Deprived of Light on Judgment Day: 5 Behavioral Traits of Munafiqs

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I find the concept of nifaq intriguing. It is something that I often ponder upon, as it is a disease of the heart that is difficult to detect. This is because it does not openly manifest itself in a person’s outward actions, so someone infected with nifaq outwardly appears to be the same as a believer whose heart is pure.

The Muslims during the last years of the life of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) roughly consisted of 2 groups: sincere believers and those who pretended to be sincere believers – the latter are referred to in the Quran as “munafiqs“.

The ironic part is that it was the sincere believers who constantly feared and guarded themselves against nifaq lest it enter their hearts and cause their eternal destruction.

The word نِفَاق nifaq is based on the 3 root letters نَفَقَ na-fa-qa, which means: “it was or became salable, easy, ready for sale, or in much demand; it became exhausted or spent.”

The form of the Arabic word نِفَاق (nifaq) is grammatically based on the measure (or lexical form) of فِعَالٌ (fi’aal), on which the more common words ‘qiyaam‘/قِيَام (standing in prayer) and ‘suiyaam‘/صِيَام (fasting) are also based.

This measure i.e. فِعَالٌ  fi’aal gives the meaning of:

(i) Attempting: trying to do the action, i.e. in this case نَفَقَ

(ii) Reciprocal: mutual action between subject and object.

نَافَقَ means, in Islamic terminology, “He pretended to the Muslims that he held the religion of Al-Islam, concealing in his heart another religion than Al-Islam.”

نَفَقٌ means the holes of rats or mice, or subterranean excavations.

In a verse in Surah Al An’am, Allah has used the word نَفَقًا to imply this above meaning, i.e. a “tunnel”:

إِن كَانَ كَبُرَ عَلَيْكَ إِعْرَاضُهُمْ فَإِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَن تَبْتَغِيَ نَفَقًا فِي الأَرْضِ أَوْ سُلَّمًا فِي السَّمَاء فَتَأْتِيَهُم بِآيَةٍ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَمَعَهُمْ عَلَى الْهُدَى فَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ

“If their turning away is hard on your mind, yet if you were able to seek a tunnel in the ground or a ladder to the skies and bring them a sign,- (what good?). If it were Allah’s Will, He could gather them together unto true guidance: so be not you amongst those who are swayed by ignorance (and impatience)!” [6:35]

نَفَقَةٌ means what one expends, of money and the like, upon himself, his family or household. (Lane’s Lexicon)

Hence, the word munafiq (مُنَافِق) means: a person who pretends to be Muslim on the outside but in his heart, he is not Muslim. Outwardly, he feigns loyalty to Allah, His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and the Muslims, but inwardly, his loyalties and love lie elsewhere, with other people.

I find it interesting how the meaning of the root word نَفَقَ includes the holes in the ground made by a rat.

Even in the English language, we use the term, “I smell a rat” when we detect the treachery of a traitor in our midst.

Looking at it as an analogy, the rat-hole provides an easy means of escape for the munafiq, considering how he makes himself scarce and scurries away ‘into his underground hole’ like a scared little rodent the minute following Islam and its commands becomes difficult for him, or when his outward adherence to the faith demands hard work or physical/financial sacrifice from him.

The مُنَافِق is actually a person who  follows the “Do in Rome as the Romans do” strategy, where ever he is. When he sees benefit in one setting or environment, he adopts it immediately and makes himself comfortable there. When being in that environment becomes tasking or trying for him, he immediately hops on to the ‘fire exit’ and is no where to be seen.

The underground rats’ den accessible via a network of over-the-ground entrance holes.

The way a rat builds its holes in the ground provides great insight into this behavior. The holes’ entrances on the outside are all linked underground. This provides a rat easy, multi-pronged access to his underground abode – in our analogy, the place the مُنَافِق always seeks whenever he sees himself losing worldly benefit or honor – from different places.

Hence, when being in one place demands that he make a worldly sacrifice, he immediately disappears through one hole and emerges from another in a different place, which might be among a totally different set of people, where his (now switched) loyalty will not make demands on his self or his wealth.

Similarly, as I’ve stated above, the word نَفَقَ also gives the meaning of “expending” viz. the money one spends, or how a commodity becomes “easy” or “more salable” in the market. This second meaning of the root word corroborates how a munafiq مُنَافِق easily “sells out” his faith and loyalties to the Muslims, or to the cause of Islam, in return for material and worldly benefits. It also implies how he is a very “easy” person to topple in religious commitment.

I hope my explanation of the root letters of the word munafiq (مُنَافِق) has made the picture of this kind of personality a bit clearer to you, because in this post I want to discuss two verses in Surah Al-Hadid (‘The Iron’) that mention five kinds of behavior exhibited by munafiqs in this world that will cause them to be deprived of light (نُور) on the Day of Judgment.

