Munafiqeen: How to identify and deal with hypocrisy – Part I 

Rizwan Khan, Missionary, Connecticut, USA

Munafiqat – hypocrisy – within Islam is not a new topic, it was munafiqat that was the source of the disorders during Khilafat-e-Rashida. It wasn’t the disbelievers who broke the unity of the Muslims, it was the hypocrites, those who claimed to give bai‘at to the Khalifa but underhandedly opposed him behind his back, who broke the unity of the Muslim community. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, has explained those disorders in detail in his Friday Sermons on the Khulafa-e-Rashideen, particularly during the Khilafat of Hazrat Uthmanra and Hazrat Alira. We are taught these lessons from history so that we may learn from them.

Munafiqeen exist in every divine community. This is a disorder that has to be taken seriously today. The disorders that happened in early Islamic history were a result of not taking munafiqeen as seriously as they should have been. 

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“Some foolish people in the Jamaat don’t take the disorder of the munafiqeen [hypocrites] seriously and say that God will protect this movement. Don’t they see what a foul person from the children of Hazrat Abu Bakrra did during the era of Hazrat Uthman? They [the Muslims] also thought God is the Protector of Islam and they showed neglect in opposing disorders and every Muslim to this day weeps over what resulted.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 27 July 1956, pp. 319-320)

The questions that are important to answer are: What makes someone a munafiq? How do we identify them? Can we point them out? Should we point them out? We’ll start by going over different types of munafiqeen

Those who believed but lost faith

One type of munafiqeen are those who believed but then lost faith. Allah Almighty says:

لَا‭ ‬تَعۡتَذِرُوۡا‭ ‬قَدۡ‭ ‬كَفَرۡتُمۡ‭ ‬بَعۡدَ‭ ‬اِيۡمٰنِكُمۡ

“Offer no excuse. You have certainly disbelieved after your believing.” (Surah at-Taubah, Ch.9: V.66)

This verse shows that they did sincerely believe at one point. They believed in the Khalifa at some point and sincerely gave bai‘at, but then they lost faith and started opposing him underhandedly.

The moral obligation of munafiqeen to leave

If someone decides they no longer believe in a religion and they want to oppose it, they should have the self-respect to leave that religion and openly oppose it. 

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“If someone is not happy with the organisation or doctrines of a community, he should separate himself from them, not stay in them and try to create discord.”  (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 177)

Both believers and disbelievers can agree that if someone isn’t happy with an organisation, then they should leave it rather than stay in it and spread disorder. To stay within the Jamaat and the bai‘at of the Khalifa, and then to oppose him behind his back, is disgraceful in the eyes of anyone with self-respect. 

It is the moral obligation of munafiqeen to leave, not pretend to believe and be part of a religious community and then act treacherously against it. This is why the munafiqeen are so disgraced in the eyes of the world and in front of Allah Almighty. This disgrace is found in the root meaning of the word munafiq itself. According to dictionaries, the Arabic root of munafiq has the following meanings:

“نَافَقَ‭ ‬اليَرْبُوع‭ ‬ُ means, the rat known as yarbu be took itself to its hole. النَّافِقَاءُ means a hole in the earth having two open ends, which the rat enters, concealing one end and leaving the other exposed, so that in time of danger it may avail itself of the concealed end and escape through it. النفق means a hole or passage through the earth leading up to someplace through an opening at the other end. النفاق means entering faith through one door and leaving it through another; acting hypocritically. المنافق means one who conceals disbelief in his heart and expresses belief with his tongue; a hypocrite. (Aqrab, Taj & Mufradat)” (English Five Volume Commentary of Ch.9: V.67)

munafiq is like a rat. Disbelievers are not necessarily like this. At least among disbelievers, some were like lions, and when they accepted Islam, their qualities were correctly channelled and they became lions of Allah. One positive in disbelievers is that there are many who, when they became believers, their qualities of bravery and decisiveness made them the most honoured in the history of Islam. 

The Holy Prophetsa said:

“You see that the people are of different natures. Those who were the best in the pre-Islamic period, are also the best in Islam if they comprehend religious knowledge

“And you will find the worst amongst people is the double-faced (person). He comes with one face to them and with the other face to the others.” (Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and merits of the Prophetsa and his Companionsra, hadith no. 3493)

We can appreciate some of the qualities of a disbeliever, but the spinelessness of a munafiq disgraces them. A munafiq is like a rat whether among the believers or the disbelievers. This two-faced nature of munafiqeen is a source of disgrace for them in this world and the next. This is why they are described as the worst of people:

اِنَّ‭ ‬الۡمُنٰفِقِيۡنَ‭ ‬فِي‭ ‬الدَّرۡكِ‭ ‬الۡاَسۡفَلِ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬النَّارِ

“The hypocrites shall surely be in the lowest depth of the Fire;” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.146)

