Hypocrites are The Party of Satan
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)
There are two communities on Earth: those who follow Allah and those who follow satan.
The army of satan is a community of people who have forgotten Allah, Who Created them, and who follow in satan's footsteps by turning aside from the true path. We can divide this community into various sub-groups, such as idolaters, unbelievers and hypocrites. Yet of these groups, Allah reveals that the hypocrites will be punished with the most humiliating torment. Hypocrites are a community harboring all the characteristics of satan. Before continuing to examine this, it will be useful to have a brief look at satan's perverted logic. First, we must concentrate on the least explicable of satan's attitudes, his "mysterious rebellion." In Surat al-A'raf we are told that:
He [satan] said, "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." (Surat al-A'raf: 16-17)
Satan's chief aim is to prevail upon people to rebel against Allah, as can be seen from these verses. He does all in his power and strives constantly to achieve that goal. Yet alongside his intense endeavors, there is another logic. The following verse informs us of this:
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)
As can be seen from the above verse, satan commands people to rebel, but he also states that he himself fears Allah. These expressions make his twisted logic plain for all to see. Not only does he rebel against Allah and encourage human beings to do so, but he also claims to fear Him. This of course shows that satan is mentally unbalanced.
One distinguishing feature of hypocrites that bears a close resemblance to those of satan is their mysterious rebellion. On the one hand, hypocrites are arrogant against Allah and seek to create strife, while on the other hand, they claim to believe in Him and the Hereafter and to be obedient to His religion, His prophets, and His commandments. In fact, Allah has warned believers against this very behavior of the hypocrites through various verses:
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. (Surat an-Nisa': 60)
In addition to this most obvious shared feature, the Qur'an also refers to various other similarities and relationships between satan and hypocrites, which we can now examine.
Hypocrites Take Satan as Their Friend
As a requirement of the verse, "Your friend is only Allah and His messenger and those who believe: those who perform prayer and give the alms, and bow" (Surat al-Ma'ida: 55), those who have faith in Allah perform a most important observance by taking only Him and believers like themselves as their friends. That is the main reason for their strength.
In the same way that believers adopt Allah as their friend and turn to Him in all they do, hypocrites take satan as their friend and guardian. The position of those who adopt satan as their guardian is revealed in these verses:
...He and his tribe see you from where you do not see them. We have made the satans friends of those who have no faith. (Surat al-A'raf: 27)
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)
If someone shuts his eyes to the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign him a satan who becomes his bosom friend. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 36)
As revealed in the above verse from the Surat az-Zukhruf, one of the main characteristics of hypocrites is the way they fail to remember Allah and remain spiritually divided from Him. Again, it is satan who encourages them to behave in this way.
Satan Causes Them to Forget Allah
Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah ... (Surat al-Mujadala: 19)
In order for someone to be a hypocrite, he must first and foremost live within a community of believers and on whom he seeks to inflict harm, either openly or in secret.
The hypocrite works his way into a group of believers, as can be seen from the way he manages to adapt to their way of living, albeit on a temporary basis. Together with them, he recalls Allah and learns to read His verses. Nonetheless, he has turned from belief to denial. The position of hypocrites is revealed in one verse, thus:
That is because they have believed and then returned to disbelief. So their hearts have been sealed up and they cannot understand. (Surat al-Munafiqun: 3)
But if someone believes in the existence and oneness of Allah and obeys the Qur'an, how can he suddenly deviate into denial of Allah?
Naturally this does not happen instantaneously. The hearts of the hypocrites are more prone to denial than to belief. Inciting these people of weak faith is, once again, the work of satan, who sets various snares in order to influence them and distract them away from the true path and into his own. The greatest of these traps is causing people to forget Allah.
Seeking to make the hypocrite forget Allah, satan approaches him with various strategies. Yet from reading the verses of the Qur'an, the hypocrite should know these strategies very well. He is therefore willingly caught in satan's snare because, as is revealed in the Qur'an, he has the sickness of rebelliousness in his heart. That affliction of the hypocrites is revealed in one verse, in these terms:
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: 10)
At this point, however, what must never be forgotten is that satan can influence only the weak in faith. He can never ensnare true, sincere believers in any way. The difference between the deviants and sincere believers is related in another verse:
[Allah said:] "You have no authority over any of My servants except for the misled who follow you." (Surat al-Hijr: 42)
Satan, who constantly seeks to encourage the hypocrite toward arrogance, lack of submission and insincerity, will soon achieve his aim. The hypocrite, who has gone along with him unbelievably quickly out of the weakness of his faith, now stops even bothering to imitate the behavior of a true believer and starts displaying satanic behavior. He begins to display negative behavior towards believers, of a kind he had never exhibited before. For example, he flies into a sudden rage, panics, or behaves in a way that he thinks will harm believers. The influence of satan becomes especially apparent in times of difficulty or in the face of any damages he has suffered himself. The hypocrite who encounters a sudden unexpected difficulty fails to realize that this is taking place under the control of Allah, that he needs to be patient, and that Allah will hear his prayer. He starts to exhibit the exact opposite of the behavior any believer will display in times of difficulty. In the face of a test of his faith, the hypocrite displays a side of him never seen before. But this is the true face of the hypocrite, who has forgotten Allah and submitted to satan.