Notice that I avoid using the word ‘hypocrite’ as a translation of munafiq, because I think that this English translation does not give the complete and correct picture of what a munafiq is really like, even though it is widely used as its basic translation.

Allah says in Surah Al Hadid:

  يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِن نُّورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُم بِسُورٍ لَّهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِن قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ

On that Day shall the hypocrites, both men and women, speak [thus] unto those who have attained to faith: “Wait for us! Let us have light from your light!” [But] they will be told: “Turn back, and seek a light [of your own]!” And thereupon a wall will be raised between them [and the believers], with a gate in it: within it will be grace and mercy, and against the outside thereof, suffering.” [57:13]

Allah is describing a scene from the Day of Judgement in vivid detail. In this scene, the munafiq men and women will ask the sincere believers for some of their light (نُور). They will be told to go away and a wall will be raised as a barrier between both groups, on one side of which will be Allah’s mercy, and on the other side of which, – the one with the munafiqeen – there will be punishment (عَذَاب).

At this point, the munafiq men and women will say to the believers:

 يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُن مَّعَكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى وَلَكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ الْأَمَانِيُّ حَتَّى جَاء أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُم بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ

They [who will remain without] will call out to those [within], “Were we not with you?” – [to which] the others will answer: “So it was! But you allowed yourselves to succumb to temptation, and you hesitated, and you were doubtful; and your wishful thinking beguiled you until Allah’s command came to pass: for your deceptive thoughts about Allah deluded you.” [57:14]

This intriguing back-and-forth dialogue is what catches one’s attention. In the Hereafter, the munafiq men and women will be physically separated from the believers, even though they appeared to be one of them while they dwelled in the Duniya: praying with them, and in general adhering to Islam like one of them.

The response of the believers to their question of: “Were we not with you?” describes five behavioral traits of the munafiqs that will cause their separation from the believers in the Hereafter and deprive them of light.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir states about these 2 verses:

“Al-`Awfi, Al-Dahhak and others reported from Ibn `Abbas:

“When the people are gathering in darkness, Allah will send light, and when the believers see the light they will march towards it. This light will be their guide from Allah to Paradise.

When the hypocrites see the believers following the light, they will follow them. However, Allah will extinguish the light for the hypocrites and they will say (to the believers),  “انظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِن نُّورِكُمْ” – “Wait for us! Let us get something from your light.”

The believers will reply by saying,  “ارْجِعُواْ وَرَآءَكُمْ” – “Go back to your rear! To the dark area you were in, and look for a light there!”

Allah said,  “فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُم بِسُورٍ لَّهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَـهِرُهُ مِن قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ” – “So, a wall will be put up between them, with a gate therein. Inside it will be mercy, and outside it will be torment.”

Al-Hasan and Qatadah said that the wall mentioned here is located between Paradise and Hellfire. `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said that the wall mentioned in this verse is the wall that Allah described in His statement,  وَبَيْنَهُمَا حِجَابٌ – “And between them will be a (barrier) screen.” [7:46]

Similar was reported from Mujahid and others, and it is correct.

Allah said,  بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ – “Inside it will be mercy,”- means ‘Paradise and all that is in it’, and “وَظَـهِرُهُ مِن قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ” – “And outside it will be torment,” – means ‘the Hellfire’, according to Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others.

Allah said,  “يُنَـادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُن مَّعَكُمْ” – “(The hypocrites) will call the believers: Were we not with you?”” – means that the hypocrites will call out to the believers, saying, “Were we not with you in the life of the world, attending Friday prayers and congregational prayers? Did we not stand with you on Mount `Arafah (during Hajj), participate in battle by your side and perform all types of acts of worship with you?”

“قَالُواْ بَلَى” – “The believers will reply: “Yes…” – i.e. the believers will answer the hypocrites by saying, “Yes, you were with us….

“وَلَـكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغرَّتْكُمُ الاٌّمَانِىُّ” – “But you led yourselves into temptations, you looked forward (to our destruction); and you doubted (in faith), and you were deceived by false hopes.

Qatadah said, ” وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ   “…and you looked forward (to destruction)” means “Destruction of the truth (haqq) and its people (adherents).”

“وَارْتَبْتُمْ” – “..and you doubted,” means that ‘they doubted that Resurrection occurs after death’.

“وَغرَّتْكُمُ الاٌّمَانِىُّ” – “..and you were deceived by false hopes” – means that ‘you said that you will be forgiven your sins’, or, ‘this life deceived you’.

“حَتَّى جَآءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ” – “..till the command of Allah came to pass..” – meaning: “you remained on this path until death came to you.”

“وَغَرَّكُم بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ” – “And the deceiver deceived you in regard to Allah..” – here “the deceiver” means Shaytan.

