Munāfiq (Arabic: المنافق) or hypocrite is a person who has not truly embraced Islam but pretends to be a believer. The phenomenon of hypocrisy (nifaq) appeared in Islamic history when the Prophet (s) migrated to Medina and gained power there, because unbelievers found it in their worldly interest to pretend being Muslims.
According to historical reports, the Prophet (s) used to tolerate the hypocrites but at the same time counteract their evil works. For instance, Masjid Dirar, which had become a base for the hypocrites were destroyed by the Prophet’s command.
A hypocrite (munafiq) is a person who hides his or her disbelief and pretends to be a believer. “Hypocrite” stands in contrast to “believer” (mu'min) and “disbeliever” (kafir). According to Mutahhari, a believer adheres to Islam in his or her heart, words, and actions; a disbeliever rejects Islam in his or her heart, words, and actions; and a hypocrite rejects Islam in his heart but pretends to be a Muslim with his or her words and actions.
Origins of Hypocrisy in Islam
The issue of hypocrisy and hypocrites in Islam appeared after the migration of the Prophet (s) to Medina. In Mecca, the Muslims were weak and their opponents were not afraid of expressing their opposition and enmity toward them. However, in Medina, the Muslims were in a position of power, and their opponents did not find it in their interest to express their hostility openly. Thus, they pretended to have embraced Islam while they were in fact disbelievers.
Sura al-Munafiqun (Quran 61) was revealed about the hypocrites. This chapter of the Quran describes the hypocrites and their enmity toward the Muslims. It also commands the Prophet (s) to beware of them.
Hypocrites at the Time of the Prophet (s)
Historical and hadith sources list a number of people among the hypocrites at the time of the Prophet (s). Al-Maqrizi names some of the hypocrites from the Aws and Khazraj tribes and mentions their hostilities toward Islam and the Prophet (s). Abd Allah b. Ubayy was one of these hypocrites, who threatened that he would oust the Immigrants from Medina. Abd Allah b. 'Uyayna was another hypocrite, who encouraged his comrades to murder the Prophet (s).
The People of 'Aqaba are counted among the hypocrites as well. These people were a group of the Companions who conspired to murder the Prophet (s) on the way back from the Battle of Tabuk, but they did not succeed to carry out their plan. According to the historians, these conspirers were between twelve to fifteen people. Based on a hadith of Imam al-Sadiq (a), they were twelve individuals, and eight of them were from the Quraysh. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq maintains, on the basis of another hadith, that twelve of them were from the Umayyads and five of them were from other tribes. Al-Suyuti, a prominent Sunni scholar, has mentioned the names of the People of 'Aqaba, including Saʿd b. Abī Sarḥ, Abū Ḥaḍir al-Aʿrābī, Julās b. Suwayd, Mulayḥ al-Taymī, Ḥuṣayn b. Numayr, Ṭuʿayma b. Ubayraq, and Murra b. Rabīʿ.
In the Quran and hadiths, a number of characteristics have been mentioned for the hypocrites, which include the following:
- Swearing falsely in order to lead people astray
- Misunderstanding the reality
- Good appearance and nice sayings
- Rejecting the truth
- Thinking negatively and fearing everything
- Mocking the truth
- Transgression and committing sins
- Pride and arrogance
Referring to sermon 194 of Nahj al-balagha, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi mentions the following characteristics for the hypocrites: having hidden agendas, outward purity and inward impurity, malice toward believers, and greed.
The Prophet’s Behavior toward the Hypocrites
Historical sources show that the Prophet (s) would try to tolerate the hypocrites as much as possible, thought he was aware of their hidden infidelity; he did not agree with those who recommended the execution of the hypocrites. Nevertheless, the Prophet (s) kept their activities under watch and counteracted their conspiracies and evil actions. In some rare cases, the Prophet (s) used force in dealing with them, such as when he destroyed the mosque founded by them (Masjid Dirar).
The Place of the Hypocrites in Hellfire
According to Quran 4:145, “the hypocrites will be in the lowest reach of the Fire.” Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi maintains that in the Quran hypocrisy is worse than disbelief and the hypocrites are the farthest creatures from God.
Funeral Prayer for Hypocrites
There is a discussion in Muslim jurisprudential works on how to perform funeral prayer (salat al-janaza) over the body of a dead hypocrite; there is also disagreement among jurists as to whether funeral prayer should be performed for a hypocrite in the first place. The majority of jurists maintain that funeral prayer for a hypocrite contains only four takbirs (unlike funeral prayer for a believer which has five takbirs) and the performers do not ask God’s forgiveness for the dead hypocrite; rather, according to some jurists, they must ask God to curse the dead hypocrite.
In addition to discussions on hypocrites in jurisprudential and exegetical works, there are a number of independent works that discuss hypocrisy and hypocrites, including the following:
- Sifat al-nifaq wa dhamm al-munafiqin (Description of Hypocrisy and Reproving the Hypocrites) by Ja’far b. Muhammad al-Faryani (207/822 – 301/913)
- Sifat al-nifaq wa naʿt al-munafiqin min al-sunan al-maʾthura ʿan Rasul Allah (Description of Hypocrisy and Portrayal of the Hypocrites from the Hadiths Received from the Apostle of God) by Abu Nuʿaym al-Isfahani (334/945-430/1038)
- Sifat al-munafiqin (The Characteristics of the Hypocrites) by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (691/1291-751/1350).
Some other books in this regard are the following:
- Al-Munafiqun fi al-Qur'an by Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr.
- Nifaq wa al-munafiqun fi al-Qur'an by Ja'far Subhani.
- Zahirat al-nifaq wa khaba'ith al-munafiqin fi al-tarikh by Abd al-Rahman Hasan Habanka al-Maydani.
- Al-Muwajiha bayn al-Nabi (s) wa bayn al-munafiqin by Abd al-Karim Nayyiri.
- Suwar al-munafiqin fi al-Quran al-karim by Bukhari Saba'ie.
- Nifaq wa munafiq az didgah-i shahid Mutahhari by Zahra Ashiyan and Firishta Salami.
- Chihra-yi munafiqan dar Qur'an by Farazmand.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from منافق in Farsi Wikishia.