Satan's Faction: The Hypocrites
The Arabic word munafiq refers to a person who is "two-faced, always trying to find an easy way out of commitments, either spiritual or social, by adapting to a course of action which will bring him or her an advantage." Although they are not believers, hypocrites are people who nevertheless strive to give the impression that they are, in order to take advantage of the believers' strength and seek shelter among them.
When these people, who have a sickness in their hearts, fail to find what they had hoped, or when some conflict or difficulty afflicts the believers, they depart immediately from them, only then showing what they had hidden in their hearts. Whether during or after their departure from the believers, they then strive to harm them and to impede the unity among them. Moreover, to this end, they will even cooperate with unbelievers.
The character and behavior of the hypocrites is described in some detail in several verses of the Qur'an, believers being warned repeatedly against such people. One of the points these verses emphasize particularly is the nearness between the hypocrites and Satan. Therefore, many features of Satan, including his mysterious thought patterns, are also manifested in the hypocrites. A verse of the Qur'an refers to the way the hypocrites are completely within the fold of Satan and join his legions:
Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Such people are the party of Satan. No indeed! It is the party of Satan who are the losers. (Surat al-Mujadala, 19)
It is for this reason that, when we look at Satan's character, we can also recognize several features also common to the hypocrites. Like Satan, the hypocrites utter inconsistent and contradictory statements, as well as behave strangely. The most significant feature they share in common is a superiority-complex. As we know, Satan refused to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as), because of his errant tendency to regard himself as superior. This insolence of his is referred to in Surah Sad:
So the angels prostrated, all of them together. Except for Iblis who was arrogant and was one of the unbelievers. He said, "Iblis, what prevented you prostrating to what I created with My own Hands? Were you overcome by arrogance or are you one of the exalted?" He [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire but You created him from clay." (Surah Sad, 73-76)
This arrogance is also referred to in other verses. For instance, from Satan's response we can discern that he did not think it fitting for him to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as) (Surat al-Isra´, 61). The words, "… I will not prostrate to a human being whom You have created out of dried clay formed from fetid black mud..." (Surat al-Hijr, 33), which are repeated in another verse, demonstrate this arrogance of Satan's even more clearly.
This response was the fruit of Satan's inexplicable form of logic. Interestingly enough, careful examination of his statements, as referred to in these verses, shows that he was certain of Allah's existence, and that He is his Creator. He fears Allah, but, out pride, refuses to obey him.
As has already been made clear, despite being cognizant of these truths, his desire for self-aggrandizement, that is, the way he regarded himself superior to man on the basis of a mere difference in physical make-up, his envy of the status afforded to man, his unwillingness to prostrate himself before him, because of that deviance, and thus, his opposition to the command of Allah, all place him in the worst ranks of created entities. His response is impudent and a show of gross ingratitude. That same false logic can be discerned in the hypocrites. Like Satan, the hypocrites regard themselves to be "superior," "different," and "chosen." For example, when the hypocrites, according to the 13th verse of Surat al-Baqara, were called upon to have faith as other people had, they described the believers as "fools," and refused to be ranked among them. The verse in question reads:
When they are told, "Believe in the way that the people believe," they say, "What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?" No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. (Surat al-Baqara, 13)
The hypocrites seek to ease their consciences in this manner because they have no faith. Maintaining, or more correctly, trying to convince themselves, that they are superior while believers are inferior, they refuse to follow the path taken by believers. The real reason why they described the believers as "fools" was their desire not to believe as they had, in other words, not to follow the messenger.
The fact is, though, that in the Hereafter superiority will belong only to Allah, His Prophet (saas), and the believers. This certainty is revealed in the Qur'an as follows: They say, "If we return to Madina, the mightier will drive out the inferior." But all might belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and the believers. But the hypocrites do not know this. (Surat al-Munafiqun, 8)
They Oppose the Messenger
Obedience to the prophets of Allah is one of the foremost stipulations demanded in the Qur'an. Among the worst traits of the hypocrites is their violation of this provision, and their rebellion against the messengers. Because, rebellion against the messenger is rebellion against Allah.
Iblis also opposed Allah by refusing to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as)—or to accept his superior rank. Both the hypocrites and Satan are to be punished because they refuse to cooperate with another being they had been commanded by Allah to obey.
