Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Can a person become a munafiq (hypocrite) even if they don’t know they’ve become one? What makes one a munafiq?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Hypocrisy is of two types: hypocrisy of action and hypocrisy of belief.
Hypocrisy in Action
A believer can have hypocrisy in action and know it. This means that their deeds do not live up to their beliefs. For example, they know and believe that one’s sins will cause them to go to the Hellfire, yet they continue to sin; they know that good deeds will bring them to Paradise, but they don’t do them.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Four traits, whoever has them, is a true hypocrite, and whoever has one trait from amongst them, has a trait of hypocrisy until they abandon it: when they are entrusted, they betray; when they speak, they lie; when they make a covenant, they break it; when they argue, they transgress.” [Bukhari]
This type of hypocrisy does not take one out of the fold of Islam.
Allah Most High says about this type of hypocrisy:
“Surely the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but He outwits them. When they stand up for prayer, they do it half-heartedly only to be seen by people—hardly remembering Allah at all.” [Quran, 4:143]
Hypocrisy in Belief
However, hypocrisy in belief is considered outside the fold of Islam and inconceivable that one does not know of their hypocrisy. This type of hypocrisy is to profess belief in Islam outwardly, yet conceal disbelief in the heart.
To this type of hypocrisy, Allah Most High says, “And there are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ yet they do not believe.” [Quran, 2:8]
Fears of Hypocrisy
It is actually a sign of true sincere faith to fear hypocrisy. Imam al-Bukhari narrates that Ibn Mulaika (Allah have mercy on them) said, “I met thirty of the Prophet’s Companions, all of them feared for themselves hypocrisy.”
Imam al-Bukhari also narrates that Hasan al-Basri said, “No one fears hypocrisy, except a true believer. And no one deems themselves safe from hypocrisy except a hypocrite.” [Bukhari]
It is a good quality to be concerned with the quality of one’s faith; however, it must be kept within beneficial limits and understandings. Despair has no place in one’s relationship with Allah Most High, who describes Himself in the opening of His Book as the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.
For Arabic references see:
ص16 – صحيح البخاري – باب علامة المنافق