They allot to Allah what they themselves dislike and their tongues frame the lie that they will receive the best. There is no doubt at all that they will receive the Fire and that they are people who go to excess.
(Surat an-Nahl: 62)
People who fear Allah always hope for His help and support in all matters. As reported in the words of the Prophet Musa (as), for example: " ...My Lord, I am truly in need of any good You have in store for me" (Surat al-Qasas: 24), they are aware that they need their Creator at every moment. This is where the self-satisfaction of hypocrites, whose characteristics are the exact opposite of those of believers, emerges.
The Qur'an uses the word "istaghna" (self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency) to describe people who imagine they have no need of anything. Yet the term actually applies solely to Allah, for only He has no need of anything. Humans and all other living things are helpless, needy entities, created by Allah and in need of Him in order to survive. Allah addresses human beings so that they may realize their helplessness:
O humanity! An example has been made, so listen to it carefully. Those whom you call upon besides Allah are not even able to create a single fly, even if they were to join together to do it. And if a fly steals something from them, they cannot get it back. How feeble are both the seeker and the sought! (Surat al-Hajj: 73)
Hypocrites, on the other hand, are unaware of their neediness in the face of Allah. They harbor within themselves an arrogance similar to that of satan. Even though they are belittled in the sight of Allah and in that of believers, they imagine that they can deceive people and imagine themselves to be very intelligent and superior. They imagine themselves to be always on the true path, never admitting the possibility that they might have deficiencies or be in error. All these things are actually symptoms of a kind of sickness whose name is "self-satisfaction," as described above.
Indeed, Allah reveals that hypocrites have a sickness in their hearts, which is only increased by their two-facedness:
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surat al-Baqara: 8-10)
The disease of self-satisfaction has been seen in all deniers throughout history. Allah has indicated the disease, which leads people directly to Hell, in several verses of the Qur'an.
This disease began with satan. The first sign of self-satisfaction in him, who regarded himself as the most superior of all created beings, came with satan's refusal to prostrate himself before the Prophet Adam (as), despite Allah's commanding him to do so. Satan's own explanation for this behavior was that the Prophet Adam (as) had been created out of earth and he himself, out of fire.
Therefore, every denier since the world began has harbored this same characteristic, due to their sharing the same nature as satan. The self-satisfaction of the hypocrites is the same as that which first manifested itself in satan.
The first symptom of self-satisfaction is a person's refusal to believe the sickness in his heart, as the Qur'an puts it. Indeed, hypocrites totally reject the idea, which then leads to their sickness increasing still further. That is because someone who is conceited and regards himself as perfect, will feel no need to avoid sin and wickedness. Indeed, Allah reveals in the Qur'an that people who regard themselves as unblemished will develop even greater excesses. It is stated in verses that:
No indeed! Truly man is unbridled, seeing himself as self-sufficient. (Surat al-'Alaq: 6-7)
The self-sufficiency that hypocrites harbor within themselves has various symptoms and consequences, which are described in detail in verses of the Qur'an—and become even clearer when set out one after the other.
1. They Feel No Responsibility Toward the Verses
One of the groups of deniers who regard themselves as exempt from the verses of the Qur'an—in other words, who are unaware that the verses apply to them—are the hypocrites. Despite reading the Qur'an, they regard the stipulations of many verses as having little to do with them. For example, the description of Hell only increases a believer's fear, because there is always the possibility of losing Allah's approval and going to Hell. But since hypocrites regard themselves as predestined to enter Paradise, these verses have no effect on them. They are therefore unable to see and understand the many verses that are addressed directly to them.
