In the terminology of Quran, a hypocrite is one who is apparently a Muslim and who testifies to the fundamentals of religion, but in fact he is a disbeliever and he does not have faith in what he claims. Such a person is a Muslim and the rules of Islam would be applicable to him. However, such faith is of no use to his success in the hereafter and on Judgment Day he would be punished like the disbelievers; on the contrary more severely than them. The Holy Quran says:
إِذَا جَآءَكَ الْمُنَافِقُونَ قَالُواْ نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَكَاذِبُونَ * إتَّخَذُواْ أَيْمَانَهُمْ جُنَّةً فَصَدُّواْ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُمْ سَآءَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ * ذَ لِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ آمَنُواْ ثُمَّ كَفَرُواْ فَطُبِعَ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ
“When the hypocrites come to you, they say: We bear witness that you are most surely Allah’s Apostle; and Allah knows that you are most surely His Apostle, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars. They make their oaths a shelter, and thus turn away from Allah’s way; surely evil is that which they do. That is because they believe, then disbelieve, so a seal is set upon their hearts, so that they do not understand.” (63:1-3)
Appearance of hypocrites
The accurate history of the origin of hypocrites is not known, but it is definite that they were present before as well as after the Hijrat (migration to Medina). Since they had not accepted Islam with certainty, but due to different objectives they claimed to be Muslims and in this way they entered the ranks of Muslims. They consist of the following groups:
First group: Those, who with the aim of getting position and status and to take advantage of supposed power of Islam, admitted themselves in the group of Muslims. Such people existed in Mecca as well as in Medina when Muslims gained power, because in the beginning of the call also, it was not remote that Islam will become popular one day and the Prophet and his companions will emerge victorious on the enemies and gain a formidable power. However, this possibility became stronger in Medina; that is why the number of hypocrites increased.
In such circumstances, there was possibility that hostile persons and opportunists would take advantage and cooperate with minority, although they did not have sincere belief in those principles.
Second group: Those who did not accept Islam with sincerity, but they did so for fear of death and danger to their interests they apparently recited the dual formula of faith verbally. These hypocrites were in Medina as well as after the conquest of Mecca they apparently accepted Islam and entered the Islamic community.
Third group: Those who had really accepted Islam, but later on they apostasied, because of doubts; but in order to survive they concealed their disbelief.
On the basis of this, hypocrites existed among the Muslims throughout the lifetime of the Prophet of Islam (s) and after his passing away some of them remained in the same way in the Muslim society.
Conspiracies of hypocrites
They had concealed their inward disbelief and lived among the Muslims and many a times through their hypocritical actions they posed themselves to be true Muslims and well wishers of Islam and Muslims. In this way they attracted the confidence of Muslims, but inwardly they conspired against them and tried to create mischief for them. Therefore, numerous problems appeared for Muslims, which were not lesser than the plots of infidels and polytheists. Below we mention some of the instances:
A group of hypocrites formed a secret party, who in their secret gatherings ridiculed the Prophet of Islam (s) and criticized the verses of Quran. Sometimes they also mentioned all this in the presence of new converts to Islam. In addition to this, they spread doubts and misgivings in order to weaken the faith of Muslims. On different pretexts, they kept away from taking part in normal Muslim rituals of Friday Prayer, congregations and Jihad and by exaggerating the power of enemies discouraged the Muslims from taking part in fighting. Sometimes they also resorted to flight from the battlefield and at the same time instigated the brave ones to also flee. They extended secret cooperation with the enemies of Islam and conveyed official and confidential information to them.
A group of hypocrites constructed a Masjid near the Quba Masjid and invited the Prophet to establish congregational prayer in it. The Messenger of Allah (s) asked: What is your aim in constructing this Masjid? They said: We have made it for rainy nights and for the ailing persons who cannot attend congregational prayer in your Masjid, and there is no other aim in it.
While the fact was that they had some other aim in it. They had made the Masjid with intention to create dissension, harm Islam and spread disunity among the Muslims. In the same way, they used it as a center to spread conspiracies and plots against Muslims and to support disbelief and polytheism. However Quran exposed their conspiracy and mentioned their true aim; and that is why it labeled it as Masjid Zirar (Masjid of harms).
The Holy Quran says:
وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُواْ مَسْجِداً ضِرَاراً وَكُفْراً وَتَفْرِيقَا بَيْنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَ إِرْصَاداً لِّمَنْ حَارَبَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَيَحْلِفُنَّ إِنْ أَرَدْنَآ إِلَّا الْحُسْنَى وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَذِبُونَ * لَا تَقُمْ فِيهِ أَبَداً لَّمَسْجِدٌ أُسِّسَ عَلَى التَّقْوَى مِنْ أَوَّلِ يَوْمٍ أَحَقُّ أَن تَقُومَ فِيهِ فِيهِ رِجَالٌ يُحِبُّونَ أَن يَتَطَهَّرُواْ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُطَّهِّرِينَ
“And those who built a Masjid to cause harm and for unbelief and to cause disunion among the believers and an ambush to him who made war against Allah and His Apostle before; and they will certainly swear: We did not desire aught but good; and Allah bears witness that they are most surely liars. Never stand in it; certainly a Masjid founded on piety from the very first day is more deserving that you should stand in it; in it are men who love that they should be purified; and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (9:107-108)
When the Messenger of Allah (s) was informed about the aim of hypocrites, he did not accept their invitation to lead prayers in their Masjid and ordered some of his companions to burn down Masjid Zirar and to raze it to the ground.