Actually, the hypocrites are unable to even comprehend that obedience to the messenger is obedience to Allah (Surat an-Nisa´, 80). The envy they hide prevents them from following another human being. The fact is, however, that obedience to the messenger is one of the most insisted upon commandments in the Qur'an. Because, though the messenger is a human being, he has been specifically chosen to communicate the message of Allah's true religion. The responsibility of others towards him is unquestioning obedience. This Allah has revealed in the following manner:
We sent no Messenger except to be obeyed by Allah's permission. ... (Surat an-Nisa´, 64)
It is revealed in the subsequent verse that those who found resistance within themselves to what the messenger had decided cannot be regarded as having faith:
No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them, and then find no resistance within themselves to what you decide and submit themselves completely. (Surat an-Nisa´, 65)
We have already referred to a similarity that exists between the manner of rebellion of Satan and the hypocrites. Likewise, there is a similarity between the sincere believers and angels. Because, when the angels received the command to prostrate themselves before the Prophet Adam (as), they did so in full submission. This obedience on the part of the angels, in contradistinction to the disobedience of Satan, is referred to here in the Qur'an:
We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam!" and they prostrated, with the exception of Iblis. He refused and was arrogant and was one of the disbelievers. (Surat al-Baqara, 34)
Similarly, true believers obey the messenger of Allah unquestioningly. The words of believers in this regard are reported in Surat al-Baqara:
... "We do not differentiate between any of His Messengers." And they say, "We hear and we obey." ... (Surat al-Baqara, 285)
Their Irrational Rebellion
We have already seen how Satan was surprisingly illogical when he chose to rebel. Recognizing the existence and might of Allah, though still rebelling against Him is, as we have already made clear, a most irrational act.
However, this inexplicable reasoning is not peculiar to Satan alone. Satan's legions, the hypocrites, also engage in behavior that is inexplicable. As Satan rebelled knowingly, had the impudence to question the command of Allah, refused to beg forgiveness, persisted in his sin despite knowing it to be an offence, thinking nevertheless he had suffered an injustice, regarding himself as being in the right, seeking to mislead others into the same destitution… in these the hypocrites follow Satan in every regard:
They are like Satan when he says to a human being, "Disbelieve," and then when he disbelieves, says, "I wash my hands of you. Truly I fear Allah, the Lord of all the worlds." (Surat al-Hashr, 16)
The hypocrites possess the same knowledge as Satan. Satan knows of the might of Allah, and of Paradise and Hell. Like Satan, the hypocrites are also aware of Allah's existence, His book, His commandments, and even His messenger. There may even be those among the hypocrites who have memorized the Qur'an by heart. Nevertheless, all fall into the worst rank among all created beings in opposing the will of Allah. Indeed, the punishment they will eventually receive is even worse, for having turned away knowingly from the true path. Another extraordinary perversion found in the hypocrites is that, after recognizing Allah and His messenger, they then accuse them of deception. When the hypocrites, as described in Surat al-Ahzab, encountered the enemy, it was this sort of deviance that could be discerned among them. It must also not be forgotten that, in all other circumstances, these people behave like believers, appear on the surface to be obeying the messenger along with the other believers, and are able to conceal the sickness in their hearts, though only as long as there is opportunity to excite their base desires. As has been revealed in a verse of the Qur'an, during the period of the Prophet (saas), in the event of war, the wickedness of the hypocrites then became evident: :
When the hypocrites and people with sickness in their hearts said, "What Allah and His Messenger promised us was mere delusion." (Surat al-Ahzab, 12)
Satan's obstinacy in his rebellion, present despite his knowledge of the existence of Allah, can also be discovered in other actions of the hypocrites. For example, there were hypocrites who, in addition to accepting the messenger of Allah, also witnessed Allah's revelation to him. These hypocrites were certain of the truth of that revelation. Indeed, so certain of that truth were they, that they feared that the messenger would be informed of the sickness in their hearts, again by means of revelation:
The hypocrites are afraid that a sura may be sent down about them, informing them of what is in their hearts. Say: "Go on mocking! Allah will expose everything you are afraid of." (Surat at-Tawba, 64)
Another example of the sickness of the hypocrites is given in Surat al-Ma´ida. The hypocrites among the people of the Prophet Musa (as) were so corrupt as to tell him "… So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here..." (Surat al-Ma´ida, 24) when they received the command to go to war. Although they recognized Allah and His Prophet (saas), these people, too, shamelessly rebelled against His commandments. Similarly, another group of hypocrites, from the time of our Prophet (saas), are referred to as having been terrified by and resisting the call to wage holy war against the unbelievers:
... 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)
Clearly, their reactions were improper, in questioning the commandments of Allah.
The truly significant point here though is, that the hypocrites, who did not wish to go to war alongside the Prophet (saas), did not deny the existence of Allah, neither were some opposed to waging war in His cause. Outwardly, one would presume that all they wanted was for the war to be postponed. For example, in saying "… Do not go out to fight in the heat…" (Surat at-Tawba, 81) they might appear to want to wage war in more suitable circumstances. That wish, however, which would otherwise appear perfectly reasonable, actually revealed the sickness they concealed in their hearts. Allah revealed His judgment on these people: … "The Fire of Hell is much hotter, if they only understood." (Surat at-Tawba, 81)
These may be able to gain adherents. Yet, no matter how many supporters they attract through their false-pretexts, they only convince others like themselves, who also harbor a sickness in their hearts. This group, which opposed the command of Allah's Prophet (saas), were mired in confusion. Because, irrespective of conditions, the commands of His Prophet (saas) were to be obeyed.