When the believer is reminded of verses, or given advice by hearing them cited, his fear increases, and he abides by them, displaying exceptional sincerity. But when the hypocrite is reminded of them, he behaves pretty much as if he never heard the verses at all. He never reflects on or takes advice from Allah's wisdom:
What is the matter with them that they run from the Reminder? (Surat al-Muddaththir: 49)
Another distinguishing feature of hypocrites is that their observance of religion is limited to words. Their falsehood can also be seen in terms of abiding by the verses. Allah has revealed in a number of verses just how insensitive they are to His verses and how they seek to distance themselves from their provisions as far as possible:
Don't you see those who claim that they believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, still desiring to turn to a satanic source for judgment in spite of being ordered to reject it? Satan wants to misguide them far away. When they are told, "Come to what Allah has sent down and to the messenger," you see the hypocrites turning away from you completely. (Surat an-Nisa': 60-61)
Don't you see those who have been given a portion of the Book being invited to let Allah's Book be the judge between them? But then a group of them turn away. (Surah Al 'Imran: 23)
2. They Imagine Themselves to be Very Intelligent
Hypocrites place a great deal of trust in their own intelligence, despite their not actually possessing any true wisdom at all. They are unable to appreciate the dire nature of their situation. They live imagining that their every deed and every decision is the best ones possible. In particular, they regard themselves as their own sole authority on matters of religion. Because of this twisted logic, they also imagine that believers are on the wrong path. Their illogical ideas are revealed in the following verse:
And when the hypocrites and those with sickness in their hearts said, "These people have been deluded by their religion." But those who put their trust in Allah will find Allah to be Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat al-Anfal: 49)
As can be seen from the verse, since they imagine that only they are on the true path, they do not appreciate believers' wisdom. Yet the truth is, believers constitute the only community on Earth on which Allah has bestowed pure wisdom. Nonetheless, hypocrites regard themselves as superior to everybody else, and whenever believers are cited as role models in living by the religious morality, the hypocrites make it clear that they remain unimpressed by their intelligence. These inaccurate ideas on the subject of believers lead hypocrites into a grievous position, as is revealed in another verse:
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)
As revealed in the verse, hypocrites are "fools" because they tell the most unpleasant lies and imagine that even though they prepare snares with no foundation to them, believers will not catch on and that the messenger will not bring these strategies into the light of day. However, when the time comes, Allah shows them and other people the humiliating position they are in.
3. They Imagine Themselves to be Profiting
Another aspect that separates the hypocrites from the community of the faithful is that in living by the religious moral values, they constantly hold themselves back. It is revealed in the Qur'an that in the struggle waged by the community of the faithful, hypocrites seek to keep themselves as far as possible to the rear, and behaving always in a reluctant manner:
Among you there are people who hang back and if you encounter a setback then they say, "Allah has blessed me in that I was not there with them." (Surat an-Nisa': 72)
By not submitting to Allah and His messenger, not engaging in the struggle, spending generously or performing a great number of other observances, hypocrites imagine that they are profiting, and consider performing these observances disadvantageous. Therefore, since they do not seek Allah's approval and regard themselves as unflawed, performing these observances seems a task of enormous difficulty for them.
We can set out a few points on which hypocrites imagine themselves to be ahead of the game by holding themselves back:
a) They Avoid the Struggle
Since they are devoted to the life of this world, hypocrites have a great fear of death, and the very thought of death makes them very uneasy. They never reflect that death is a commandment of Allah, or consider maintaining their religious observances until the moment of their death arrives. Indeed, Allah describes the situation of the hypocrites in the time of the Prophet (saas). They imagined that not going to war would keep them out of danger of death, and so regarded making excuses for not going to war as a sign of healthy intelligence. In the Qur'an, Allah tells of the joy they felt at hanging back during the war:
Those who were left behind were glad to stay behind the Messenger of Allah ... (Surat at-Tawba: 81)
The fact is, however, that death can strike anyone anywhere. Since hypocrites think on only a superficial level, they never bring this point to mind. There is no guarantee that death will not come to someone who hangs back from danger in his own home. Yet as stated at the outset, hypocrites lack the understanding to comprehend their own superficiality. They therefore see any temporary salvation or brief postponement as putting them ahead of the game.
b) They Do Not Co-exist with Believers
Allah has revealed that He will test the community of the faithful with both good and evil. Believers are subjected to tests in this world in order to attain the Hereafter. Therefore, they experience various events, some of which may appear auspicious and others not, but Allah eventually turns them all to the advantage of believers. Since they are aware of the secret of the testing to which they are subjected, they always display the same enthusiasm and effort in competing to earn Allah's approval. They never fall prey to fear or despair.
