Islamic concepts

Nifāq — hypocrisy, weaselling out

  • The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell, and you will find no one to help them. (4:145)
weasel out
to back out of a situation or commitment in a sneaky or cowardly manner.

"a person who, upon entering a situation, habitually looks for a way out" (QXP)

The terms Nifāq (hypocrisy) and Munāfiq (hypocrite) come up a lot in Islam.

Nifāq literally means ‘an escape hole built by a desert rodent’. Its general meaning is ‘to pretend to be a Muslim’, i.e. to outwardly practice Islam while inwardly concealing your disbelief, maybe even unknowingly. As per the metaphor of the ‘rodent’s escape hole’, it’s as if you secretly weaselled out of Islam.

Nifāq al-Akbar — greater hypocrisy

Major Nifāq is to pretend to be a Muslim on the outside when you’re not on the inside. A warning sign that you might be turning into a Munāfiq is if your private prayer is different than your public prayer.

Nifāq al-Aṣghar نفاق الأصغر — lesser hypocrisy



Minor Nifāq is to behave in an un-Muslim way, e.g. to break somebody’s trust, to lie, to show off good deeds, to not care about striving in God’s path, to use foul language, to be two-faced, etc. Nifāq is a type of Kufr.

2. Minor hypocrisy that does not turn the person outside the fold of Islam. It is called practical hypocrisy. There is a Hadeeth (narration) on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, that the Prophet mentioned three characteristics and said that if a person harbors them he is a hypocrite even he fasts, prays or claims to be Muslim. That is when he speaks, he tells lies; when he promises, he breaks his promise; and when he is entrusted, he betrays. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim] In another Hadeeth on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar the Prophet mentioned four characteristics, and added if they are found in a person he would be a pure hypocrite, and if anyone has one of them he would have a characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. They are: if he is entrusted [something] he betrays; if he speaks, he tells lies; if he gives a promise, he breaks it; if he quarrels, he behaves mprudently and refuses to reconcile. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim] And Allaah knows best.