Qatadah said, “They were deceived by Al-Shaytan. By Allah! They remained deceived until Allah cast them into Hellfire.”

The meaning here is that the believers will answer the hypocrites by saying, “You were with us in bodies which were heartless and devoid of intentions. You were cast in doubt and suspicion. You were showing off for people and remembered Allah little.”

Mujahid commented, “The hypocrites were with the believers in this life, marrying from among each other, yet betraying them even when they were associating with them. They were dead. They will both be given a light on the Day of Resurrection, but the light of the hypocrites will be extinguished when they reach the wall; this is when the two camps separate and part.”

End quote Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

It is wise to keep a check on one’s own self when reading verses of the Quran that describe the behavior of munafiq men and women in the life of this world, in order to keep on guard against allowing the disease of nifaq to enter our hearts.

Nowadays, there are many people who call themselves Muslim and outwardly claim allegiance to Allah, His Deen Islam, and who display love and loyalty to Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

However, only Allah knows what lies in people’s hearts. I believe that Allah has described the traits of munafiq men and women in the Quran in order for us to take a long, critical look in the mirror, throughout our lives, as we recurrently recite the Quran and ponder upon its verses.

While the sneaky, two-faced, chameleon-like munafiq might successfully deceive naive Muslims about his true loyalties and sympathies in the life of this world, he or she won’t be able to ultimately get away with it before Allah. They will be publicly exposed on the Day of Judgment, deprived of light, separated from the group of sincere believers, and thrown into the fire of Hell.

The five behavioral characteristics of the munafiqs can be analyzed a bit more to see whether we possess them or not:

فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ

You put yourselves into temptations

Putting oneself into temptation or فِتنَة means, to intentionally allow oneself to get into situations, places, associations, or environments where one knows that following Islam and its commands would become difficult or even impossible.

This could mean different scenarios for different people. For the youngster, it could mean enrolling in an institution or relocating to a place for the sake of secular higher education (which is not even obligatory in Islam) knowing that it would become difficult for them to abstain from free mixing and other ills found in every permissive culture, and to adhere to Islamic dietary laws, daily observance of obligatory prayers and the yearly fasting in Ramadan.

I personally know of Muslims who became atheists in their late teens and twenties just because of relocating alone, away from any family, to a non-Muslim majority area for gaining higher education. Daily prayers, fasting and adherence to halal food and drink were the first practical “hiccups” they gradually gave up adhering to when surrounded predominantly by non-Muslims. Hence, their relocation became a severe fitnah for them.

Then of course, there are the opposite kind of cases as well – in which relocation to a permissive environment became the impetus for that young person’s reversion towards Islam, steadfastness upon Deen, and increased practice of faith. Therefore, it stands to reason that what becomes fitnah for one person could be a source of guidance for another; each person should judge their personal strengths, weaknesses and circumstances honestly.

For the youth, فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ mainly involves befriending the wrong crowd and associating with the wrong cliques in school or college, viz. avoiding the “loser” religious people to deliberately hang out with people who do not pray or fast, and who are involved in activities that are impermissible in Islam, just to appear and sound “cool” and “chill” upwards on the popularity curve. The irony is that, for the youth, it is perceived to be so ‘uncool’ to be classified as a ‘loser’ or to be seen hanging out with the dorky nerds at school or after hours, despite the fact that the main reason one attends school is to be able to succeed at studies and pass examinations with good grades!

When you move into older age ranges, فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ could imply different things. E.g. getting married to someone who is lacking in religious commitment would be a form of putting yourself into فِتنَة, whether this is done by free will (viz. soppily gushing “I love them so much, I just know I will not be happy with anyone except them!”) or by succumbing to social pressure from family. When such a marital union takes place, it becomes difficult to practically adhere to Islam at a superlative level because your nagging, unsupportive spouse keeps bogging down your zest and vigor for furthering the Islamic cause on a personal, familial level. And lets not even start about what happens when children come into the picture.

فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ could also mean getting into a career that is doubtful or outright haram. Perhaps Allah tests us somewhat by not sending any halal opportunities our way and instead only sends haram or doubtful prospects, just to see if we succumb to temptation or remain steadfast. But here we are talking about how a munafiq puts himself into fitnah.

So this implies that even if halal and permissible options are available, a person gets into a career or field knowing that, because of it, they will be facing major challenges in adhering to their Islamic faith for the rest of their lives, or until they are brave enough to relinquish this chosen path, whichever comes first.

For example, choosing to get an MBA in Banking & Finance, knowing that this degree will attract job prospects from organizations for positions mainly dealing in riba; agreeing to become a fashion model knowing that it would involve revealing beauty on a mass, public scale and involve imagery; playing a musical instrument with friends in a band “just for fun” knowing that it could lead to a lifelong association with this impermissible skill, perhaps even on a professional level, and so on.


