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Six Signs of a Hypocrite

The longest Sūrah of the Qur’ān is Sūrah Al-Baqara. It is introduced by giving the characteristics of three different categories of people. The first four verses speak in description of the people of Īmān. It then goes on to describe the disbelievers in just two verses. The verses then go on to describe the people of Nifāq (hypocrisy) in thirteen long verses. Why were so many verses dedicated to them? Imām Ibnul Qayyim explains,

لِكَثْرَتِهِمْ وَعُمُومِ الِابْتِلَاءِ بِهِمْ، وَشِدَّةِ فِتْنَتِهِمْ عَلَى الْإِسْلَامِ وَأَهْلِهِ، فَإِنَّ بَلِيَّةَ الْإِسْلَامِ بِهِمْ شَدِيدَةٌ جِدًّا، لِأَنَّهُمْ مَنْسُوبُونُ إِلَيْهِ، وَإِلَى نُصْرَتِهِ وَمُوَالَاتِهِ، وَهُمْ أَعْدَاؤُهُ فِي الْحَقِيقَةِ

“Because of their sheer numbers and far reaching harm on Islām and the Muslims. The damage that they cause is very disastrous because they are attributed to Islām and are supposed supporters and allies of it, but in reality, they are its enemies.”

He goes on to say,

فَلِلَّهِ كَمْ مِنْ مَعْقِلٍ لِلْإِسْلَامِ قَدْ هَدَمُوهُ؟ ! وَكَمْ مِنْ حِصْنٍ لَهُ قَدْ قَلَعُوا أَسَاسَهُ وَخَرَّبُوهُ؟ ! وَكَمْ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لَهُ قَدْ طَمَسُوهُ؟ ! وَكَمْ مِنْ لِوَاءٍ لَهُ مَرْفُوعٍ قَدْ وَضَعُوهُ؟ ! وَكَمْ ضَرَبُوا بِمَعَاوِلِ الشُّبَهِ فِي أُصُولِ غِرَاسِهِ لِيَقْلَعُوهَا؟ ! وَيَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ بِذَلِكَ مُصْلِحُونَ {أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَكِنْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ}

“My Lord! How many strongholds of Islām have they destroyed? How many forts of Islām have they uprooted and ruined? How many sciences of Islām have they effaced? How many raised flags of Isl`a`m have they lowered? How many times have they struck the principles of Isl`a`m using the axes of their doubtful matters? They do this whilst claiming that they are peacemakers, ‘whereas they are the corrupters but they do not perceive so.’” [1]

The hypocrites are many, particularly during times in which the Ummah is strong, for their ability to publicly display their enmity at such times is limited and thus they resort to two-facedness. Ash-Sha’bi once said,

لَوْلَا الْمُنَافِقُونَ لَاسْتُوحِشْتُمْ فِي الطُّرُقَاتِ

“If it wasn’t for the presence of the hypocrites, you would feel lonely as you walk the streets.”

Despite their numbers however, they can be at times difficult to spot, because they dress like the believers, pray with the believers, marry from the believers, but behind closed doors, they conspire against them. Thus Allāh said,

هُمُ الْعَدُوُّ فَاحْذَرْهُمْ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَنَّى يُؤْفَكُونَ

They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allāh destroy them; how are they deluded?”[2]

They are the real enemy because, unlike the external enemy who makes his enmity loud and clear, they, on the other hand, reside within, silently striving to dismantle Islām. They are a people who recite the Qur’ān but their hearts are averse to it. They may smile at the Muslims but their hearts despise the sight of them.

It is for this reason that the Qur’ān has paid special attention to the topic of hypocrisy, uncovering their secrets, exposing their universal characteristics and illustrating their signs so as to protect the Muslims from being deceived by their sweet words and smart appearances. Imām Ibnul Qayyim said,

كاد القرآن أن يكون كله في شأنهم

“The Qur’ān was almost entirely dedicated to the topic of the hypocrites.”

As an Ummah we live amongst the dark reality of the hypocrites, many of whom are given extended air time on TV and positions of authority. At a time when the Ummah of Islām is most in need of illumination, we turn to the book of Allāh and tour some of the Āyāt which speak of their signs.

The first of their signs as depicted by the Qur’ān: A constant expectancy of the downfall of the believers.