The Promised Messiahas said:

“Remember that certainly, a munafiq is worse than a disbeliever because a disbeliever at least has bravery and decisiveness. He bravely expresses his opposition. A munafiq does not have bravery and decisiveness, he hides his opposition.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 8, p. 293)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained that the Holy Prophetsa never forced anyone, but since he did have government, one could misunderstand and say that the hypocrites were afraid of his sword. However: “In such a peaceful age when no one can harm anyone, if someone’s temperament inclines towards hypocrisy, they are a very ill-natured person. If someone does munafiqat now, they are a thousand times worse in their hypocrisy than at the time of the Holy Prophetsa.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 25 September 1914, p. 183)

Some munafiqeen say they stay in the Jamaat because of a fear of social pressure from their family. But how do they summon the courage to make any other adult decision in their lives? These excuses are childish and should be called out as such. How do they decide whom they want to marry? If they want to marry someone, and their parents or their grandmother puts social pressure on them to marry someone else, are they so obedient to their parents that they will blindly follow? These excuses aren’t acceptable anywhere from any adult. How do they make any decisions about their life as adults? 

Characteristics of munafiqeen

One of the signs of such munafiqeen is that they won’t complain to the Khalifa when they have a complaint or an objection against him or the Jamaat, rather, they’ll spread ill-thinking against him among the Jamaat. 

If they have an objection against the Khalifa or the Jamaat, they should share it with the Khalifa, or those appointed for reformation within the Jamaat. It is possible for someone to have developed some disagreement with the Khalifa in his heart. However, it is his duty to present his doubt to the Khalifa, so that he can dispel that doubt. (Minhaj-ut-Talibeen, Anwar-ul-Uloom, vol. 9, pp. 162-164) Disagreement is allowed, but disobedience and defiance are not. A munafiq is someone who spreads defiance against the Khalifa amongst people through their actions or words. If their actions undermine the Khalifa and the Jamaat, while they give bai‘at to the Khalifa, then what they are doing is munafiqat

The Khalifa is the one they have given bai‘at to. They have no excuse not to share it with the Khalifa if they are sincere. If they don’t trust the Khalifa, whom they claim to believe is chosen by God, whom can they trust? If they don’t think he will do justice, what is the meaning of their bai‘at?

It is narrated in Sahih Bukhari:

“On the day [of the battle] of Hunain, Allah’s Messengersa favoured some people in the distribution of the booty […] Then a person came and said, ‘By Allah, in this distribution justice has not been observed, nor has Allah’s pleasure been aimed at.’ I said [to him], ‘By Allah, I will inform the Prophet[sa] [of what you have said],’”

This part of the narration teaches us that the Companionsra would inform the Holy Prophetsa if anyone said something that was hypocritical and that it is also our responsibility to inform the Khalifa. The narrator continues:

“I went and informed him, and he said, ‘If Allah and His Apostle did not act justly, who else would act justly? May Allah be merciful to Moses, for he was harmed with more than this, yet he kept patient.’” (Sahih Bukhari, One-fifth of Booty to the cause of Allah (Khumus), hadith no. 3150)

Now, how can munafiqeen claim to believe the Khalifa is truly appointed by God and give bai‘at to him if they don’t believe he is just? The Holy Prophetsa also had to deal with munafiqeen like this who would attack him behind his back, as did Hazrat Musaas

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has said:

“Hypocrites are so foolish that, on the one hand, in their sittings, they talk about what they perceive to be evils in the Jamaat and the Nizam, but when a believer meets with them and tells them to convey this to the Khalifatul Masih they say they don’t want to needlessly escalate things.

“On one hand they spread sedition and discord, on the other, they express they hate discord, although the way they criticise is sedition itself. But when they are asked why they don’t mention their complaints to the Khalifatul Masih, they pretend to be great reformers and say that ‘we don’t want to start any discord, if we complain, then what will he say?’” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 5 August1938, p. 491)

If these munafiqeen were sincere in saying they wanted to promote peace, they would share their objections with the Khalifa. But they spread discord by going behind his back. This is munafiqat

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“If their objective was only reformation, they should have brought those responsible in the Nizam to notice about the issue, rather than having their separate sittings and saying it there”. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 5 August 1938, p. 505)

“The greatest sign of a person’s munafiqat is that they won’t complain to the person they have a complaint against, instead, they’ll spread ill-thinking against them among people. Seeing this sign, if someone cannot recognise a munafiq, there is no one more foolish than them. Recognising a munafiq is easier than recognising anything else. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 3 June 1949, p. 140)

If we keep this characteristic in mind, we won’t have any trouble identifying munafiqat.