Another group of hypocrites, also during the time of our Prophet (saas), was those who claimed their homes were not secure, as an excuse for not going to war:
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)
One who has sincerely submitted himself to Allah will certainly not seek an excuse by which to not join in striving in the way of Allah. Only one who has not fully submitted to Allah, and has not fully comprehended His might, will seek such a discharge. The reluctance displayed by the hypocrites in the time of our Prophet (saas), when the call to war was made, clearly demonstrated the cunning effects of Iblis upon their hearts.
They Deceive Themselves
Another action impossible to understand from among the hypocrites, who are Satan's minions, is their tendency to imagine they have deceived Allah. This self-delusion of theirs is described as follows in the Qur'an:
They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. (Surat al-Baqara, 9)
Here we encounter a rather astonishing truth. It is hugely irrational for one to imagine he has deceived Allah, He Who created him. Because, Allah is He Who knows "what the heart contains" (Surah Fatir, 38) and "your secrets and what is even more concealed" (Surah Ta Ha, 7). This sort of thinking on the part of the hypocrites, though quite inexplicable, is nothing but self-deception.
Hypocrites often claim to have fear of Allah. Yet, none among them exhibits harboring such fear in their actions. This is yet another feature which hypocrites share with Satan. Despite declaring that he fears Allah, Satan nevertheless commits terrible crimes, such as encouraging people to rebel. Instead of begging for Allah's forgiveness, he seeks to turn people from His path. Here is a further similarity he shares with the hypocrites: having no fear of Allah, nor showing that fear in their behavior, despite being aware of Allah's might.
This irrational lack of fear at times prompts the hypocrites to try to deceive Allah. The case of the mindset of the hypocrites referred to in Surat at-Tawba is one instance of this. Under the pretense of giving to charity and spending of their wealth in His cause, it is increase in property which they seek from Allah. When Allah increases their wealth, they become miserly, thus failing in their promise to Him.
Among them there were some who made an agreement with Allah: "If He gives us of His bounty we will definitely give charity and be among the righteous."
But when He does give them of His bounty they are tight-fisted with it and turn away.(Surat at-Tawba, 75-76)
They imagine they have deceived Allah. The fact is, however, that, in return for their misdeeds, Allah will punish severely those who seek to sow discord by making them victims themselves of that which they seek to foment. These people, while pursuing the fulfillment of their own base desires, are unaware that they are jeopardizing the life they will live in eternity, being like other hypocrites, in merely deceiving themselves. Their condition is revealed in the Qur'an:
So He has punished them by putting hypocrisy in their hearts until the day they meet Him because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they lied. (Surat at-Tawba, 77)
They Form False Interpretations
The Arabic word tawil means "explanation," "interpretation." A second meaning is a person's refusal to admit to an error out of a lack of sincerity, and then offering unfounded excuses to justify their mendacity. Careful consideration of the matter, though, will reveal that the first being ever to commit such falsehood was Satan. As we already reviewed, Satan opposed Allah's command to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as). Then, when he was warned by Allah, he utterly refused to admit to his error, but attempted instead to portray his action as correct. In accordance to his deviant logic, he attempted to show that he was in the right by maintaining that fire is superior to clay.
This tendency in Satan is also to be discovered in the hypocrites. They also engage in illogical arguments and inexplicable behavior. In order to protect their own interests, and portray themselves as being in the right, they pour forth Satanic type responses from the minute they open their mouths.
Their efforts to defend and justify themselves are consumed with a rage. And, by way of that sentiment, they are prone to all kinds of despicable behavior, like lies and slander. They contrive responses completely removed from the truth of the situation.
The constriction of the conscience of those who knowingly formulate false interpretations is easily discerned in their faces and the words they utter. They attempt to show themselves as being in the right by making use of unsound and ludicrous logic. Ultimately, no part of their utterances are valid. And, by the will of Allah, these will be identified by sincere believers for what they truly are.
The insincerity of the hypocrites is referred to in several verses of the Qur'an. The hypocrites at the time of our Prophet (saas), who had claimed in time of war that their houses were exposed (Surat al-Ahzab, 13), who cited the condition of the weather as an excuse (Surat at-Tawba, 81), who wanted to postpone the war (Surat an-Nisa´, 77), and who said they would have joined in the expedition if they had been sufficiently prepared (Surat at-Tawba, 42), are just a few of the examples mentioned. No matter what the excuses, however, those who avoid embarking on the path of Allah have no faith in their hearts. Allah reveals this fact in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who believe in Allah and the Last Day do not ask you to excuse them from striving with their wealth and themselves. Allah knows the people who guard against evil.
