They Cause Fitnah (Tribulation)
Hypocrites may be recognized by their attempts to cause fitnah among believers. Fitnah refers to whatever manner of speech and ideology designed to destroy the believers’ unity and their loyalty to Allah, our Prophet (saas) and the Qur’an. Being on a path of perversion themselves, hypocrites want also believers to stray onto it. Towards this end, they take advantage of any adverse situation or difficulty as an opportunity.
Under the identity as Muslims, hypocrites render service to Satan. Just as Satan’s purpose is to lead believers astray and inspire them to wickedness, hypocrites, being influenced by the same motives, strive to make believers turn their faces from righteousness, by spreading fitnah amongst them.
They want to plant vain desires and unfounded concerns in people’s minds
Enthusiasm and vitality are sentiments that pervade the community of believers. An air of positivity fills their conversations; they regularly employ a manner of speaking in rememberance of the good in all things, and convey the good news of Allah’s promises. The speech of a believer reflects his full consciousness of the fact that destiny is a fact. When referring to some threat, or an unfavorable occurence, for instance, he clearly stresses in a sincere manner the fact that the incident is a part of destiny, and that there is certainly some good in it. Our Prophet (saas) also stated this fact with the words, “Everything is by decree—even incapacity and ability.” (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 46, Number 4)
However, the speech of hypocrites exposes the sickness in their hearts; they refer to events in a negative manner, revealing their obliviousness that Allah pre-ordains everything in its every detail. In a sense, they are like despair-mongers. In a mood of distress, they employ a manner of speaking of those who are utterly unaware of the fact of destiny, and offer explanations as if circumstances were showing themselves designed against the believers. Their words, such as, “if you had not done such and such!”, “you were unlucky”, or “it is a pity that…”, clearly reveal this errant understanding. Such a manner of speaking indicates they do not appreciate Allah’s might.
In this way, they aim to plant vain desires and deviance in sincere Muslims. Allah warns believers against this menace, and mentions the evil of the whisperers in the Qur’an:
Say: "I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind, from the evil of the insidious whisperer who whispers in people's breasts and comes from the jinn and from mankind." (Surat an-Nas, 1-6)
Through such a mindset, hypocrites interpret occurrences predestined by Allah for a divine purpose as adversity, or disaster, so as to distress and demoralize believers, to break their resolve, and mislead them into despair and doubt. The fact is, however, everything that occurs in one's life is determined according to a plan, down to its minutest detail, and everything takes place under His control and will.
They cause fitnah in times of difficulty
Hypocrites show their deviousness especially in times of difficulty. They become involved in conspiracies with other hypocrites, and carry on a concerted struggle to divert those they consider having profound faith from the righteous path. To this end, they will not even hesitate to cooperate with disbelievers. But, hypocrites forgot that all their plans, actions and speech are preordained, one by one, and that Allah is witness over all their deeds. With the verse, “Allah will not give the disbelievers any way against the believers”, (Surat an-Nisa’, 141) our Lord states that the efforts of the hypocrites will be in vain. And, in another verse, Allah reveals that believers will always be victorious:
As for those who make Allah their friend, and His Messenger and those who have faith: it is the party of Allah who are victorious! (Surat al-Ma'ida, 56)
In times when the hypocrites deem the believers to be weak, they strive to mislead them into treachery, despair and despondence. Insidiously, they try to attract adherents with words that will instill doubts in their hearts and harm their faith. One of the methods used by them to this end is to spread lies about the believers.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an that they will try to plant vain desires by claims such as, “what Allah and His Messenger promised us was mere delusion,” (Surat al-Ahzab, 12) or “... these people have been deluded by their religion...” (Surat al-Anfal, 49). Hypocrites believe they recognize truths believers fail to notice.