Their hearts are ill with insecurity. The moment they see the waves of falsehood gaining momentum, they are the first to express their anticipation of the fall of the believers. As Allāh said, describing the hypocrites at the time of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):

بَلْ ظَنَنتُمْ أَن لَّن يَنقَلِبَ الرَّسُولُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَى أَهْلِيهِمْ أَبَدًا وَزُيِّنَ ذَلِكَ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَظَنَنتُمْ ظَنَّ السَّوْءِوَكُنتُمْ قَوْمًا بُورًا

“You thought that the Messenger and the believers would never return to their families, ever, and that was made pleasing in your hearts. And you assumed an assumption of evil and became a people ruined.”[3]

In the face of every calamity that befalls the believers, where they may find themselves cornered and outnumbered, they claim that this is “the end of the Da’wah”, always expecting the worst from Allāh. However, as soon as the tables begin to turn, their loud voices silence as they begin to retreat.

The second of their signs as depicted by the Qur’an: Perpetual mockery of the believers and of their Dīn.

They will label the Muslims as “backward”, “regressive”, “stuck in the dark ages” and other pre-packaged labels that are well-known. Just as Allāh said,

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُواْ كَمَا آمَنَ النَّاسُ قَالُواْ أَنُؤْمِنُ كَمَا آمَنَ السُّفَهَاء أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ

“And when it is said to them, “Believe as the people have believed,” they say, “Should we believe as the foolish have believed?” Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know [it] not.”[4]

They will not let an opportunity to pass, whether it is a written piece in the newspaper, or a TV interview, or an awards ceremony or its like, to hurl insults and express sarcasm at the Muslims. And yet, on the other hand, they are quick to express their utmost admiration and respect of the values of others. Their bodies are with the Muslims but their hearts and allegiance are elsewhere. Allāh says,

أَلَمْ تَر إِلَى الَّذِينَ نَافَقُوا يَقُولُونَ لِإِخْوَانِهِمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَئِنْ أُخْرِجْتُمْ لَنَخْرُجَنَّ مَعَكُمْ وَلَا نُطِيعُ فِيكُمْ أَحَدًا أَبَدًا وَإِن قُوتِلْتُمْ لَنَنصُرَنَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ

“Have you not considered those who practice hypocrisy, saying to their brothers who have disbelieved among the People of the Scripture, “If you are expelled, we will surely leave with you, and we will not obey, in regard to you, anyone – ever; and if you are fought, we will surely aid you.” But Allāh testifies that they are liars.”[5]

The third of their signs as depicted by the Qur’ān: Spying against the Muslims and reporting back to their superiors.

Since they share a common goal with their superiors, namely to root out the believers, you may see them weeping in the Friday sermons and displaying expressions of Īmān in lectures, whilst they hide a fault-finding intent, as they record the material at hand and send it back to their superiors, hoping for a worldly return at the cost of their Ākhira. As Allāh says in the Qur’ān,

وَفِيكُمْ سَمَّاعُونَ لَهُمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّالِمِينَ

“.. And there are some among you who listen for them. And Allāh is Knowing of the wrongdoers.”[6]

Imām Al-Qurtubi explains this Āyah, saying:

عُيُونٌ لَهُمْ يَنْقُلُونَ إِلَيْهِمُ الْأَخْبَارَ مِنْكُمْ

“It is in reference to the spies amongst you who report back to them with information.”

The fourth of their signs as depicted by the Qur’ān: They seek to justify their actions Islamically.

Since they are a people who display Īmān but conceal disbelief, they have a vested interest in not being discovered for who they really are. Thus, they paint their behaviour with the paint of Islām and dress their actions with the garments of Qur’ān and Sunnah. As long as they are able to find a fringe opinion to support their case, they will bring it to the surface. It does not matter to them whether this opinion is completely erroneous or not, what matters is that they provide Islamic cover for their cause.

News was conveyed to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) that the Romans were preparing an army to invade Madīnah and thus he made preparations to go out and meet them, in what would be later known as the Battle of Tabūk. There were however hypocrites who refused to go out with the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). One of these hypocrites was Al-Jadd b. Qays. He used an Islamic costume to cover his hypocrisy and thus excuse himself from partaking. He said,

يا رسول الله، أو تأذن لي ولا تفتنِّي؟ فوالله لقد عرف قوْمِي أنَّه ما من رجُلٍ بأشدَّ عجبًا بالنِّساء مني، وإنِّي أخْشى إن رأيتُ نساء بني الأصْفر ألاَّ أصبر

“O Messenger of Allāh, can you please give me permission to stay back and not place me in temptation? For by Allāh, my people know very well that I am the most amongst them who is attracted to women and I worry that if I see the Roman woman, I may not be patient.”