However, in the community of the faithful, there is another group who fail to grasp the secret of the test and look only at the surface of events. As discussed a little earlier, hypocrites seek to keep themselves as far from troublesome events as they can. If their means permit, they even stay far away from the community of the faithful, since they are unwilling to face the same difficulties that believers do. Indeed, Allah has informed believers—by means of examples from the past, but with particular reference to times of war—that hypocrites prefer to watch believers from as great a distance as possible:
They think that the Confederates have not departed and if the Confederates did appear then they would wish they were out in the desert with the Arabs, asking for news of you. If they were with you they would only fight a very little. (Surat al-Ahzab: 20)
Another verse reveals how hypocrites, who seek to remain at a distance from believers and not to be affected by the events that befall them, see themselves as profiting from this:
If good happens to you it galls them. If a mishap occurs to you, they say, "We made our preparations in advance," and they turn away rejoicing. (Surat at-Tawba: 50)
c) They Do Not Obey the Messenger of Allah
Obedience to the messenger of Allah means holding Allah and His Book above all things, because obedience to Allah and the Qur'an means obedience to His messenger. Believers who are sincerely devoted and obedient to Allah display the same devotion and obedience towards His messenger. The messenger of Allah is of greater value to them than their own lives or desires. The Qur'an refers to believers who protected the Prophet (saas) at the cost of their own lives, who went off to war with him, and who held him above their own selves.
The hypocrites of the time did not go off to war, however. They regarded themselves as exceedingly advantaged and intelligent because they were not obliged to protect the Prophet (saas). Those hypocrites who did join the troops, but who then became frightened and turned back, failed to heed the call of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) to them, and fled without looking back:
Remember when you were scrambling up the slope, refusing to turn back for anyone, and the Messenger was calling to you from the rear ... (Surah Al 'Imran: 153)
They imagined that this flight was their salvation. The fact is, however, that by departing from the command of the Prophet's (saas), they made a grave error. They earned Allah's displeasure and were thus condemned to eternal suffering.
They Claim to be Well-Intentioned
Hypocrites literally compete with one another on the subject of strife and discord. Since they fear believers, however, whenever their wickedness comes to light they swear that they are "well-intentioned" and reconciliatory, and seek to convince believers of this. In all their wickedness, they go to the messenger and make great efforts to convince him of their good intentions. A clear example of this can be seen in the Qur'an:
How will it be when a disaster strikes them because of what they have done, and then they come to you swearing by Allah: "We desired nothing but good and reconciliation?" Allah knows what is in such people's hearts ... (Surat an-Nisa': 62-63)
Of course, as stated in the verse, Allah knows very well that they are lying and what they are concealing in their hearts. This He will reveal at a time of His choosing. He also makes His messenger aware of their situation.
They Try to Free Themselves from Blame with Self-Praise
Don't you see those who praise themselves for purity? No, Allah purifies whoever He wills. (Surat an-Nisa': 49)
How important the approval of other people is for hypocrites! Indeed, as revealed in the above verse, they constantly praise themselves for the purposes of gaining approval. They seek to cover up all their mistakes and justify their desires, in the event that any of their mistakes do see the light of day. They also take pains to depict themselves as true believers, even though they are actually not.
Naturally, however, their efforts achieve success only among people like themselves. Believers identify their two-faced behavior before much time has passed, and respond with the appropriate behavior themselves.
They Cannot Bear to Receive Advice
As we have emphasized throughout this book, one of the main features of hypocrites is their satanic pride. They have grown so arrogant that they cannot admit that they have any deficiencies or are at fault in any regard. If admonished about these deficiencies or errors, then they inevitably display great anger towards whomever does so.
However, the principle features of believers, and messengers in particular, is enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. In other words, the faithful constantly give one another advice and seek to eradicate one another's errors and deficiencies. Since hypocrites are also found within the community of the faithful, they also frequently become engaged in this religious observance that believers perform in order to earn Allah's approval.
In those verses dealing with the hypocrites who lived at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), we can see how hypocrites, who regarded themselves as flawless, became angry in the face of the advice given them. So excessive was their reaction to the reminders issued to them from the Qur'an that, in the words of one verse, they would " ... strike you down with their evil looks ... " (Surat al-Qalam: 51). They saw no need to hide the hatred and anger they felt towards the Prophet (saas), and made this quite apparent.