There is an example of the false assumptions of hypocrites in Samaritan, who is said to have been a person who tried to mislead the Prophet Musa’s (as) people with the words, “... I saw what they did not see.” (Surah Taha, 96)
Another reason why hypocrites cause fitnah during times of difficulty is that they have more freedom to maneuver in such instances. Samaritan could cause fitnah only when the Prophet Musa (as) was absent, and under conditions where he thought his people were more prone to be misled. The people’s response, “We will not stop devoting ourselves to it until Musa returns to us,” (Surah Taha, 91) is an indication that those who swerve from the right path seek opportunities in times of chaos and difficulty to foment corruption.
It is telling that the hypocrites who lived in the time of our Prophet (saas) also could not cause fitnah so long as our Prophet (saas) and his adherents remained strong. In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that hypocrites took advantage of the chaos of war to seek to disunite the believers:
… at that point the believers were tested and severely shaken. When the hypocrites and people with sickness in their hearts said, "What Allah and His Messenger promised us was mere delusion." (Surat al-Ahzab, 11-12)
Such expressions on behalf of the hypocrites clearly demonstrate their interpretation of the religion. For, though being amongst the community of believers, they hoped to gain some trivial gains by pretending to be of them, but every difficulty they faced seemed to them too great, and made them think that their efforts had been in vain. For this reason, with regard to the response of those around them, they tried to make the believers succumb to the same kind of fears. A verse that tells about such efforts of the hypocrites who lived in the time of our Prophet (saas) is as follows:
… and a group of them said, "People of Yathrib, Your position is untenable so return!" (Surat al-Ahzab, 13)
The mentality of the believers, on the other hand, is referred to as follows in the Qur'an:
When the believers saw the Confederates they said: "This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us. Allah and His Messenger told us the truth." It only increased them in faith and in submission. Among the believers there are men who have been true to the contract they made with Allah. Some of them have fulfilled their pact by death and some are still waiting to do so, not having changed in any way at all. So that Allah might recompense the righteous for their sincerity and punish the hypocrites, if He wills, or turn towards them. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat al-Ahzab, 22-24)
Hypocrites may in various instances attempt to cause corruption. In the Qur'an, Allah informs us of such attempts on the part of the hypocrites who lived in the time of our Prophet (saas) in the following verse:
Those who were left behind were glad to stay behind the Messenger of Allah. They did not want to struggle with their wealth and themselves in the Way of Allah. They said, "Do not go out to fight in the heat." Say: "The Fire of Hell is much hotter, if they only understood." (Surat at-Tawba, 81)
Allah also informs us in the Qur'an that some of the hypocrites among the believers who followed our Prophet (saas), separated themselves from the believers the moment they sensed they would be confronted by a threat. Such a treachery is in fact a great mercy to believers from Allah, for by such means Allah purifies them from those who otherwise caused fitnah. This fact is related in the Qur'an as follows:
If they had gone out among you, they would have added nothing to you but confusion. They would have scurried about amongst you seeking to cause conflict between you, and among you there are some who would have listened to them. Allah knows the wrongdoers. They have already tried to cause conflict before, and turned things completely upside down for you, until the truth came and Allah's command prevailed even though they detested it. (Surat at-Tawba, 47-48)
They hide behind excuses to escape from struggling in Allah's cause
In times of difficulty, hypocrites seek to abandon the believers and pursue their own selfish aims. However, they do them in their own sanctimonious manner; in an attempt to justify themselves. They do not confess, "we are concerned about the impairment of our interests, and we do not put our trust in Allah." Instead, they put forth excuses. The Qur'an provides us examples of some of the excuses offered by the hypocrites at the time of our Prophet (saas):
What assailed you on the day the two armies met was by Allah's permission, so that He would know the believers, and [it is] so that He would know the hypocrites. They were told, "Come and fight in the Way of Allah or at least help defend us." They said, "If we knew how to fight, we would certainly follow you." They were closer to disbelief that day than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah knows best what they are hiding. (Surah Al 'Imran, 166-167)
