Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 76 & 77
Chapter 2, Verses 76 & 77
When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We too believe.’ But when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation to us? They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord! Have you no sense?’ (Chapter 2: Verse 76)
When it comes to faith, people are generally divided into three categories: believers, disbelievers and hypocrites. The believer is the one who is in harmony with himself. He or she says and acts according to the belief within the heart. A believer is also in harmony with the universe because they are both performing the task assigned by their Lord.
A disbeliever is in harmony with him or herself, because he or she says and acts according to the belief within the heart. However, a disbeliever is out of balance with the universe. The universe is upright performing its task according to the Lord, while the disbeliever lives away from God's teachings.
Lastly, a hypocrite lives in complete disharmony within him or herself and with the universe. This concept is illustrated in this verse as the hypocrites declare what they do not believe, and act against their convictions. This life of constant lie and deceit earns the hypocrite the worst punishment in the lowest depths of hell.
Earlier in this chapter we came across a similar verse. God says:
And when they meet those who believe, they say, We believe; and when they are alone with their devils, they say: Surely we are with you, we were only mocking. (2:14)
The 14th verse speaks of the era when the hypocrites were from amongst the disbelievers in Mecca. The verse we are studying today is related to the hypocrites from amongst the people of the scriptures in Medina.
Here we should ask the question: Is faith a statement that we say, or is it something deeper? Faith is a certainty in the heart, and is not a statement made by the tongue. Our daily conduct is what proves the true state of faith. Similarly, God exposes the hypocrites not by what they say, but through their actions. He says: 'But when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation to us?' And in another verse:
Look, you are the ones who love them and they do not love you. You believe in all the books. When they meet you, they say, "We believe." and when they are alone, they bite their finger-tips out of rage against you. Say, .May you perish in your rage. Surely, Allah is All-Aware of what lies in the hearts. (03:119)
When they come to you, they say, ‘We believe,’ but they come disbelieving and leave disbelieving- God knows best what they are hiding. (05:61)
In these verses you can see four different situations depicting the hypocrites' actions. The first states: ‘…but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you.” The second verse describes that ‘when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation to us?'’ The third states: ‘they say, .We believe., and when they are alone, they bite their finger-tips out of rage against you’ And in the fourth verse God says: ‘they say, ‘We believe,’ but they come disbelieving and leave disbelieving.’ The common thread between all these actions is the clear contradiction between the way they act in public, and their true belief and actions in private.
When the news of a new Prophet spread across Arabia, the Jews informed the residents of Medina that the descriptions of the Prophet are mentioned in the Torah. Their Rabbis rushed to stop them and said: ‘‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation to us?’ indicating that they knew that Prophet Muhammad was the truth, but rather than spread God's word, they wanted to conceal it. And then they added: 'They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord!’ This statement means that they were aware that they will meet the Lord on the day of judgment and have to answer to Him. If they had all that knowledge, and understood that they have to defend their actions before the Lord, then why did they disbelieve in the Prophet? Did they really think that they, or anyone, can fool the Lord, or hide facts from Him? Thus the answer came from God with this scolding 'Have you no sense?' because anyone who commits such actions, while fully aware of the facts and the consequences has certainly lost his or her mind.
Now, let's move to the next verse in 'The Cow.' God says:
Do they not know that God is well aware of what they conceal and what they declare? (Chapter 2:Verse 77)
Allah explains to us that He knows all their affairs. In the previous verse, we were informed of what the hypocrites of Medina said when they met each other secretly. Nothing is concealed from God, even actions that do not involve any words. Take the example of the verse stating ‘they bite their fingertips at you in rage.’ in which Allah even revealed the emotions they had at that moment.
So what is meant by that which is concealed and that which is declared? The declared involves what is heard by the ears or seen by the eyes. If you conceal something, it means that you do not even whisper it to anyone else. Once you tell someone else, even in secrecy, the matter is no longer concealed. So the phrase ‘What they conceal’ refers to something that is kept totally to one's self. On the other hand, ‘What they declare’ refers to matters that are told to others, even if only two people know about it. We see this distinction in the following verse. God says:
Though you speak out loud, He knows your secrets and what is even more concealed (20:07)
When you recite the phrase: ‘God is well aware of what they conceal and what they declare’ you may ask yourself, Why did God mention that he is aware of what they declare? If God is aware of what the hypocrites conceal, then surely He knows what they declare, right? Not necessarily. Take the example of a father in his home. He says that he is aware of what is happening within the house. This statement is logical because he is inside the house; but when he says: I am also aware of what is going on outside the walls of this house, then the statement becomes questionable.
Similarly, God is unseen and concealed from us. So when He says that He aware of all that is concealed from us, it makes sense. However, Allah does not want you to misunderstand that He is only knows the unseen. He is fully aware of both: what is declared and what is hidden.