Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 8 & 9
Chapter 2, verses 8 and 9
And some people say, 'We have believed in Allah and the Last Day' yet they are not to believe. They seek to deceive God and the believers but they only deceive themselves, though they do not realize it (2:8,9)
People in general belong to one of three different states of faith: a believer, a disbeliever or a hypocrite. God Almighty started this chapter of the Quran ‘The Cow’ by describing them. First, the believers were presented in three verses. God says:
Those who believe in the unseen and establish the prayer; who spend out of what We have provided them, Who believe in that which has been sent down to you and what has been sent down before you and firmly believe in the Everlasting Life, These are guided by their Lord; these surely are the prosperous. (2:3-5)
Then the second group, the disbelievers, was described in two verses. God says:
"Surely, as to those who are destined to infidelity, it is alike whether you warn them or warn them not, they will never believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their ears, and over their eyes there is a dark covering, and for them is great torment. (2:6-7)
Lastly, God relates the description and qualities of the third group, the hypocrites, in thirteen consecutive verses. Naturally, you may ask: Why did the Lord dedicate all these verses to describe the hypocrites? He did so because they are the most damaging group to the faith and to the Muslim society. A hypocrite brings about destruction from within. A disbeliever, on the other hand, has made his or her opposition and actions clear.
A hypocrite is any person who declares and pretends to have faith in God while concealing his or her true disbelief and animosity. You may confide in this person trusting that he or she shares your values and has your best interest at heart. The truth is quite different; your words, actions are often used against you and against the society, as this person betrays your trust and uses it as a weapon for criticizing and damaging Islam.
God Almighty has blessed each one of us with physical abilities, and many intellectual and emotional faculties. In order for you to live in peace and tranquility, your intellect, your emotions and your actions must be in harmony and must not contradict each other.
The believer's faculties are in harmony because his tongue and his actions reflect the belief in his heart. Similarly, the disbeliever actions, emotions and belief correspond to each other. He denies God with his heart, his tongue and his actions. In that sense, the disbeliever is honest and does not cheat himself. The person whose actions, emotions and beliefs are in constant contradiction is the hypocrite. He lives in great disharmony, not only within the society, but also within himself. He says what his heart denies, and displays the opposite emotion of what he truly feels. This contradiction puts the hypocrite in a continuous state of fear of being exposed. God treats the hypocrite in the same way the hypocrite chose to treat him or herself. In the hereafter, God burdens the hypocrite with more fear and contradiction as the following verse illustrates:
Until when they reach it, their ears, and their eyes, and their skins will bear witness against them as to all that they did habitually. They will ask their skins, "Why have you borne witness against us?" They will answer: "God Who makes everything speak has made us speak." It is He Who has created you in the first instance, and to Him you are being brought back. (41:20-21)
Here you can clearly see how the disharmony the hypocrites chose for themselves in this world carries with them to the hereafter. All the abilities and faculties they used in deception will overrule them, and the hypocrite’s tongue, hands, legs, and skin will bear witness against him or her.
When you read the verse:
And among the people are those who say, ‘We have faith in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they have no faith. (2:8)
You can see that the hypocrites go through the motions of belief and worship, while concealing contempt and disbelief in their hearts. Similarly, Allah lets them enjoy the superficial advantages of living within the Muslim society, while denying them the true benefits and rewards. When they go to the mosque to perform prayers, they are not rewarded. When they pay Zakat (almsgiving) it brings them the misery of losing their money, while denying them the rewards of the hereafter.
God continues in the next verse:
They seek to deceive God and the believers but they only deceive themselves, though they do not realize it (2:9)
This verse highlights the second quality of the hypocrites; the quality of foolishness. They are attempting –through their words and actions- to deceive God and the believers…….but can anyone really deceive God?
Let’s start by defining deception: It is the measures and acts designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation, distortion, or falsification of evidence so the enemy would act against his or her interests. God Almighty is All-Knowing, All-aware, He knows what we conceal and declare; He knows our secrets and that which is more hidden than a secret. What is more hidden than a secret –you may ask-? A secret is something you confide to someone else. Thus, it is known by two people, you and your friend. There are things, however, that you may keep to yourself and not share with anyone. God Almighty says:
Though you speak out loud, He knows your secrets and what is even more concealed. (20:7)
Therefore, no creation has the capability to deceive or hide anything from his or her creator. So, when the hypocrites speak and act assuming that they are deceiving God, they are, in fact, only fooling themselves. The only reward they get in return is an increase in God's wrath and punishment.
The hypocrites also attempt to deceive the believers. While they may briefly succeed, their constant lying puts them in a state of fear. They are worried about being overheard when they discuss disbelief and ridicule faith. Every time there is a noise or commotion nearby, they assume the worst. Even a rumor puts them in a state of paranoia. They begin to worry about every action they take because even a slip of the tongue may expose their hypocrisy and disbelief.
Moreover, the Lord comes to support and protect the believers. He helps us recognize the signs of hypocrisy as illustrated in the following verse:
We could even point them out to you if We wished, and then you could identify them by their marks, but you will know them anyway by the tone of their speech. God knows everything people do. (47:30)
And in another verse:
When the hypocrites come to you, they say, ‘We bear witness that you are the Messenger of God.’ God knows that you truly are His Messenger and He bears witness that the hypocrites are liars(63:1)
This verse relates the incident of the hypocrites coming to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to declare their faith. God Almighty affirms that their statement is correct, yet at the same time He calls them liars. How can this be? The answer is found within the hypocrites’ hearts. They only testified with their tongues that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, while their hearts denied it. In order for a person to be truthful, what he or she say with the tongue has to match what is in the heart. Thus, although what hypocrites said was in itself true, they were liars.
If the actions of the hypocrites do not give them out, then there bounds to be a lie or a slip of the tongue that exposes them. And while they may succeed in deceiving their fellow humans, this deception is short lived. God helps his prophet and the believers to unmask the hypocrites and their beliefs. At the end, they are only deceiving themselves and bringing ruin to their future.