Those who mix faith and hypocrisy

Another category of hypocrites is those who mix faith and hypocrisy. They believe in Islam and Ahmadiyyat and Khilafat, but their connection is only with their minds, not with their hearts. In doctrines, they believe in the Khalifa, but since their hearts are not attached to the Jamaat they criticise and condemn the Jamaat of Allah.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained this verse of the Holy Quran describes their state:

كُلَّمَاۤ‭ ‬اَضَآءَ‭ ‬لَهُمۡ‭ ‬مَّشَوۡا‭ ‬فِيۡهِ‭ ‬٭ۙ‭ ‬وَاِذَاۤ‭ ‬اَظۡلَمَ‭ ‬عَلَيۡهِمۡ‭ ‬قَامُوۡا‭ ‬

“whenever it shines upon them, they walk therein; and when it becomes dark to them, they stand still.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.21)

Allah Almighty says about them:

‭ ‬فِيۡ‭ ‬قُلُوۡبِهِمۡ‭ ‬مَّرَضٌ

“In their hearts was a disease,”

(Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.11)

Meaning that, “They have faith in their hearts, but along with it is a disease.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 5 August 1938, p. 499)

The Holy Prophetsa described this type of munafiq

“A heart which houses both iman and nifaq; the iman within it is like a herb which is sustained by pure water, while the nifaq in it is like an ulcer that thrives on puss and blood – whichever of the two receives more of its sustenance will overcome the other.” (Musnad Ahmad, as quoted in Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 201)

One sign of these munafiqeen is that while they believe in Khilafat, they have lost faith in the Jamaat. There are weaknesses in some office-bearers, this is inevitable in any community, however, what makes someone a munafiq is that they speak broadly of the Jamaat as being corrupted. They don’t realise that losing faith in the Jamaat of Allah eventually leads to disbelieving in Khilafat and then the Promised Messiahas.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“A broad sign of a munafiq that the Promised Messiahas explained, is that they will criticise the Jamaat and openly say that the Jamaat has been corrupted and ruined. Whoever says that the Jamaat has been ruined, know that they are a munafiq.

“When they say the Jamaat is corrupted, it means that they attack the Promised Messiahas

“The era of prophesied progress has not yet come, if the Jamaat is corrupted, how can the Promised Messiahas be a true appointee of God? The person who says that the Jamaat has become corrupted is himself false. In reality, their own faith has been corrupted. When someone is sick, everything tastes bitter to them.” (Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 10, pp. 93-94)

This characteristic of munafiqeen has also been described by the Holy Prophetsa:

“When a person says: ‘People have been ruined’, he himself is the most ruined among them.’” (Sahih Muslim, The book of prohibited actions)

munafiq can make excuses all they want and say they only criticise the Jamaat because they want to promote reformation and peace. The verdict of the Holy Prophetsa is clear; a person who says the Jamaat has been ruined is the most ruined among them. They are a munafiq. We can’t judge people’s intentions, but if their actions are those of a munafiq, then no matter what excuses they give for their intentions, we can say what they are doing is munafiqat.

Allah Almighty says:

وَاِذَا قِيۡلَ لَهُمۡ لَا تُفۡسِدُوۡا فِي الۡاَرۡضِ ۙ قَالُوۡۤا اِنَّمَا نَحۡنُ مُصۡلِحُوۡنَ

اَلَاۤ‭ ‬اِنَّهُمۡ‭ ‬هُمُ‭ ‬الۡمُفۡسِدُوۡنَ‭ ‬وَلٰكِنۡ‭ ‬لَّا‭ ‬يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ

“And when it is said to them: ‘Create not disorder on the earth,’ they say: ‘We are only promoters of peace.’ Beware! it is surely they who create disorder, but they do not perceive it.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.12-3)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has said:

“Abdul Hakeem Murtad also wrote that Maulvi Nuruddin Sahib and one or two other people are good, but the rest have become corrupt. The Promised Messiahas wrote to him that you yourself are corrupted, my Jamaat has thousands of people who are an example of the Sahaba.” (Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 10, p. 95)

When munafiqeen look at the Jamaat of Allah, why are they filled with such bitterness and cynicism? It is because they are suffering from an illness, فِيۡ‭ ‬قُلُوۡبِهِمۡ‭ ‬مَّرَضٌ, it is a symptom of their illness that they think so negatively about the Jamaat of Allah.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained that a believer sees the overwhelming good in his brothers, however:

“Since a munafiq is no longer attached to the movement through a connection of love, when they see these kinds of weaknesses, they say ‘now we see that they also have these wrongs and faults’. Since, now, a feeling of estrangement has developed in him, they begin referring to their own Jamaat in the third person and say that ‘they’ have these faults.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, 5 August 1938, pp. 498-499)

munafiq is quiet when the Jamaat succeeds, but is ecstatic to say ‘I told you so’ when there is a setback, from which it is clear that their objective is to disgrace the Jamaat. (Ibid, p. 502)

Click here for Part 2

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