This of course was nothing but feigned chastity and forged religiosity. However, Allāh would not leave them unexposed. Allāh said,

وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَقُولُ ائْذَن لِّي وَلاَ تَفْتِنِّي أَلاَ فِي الْفِتْنَةِ سَقَطُواْ وَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ لَمُحِيطَةٌ بِالْكَافِرِينَ

“And among them is he who says, “Permit me to remain at home and do not expose me to Fitnah.” Unquestionably, they have fallen into Fitnah. And indeed, Hell will encompass the disbelievers.”[7]

The fifth of their signs as depicted by the Qur’ān: They enjoin what is evil and forbid what is good.

The hypocrites crave to see the spreading of indecency and they will use their Islamic cover to do so. Allāh says,

الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ بَعْضُهُم مِّن بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمُنكَرِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَقْبِضُونَ أَيْدِيَهُمْ نَسُواْ اللّهَ فَنَسِيَهُمْ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

“The hypocrite men and hypocrite women are of one another. They enjoin what is wrong and forbid what is right and close their hands (from spending in the path of Allāh). They have forgotten Allāh, so He has forgotten them. Indeed, it is the hypocrites who are the defiantly disobedient.”[8]

When you track the words of the hypocrites of any era, you will find that all of their statements are in attempt of doing one thing: Closing the doors of good and opening the doors of evil. If they are unable to close the door, they do all they can to push people away from it and cause them to hate it. Allāh says,

هُمُ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ لَا تُنفِقُوا عَلَى مَنْ عِندَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ حَتَّى يَنفَضُّوا وَلِلَّهِ خَزَائِنُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ

“They are the ones who say, “Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allāh until they desert him.” [9]

And Allāh said,

وَقَالُواْ لاَ تَنفِرُواْ فِي الْحَرِّ قُلْ نَارُ جَهَنَّمَ أَشَدُّ حَرًّا لَّوْ كَانُوا يَفْقَهُونَ

“..They said: “Do not march forth in the heat.” Say: “The Fire of Hell is more intense in heat”; if only they could understand!”[10]

Not only do they seek to close all the doors of goodness, purity and decency, but they actively seek to open the doors of indecency and sin. A people whom the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would describe as being,

دُعَاةٌ على أبْوابِ جَهَنَّمَ، منْ أجابَهُمْ إليْها قَذَفُوهُ فِيها

“Callers at the gates of the Hellfire. Whoever answers their call, they will throw him inside.” Hudhaifa, the narrator, said:

قُلْتُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، صِفْهُمْ لنا

“O Messenger of Allāh, describe these people to us”

He said,

هُم مِنْ جِلْدَتِنا ويَتَكَلَّمُونَ بِألْسِنَتِنا

“They are from our race and speak our language.”[11]

The sixth of their signs as depicted by the Qur’ān: They are people who will always present themselves as well-wishers and advocates of goodness.

However, because their hearts are void of Ikhlās (sincerity), the scales which they weigh matters with are distorted. Thus, despite their evil practices, they consider themselves well-wishers and sincere advisers. As Allāh said,

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are peace-makers.”[12]

They may give themselves every impressive title that they wish. But Allāh tells them the fact of the matter:

أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَكِن لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ

“Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they do not perceive it.”[13]

These are the hypocrites, the vilest of all people. Their actions and statements may vary according to place and time, but nevertheless, their behaviour stems back to common values which they all share: Ill-intent, conspiring against Islām and a fear of being caught.

These are the traits of the hypocrites in the life of this world and so now we ask: What then about their traits on the Day of Standing? This is when their masks will be stripped off once and for all, before then falling into the deepest pits of hell.

The Sirāt is a bridge that will be placed over the Hellfire and is one of the final phases on the Day of Judgement. However, not everyone will be made to pass over it. Rather, the disbelievers would have been driven to Jahannam beforehand immediately after receiving their books of deeds. Imām Ibnu Rajab said,

فأما المشركون فإنهم لا يمرون على الصراط وإنما يقعون في النار قبل وضع الصراط

“As for the polytheists, they will not walk over the bridge but will be made to fall into the Hellfire before the bridge is even established.” [14]

Therefore leaving the believers and the hypocrites together, as they walk towards the bridge. Up until this point, the hypocrites were deluded into thinking that matters were progressing well for them, for they are still walking amongst the believers. Their calamity however begins the moment they reach the edge of this thin and sharp bridge, for on this dark day, this is when their lights go out. Allāh says,

يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انْظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِنْ نُورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءَكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِسُورٍ لَهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِنْ قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ

“On the same Day the hypocrite men and hypocrite women will say to those who believed, “Wait for us! Let us borrow some of your light!!” It will be said, “Go back behind you and seek light.” Then, a wall will be placed between them with a door, on its inside there is mercy, but on the outside of it is torment.”