And you waited…

Tafsir Abul Ala Maududi clearly explains the term: “Tarabbus (from which “tarabbastum” of the text is derived) means to wait and tarry for an opportunity. When a person is unable to decide which of the two alternative ways he should choose, but stands and waits to consider which way should be more favorable for him to follow, he is involved in tarabbus. The hypocrites, had adopted the same attitude during the critical time of the conflict between Islam and un-Islam. Neither were they siding with disbelief openly, nor were spending their energy to support and help Islam with full conviction. They were sitting on the fence, waiting to see which party in the conflict became dominant, so that if it was Islam, they may join it on the basis of their affirmation of the faith, and if it was unbelief, they may side with its supporters, taking advantage of their neutral position in the conflict.”

The munafiqs at the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to hesitate in rushing forth in good deeds, and took extremely cautious, guarded steps when they were required, as ‘Muslims’, to commit to partaking in difficult expeditions, charity causes, or allegiances of loyalty to the Prophet. They showed reluctance in handing over their wealth, selves and other resources to the cause of Allah.

They used to rejoice when the Muslims suffered loss and defeat, showing the disdainful “We told you so” reaction, yet sucked up to them when they were victorious and successful, demanding a portion from the booty obtained during conquests while slyly claiming that “Aren’t we also one of you?”

The reason for this behavior of theirs was their lack of belief in the heart. They were not into Islam ‘for better or for worse’ – they were only in it outwardly and temporarily for the benefits. They did not sincerely believe in Allah, His Deen, and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم), so on the inside, in their dark, blackened, diseased hearts, they hoped and waited for downfall, decline and destruction to fall upon the Muslims.

We should remind ourselves that, to desire the continued downfall or digression of the Muslim ummah, and to hope for the continued economic, political and social uplift of the disbelievers, and the global systems based on disbelief in Allah and His Deen, – is a clear sign of nifaq.

We should check ourselves by asking ourselves this question: how would I feel about Muslims conquering every corner of the world and establishing Shar’iah law every where? How do I feel about those Muslims gaining momentum in every worldly field, who practice their religion openly and unapologetically? How do I feel about the prospect of all statues, cemented graves, animate images and pictures, obscenity, promiscuity, free mixing, musical instruments and sexual deviations being abolished, were Allah’s Deen to gain power in the land? How would I feel if the hadd punishments were enforced in every society, strictly according to Islamic Shari’ah, the way they were at the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the first caliphs?

How you feel about these issues, should make it clear whether nifaq exists in your heart or not.


And you doubted..

Doubts exist in every heart and mind – they are from the Shaytan. However, the way a person reacts to these doubts makes the whole difference. A sincere believer gets rid of doubts through authentic knowledge of Islam and through the practice of his faith that draws him close to His Creator. The munafiqs at the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to doubt the oncoming of the Akhirah and the standing before Allah on the Day of Judgment.

Tafsir Abul Ala Maududi expounds, “He (the munafiq) doubts the existence of God, the Prophethood of the Prophet, the Qur’an being Allah’s book, the Hereafter, its accountability, and its rewards and punishments, and he doubts whether the conflict between the Truth and falsehood is real, or a mere delusion.”

Of course the munafiqs doubted all of this – that is precisely why they were unsure in their faith and suffered from nifaq. If they had had no doubts, they would have been sincere believers, because it is primarily pure, uncontaminated belief in the creed of Islam that makes a person fear – without so much as a shadow of doubt – the eventual standing before Allah and the reckoning of all of his or her deeds done in the life of this world.

And it is this absolute surety in being answerable to Allah that rectifies a person’s belief and actions. They thus become a staunch, unyielding pillar of strength in the face of attacks by Shaytan, as opposed to the light, baseless, fickle leaf thrown about here and there by the slightest gust of wind – a perfect simile of the munafiq.

Ask yourself how much you believe in the fact that the Akhirah is the twin sister of this Duniya; that it will come to pass, in which you will be taken to account for all that you did in this world? Do you believe that your body will be resurrected – atom by atom, cell by cell – after it has disintegrated into nothingness, to be brought forth along with the rest of mankind to stand before your Lord, Allah, to be taken to account for your deeds? Do you believe in the just retribution of good and bad deeds in the form of Jannah and Jahannum? Or do you have serious doubts about whether all of this will occur or not?

If you doubt the Akhirah and believe that this life is all there is, then this indicates the presence of nifaq in your heart, even if you outwardly pray and fast, recite the Quran and perform the Islamic rituals in a cultural context.

وَغرَّتْكُمُ الاٌّمَانِىُّ حَتَّى جَآءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ

And you were deceived by false hopes until the command of Allah came to pass…

The word الاٌّمَانِىُّ means false hopes and greedy desires, according to Tafsir Al-Jalalayn.