Those Arabs who remained behind will say to you, "Our wealth and families kept us occupied, so ask forgiveness for us." They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts. Say: "Who can control Allah for you in any way whether He wants harm for you or wants benefit for you?" Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Fath, 11)
And a group of them said, "People of Yathrib, Your position is untenable so return!" Some of them asked the Prophet to excuse them, saying, "Our houses are exposed," when they were not exposed; it was merely that they wanted to run away. (Surat al-Ahzab, 13)
Evidently, the excuses made by the hypocrites such as, “our houses are exposed,” or “our wealth and families kept us occupied”, are purportedly legitimate. But, Allah revealed that they “... say with their mouths what was not in their hearts...” (Surah Al ‘Imran, 167) As well, when telling these lies, they also swear by Allah. One of the related verses are as follows:
"Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you." They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying. (Surat at-Tawba, 42)
Another verse relating to the lies of the hypocrites' is as follows:
... he calls Allah to witness what is in his heart, while he is in fact the most hostile of adversaries. (Surat al-Baqara, 204)
Throughout history, hypocrites have consistently made use of the same manner of deception. Consequently, no matter how much they strive to justify themselves, through several examples, Allah revealed to us this characteristic of the hypocrites so that we may recognize their insincerity. The main reason of their attempting to provide excuses is their weak faith and the sickness in their hearts. For a believer, of course, such ploys are out of the question. Indeed, out of the strength and enthusiasm they derive from faith, believers request to confront every kind of difficulty. Without fearing anyone or anything, they aim solely for Allah's good pleasure. The contrary mindset that besets the hypocrites is related in the Qur'an, with the account of an event that happened in the time of our Prophet (saas):
Then when fighting is prescribed for them, a group of them fear people as Allah should be feared, or even more than that. They say, "Our Lord, why have you prescribed fighting for us? If only You would give us just a little more time!" (Surat an-Nisa', 77)
As Allah informs us in this verse, the fear hypocrites feel towards others is so intense that it caused them to openly rebel against Allah's commands. However, their attempt to avoid conflict brought them no good. They thought they were merely being clever by avoiding difficulty in this world yet, little did they know, they were in great loss, because they ignored the eternal life to come in the Hereafter.
They spread falsehood among believers
Another way hypocrites cause fitnah is their spreading of falsehood among believers. When referring to any development appearing to be against the believers, they exaggerate its significance, as if it represented their doom. It is anxiety and confusion that they wish to cause among the believers. The Qur’an relates the truth of the intentions of hypocrites as follows:
When news of any matter reaches them they spread it about, whether it is of a reassuring or disquieting nature. If they had only referred it to the Messenger and those in command among them, those among them able to discern the truth about it would have had proper knowledge of it. If it were not for Allah's favor to you and His mercy, all but a very few of you would have followed Satan. (Surat an-Nisa', 83)
The appropriate way for believers to react to lies and slander on the part of such people is also related in the Qur'an, with the account of an event that happened in the time of our Prophet (saas):
There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment. Why, when you heard it, did you not, as men and women of the believers, instinctively think good thoughts and say, "This is obviously a lie?" (Surat an-Nur, 11-12)
They cause corruption in the name of reform
As in every other matter, hypocrites are also hypocritical in causing fitnah. They claim that the evil in which they engage is carried out for good intentions. In actuality, by spreading false information, hypocrites aim to cause fitnah, instill doubts in people’s minds, and break their morale. However, they never admit to these facts, but claim that they had pure intentions in doing so. But, in the Qur’an, Allah draws our attention to the insincerity of these claims of the hypocrites as follows:
When they [hypocrites] are told, "Do not cause corruption on the earth," they say, "We are only putting things right." No indeed! They are the corrupters, but they are not aware of it. (Surat al-Baqara, 11-12)
Another related verse is following:
As for those who have set up a mosque, causing harm and out of disbelief, to create division between the believers, and in readiness for those who previously made war on Allah and His Messenger, they will swear, "We only desired the best." But Allah bears witness that they are truly liars." (Surat at-Tawba, 107)