They had deceived many Muslims in the life of this world into thinking that they were part of them. On the Day of Standing their true identities will be exposed and when they need light the most, their light will be extinguished.

يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُنْ مَعَكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى وَلَكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنْتُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ الْأَمَانِيُّ حَتَّى جَاءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُمْ بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ

“The hypocrites will call to the believers, “Were we not with you?!” They will say, “Yes, but you led yourselves to temptation and awaited misfortune for us and doubted, and wishful thinking deluded you until there came the command of Allāh. And the Deceiver (Shayṭān) deceived you concerning Allāh.”

فَالْيَوْمَ لَا يُؤْخَذُ مِنْكُمْ فِدْيَةٌ وَلَا مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ هِيَ مَوْلَاكُمْ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ

“So today no ransom will be taken from you or from those who disbelieved. Your abode is the Fire. It is most worthy of you, and evil is that destination.”[15]

As the hypocrites approach the Sirāt (the bridge of the Day of Judgement) having been stripped entirely from all light, they will fall into a fire that has been waiting for them. They continue their head-first dive into oblivion until they hit the lowest and most severe pits of the fire. Allāh says,

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ

“Surely the hypocrites will be in the lowest stage of the fire.”[16]

Is there room for change? Will Allāh ever accept the repentance of a Munāfiq who decides to drop his two-facedness once and for all, having chosen the path of Paradise instead? Can such an individual ever be forgiven by Allāh? Alḥamdulillah, there is hope. Allāh says,

كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ ، أُولَئِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ أَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةَ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ ، خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ ، إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا مِن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“How shall Allāh guide a people who disbelieved after their belief and had witnessed that the Messenger is true and clear signs had come to them? And Allāh does not guide the wrongdoing people. As for them, their recompense will be that upon them is the curse of Allāh and the angels and the people, all together. Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will it be postponed. Except for those who repent after that and correct themselves. For indeed, Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful.[17]

In many more verses Allāh opens the horizons of hope for such people, offering a way to renege on their erroneous ways and be counted amongst the believing people.

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيرًا ، إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَأَصْلَحُوا وَاعْتَصَمُوا بِاللَّهِ وَأَخْلَصُوا دِينَهُمْ لِلَّهِ فَأُولَئِكَ مَعَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَسَوْفَ يُؤْتِ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

“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 Allāh, and are sincere in their religion for Allāh, for those will be with the believers. And Allāh is going to give the believers a great reward.”[18]

Repent, correct ourselves, be sincere in our religion for the sake of Allāh, and for us will be the identity of a believer, inshāAllāh.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] Madārij As-Sālikīn

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 63:4

[3] Al-Qur’ān, 48:12

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 2:13

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 59:11

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 9:47

[7] Al-Qur’an, Surah 9, Ayah 49

[8] Al-Qur’an, Surah 9, Ayah 67

[9] Al-Qur’an, Surah 63, Ayah 7

[10] Al-Qur’ān, 9:81

[11] Narrated by Muslim

[12] Al-Qur’ān, 2:11

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 2:12

[14] From his book, ‘At-Takhwīf min An-Nār’

[15] Al-Qur’ān, 57:13-15

[16] Al-Qur’ān, 4:145

[17] Al-Qur’ān, 3:86-89

[18] Al-Qur’ān, 4:145-146

About Shaykh Ali Hammuda

Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is a UK national of Palestinian origin. He gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari'ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Ustādh Ali is the author of several books including 'The Daily Revivals' and 'The Ten Lanterns", and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.


  1. JazaKumAllahu kher

  2. MashaAllah tabarakAllah!

    Very beneficial.

    I think this is the first time I’ve read a whole article on your website, I’m usually just skimming through, however this article kept me till the end.


  3. Good article and beneficial

  4. MashaAllah. Guys just keep doing what you are doing. May Allah preserve all of you. The articles are so to the point and relevent that islam21c is a much needed resourse for everyone.
    The good days are coming. Allah has promised us as believers so always be optimistic and never despair.

  5. JazakAllahu khair for this article. Very important for us to reflect upon these signs. May I suggest people who are able to read صفة النفاق و ذم المنافقين .

    May Allah purify us from Nifaq and expose those who are working against Islam in the garb of Orthodoxy. Amin.

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