The word amaniyya الاٌّمَانِىُّ (singular:  umniyyah) comprises of the three root letters meem (م) noon (ن) and yaa (ى). It means vain desires, fond hopes, idle expectations, greedy desires, false hopes, whims, fancies, and wishful thinking.

Al-maniy (المَنِى): estimate, approximate.

The word تَمَنِّى tamanniy means: “To think of something in one’s mind and picture it. Sometimes, such estimation is based on assumption and imagination, and sometimes it is a result of reflection. But most of the time it is based on one’s own imagination and assumption (according to his knowledge, understanding, wishes), therefore it has an element of lies/falsehood in it (but not always). Therefore تَمَنِّى tamanniy is ‘false hopes and wishes’ – a picture of what a person wants and likes in his mind.”

Allah says in the Quran:

أَمْ لِلْإِنسَانِ مَا تَمَنَّىٰ

Or is there for man whatever he wishes?” [53:24]

فَتَمَنَّوُا الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“…then wish for death, if you should be truthful.” [2:94]

اُمنِىَّ umniyyah: “The picture of something one has in his mind upon wishing it. Since lies are based on the false image of something one has painted in his mind, this word is also used for lying.”

Therefore, this trait of the munafiqs points towards how their wishful thinking, hope and greed for worldly benefits, and false images or perceptions about the life of this world deceived them until their death came.

Just like we need to counter the doubts that Shaytan – our avowed enemy – places in our heads about Allah, the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم), the Hereafter, or any other aspect of Islam, we need to be armed with enough Islamic knowledge and taqwa (consciousness of Allah) to be able to identify useless and false hopes and desires when they begin to take root in our hearts.

We need to be on guard against these hopes, because as the part of this verse غرَّتْكُمُ points out, they delude or deceive the munafiq until his death.

Examples of the wishful thinking that is a result of these false hopes and wishes (which we jokingly respond to in everyday contexts during casual conversations by saying, “Yeah right…dream on!”):

  1. “If I make my offspring a hafidh of Quran, I can live my life as I please, because Allah will forgive all my sins and let me off the hook.”
  2. “Prophet Muhammad will intercede for us, his ummah, on the Day of Judgement and let us into Jannah, so why bother being so extreme in observing the obligations of Deen?”
  3. “Allah is so Ghafoor and Raheem. Stop talking about the punishments of Hell as if they are for us. We are Muslims, we will go to Jannah.”

Other examples of how greedy desires combined with false hopes lead us to relinquish observance of religious obligations in pursuit of worldly benefit are too obvious and commonly prevalent, sadly speaking, to necessitate pointing them out here. We all know how often we pretend to be loyal to our faith and apparently adhere to it, only to drop any inconvenient aspect of it at the first opportunity in order to facilitate the acquisition of any tempting bounty of duniya.

Whenever we are passing through a happy and prosperous phase in our lives, when everything is going according to our plans and wishes, we conveniently disregard Allah’s commands to just plain “let go” and have all the fun we want, with enthusiastic fervor and abandon.

Think couture-clad youngsters aping the latest Bollywood moves at pre-wedding dance parties amidst the appreciative woots of the going-gaga audience. The adhan can barely be heard amidst the latest pop number the deejay is playing, let alone responded to on time. And lets not begin to mention how ‘important’ it is for Ms hijabi bride to reach her saloon in time for her $400 bridal makeup appointment, even if it means missing 3 of her obligatory prayers (salah’s) on the most important night of her life!

“Haven’t you heard of the verse in the Quran لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ (“There is no compulsion in religion”)? Just pray all the qaza namazes after you get home, or the next day. What’s the big deal, YAAR? Do you want to offend your husband and in-laws?”

However, as soon as calamity and affliction befalls us, out come the Quran’s from the topmost cupboard shelves, up go the tightly-wrapped hijabs around our (now shamed and humbly bowed) heads, ‘doink doink‘ repeatedly bang our foreheads on the ground as we suddenly start to recurrently prostrate in nafl prayers, and out pour the tears in hot torrents as our hands ascend upwards towards the skies in earnest dua.

We then seek counsel and advice from the religious people we so ceremoniously avoided during the khush (joyous) and khush-haal (bountiful) phase lest they remind us to fear Allah and not incur His wrath doing such shenanigans. When we spot the devoutly religious, niqabi preacher during our phase of affliction, we pursue her like a bee to honey, tightly clasp her hand and beseech her to make dua for the quick relief of our distress and anxiety.

This ping-pong, back-and-forth swinging is a regular feature in the life of someone infected with nifaq, who spends his entire life sitting on the fence between Islam and disbelief, always ready and waiting to jump off on the side which will provide him with worldly benefit.

This goes on حَتَّى جَآءَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ – until Allah’s command (death) comes to take him away to his final destination.

وَغَرَّكُم بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ

And the deceiver deceived you regarding Allah

The fifth trait of munafiqs mentioned in this eye-opening verse of Surah Al-Hadid is that the deceiver, Al-Shaytan, deceives them about Allah.