One of the breaches of trust of hypocrites, which is also mentioned in the Holy Quran, took place after the battle against Bani Mustaliq; that is when information reached the Prophet of Islam (s) that the Bani Mustaliq tribe has prepared itself to attack the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (s) declared Jihad among the Muslims. Muslim stalwarts prepared themselves and marched towards the land of enemies with the Messenger of Allah (s). They landed at the Marisi well and the battle took place at the same spot. After a brief battle, soldiers of Islam gained domination over enemies from Bani Mustaliq. They slew some of them and took some as captives. After this victory a dispute developed between Muhajireen and Ansar with regard to the water of the Marisi well and it almost developed into a civil war.
Abdullah bin Ubayy, one of the hypocrites of Medina, who nursed extraordinary grudge against Islam and participated in the battles only to share the war booty, expressed his enmity and hypocrisy and spoke thus to those who had gathered around him: “All this is the result of our own doing. We provided quarters to the Muhajireen of Mecca in our land and protected them from their enemies. Our condition conforms to the well-known saying: “Nourish your dog and it will bite you. By Allah, when we return to Medina it will be necessary that the strong and dignified people (of Medina) should turn out the weak ones (i.e. the Muhajireen),”
The speech of Abdullah before the people, in whose minds the Arabian party-spirit and the ideas of the Age of Ignorance still lurked, had a very unwholesome effect on them and it was possible that their unity might have been jeopardized.
Fortunately, however, a zealous Muslim, named Zaid bin Arqam, who was also present there, replied to his satanic words with full force and said: “By Allah, you are the person, who is mean and humble. You are the person, who doesn’t enjoy the least position amongst his kinsmen. On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad (s) is respectable amongst the Muslims and their hearts are filled with love for him.”
Then he departed from there and came to the Prophet and informed him of the seditious speech of Abdullah. To keep up appearance, the Prophet rejected the words of Zaid thrice and said: “Maybe you are mistaken. Probably anger actuated you to say this. It is possible that he considered you to be low and foolish and meant nothing else.” However, Zaid replied in the negative with regard to all these possibilities and said: “No, his intention was to create differences and to fan dissensions.”
Abdullah learned about Zaid bin Arqam’s conversation with the Prophet. He came before the Prophet immediately and said: “I never said any such words.” Some well-wishers of his also supported him and said that Zaid had erred in quoting him. The Holy Prophet (s) wanted to do something, which might make the parties concerned forget the matter completely. To achieve this end he ordered the people to move, although otherwise it was not the time of departure.
Orders for departure were given and the soldiers of Islam continued their march for more than twenty-four hours and did not halt except for prayers.
Almighty Allah says with regard to this:
هُمُ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ لَا تُنفِقُواْ عَلَى مَنْ عِندَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ حَتَّى يَنفَضُّواْ وَ لِلَّهِ خَزَآئِنُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ * يَقُولُونَ لَئِن رَّجَعْنَآ إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ لَيُخْرِجَنَّ الْأَعَزُّ مِنْهَا الْأَذَلَّ وَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“They it is who say: Do not spend upon those who are with the Apostle of Allah until they break up. And Allah’s are the treasures of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites do not understand. They say: If we return to Medina, the mighty will surely drive out the meaner therefrom; and to Allah belongs the might and to His Apostle and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.” (63:7-8)
Dishonesty and audacity of the hypocrites reached to such a level that they even hatched a plot to eliminate the Prophet of Islam (s). One of its examples occurred during return of the Prophet from the Battle of Tabuk, which was fortunately thwarted. After the conclusion of this battle, some leaders of hypocrites hatched a plot to assassinate the Holy Prophet (s) secretly. They planned to frighten his camel when he negotiated a perilous mountain cliff, so that it would rear up and stumble into the deep ravine.
