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The essence of hypocrisy

Adil Salahi | Arab News



Perhaps nothing is more hateful to Islam and Muslims than


hypocrisy. This is due to the fact that a hypocrite is not merely a


habitual liar; he is a person who thinks that he can easily deceive


people and get away with it. He imagines that nobody can see


through him. When hypocrisy is focused on faith, with the hypocrite


claiming to be a believer when he truly does not believe, then such


a hypocrite imagines that he can deceive God. Thus he makes fun of


God’s knowledge and power. God describes the stupidity of


hypocrites in the following terms: “They seek to deceive God and


the believers, but they are only deceiving themselves, though they


may not realize it. There is sickness in their hearts, and God has


aggravated their sickness.” (2: 9-10)


Defining hypocrisy the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “There are


four traits which, when present in any person, make that person a


pure hypocrite. Whoever has one of these has indeed a trait of


hypocrisy unless he abandons it: When he is assigned a trust he is


untrue to his trust; when he speaks to others he lies; when he


gives a serious promise he is deceitful; and when he is in dispute


he is too hard.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).


The Prophet defines the character of a hypocrite by four features


every one of which is a manifestation of untruth. By contrast, a


believer is a person whose actions give credence to his beliefs.


Whatever he claims is certainly true. These four traits represent


falsehood in intention, words and action. Hence, when a person


portrays all four his case is that of unmitigated hypocrisy. Anyone


of these four traits represents a quarter of the full extent of




Putting the case in such clear and graphic manner, the Prophet is


urging every Muslim to make sure that none of these traits applies


to them. If it does, then they must try hard to purge themselves of


it. The first is being untrue to one’s trust. A hypocrite thinks


nothing of violating his trust if there is anything to be gained by


such violation. Secondly, a hypocrite is a habitual liar. He thinks


that he can get away with anything by assuring his listener that


whatever he says is true when he is fully aware that it is not. The


third trait is being untrue to one’s promises. When he gives a


promise, a hypocrite knows that he will be violating it at the


first opportunity. He has no intention of remaining true to his


promises unless there is nothing to be gained by breaking them. The


last trait is being too hard when involved in a dispute. He goes


far beyond good manners. He resorts to exaggeration as well as


slandering and vilifying his opponent, paying no heed to Islamic




It should be said that these four traits are the main features of


the character of a hypocrite. There are other features such as


exaggerated flattery, unwarranted praise of one’s bosses, putting


up a show of devotion in worship, etc. All these qualities


demonstrate falsehood in intention, speech and action.


It should be said, however, that falsehood is intended to deceive


others. When there is no intent of deception, resorting to


exaggeration in describing something, or in portraying events, does


not come under hypocrisy, particularly when no harm results from


such exaggeration.




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