What is considered hypocrisy and what is not
Fatwa No: 344005

  • Fatwa Date:11-1-2017 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 13, 1438
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Please explain in detail about hypocrisy. Is it hypocrisy if a person hides and controls his feelings of anger for someone and rather shows respect and gratitude? Or should one be loud and expressive about his negative feelings for someone, saying that he cannot be a hypocrite and will definitely speaks his heart out? Also, please explain if it is advised to be vocal and expressive about someone's wrongdoings either in his presence or absence? What type of hypocrisy is explained in the Quran? What does Allaah, The Exalted, say about a person who highlights and discusses other's shortcomings, sins, or wrongdoings in their absence or presence saying that he does not lie and is not a hypocrite and will definitely speak whatever is true? I want to know if this type of truth is permissible? There is one thing that we call Maslehat, should one keep quiet, or should he just be open and vocal about everything which can cause pleasant or unpleasant situations? Truth spoken without necessity creates problems and disputes; is this true in the light of Islam?


All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

There are two kinds of hypocrisy:

1- Hypocrisy in Belief (Major Hypocrisy): it is when a person displays belief (Eemaan) and conceals disbelief (Kufr); may Allah guard us against it. This kind of hypocrisy entails being thrown into Hellfire and abiding therein eternally; we implore Allah to safeguard us.

2- Hypocrisy in Deeds (Minor Hypocrisy): this type includes a number of actions identified as signs of hypocrisy; however, they do not take the doer out of the fold of Islam, such as breaking the promise, lying, and betraying trust. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is trusted, he betrays the trust.” [Al-Bukhari]

For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 1854.

Knowing that, you come to realize that hiding one's hatred and negative feelings towards someone who possesses some bad traits and displaying affection towards him is not considered hypocrisy if it is done for a Sharia-acceptable benefit such as calling this person to Allah and encouraging him to adhere to the straight path and hasten to repentance from his sins. Rather, this is considered praiseworthy kindness and leniency as long as it does not involve turning a blind eye to falsehood or approving a prohibited deed.

Allah, The Exalted, commanded Prophet Moosa (Moses), may Allah exalt his mention, to advise Pharaoh, who was the most wicked person of his time, kindly. He says (what means): {And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear (Allah).} [Quran 20:44] Allah, The Exalted, has enjoined kindness, good speech, and repelling evil with goodness and kindness in many places in the Quran and the Sunnah.

Hence, being vocal and loud in expressing hatred and negative feelings towards someone is not praiseworthy unless it is done to defend truth and attain a Sharia-acceptable benefit, such as deterring someone from committing a sin or forbidding him from it and the like. Hiding such negative feelings and displaying the opposite for a noble cause is not considered hypocrisy.

As for confronting others with their shortcomings, then if these shortcomings are related to their failure to fulfill the rights of Allah over them by committing a sin or neglecting a religious obligation, then this belongs to the enjoined offering of sincere advice (Naseehah). However, it must be done in a good manner that would not alienate the advised person. As for hastening to offer advice or delaying it, this is subject to the Sharia-acceptable benefit and the response expected from the advised person. As for any other shortcomings, such as physical defects, for instance, over which the person has no control, it is blameworthy to be verbal about them.

As for speaking of people's shortcomings in their absence under the pretext of not lying, this is prohibited backbiting (Gheebah). It is impermissible to engage in such talks or speak of a person in his absence with what he dislikes unless there is a need for it such as to warn those who wish to deal with him or the like. If there is no need for it, the basic principle is that backbiting is prohibited, and it is impermissible to speak of a person in his absence and say things that he would not like to have spread around or mentioned. For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 89115.

Apparent benefit is a recognized concept by the Sharia. The Islamic Sharia enjoined the realization of benefits and perfecting them and the elimination of evils and impeding them. This whole issue of confronting people with their shortcomings and harshly admonishing them or kindly advising them is determined according to the Sharia-acceptable benefit. Whichever approach is hoped to be more effective in advising a person and urging him to accept the advice should be employed. It should be noted that kindness and leniency are praiseworthy in all matters; leniency beautifies whatever it is added to and makes ugly whatever it is removed from. The basic principle is that the Muslim should offer advice to people and address them kindly and gently unless the realization of a Sharia-acceptable benefit entails otherwise. Please refer to fatwa 163541.

As for your question about the types of hypocrites, we have answered this in the first lines. The statement you asked about at the end of your question is not true in an absolute sense. This matter falls under the category of enjoining good and forbidding evil and it requires wisdom, consideration of the consequences, and using the means that would most likely urge the addressed person to receive admonition and respond.

As for preoccupying oneself with pointing out people's flaws and defects, then that is dispraised. Rather, each person should concern himself with his own flaws and defects and strive in rectifying them.

Allah knows best.

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