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Islam Abhors All Types of Hypocrisy

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 7/9/04

One of the worst characteristics that Islam abhors is hypocrisy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke about it several times, and every time he used some graphic description that showed how ugly and unbecoming all types of hypocrisy were. Two Hadiths in this connection are particularly interesting. The first is put very simply by the Prophet who wanted his audience to fully understand his purpose. He said: “One of the worst people is a double-faced man, who come to one group with one face and to another group with a totally different face.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Ibn Hibban).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) describes a hypocrite person as double-faced, and then he explains why he has described him as such, showing him as though he actually had two faces. If there are two groups with some differences, or dispute, he would speak to each one in a way that would please them, and say to one group the opposite of what he says to the other. Hence, the Prophet says that such a person is one of the worst types of people. This is certainly true, because such a person could not be a man of faith who fears God. As such, he always seeks what he thinks to serve his immediate interests, knowing that this will mean that he lies to both groups or at least one of them.

A similar Hadith is reported by Ammar ibn Yasir, an early companion of the Prophet, who quotes him as saying: “Whoever is double-faced in this life will have two tongues of fire in the hereafter.” A big man then passed by and the Prophet said: “This is one of them.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Abu Dawood, Al-Darimi and others). Here the Prophet gives a more graphic description of hypocrites. The description concentrates on the hypocrite’s tongue, because it is with his words that he tries to cheat people and get the better of them. He always says to his interlocutors what would please them, so that he is included in their good books. He does not care if what he says is untrue, because all that he cares for is his own interest.

Because a hypocrite relies on lying, thinking that he could lie his way out of any difficulty, God gives him two tongues on the Day of Judgment, but both are made of fire. This is a horrid picture, but very apt for such a person.

One thing every hypocrite lacks is a sense of shame. When he does something against the morality of society, he does not feel ashamed because he thinks that he can still get away with it, saying a few words to please this person and a few others to please someone else. That his words are lies does not trouble him. He has no sense of shame. But this sense is one that all divine messages try to promote. The Prophet says: “Among the words people received from early prophets are: if you feel no shame, then do as you wish.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Ahmad and others).

This Hadith admits more than one interpretation. The first is that if you feel you will not be ashamed for doing what you intend to do because you can justify it as correct and there is nothing in it to be ashamed of, then you may go ahead and do it without hesitation. It may be that what you are about to do is something right, although some people may prefer that you do not do it. Since you are sure that it is just and fair, then you have nothing to answer for as a result of doing it. You are perfectly entitled to do it. If we prefer this interpretation of this Hadith, then it is important to examine what we intend to do before embarking on it. If we find it to be perfectly acceptable and we are clear in our conscience that it is right for us to do, then that is all we need to ascertain in order to proceed with it.

Secondly, the Hadith may be taken to mean that if a person is incapable of any feeling of shame, and could not care less whether he brought shame on himself, his family or his people, then there is nothing to stop him from doing what is censurable. If we take this interpretation of the Hadith, then we observe that it is phrased in the imperative, but it is meant as a reproach. It could also be said that the Hadith means that having no sense of shame is much worse than what one may actually do.

It is important to know what may be included in having a proper sense of shame. Some people suggest that a shy person is incapable of confronting others with the truth he knows. As a result, he does not fulfill his duty to enjoin what is right and to speak out against what is wrong. His shyness may even lead him to the non-fulfillment of certain rights or duties. Such an attitude is not what is meant in having a sense of shame in the above-mentioned Hadith. This is simply a manifestation of weakness. A proper sense of shame is that which causes a person to feel afraid of being blamed for something unbecoming. It may also lead a person to forgo what rightfully belongs to him because he is too shy to demand it. Hence the virtue Islam values highly is to feel ashamed as a result of a wrong that one may do, to be afraid of blame for committing something unbecoming, and to be too modest to demand something for oneself if people may think that such a demand is made for a personal gain. It is such modesty that the Prophet describes as being part of faith.

Abdullah ibn Umar reports that God’s messenger (peace be on him) passed by a man who was blaming his brother for being too modest. The Prophet said to him: “Leave him alone. Modesty is a characteristic of faith.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and others). Apparently the man who was being blamed was too modest to claim what rightfully belongs to him. It may be very difficult to change his attitude. Many a person lends money to another for a specific period of time. When the term of the loan is over, the borrower may take his time before settling his debt. The lender may be in need of the money, but his modesty prevents him from demanding repayment. His difficulty in requesting repayment is greater than that of the borrower in asking for the loan in the first place.

We notice that the Prophet has counseled this man to leave his brother alone making it clear to him that such modesty and having a sense of shame is indicative of strong faith. The Prophet’s statement makes it clear that although modesty may prevent a person from demanding his rights, it remains a virtue for which no one should be blamed. It is true that a modest person may not get his rights, but by forgoing them, he is sure to receive a much greater reward from God. It should be added here that the Prophet himself was a very modest person. He is described to have had a more refined sense of shame than a virgin in her private room.

Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli Land-Grab Apartheid Wall built inside the Palestinian territories, here separating Abu Dis from occupied East Jerusalem. (IPC, 7/4/04).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.