Dimensions of deceit

Dimensions of deceit

In the opening of Surat al-Baqarah, Allah mentions three types of people: the believers, the disbelievers, and the hypocrites. Verses 8 onwards focus on the hypocrites (munafiqeen), who are discussed in thirteen verses. I will highlight some of these verses to provide a deeper understanding:

وَمِنَ النّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ آمَنّا بِاللهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَما هُمْ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ 

يُخادِعُونَ اللهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَما يَخْدَعُونَ إِلاّ أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَما يَشْعُرُونَ 

فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ فَزادَهُمُ اللهُ مَرَضاً وَلَهُمْ عَذابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِما كانُوا يَكْذِبُونَ 

وَإِذا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قالُوا إِنَّما نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ 

أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلكِنْ لا يَشْعُرُونَ 

وَإِذا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا كَما آمَنَ النّاسُ قالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ كَما آمَنَ السُّفَهاءُ أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهاءُ وَلكِنْ لا يَعْلَمُونَ 

وَإِذا لَقُوا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قالُوا آمَنّا وَإِذا خَلَوْا إِلى شَياطِينِهِمْ قالُوا إِنّا مَعَكُمْ إِنَّما نَحْنُ مُسْتَهْزِؤُنَ 

اللهُ يَسْتَهْزِئُ بِهِمْ وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ 

أُولئِكَ الَّذِينَ اِشْتَرَوُا الضَّلالَةَ بِالْهُدى فَما رَبِحَتْ تِجارَتُهُمْ وَما كانُوا مُهْتَدِينَ 

Among the people are those who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they are not believers. 

They seek to deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive only themselves, and they do not realise it. 

In their hearts is a disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they were liars. 

And when it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption on the earth,’ they say, ‘We are but reformers.’ 

Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they are unaware. 

And when it is said to them, ‘Believe as the people have believed,’ they say, ‘Shall we believe as the foolish have believed?’ Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they do not know it.

And when they meet those who believe, they say, ‘We believe’; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, ‘Indeed, we are with you; we were only mocking.’ 

Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression while they wander blindly. 

Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided. [Surat al-Baqarah, 2:8-16] 

Deceiving yourself

In verse 8, Allah Almighty states that hypocrites profess faith, but are actually lying. In verse 9, Allah emphasises that hypocrites seek to deceive Him, but in reality, they deceive only themselves without realising it. In the world today, we are continually seeing politicians, leaders, and those in authority mislead people for their own agendas. Allah advises us not to be part of deceit—neither by deceiving others nor by allowing ourselves to be deceived.

When Allah Almighty says they do not realise they are deceiving themselves, one wonders how can someone become so deluded that they lose the ability to recognise corruption around them? They are often unaware of the deception due to several reasons:

Immersion in corruption

They are eating, drinking and breathing corruption – they are surrounded by corruption and corrupted individuals in their social circles, which makes them lose the ability to discern right from wrong.

Trust in deceptive leadership

They place their trust in deceptive leaders and rely on their misleading narratives.

Belief in their actions

They are convinced that what they are doing is right.

Blind following

They follow without thinking, awareness, or questioning, as in “We found our forefathers doing this” (referring to inherited customs) or “I only show you what I see, and I guide you only to the path of righteousness” (the words of Firaun as he misled his people). For instance, in Surah Ghafir, he says,

“Leave me to kill Moses and let him call upon his Lord. Indeed, I fear that he will change your religion or cause corruption in the land.” (40:26)

Fight corruption before you are corrupted by it

Islam combats corruption through the principle of enjoining good and forbidding evil. There is no obedience in matters of sin and disobedience.

Corruption can occur when the narrative of leaders brainwashes the public, making them oblivious to the corruption around them. Although a person might not be corrupt, being immersed in a corrupt environment can eventually lead to corruption. When hypocrites are told not to spread corruption on earth, they claim they are reformers. However, they are the essence of corruption, not reform. How can they not perceive it? Corruption becomes inherent when one lives and breathes it. This is Allah’s warning to all of us.

In Islam, the mechanism to fight corruption is to be the best community presented to humanity – command what is good and forbid what is evil. Do not follow the narrative of your community if it contradicts your senses and revelation. It is not an excuse to say everyone is doing it, so I am just like everybody else. You will be questioned alone on the Day of Judgment.

Do not follow leaders whose words do not align with the truth. Always question and verify what you hear and see. Actively work to promote righteousness and prevent wrongdoing in your community.

On the Day of Arafat we should not forget our brothers and sisters.

May Allah bring relief to the people of Gaza. Ameen.

Based on the Khutbah of Shaykh Haytham Tamim 14th June 2024.


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.