The Holy Prophet (s) and his companions were on way to Medina. When they reached the top of the cliff, the conspirators decided to execute their nefarious plot. At this moment, Jibraeel came down and informed the Holy Prophet (s) about this conspiracy. The Messenger of Allah (s) ordered his soldiers: None of you must cross the cliff before me. Then he gave the rope of the camel to Ammar to lead the camel and also ordered Huzaifah to drive it from the rear and to control it properly. They set out after midnight till they reached the cliff. In a crucial passage, he saw a few riders who had concealed their faces and hid themselves in ambush. He said to Huzaifah: Hit the snouts of their mounts with your staff. Huzaifah attacked the enemies with his staff and dispersed their horses. Meanwhile, a hypocrite who was hiding on the mountain top threw a can filled with stones to startle the camel of the Prophet. But it missed the Prophet’s beast and fell down the ravine. During these circumstances, Huzaifah and Ammar were controlling the camel of the Messenger of Allah (s) and they crossed the defile as soon as possible and were clear of danger. During these moments, the Prophet informed Huzaifah about the identities of the hypocrites.
Even though hypocrites were considered Muslims, regretfully due to the effect of their internal disbelief they always had pacts of friendship and cooperation with disbelievers. In special gatherings, they supported the disbelievers and urged them to be firm in disbelief, to be determined in front of Muslims and to bear difficulties. They promised help and support to them, as the Holy Quran has said about the Jews of Bani Nuzayr:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ نَافَقُواْ يَقُولُونَ لِإِخْوَ انِهِمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَئِنْ أُخْرِجْتُمْ لَنَخْرُجَنَّ مَعَكُمْ وَلَا نُطِيعُ فِيكُمْ أَحَداً أَبَداً وَ إِن قُوتِلْتُمْ لَنَنصُرَنَّكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ * لَئِنْ أُخْرِجُواْ لَا يَخْرُجُونَ مَعَهُمْ وَلَئِن قُوتِلُواْ لَا يَنصُرُونَهُمْ وَ لَئِن نَّصَرُوهُمْ لَيُوَلُنَّ الْأَدْبَارَ ثُمَّ لَا يُنصَرُونَ
“O you who believe! let not (one) people laugh at (another) people perchance they may be better than they, nor let women (laugh) at (other) women, perchance they may be better than they; and do not find fault with your own people nor call one another by nicknames; evil is a bad name after faith, and whoever does not turn, these it is that are the unjust. O you who believe! avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful.” (59:11-12)
Hypocrites were friendly to the Jews of Bani Nuzayr in a number of ways. They lent their support to them and urged them to remain determined against the Muslims and said: Be steadfast in your stance and do not fear the Muslims. We will support you and if they expel you from this area, we will also accompany you. And if they fight you, we would hasten for your help and assistance. But as the Holy Quran mentioned, the hypocrites did not fulfill their promise. When the Holy Prophet (s) signed a truce with Jews of Bani Nuzayr, under the terms of which, the Jews agreed to leave the Arabian Peninsula, the hypocrites did not keep their word and did not leave in their company.
Hypocrites were dangerous persons as they created very serious difficulties and calamities for Islam. They exceeded the polytheists in their dishonesty and harms. That is why the Holy Quran paid special attention to expose their dishonesty. In many verses, Quran hints at their betrayals, falsehoods, mischiefs and conspiracies and warned the Muslims. Sometimes it has also threatened the hypocrites and said:
لَئِن لَّمْ يَنتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ وَ الْمُرْجِفُونَ فِى الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَآ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً * مَلْعُونِينَ أَيْنَمَا ثُقِفُواْ أُخِذُواْ وَقُتِّلُواْ تَقْتِيلاً
“If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and the agitators in the city do not desist, We shall most certainly set you over them, then they shall not be your neighbors in it, but for a little while; cursed: wherever they are found they shall be seized and murdered, a (horrible) murdering.” (33:60-61)
It also says:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَامِعُ الْمُنَفِقِينَ وَالْكَفِرينَ فِى جَهَنَّمَ جَمِيعاً
“…surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites and the unbelievers all in hell.” (4:140)
In the same way, it says:
إِنَّ الْمُنَفِقِينَ فِى الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيراً
“Surely the hypocrites are in the lowest stage of the fire and you shall not find a helper for them.” (4:145)
Again it says:
يَأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ جَهِدِ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَفِقِينَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَمَأْوَيهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ
“O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.” (9:73)
Presence of hypocrites and their deception was one of the difficulties of the Prophet of Islam (s) and the Muslims. Some of these same hypocrites were alive after the passing away of the Prophet and continued their betrayals and created a lot of difficulties in the spread of Islam. Even today they are involved in subversive activities against the spread and greatness of Islam and to destroy Islamic laws, rules of Quran and Islamic jurisprudence. Therefore, it is necessary on Muslims to recognize the hypocrites and to confront hypocrisy and hypocrites.
 Majmaul Bayan, Vol. 5, Pg. 73
 As-Seeratun Nabawiyya, Ibne Hisham, Vol. 3, Pg. 302; Majmaul Bayan, Vol. 10, Pg. 293
 Biharul Anwar, Vol. 21, Pg. 196-231
 Biharul Anwar, Vol. 20, Pg. 11-157; Majmaul Bayan, Vol. 9, Pg. 263