prayer for the deceased, but ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab took hold of his garment and said, “Do you offer the funeral prayer for him though he was a hypocrite and Allah has forbidden you to ask forgiveness for hypocrites?” The Prophet said, “Allah has given me the choice (or Allah has informed me) saying: “Whether you, Oh Muhammad, ask forgiveness for them, or do not ask forgiveness for them, even if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will not forgive them,” (9.80) The he added, “I will (appeal to Allah for his sake) more than seventy times.” So Allah’s Apostle offered the funeral prayer for him and we too, offered the prayer along with him. Then Allah revealed: “And never, Oh Muhammad, pray (funeral prayer) for anyone of them that dies, nor stand at his grave. Certainly they disbelieved in Allah and His Apostle and died in a state of rebellion.” (9:84) 

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 688: Narrated Abdullah bin ‘Umar: When Abdullah bin Ubdi (bin Salul) died, his son came to Allah’s Apostle and said,’O Allah’s Apostle, give me your shirt so that I may shroud my fathers body in it. And please offer a funeral prayer for him and invoke Allah for his forgiveness.” The Prophet gave him his shirt and said to him ‘Inform us when you finish (and the funeral procession is ready) call us. When he had finished he told the Prophet and the Prophet proceeded to order his funeral prayers but Umar stopped him and said, “Didn’t Allah forbid you to offer the funeral prayer for the hypocrites when He said:“Whether you (Oh Muhammad) ask forgiveness for them or ask not forgiveness for them: (and even) if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times. Allah will not forgive them. (9.80) Then there was revealed: “And never pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave” (9.34) Thenceforth the Prophet did not offer funeral prayers for the hypocrites

Falsely accusing someone of Hypocrisy, Falsehood, etc

Holy Quran, as well as relevant Hadiths, caution people against labeling others recklessly with any epithet. In one of its verses, the Quran explicitly forbids against ridiculing and insulting people. It also cautions people against having much negative assumptions about others without substantial basis. Moreover, it prohibits backbiting people and reneging on one’s promises and trusts. Falsely accusing anyone of anything is prohibited under Islam and telling lies and giving false witnesses has been referred to as one of the greatest sins by Prophet Muhammad (s).

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 127: Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: Mu’adh bin Jabal used to pray with the Prophet and then go to lead his people in prayer. Once he led the people in prayer and recited Surah al-Baqara. A man left (the row of the praying people) and offered (light) prayer (separately) and went away. When Mu’adh came to know about it, he said. “He (that man) is a hypocrite.” Later that man heard what Mu’adh said about him, so he came to the Prophet and said, “Oh Allah’s Apostle! We are people who work with our own hands and irrigate (our farms) with our camels. Last night Mu’adh led us in the (night) prayer and he recited Surah al-Baqara, so I offered my prayer separately, and because of that, he accused me of being a hypocrite.” The Prophet called Mu’adh and said thrice, “Oh Mu’adh! You are putting the people to trials? Recite ‘Wash-shamsi wad-uhaha’ (91) or Sabbih isma Rabbi ka-l-A’la’ (87) or the like.

Al-Quran 49:11 O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule another people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule other women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by offensive nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.

Al-Quran 49:12 O you who have believed, avoid much negative assumptions. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear God; indeed, God is accepting of repentance and merciful. 

Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 9 The Prophet said, “A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands. And a Muhajir (emigrant) is the one who gives up (abandons) all what Allah has forbidden.” 

Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 48, Number 821: Narrated Anas: The Prophet was asked about the great sins to which he replies 

  • To join others in worship with Allah,
  • To be undutiful to one’s parents.
  • To kill a person (which Allah has forbidden to kill ie to murder someone). 
  • And to give a false witness

May Almighty protect us from all forms of hypocrisy and grant us goodness and forgiveness. Ameen!

Credits

  • Al-Quran (English Translations by Yusuf Ali, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Sahih International, etc)
  • Sahih al-Bukhari (English Translations by M Muhsin Khan)