How does that happen? I think one of the foremost ways Shaytan deceives human beings about Allah is when he makes them undermine Allah’s supreme powers, unfathomable abilities and divine attributes, instead of undermining their own (severely lacking) knowledge about Him and even lower (rock bottom) level of zeal in seeking His pleasure. You hear it every day from someone or the other:

“I have called upon Allah again and again, but He does not answer my prayers.”

“I have committed too many sins by now to turn back to Allah. I am sure He will never forgive me; my sins are way too big and too many.”

“If I quit this job, from where will I find the money to feed my family? Allah won’t send food on our table down from the sky!”

“If there really is a god like all these religious bigots claim, why does He allow so much suffering, disease, pain, destruction and death in this world for some people, and not for others? Why do the followers of His religions intolerantly go around killing people?”

“Homosexuality is natural. It is God who made homosexuals the way they are.”

They outwardly claim that they believe that Allah is all-able to do anything, yet when something – trivial or major – goes wrong in their lives, they go to others first for help. They proclaim that He is the source of all blessings, yet call out to others along with Him when asking for anything. And when their own lack of iman and incorrectness of aqeedah lead to Allah’s anger and consequently bring its negative effects into their lives, they lament that Allah does not answer their dua’s and make other preposterous claims about Him!

In this way, Shaytan is able to deceive those who lack faith and knowledge; who allow themselves to get swayed away from Allah and deceived about Allah via these insinuations.

Just as Shaytan made our first parents Prophet Adam (عليه السلام) and his wife eat from the forbidden tree by lying to them that once they do so, they will live forever in Paradise with a never-ending dominion (20:120), he makes countless human beings think wrong thoughts about Allah, and thus keeps them away from reading and understanding the Quran, which is Allah’s message to all of mankind, and a means of getting to know Him and becoming closer to Him.

The Quran is Allah’s spoken word and a direct message from Him to all of humanity; one that is ironically, in this day and age, literally available with easy-to-understand translations at everyone’s fingertips – even 24/7 media gadgets enhanced with touch technology.

Is it not amazing how the verses of the Quran hold a ‘mirror’ to our faces and give us the chance to take a critical look at ourselves, and at the inner states of our hearts? Most of us, however, at this junction, get fooled by Shaytan once again, and fall into another trap when reciting verses of the Quran regarding nifaq and other innate ills of the heart. How? – We begin to use these verses to judge others i.e. everyone besides our own selves, to see if they are munafiq or not! سبحان الله!

Although the wise, perceptive and discerning companions of our Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did detect nifaq in the munafiqs of Madinah, they’d refrain from making any judgements – unless they witnessed the flagrant transgression of Allah’s limits, or an outright crime committed by one of the munafiqs that was punishable under Islamic law. It was their own hearts that they worried about the most, regarding the breeding of nifaq.

Narrated Ibn `Umar: “When `Abdullah bin Ubai died, his son `Abdullah bin `Abdullah came to Allah’s messenger who gave his shirt to him and ordered him to shroud his father in it. Then he stood up to offer the funeral prayer for the deceased, but `Umar bin Al-Khattab took hold of his garment and said, “Do you offer the funeral prayer for him though he was a munafiq and Allah has forbidden you to ask forgiveness for munafiqs?” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Allah has given me the choice (or Allah has informed me) saying: “Whether you, O Muhammad, ask forgiveness for them, or do not ask forgiveness for them, even if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will not forgive them,” (9.80) The he added, “I will (appeal to Allah for his sake) more than seventy times.” So Allah’s messenger offered the funeral prayer for him and we too, offered the prayer along with him. Then Allah revealed: “And never, O Muhammad, pray (funeral prayer) for anyone of them that dies, nor stand at his grave. Certainly they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger and died in a state of rebellion (9:84).””

[Sahih Al-Bukhari 65:4718]

In the above narration, it becomes obvious that Allah corroborated the discernment of `Umar Bin Al-Khattab regarding the dead munafiq by revealing the specific verse of the Quran. This revelation proved that `Umar’s intuition had been correct. However, it is also true that `Umar and other companions of the Prophet, and some of the tabi’een who came after them, feared nifaq for themselves:

Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “The more faith and knowledge a person has, the more he will fear that he may be among this class of people (i.e. the munafiqs), hence the leaders and earliest generations of this ummah were so afraid that they might be among them. ‘Umar Bin Khattab used to say to Hudhayfah Bin Al-Yaman: “I adjure you by Allah, did the Messenger of Allah mention me along with the people (i.e., the munafiqeen)?” He said: “No, but I would not praise anyone after you”, meaning, “I would not praise people (by saying that they are not mentioned among the munafiqs)”. It does not mean that ‘Umar was the only one who was free of nifaq.”

