Quranic Reflection No. 455. Āyat 2:204 – Smooth talk of the hypocrites
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يُعْجِبُكَ قَوْلُهُ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيُشْهِدُ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ مَا فِي قَلْبِهِ وَهُوَ أَلَدُّ الْخِصَامِ
Waminan-nāsi man yu‘jibuka qawluhu fil-hayātid-dunyā wayush-hidullāha ‘alā mā fī qalbihi wahuwa aladul-khisām
Among the people is he whose talk about worldly life impresses you, and he holds Allah witness to what is in his heart, though he is the staunchest of enemies.
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No 2, Āyat 204)
This is the first verse of a passage of three verses that talk about the qualities of hypocrites. The quality described here mentions their glib talk which is attractive and deceiving. They swear by it and ask God to bear witness to it. But through such talk they attempt to hide the hatred in their hearts. Their talk is both insincere and insidious.
The word ‘yu‘jibuka’ means to make someone pleased and happy with what you do. The listeners or receivers like the action as they think it is good. The word ‘ujb’ meaning self-satisfaction also comes from the same root word. It means to be pleased with one’s own actions. The word ‘aladdu’ is a superlative showing intensity. Thus ‘aladul-khisām’ means intense enmity and hatred. This is present in the heart and known only to Allah ‘azza wajall.
The cause of revelation of the verse is said to be about Akhnas bin Shariq al-Thaqafī who was very sweet in his behavior with the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and his allegations of affection for the Prophet and belief in him. But in his heart, he harbored hatred against the Prophet. Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān also mentions other causes of revelation such as referring to a group of hypocrites, or a group of people who showed off their own actions.
Other verses of Quran also talk about the smooth talking of hypocrites.
• In Sūrat Hūd verse 5, Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā says: Look! They fold up their chests to hide [their secret feelings] from Him. Look! When they draw their cloaks over their heads, He knows whatever they keep secret and whatever they disclose. Indeed, He knows best whatever is in the chests (Q 11:5). This verse is also said to refer to same Akhnas.
• In Sūrat al-Munāfiqūn, verse 4, Allah (swt) describes the hypocrites: When you see them, their bodies impress you, and if they speak, you listen to their speech (Q 63:4).
Those who harbor hatred against a group but wish to hide it will speak in hypocritical tones which have deep and malignant roots. They talk as if they wish well for people and care for their well-being. They say they want to act for their good while wishing to destroy them. The fake concern and exaggerated righteousness are attempts to disguise their enmity. Their own actions belie their words completely. Amirul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abī Tālib ‘alayhis salām says: A hypocrite’s tongue pleases but his heart causes harm, and A hypocrite’s words are beautiful, but his actions are a painful malady.
Allah ‘azza wajall warns believers about such people. Let this verse remind you not to be attracted by smooth words that conceal an ugly interior. Self-righteous words from people in authority should be weighed with their actions to test them for sincerity. Most unfortunately will fall very short.
Sources: Shaykh Fadhl b. Hasan Tabrisī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; https://hadith.academyofislam.