No doubt their reactions stemmed from the fact that the Prophet (saas) gave them advice. Had he not reminded them of such matters as the imminence of death, the scale of the torment of Hell in the Hereafter, and that status in this world and the next of those who oppose the Qur'an, and had he instead praised the hypocrites to others, then they would have felt no hatred towards him. However, as an immutable law of Allah, His messengers continue to do their duty and enjoin everyone, no matter who they might be, to do what is good and avoid what is evil.
They Imagine They Will Not be Punished
...[they] say to themselves "Why does Allah not punish us for what we say?" Hell will be enough for them! They will roast in it. What an evil destination! (Surat al-Mujadala: 8)
The reason why they continue doing what they do and refuse to abandon their activities is that they don't imagine any troubles will ever be visited on them. Their mindset is one of "If trouble were going to be inflicted on us, it would already have happened." But this is entirely of their own imagining, because the laws of Allah are very different. He will inflict troubles immediately if He wishes, or else postpone them for a while.
In addition, contrary to what they imagine, hypocrites constantly suffer troubles, of which they themselves are unaware. For example, in addition to their defective speech and mannerisms and inability to reason, they live in a constant state of stress, cannot take pleasure from beautiful things, and lack knowledge of the value of blessings.
Allah postpones the deaths of some of them, giving them time to further increase their denial in this world. Additionally, the suffering they will experience in Hell is also increased proportionally:
Do not let their wealth and their children impress you. Allah merely wants to punish them by them in this world, and for them to expire while they are disbelievers. (Surat at-Tawba: 85)
They Imagine Their Worldly Values willProtect Them
We have already touched on the effect of such people's worldly values, how they imagine themselves to be superior, and their enormous self-confidence. Their families and assets head the list of those elements in which they place the greatest confidence and trust, believing that their families and material assets will protect them in the Hereafter, and thus put themselves at ease. They are unaware that not even the most prestigious and powerful people in this world can protect them against any difficulty that may be inflicted by Allah. Thus, they display a most groundless conceit.
The fact is, however, that they will witness all things disappearing one by one. On the Day of Judgment, they will be accompanied neither by their families nor by any of their assets from this world. On the contrary, they will be all alone and utterly defenseless. In addition, they will realize—by means of various calamities inflicted on them by Allah—that these assets availed them nothing in this world either.
As already discussed, they imagine that through rejecting religious moral values and turning away from the community of the faithful, they will actually profit. They believe that in that way, they will be able to live in comfort, according to their worldly desires. They imagine that death, sickness or trouble will never come to them, and that they will be able to live in peace and security for many years. But the fact is that, quite the contrary, trouble and sorrow will follow wherever they go. Indeed, Allah has given believers the warning that both in this world and in the Hereafter He will inflict troubles on those who turn their backs on religion:
But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one and on the Day of Resurrection We will gather him blind. (Surah Ta Ha: 124)
They Imagine They are Destined for Paradise
One of the characteristics of hypocrites is that their belief in the Hereafter is very weak and distorted. Most of them do not believe that after death, they will have to account for crimes they committed in this world. And even if they do admit such a possibility, they regard themselves as destined to enter Paradise on account of having done everything necessary to do so. Examples of this flawed thinking are given in the Qur'an:
"I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return." (Surat al-Kahf: 36)
According to their own flawed logic, simply because they live among believers, they must have performed various services, for better or worse. That being so, they will be rewarded for these in the Hereafter and will inevitably be admitted to Paradise. At the very worst, they think they will suffer punishment in Hell and then be admitted to Paradise. Allah reveals these misconceptions in the Qur'an:
That is because they say, "The Fire will only touch us for a number of days." Their inventions have deluded them in their religion. (Surah Al 'Imran: 24)
As the verse informs us, this is an invention, on account of which hypocrites have been deluded in their religion. This verse, which follows on from the one cited above, reveals the kind of end awaiting them as a result:
But how will it be when We gather them all together for a Day about which there is no doubt? Every self will be paid in full for what it earned. They will not be wronged. (Surah Al 'Imran: 25)