(Tareeq al-Hijratayn pg 604)

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said of nifaq: “No one fears it but a believer, and no one feels safe from it but a munafiq.”

Nifaq is indeed an intriguing thing; a disease of the heart that we all need to beware of, if we desire to be granted special light (نُور) on the Day of Judgement, and to achieve the ultimate success of the Hereafter — Allah’s pleasure.


An edited version of this blog post appears as a chapter in my 13th book, Into the Qur’an.


  1. As Salamu Alaikum wa Rehmatulahi wa Barakatuhu
    JazakAllahu Khairan Katheera for this thoughtful article.
    May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala help us contemplate and correct ourselves before it is too late. Ameen Sum Ameen.

  2. رَبَّنَآ أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَآ إِنَّكَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
    Our Lord, perfect for us our light and forgive us. Indeed, You are over all things competent

  3. Asalamualaikum Waramatullah Wabarakatuh,
    This is by far the best article i have ever laid my eyes on and i must say to you I have read it over and over again over the past few weeks. You are absolutely right about these concepts, however i like to deal with or rather address our issues today as it affects us presently. Just like we have all read this article over the internet which wasn’t available 20 years ago, same way we constantly see new issues or rather upgrade of issues of the past. Your views and evidence, i totally agree with however my concern is most of the people that would be reading this article from my guess are in their early twenties, late twenties and probably early thirties. Hence, most would have already fallen into this trap of innocent relationships with the intentions of marriage which in most case end up in disasters.
    First of all, most of us went to public schools, mixed sexes and the opposite gender was seen as a mere colleague, standard western educational structure hence no form of rules guiding the mixture of male and female is recognized but rather part of the tradition of the western cultures and educational system is to have male-female relationships and study groups. Most of us didn’t ask to go to these schools neither were we given a choice, we didn’t have the Islamic knowledge either. You will agree that most acquired the knowledge either in school through Islamic groups or some after some major occurrence in their lives (Allah guides whom he wills) , most would have fallen into this traps before such an article gets to them, however in most cases we see the clearer picture when we aren’t dealing with ourselves , it is always easier to give advice to the affected person but rather difficult to recognize or get ourselves out of this unfortunate pit when we fall into it. Addressing the issues of today would be the question of ”how does the 16 year old see, read, assimilate and understand these concepts?”
    Also looking at the example given above and i quote ”the cover was eventually blown when Bisma received a proposal that her parents didn’t want to turn down” …. From my understanding, isn’t it the right of a Muslim woman to also acknowledge and accept the man she is getting married to? Aren’t we taught that we must not marry off a woman ( If she at least is matured) to a man she doesn’t approve?
    Have the parents not transgressed their limits as well (although it might be in from their good intention and wishing the best for the child)? Also, considering that the same parents sent Bisma to the mixed school where she was given the opportunity to mix freely with all kinds of guys (John, Mike, Ralph, Abdullah, Ahmed). Yet they are not able to deal with the consequences of their actions? How do you ask your child to stare at the television and ask him to watch TV?
    I believe in preventing the fire rather than extinguishing it, we must consider all aspects don’t you think? May Allah reward you for this article.

  4. Very IMPORTANT issue of Faith penned in a very scholarly approach. Mashallah.
    May the Almighty Allah bless your writings to be a source of ‘Amr bil Maroof & Nahi Anil Munkar’ . Ameen.

    Just some casual thought on the article and the topic ….:

    The root of مُنَافِق coming from نَفَقٌ …. and you very beautifully illustrated it by diagram regarding rat hole. I live in place which (they say) has almost 62 tunnels in an around the heart of the city. Very interestingly, I observed on the road sign posts/boards that ‘tunnel’ is mentioned in Arabic as ‘نَفَقٌ ‘ …(e.g. Misfalah Tunnel as نَفَقٌ المسفلة ) ….. I discussed (with arabs) this word نَفَقٌ being used for tunnels,… one of them explained, actually it is ‘coz tunnel has two ‘faces’ / ‘mouths’ … both same in look and appearance, but facing opposite sides ! So making a ‘verb’ out of it نَفَقٌ is like the process of having two faces/appearance , each in the opposite direction…. … Now to make a noun of this verb ….(like a , , ….. a person who does نَفَقٌ also gets the same prefix of مو , which makes him a مُنَافِق.

    Seems why Tunnels are called نَفَقَ or Hypocrites are labelled as مُنَافِق !
    ((I cant upload pictures on comment , or else I could have put up pictures of tunnels labelled as نَفَقٌ …. will e-mail u Inshallah, if appropriate, u can put it up here).


    “””Similarly, as I’ve stated above, the word نَفَقَ also gives the meaning of “expending” viz. the money one spends, or how a commodity becomes “easy” or “more salable” in the market. This second meaning of the root word corroborates how a munafiq مُنَافِق easily “sells out” his faith and loyalties to the Muslims, or to the cause of Islam, in return for material and worldly benefits. It also implies how he is a very “easy” person to topple in religious commitment.””””

