23 May 2008

Nifaq - Hypocrites In Islam - Part 2

Question by : Sohaib, Pakistan
Answer : Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine (See bottom of page for author details)

Question : Regarding Nifaq

Salamu `alaikum wa rahmatullah

My question is regarding nifaq (hypocrisy) since I am always confused about my actions. I want to ask who is a hypocrite: (1) one who keeps his ties strong with his belief but leaves Allah's way when Allah puts him into some trouble or (2) one who forgets about Allah in normal days but turns towards Allah when Allah puts him into some trouble, but when Allah takes him out of trouble he continues his previous life?
Please guide me in this situation as my behavior is always the second one and I am afraid I am a hypocrite. And are there any actions which I should do to confirm myself that I am not a hypocrite? May Allah reward you. As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah.

Answer :

Salam, Sohaib.

Thank you for your question. First of all I would like to say that I do not believe you are a hypocrite by reason of the fact that you are worried about it! This is a very good sign that you are a sincere believer, in fact.

Those who analyse their souls and find nothing to feel guilty for really should be worried because none of us is without faults and flaws.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) describes the attributes of a hypocrite in faith in a very concise way. The Prophet once said
that the signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks, he lies; whenever he promises, he breaks it; and if he is entrusted with something, he betrays the trust (Al-Bukhari).

This does not mean that if a Muslim tells lies, breaks promises, or betrays trusts he becomes a hypocrite. It means that these qualities, if found to be a part of their nature in their regular dealings with people, are strong indicators that this person's faith is weak.

Only Allah knows for sure who among us is a sincere believer and who is a true hypocrite. Sometimes hypocrites don't even realize that they are hypocrites. They are so convincing to other people that they even convince themselves they are believers, whereas their behavior shows quite the opposite.

They always find ways to justify their sinful actions and convince themselves that they are good believers. You do not seem to be this type of person because you find faults in yourself and do not lie to yourself.

You mention two very important patterns of behavior that many people find themselves in from time to time. The first is that of those whose faith is strong as long as their life is going smoothly, but as soon as something goes wrong they become miserable and ask, "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Why has Allah forsaken me?"
And as for man, when his Lord tries him, then treats him with honor and makes him lead an easy life, he says: My Lord honors me. But when He tries him (differently), then restricts for him his means of subsistence, he says: My Lord has disgraced me. (Al-Fajr 89:15-16)

Although this is not the proper attitude to have when things become difficult in our lives, it is human nature to be fickle or inconsistent in our level of belief. Life is always changing, so maintaining firm faith at all times is difficult for the best of us.

Faith increases and decreases but we must do our best to maintain a balance at all times. Part of our faith in Islam requires us to believe in the divine decree (qadar) of Allah.

If good things happen, we consider these to be blessings from Allah's mercy and generosity. We do not attribute them to our own skill and talents, nor do we let them cause us to forget Allah's blessings on us.

If bad things happen, we attribute them to the wrongfulness of our actions and we do not let sorrow or despair cause us to lose faith in Allah. True faith is firm regardless of the circumstances around us.

The second behavior pattern you mention is that of those who only remember Allah when bad things happen.
So when harm afflicts a man he calls upon Us; then, when We give him a favor from Us, he says: I have been given it only by means of knowledge. Nay, it is a trial, but most of them do not know. (Az- Zumar 39:49)

These are people who are not really close to Allah in the way they lead their lives until something bad happens to them. They do not pray regularly, or not at all, nor do they try to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Not only that, but they fall into sinful practices as well to further distance themselves from Allah and their duties toward Him.

When the natural negative consequences of their actions come back to harm them, they return to Allah and the way of Islam for a short time and then resort to their old ways as soon as things get better again. I hope that this is not describing you.

The best way to avoid being a hypocrite is to ask yourself why you are doing a certain good deed. If, for example, you are praying in a mosque, sincerely ask yourself, "Why am I praying here in this mosque?" If the honest answer is "To please Allah" or "To receive Allah's forgiveness for my sins," then you are doing it for the right reasons.

If you find that you are there because you want someone to see that you are a good Muslim who prays in the mosque, you need to get this out of your heart.

Having the proper intentions is the most important aspect of our actions. If our deeds are for anyone other than Allah, or for Allah and someone else, He will reject them and there will be no reward for them, no matter how great the deeds.

It is also very important to stay close to Allah at all times, whether we are in prayers or just performing our daily routines. Before doing anything, we need to always ask ourselves, "Is this an action that is acceptable in Islam? Is this the way that Allah would like me to do this?" If the answer is yes, then we should go ahead without fear, even if people may say that we are wrong.

Being in a state of hypocrisy is really far worse than being a non-believer. At least non-believers are up front about not believing in the message of Islam. Their position is clear and we know where we stand with them, what to expect from them.

Hypocrites, on the other hand, are not up front and do not reveal what is in their heart. They pretend to be believers when in the company of Muslims, but when they retire to their intimate friends, they show their true colors. They are described in the Qur'an:
When they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say: "We are really with you: We (were) only jesting." (Al-Baqarah 2:14)

Allah describes the hypocrites in the Qur'an in many places. Since we cannot know what is in their hearts, we must look to their actions to best determine their level of faith or lack of it.

If we find their actions to be sinful, we should either advise them to change their ways, or, if they do not listen, avoid contact with them as much as possible so that they do not affect us negatively.
The hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and are close-fisted with their hands. They have forgotten Allah so He has forgotten them. Verily the hypocrites are rebellious and perverse. (At-Tawbah 9:67)

I hope that this has clarified things for you. I ask Allah to purify our hearts of hypocrisy of all types and to lead us all to what pleases Him alone. Please keep in touch.


Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine is currently employed as assistant principal at the new Edmonton Islamic Academy, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work involves school administrative duties and instruction of Islamic Studies courses.

He also serves the Muslim community through the Canadian Islamic Centre (Al Rashid Mosque) providing information about the mosque and Islam to non-Muslims, and hosting visits by community and religious groups.