Explanation Of The Hadeeth: “Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite...”

Author: Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee

Source: Jaami' Al-'Uloom wal-Hikam, hadeeth no. 48

Published: Monday 24th October, 2005

On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (radi-Allaahu 'anhumaa) that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

"Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it." [Bukhaaree and Muslim]

  1. Other wordings of this same hadeeth:

    "The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise and when he is entrusted he betrays the trust." [Bukhaaree and Muslim]

    "...even if he prays and fasts and imagines that he is a Muslim" [Muslim]

    "Among the signs of the hypocrite are three..." [Muslim]

  2. Nifaaq (hypocrisy) in the Arabic language means the general category of deception, scheming and presenting an outward appearance of good while concealing its opposite.
  3. In the Sharee'ah, nifaaq is of two types:

    1. Greater (An-Nifaaq Al-Akbar): To present an outward appearance of belief in Allaah, His Angels, His books, His messengers, the last day, etc. while concealing withing that which negates all or some of that. This is the hypocrisy which the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) confronted during his life and the ones who Allaah said in the Qur'aan that they are in "the lowest depth of hell-fire".
    2. Lesser (An-Nifaaq Al-Asghar) or hypocrisy of action: To present an outward appearance of good and good deeds while concealing within that which negates that. This form of hypocrisy is built on the 5 things mentioned in the hadeeth at hand.
  4. The actions in this hadeeth are all part of lesser hypocrisy. One who has these character traits in interaction with other people is most likely to have them with regard to Allaah and His Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam). That is why the existence of them is a 'sign' of the existence of greater nifaaq.
  5. Lying. Al-Hasan Al-Basree said:

    "Nifaaq is the difference between the inner and the appearance, between statement and action and between entering and leaving and it used to be said that the foundation of nifaaq upon which it is built is lying."

  6. Breaking Promises. This falls into two categories:

    1. Making a promise with no intention of keeping it. Al-Awzaa'ee said that one who says "I will do such-and-such inshaa'-Allaah" without intending to do it has committed both lying and breaking a promise.
    2. Making a promise intending to keep it and then later deciding to break it.
  7. Transgression in Dispute. The main meaning of 'transgression' here is to intentionally speak other than truth making truth falsehood and vice versa. Lying 'calls to' this as in the hadeeth:

    "Beware of lying for lying guides to transgression and transgression leads to the fire." [Bukhaaree and Muslim]

    Also, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

    "The most hated of men to Allaah is the one given to fierce and violent disputation." [Bukhaaree and Muslim]

    Also, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said about the one who takes what is not his through clever speech has only been given a piece of the fire.
  8. Breaking Agreements. Allaah said:

    "And fulfill your agreements for verily agreements will be asked about."[/b] [Al-Israa': 34]


    "And fulfill Allaah's agreement when you have made an agreement and don't violate your oaths after they have been established and you have made Allaah your guardian (therein)." [An-Nahl: 91]

    Also: Aal-Imraan: 77. This applies to Muslim and non-Muslim alike. The Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

    "Whoever kills an individual protected by treaty without right will not even smell the scent of paradise and its scent can be found at a distance of forty years march."

    The most serious oath to dishonor is the oath of allegiance to the khalifa of the Muslims.
  9. Betraying of Trusts. When a Muslim is entrusted with something, he must do his best to protect it and to render it back to its owner when the time comes. Allaah said:

    "Verily, Allaah orders you to render trusts to their rightful owners..." [An-Nisaa: 58]

    Also: Al-Anfaal: 27
  10. These issues have all been connected to hypocrisy in the Qur'aan:

    1. Al-Munaafiqoon: 1-2 (Lying, breaking oaths).
    2. At-Tawbah: 73-77 (False oaths, breaking promises (to Allaah), lying).
    3. Al-Ahzaab: 72-73 (Betraying trusts).
  11. Umar mentioned the hadeeth of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam):

    "The thing from which I fear for you the most is the knowledgeable hypocrite." Umar was then asked: "How can a hypocrite be knowledgeable?" To which Umar answered: "He speaks with wisdom but acts with injustice."

  12. Ibn Umar was told:

    "We enter the presence of the ruler we speak to him other than what we say after we leave." Ibn Umar said: "We used to consider that hypocrisy." [Bukhaaree]

  13. Ibn Abee Mulaika said:

    "I encountered thirty Companions of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) every one of them fears hypocrisy for himself and Al-Hasan Al-Basree used to say about it: 'No one fears it but a believer and no one feels safe from it but a hypocrite.'" [Bukhaaree]

  14. Another aspect of hypocrisy is to do apparently good deeds with wicked intentions. Allaah said:

    "They set up a masjid for the purpose of harm, kufr, creating division among the Muslims and as an outpost for those making war against Allaah and His Prophet before this and they will swear "We only intended good." And Allaah bears witness that they are liars." [At-Tawbah: 107]

  15. Also:

    "Do not imagine that those who are joyful with what they have done and love to be praised for that which they did not do - do not imagine them to be safe from punishment - and theirs is a painful punishment." [Aal-Imraan: 188]

  16. Consciousness will vary and this is not hypcrisy. The Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said to Handhala:

    "If you were to continue in the state which you achieved in my presence, the angels would greet you in your sittings and in the streets however, O Handhala, there are times and there are times."


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