Only those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day ask you to excuse them. Their hearts are full of doubt and in their doubt they waver to and fro. (Surat at-Tawba, 44-45)
The situation mentioned in this verse is yet another indication of the manner in which the hypocrites are deficient in their understanding. Because, one who formulates false interpretations of the religion only deceives himself and others, even though he seeks through various methods to portray himself as being in the right. In truth, however, they can never deceive Allah, Who knows what the heart contains (Surat al-Ma´ida, 7). Allah revealed the following on that subject:
Do you not see those who claim to be purified? No, Allah purifies whoever He wills. They will not be wronged by so much as the smallest speck. (Surat an-Nisa´, 49)
They Imagine Themselves to Have Suffered an Injustice
The reason why Satan refused to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as) is that he thinks it an injustice done to him. Hypocrites offer the same claim. It is a show of exceeding ingratitude to suppose what they have of Allah, their Creator, Who has sent His messenger to lead them to the true path. This condition of theirs is revealed in Surat an-Nur:
Is there a sickness in their hearts or do they have misgivings or do they fear that Allah and His Messenger will be unjust to them? No, it is simply that they are wrongdoers. (Surat an-Nur, 50)
They Suffer Physically
Satan inflicts severe physical harm on the hypocrites. Because they are psychologically imbalanced, they are easily demoralized. The resulting symptoms can been seen in their eye, giving them the appearance of suffering from some sort of mental illness.
Intense over-excitement, or fear, anxiety and restlessness are all conflicting feelings which then show themselves in their faces and physical selves. They will often squint, their mouths may be dry, and their cheek or lips twitch uncontrollably. Heightened wear of their skin tissue gives them an unhealthy appearance. Their mental state, resulting from the corruptive suggestions insinuated to them by Satan, weakens their bodies' immune system. The result is feeble and weary body. Their faces are sallow and unhealthy. When sometimes, they are miserable and depressed, at other times they are out of control and practically insane with exuberance.Their facial expressions vary significantly. Some wear a sly smile, while others may appear neurotic. Each is more repulsive and unpleasant than the last. Combining their distorted facial expressions with their bodily dysfunction, they can easily be recognized. This is indicated in the Qur'an:
If We wished, We would show them to you and you would know them by their mark and know them by their ambivalent speech. Allah knows your actions. (Surah Muhammad, 30)
They Believe They Are on the True Path
In addition to their corrupt thinking, as well as doubts and unsound logic, the hypocrites share still another characteristic in common, being again an incomprehensible self-delusion. Hypocrites actually believe themselves to be on the true path.
The reason why hypocrites believe this of themselves is revealed in the Qur'an. Hypocrites, in actuality, are under the sway of Satan, having become his friends. One so close to Satan as to be his friend will, evidently, behave much under his influence. So effective is this influence that it makes hypocrites falsely believe that they are on the true path. This Allah has revealed in the Qur'an:
If someone shuts his eyes to the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign him a Satan who becomes his bosom friend.
They debar them from the path, yet they still think they are guided. (Surat az-Zukhruf, 36-37)
One group He guided; but another group got the misguidance they deserved. They took the satans as friends instead of Allah and thought that they were guided. (Surat al-A`raf, 30)
As we may observe from these verses, no hypocrite will ever accept that he has committed a mistake. On the contrary, he will claim that he has acted in the name of Allah and His religion, to the point of even swearing to it by Allah. They are essentially not cognizant of their condition. Their reasoning powers are so confounded that, when they will be seized to be cast into to Hell on the Day of Judgment, they will again swear by Allah in defense of themselves:
On the Day Allah raises up all of them together they will swear to Him just as they have sworn to you and imagine they have something to stand upon. No indeed! It is they who are the liars. (Surat al-Mujadala, 18)
Hypocrites are unaware that Satan deceived them by making use of Allah's name. They will only realize this truth in the Hereafter. The exchange that which will take place between the believers and the hypocrites on the Day of Judgment has been revealed in the Qur'an:
That Day the men and women of the hypocrites will say to those who believe, "Wait for us so that we can borrow some of your light." They will be told, "Go back and look for light!" And a wall will be erected between them with a gate in it, on the inside of which there will be mercy but before whose exterior lies the punishment.
They [the hypocrites] will call out to them [the believers], "Were we not with you?" They will reply, "Indeed you were. But you made trouble for yourselves and hung back and doubted and false hopes deluded you until Allah's command arrived. The Deluder deluded you about Allah." (Surat al-Hadid, 13-14)