Linguistically, Nifaq is a word derived from nafiqaa which is an escape hole that animals build in the grounds, when that animal is chased from one hole he would exit from another one, or it means a tunnel or a subterranean excavation used for hiding.
In the Sharee’ah: Nifaq (hypocrisy) means a pretence of loving Islam while concealing Kufr and evil. A hypocrite is given this appellation because he enters the religion from one door and exits from another. Hence, Allah, the Exalted, cautioned against hypocrites saying: “Verily, hypocrites are the rebellious.” [qur’an 9: 67]
The rebellious are those who rebel against the Islamic laws, Allah considers the hypocrites as more evil than the non believers saying: “Verily, the hypocrites shall be in the lowest level of fire.” [qur’an 4):145]
And Allah, the Exalted, says: “The hypocrites (think) that they deceive Allah when in fact it is Allah who deceives them.” [qur’an 4: 142]
Allah also says: “They (think) that they deceive Allah and the believers, but they deceive only themselves, but they do not know. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah has increased their disease to them; and for them is a grievous punishment.” [qur’an 2) 9-10]
Types of Hypocrisy:
Hypocrisy is of two types:
The first type: Doctrinal hypocrisy which is major hypocrisy; the one who upholds it displays Islam and conceals disbelief. This type constitutes absolute apostasy, and condemns those who uphold it to the lowest level of Hell-Fire. Allah has described its people as possessing evil characteristics; such as Kufr, lack of Eemaan, derision of faith and its people and inclining entirely to the enemies of Islam for sharing their hostility. Such people exist in every age, particularly when Islam prevails and they cannot resist it publicly, therefore they pretend to be Muslims in order to plot against it and its people privately. And because they live with the Muslims, they ensure the safety of their blood and properties. A hypocrite displays his belief in Allah and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Final Day, while in fact, he is far from believing in all that, rather he denies all that and does not believe in Allah.
Allah has uttered a speech which He revealed to a human and made him a messenger to mankind to guide them with His permission, threaten them, and warn them against His punishment. Allah has revealed those hypocrites and exposed their secrets in the Qur’aan and unveiled to His slaves the conditions of the hypocrites in order to be cautious against them.
In the beginning of Soorah al-Baqarah, Allah, the Exalted, classifies mankind into three categories; the believers, the disbelievers and the hypocrites. He revealed four verses with respect to the believers and two verses with respect to the disbelievers while he revealed thirteen verses with respect to the hypocrites due to their large number and severity of their affliction and commonness of their deception, and severity of their hostility against Islam and its people. For the affliction Islam suffers through them is intensive because they are counted as Muslims and supporters of Islam, while in fact they are its enemies. They express their enmity to Islam in every form which the ignorant thinks of it as knowledge and reform, while in fact it is utter ignorance and corruption. [Excepts from an epistle on the traits of the hypocrites by Ibn al-Qayyim]
Doctrinal hypocrisy is of six kinds
1. Denying the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam)
2. Denying part of what the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam) was sent with
3. Hating the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam)
4. Hating some of what the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam) was sent with.
5. Rejoicing over the decline of the deen of the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam).
6. Resenting the prevalence of the deen of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam).
The second type: Practical hypocrisy; (that is) possessing a trait of the hypocrites while retaining Eemaan in the heart. This does not constitute apostasy, but it is considered as a means to it. A person who upholds it combines both, Eemaan and hypocrisy. When the latter prevails, he becomes a sheer hypocrite. The proof of this is the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam): “Four traits, whoever possesses them is a sheer hypocrite. And whoever possesses one of them would possess a trait of hypocrisy until he relinquishes it. When he is entrusted, he betrays trust, and when he speaks, he lies, when he enters into a treaty, he behaves treacherously, and when he disputes with others, he behaves immorally.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
A person who combines these four traits, has indeed combined all evil and all the traits of hypocrisy. But he who has one of them, he possesses a trait of hypocrisy. A person may possess traits of both goodness and evil, as well as Eemaan, Kufr and hypocrisy, he would deserve rewards and punishment in accordance with the traits which necessitates wither of them, such as not praying the fajr or isha salaah, for this is a hypocrite’s behavior. Hypocrisy is evil and very dangerous of which the Companions were scared. Ibn Abi Malikah said: “I have met thirty of the Companions of the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam), all of whom were afraid of falling into hypocrisy.”
The Differences between Major and Minor Hypocrisy:
1. Major hypocrisy constitutes apostasy, while minor hypocrisy does not.
2. Major hypocrisy signifies dissimilarity between the inner and outer beliefs, while minor hypocrisy signifies dissimilarity between public and private actions, not beliefs.
3. Major hypocrisy does not belong to a believer, while minor hypocrisy may belong to a believer.
4. A person who upholds major hypocrisy does not usually repent, but even if he does so, scholars are at variance with regards to accepting his repentance by a judge. Whereas minor hypocrisy when one upholds it and repents to Allah, Allah will accept his repentance. Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Many a times a believer would possess a trait of hypocrisy and Allah would forgive him, and he may be subject to what may dictate hypocrisy, but Allah guards him against it.
A believers may be subject to Shaytaanic and Kufr suggestions with which his chest becomes straitened. A Companion said: “O Messenger of Allah! One of us would have some thoughts in his mind that he would rather fall down to earth from the sky than to utter them.” The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa-sallam) said: “That is the pure Eemaan.” In another version he said, “When one feels it is terrifying to utter those thoughts, he should say, “All praise is due to Allah, who reduced the plotting of Shaytaan into mere suggestions.” That is to say, having such suggestions along with intensive abhorrence of them and repulsing them from the heart is an expression of pure Eemaan.” [The Book of Eemaan, p. 238]
As for those who uphold major hypocrisy, Allah describes them saying: “They are deaf, dumb, blind, so they will not return.” [qur’an 2:18]
This is to say, they will not return to Islam internally.
Allah, the Exalted, also says: “Do they not see that they are tried every year once or twice yet they do not repent, not do they remember.” [qur’an 9:126]
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Scholars are at variance with regards to accepting their public repentance, for it cannot be verified whether they would permanently display Islam.” [Majmoo al-Fatawa vol. 28, p.434-435]