    Sorry to say that it seems to be a deliberate ‘FORCEFUL FIT IN’ of similar (not the same نَفَقَةٌ and نَفَقٌ ) words into each other ! Too much of extrapolation !
    “”This ping-pong, back-and-forth swinging is a regular feature in the life of someone infected with nifaq, who spends his entire life sitting on the fence between Islam and disbelief, always ready and waiting to jump off on the side which will provide him with worldly benefit.”””

    VERY TRUE ….Almost exactly what is said in Hadeeth ..: “Ibn Umar reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of a hypocrite is that of a sheep which roams aimlessly between two flocks. She goes to one at one time and to the other at another time.”

    It is very interesting to note that the start of Quran Allah has described the believers in just 4 ayats … the Disbelievers in just 2 ayats (nothing much for disbeliever , things quite clear in black and white) , but HYPOCRITES in the subsequent next 13 ayahs !
    How important it is for us to appreciate/reflect upon the qualities of Hypocrite and do regular SELF INTROSPECTION.

    And Allah SWT says
    “Verily, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths (grade) of the Fire; no helper will you find for them.”

    “”It is wise to keep a check on one’s own self when reading verses of the Quran that describe the behavior of munafiq men and women in the life of this world, in order to keep on guard against allowing the disease of nifaq to enter our hearts.””

    The above statement has simply opened a new dimension of studying Quran for me ….. I have similar approach regarding Muflehoon, Faizoon , Muttaqoon , etc. … whenever such promise comes from Allah SWT, I make it a point to analyze the points what makes one qualify for such a degree conferred by none other than Allah SWT Himself. Jazakallah Khair.

    We should be careful of not labeling others as ‘مُنَافِق’ ….. as Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said in a Hadeeth :
    “…..Many members of our family gathered in the house and one of them said, “Where is Malik bin Al-Dukhaishin or Ibn Al-Dukhshun?” One of them replied, “He is a hypocrite and does not love Allah and His Apostle.” Hearing that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Do not say so. Haven’t you seen that he said, ‘None has the right to be worshiped but Allah’ for Allah’s sake only?” He said, “Allah and His Apostle know better. We have seen him helping and advising hypocrites.”

    Allah’s Apostle said, “Allah has forbidden the (Hell) fire for those who say, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ for Allah’s sake only.”

    May the Almighty Allah accept your efforts in His cause. Ameen.

    • I have added an ayah of the Quran to this article right in the beginning when I defined the root word for nifaq, which mentions the word نَفَقًا as “tunnel”.
      Jazak Allahu khair for your beneficial input. I really appreciate it.

      • The other meaning of نَفَقَةٌ that you have quoted…. “نَفَقَةٌ means what one expends, of money and the like, upon himself, his family or household. (Lane’s Lexicon)” …. can be seen twice in Surah At-Tawba : Verse 54 where Allah SWT says…

        وَمَا مَنَعَهُمْ أَن تُقْبَلَ مِنْهُمْ نَفَقَاتُهُمْ إِلَّا أَنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ وَبِرَسُولِهِ وَلَا يَأْتُونَ الصَّلَاةَ إِلَّا وَهُمْ كُسَالَىٰ وَلَا يُنفِقُونَ إِلَّا وَهُمْ كَارِهُونَ

        And what prevents their expenditures from being accepted from them but that they have disbelieved in Allah and in His Messenger and that they come not to prayer except while they are lazy and that they do not spend except while they are unwilling.

        Here نَفَقَا (of نَفَقَاتُهُمْ) and يُنفِقُونَ meaning ‘their spending’ and ‘they spend’ respectively has the same root of نَفَقَةٌ meaning of ‘ones spending’ as described in Lane’s Lexicon..

  5. masha Allah, sadaf….. may Allah increase you in knowledge and bless us all with the same
    may Allah accept all your efforts sister. take care. Assalam o alaikum

  6. SubhanAllah! JazakAllaah Khairan dear Sister Sadaf! May AllahSWT protect us all from nifaaq and grant us all Ikhlaas!
    Are there are any particular deeds that are recommended by the Quran and Sunnah to be protected from nifaaq??

  7. Beautiful reminder dear sister, I truly needed it. JazakAllah Khair.
    May Allah protect us from being amongst these people and help us to rectify oour conduct to be that of a true believer.

    “Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper. Except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah , and are sincere in their religion for Allah , for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward.” (An-Nisaa: 145-146)

  8. MashaAllah Sadaff, as always elonquently written. its the first time ever i have come across the literal meaning of ‘nifaq’ wow..!! how appropriate.. JazakAllah for sharing. May you always be guided/kept on the ‘Sirat al Mustaqeem’

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