You see that it is by no means difficult for satan to turn a hypocrite away from the true path. In fact, satan merely calls people to the path of wickedness; it is the hypocrite himself who heeds that call and later fails to repent—and who does all this of his own free will:
He [satan] had no authority over them except to enable Us to know those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it. Your Lord is the Preserver of all things. (Surah Saba': 21)
In the Hereafter, satan will slander those who followed after him and will declare, once again, that he never obliged them to do so, but that they followed him of their own desire:
When the affair is decided satan will say, "Allah made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with Allah before." The wrongdoers will have a painful punishment. (Surah Ibrahim: 22)
Satan Sows in Them the Seeds of Doubt
Anyone who believes in Allah with a sure and certain knowledge never doubts his faith for even a single moment, and seeks refuge in Allah against such a failing. The hypocrite, on the other hand, has doubts on the subject of faith. It is satan, of course, whom he has taken as his friend and in whose path he follows, who inspires these doubts in his heart.
[Satan said:] "I will lead them astray and fill them with false hopes. I will command them, and they will cut off cattle's ears. I will command them, and they will change Allah's creation." Anyone who takes satan as his protector in place of Allah has clearly lost everything. (Surat an-Nisa': 119)
As stated in this verse, satan seeks to instill in people doubts that are utterly hollow and ridiculous. However, those whose faith is weak regard these as extraordinarily important and adopt them with ease. Since they are far removed from the teachings of the Qur'an, they fail to display the kind of behavior it recommends in such situations:
If an evil impulse from satan provokes you, seek refuge in Allah. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat al-A'raf: 200)
Therefore, while believers are victorious over satan, hypocrites are inevitably overcome by him.
Satan Deceives Them with Promises
He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (Surat an-Nisa': 120)
Satan makes people empty promises, all of them directed towards the transient life of this world. Satan, who is rather clever despite not having the sort of wisdom given as a blessing to believers, looks for the gaps in everyone's armor. These weaknesses are the "idols" that an individual may prefer over the approval of Allah.
By "idols," one must not think only of the stone images before which pagans bow down and worship. An idol in this sense can be any concept, ideal, or even human being that one chooses in preference to religion. It can be rank, wealth, fame or beauty, or any persons whose possession of those qualities magnifies them in one's esteem—or any of the transitory baubles of the life in this world. Satan's promises can come in still other varieties, but are still nothing more than empty promises. That is because all of them are transient. On the day that a person is resurrected, he will find that nothing and nobody he valued in this world remains alongside him.
For hypocrites, however, with their lack of depth of understanding, it is not difficult to be taken in by such empty promises. Blindly devoted to the attractions of this world, hypocrites imagine that satan's promises will come true and that they will benefit from going along with him. In fact, however, satan's promises are merely intended to lead a person to Hell. They are of no use in this world, and especially not in the Hereafter. In Surat al-Hashr we are told:
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." The final fate of both of them is that they will be timelessly, forever in the Fire. That is the repayment of the wrongdoers. (Surat al-Hashr: 16-17)
The only community that is not taken in by satan's promises, and does not go along with him, is that of the believers. They are not open to the deceptions satan constantly whispers. Since they evaluate all events within a framework of reason and conscience, they never put any trust in his baseless promises.
They Show Satan Their True Faces
Hypocrites make great efforts to portray themselves to believers as "sincere." They stubbornly persist in this insincerity until their own interests are harmed; and we will consider their aims in detail in due course.
Hypocrites conceal themselves until they split away from believers, and meanwhile they reveal their true faces only to satan. Allah reveals the situation of the hypocrites in a verse:
When they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe." But then when they go apart with their satans, they say, "We are really with you. We were only mocking." (Surat al-Baqara: 14)
Here, it's important to note that naturally enough, satan does not appear to hypocrites in his own physical form. He has a number of abilities, including the one of being able to assume human guise.
It will be useful to say a bit more about his taking on this appearance "Like the devil" is a comparison often employed in everyday language to mean "extreme." But how does one become like the devil? If someone shares some of the characteristics of satan, then it's only accurate to describe that person as "like the devil" or "devilish."
As mentioned earlier, since hypocrites bear all the features of satan, they are quite literally devilish. Furthermore, they also possess a keen ability to recognize others like themselves. If they see they have something in common with the person before them, they may well show that individual their true faces.
It is at this point, when hypocrites depart from believers and join with others like themselves, that they go literally "face to face" with satan. As we'll discuss later, they prepare cunning strategies such as rebellion and enmity of the prophets by holding secret conclaves and speaking among themselves in secret.