Picture the following scene. It’s the Day of Resurrection. All judgment has been done. The disbelievers have been thrown into hell and the remaining people flock towards Paradise. But all is pitch black, and the only light available is that coming from people’s heart and right hand. The believers’ lights are illuminating their way for them, but these lights are not all of the same brightness. Some are so intense that they light up miles ahead. Others are so dim that they only show the next step. As they move along, it is announced, “Your good tidings today are [of] gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.” (57:12)
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But there are some who were known to be Muslims but now they realise that they don’t have any light at all. These are the hypocrites. They are scared to move as they can’t see the way. But they can see the believers getting further and further ahead, and they panic. “Wait for us,” they call out. “Let us get some light from you!”
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It is said to them sarcastically, “Go back to the earth which you were so immersed in. Go get some light from there if you can.”
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Then a wall will be thrown in front of them, separating them from the believers.  They will call out to the other side of the wall, “Weren’t we with you in the life before?”
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They indeed were. People would see them pray, fast, gift charity and even perform Hajj and Umrah in the earthly life. And yet they’re blocked from Paradise? Why?
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This vivid, scary scene is painted in Surah al-Hadid. And do you know what’s scarier? The people on the wrong side of the wall could be you and me.
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The true believers answer the last question by outlining the process of falling into hypocrisy.

“Yes, but you afflicted yourselves and awaited and doubted, and wishful thinking deluded you, until there came the command of Allah. And the Deceiver [Shaytan] deceived you concerning Allah.”  (57:14)

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Let us look at the steps that can slowly lead a Muslim to this terrible fate, and learn how to save ourselves from being one of them.

Steps towards Hypocrisy:

We afflict ourselves.

What does it mean to afflict oneself? Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan describes it as putting oneself into questionable company. We hang out with corrupt people, expose ourselves to sinful environments, thinking, “My willpower is strong, I won’t fall into their ways.”
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We procrastinate

Step one leads us into more and more questionable circumstances, until we fall into sin. But we delay repentance. Since we’ve already given Shaytan an entry into our hearts, he beautifies this sin for us more and more. It gives us so much pleasure that we don’t want to give it up just yet. And by the time we realise we’re stuck in a real mess, the sin has become a habit. Finally, one day we tell ourselves, “What’s the point of changing now?”
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None of us feels comfortable having a sullied self-image, and this discomfort forces us to either leave off the habit or, if that seems too difficult, rationalise our behaviour in one of two ways:
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1. We start having doubts and questioning our beliefs: Why is Islam so hard to follow? Is it worth it? Why is there hellfire? Why is God so angry and punishing? Is all this really true?
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2. False hopes deceive us. We try to find excuses for doing the sinful habit: It’s only a minor sin. It’s not like I’m a murderer! God is Merciful, He’ll not punish me. I’ve got my whole life to set things right. Now it’s time for fun.

Solution to the problem

The first stronghold that will pull us out of this mess is hope. Never, never ever give up till the day you die. No matter which stage of hypocrisy we’re at, it’s always possible to stop and turn back.
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Think about it this way. Allah didn’t portray this scene so vividly to give us a scare and leave it at that. He did it to give us hope; that day hasn’t come yet, and there’s still time to change. He says in the next ayah that He gives life to dead earth, that is, by sending rain and making it fertile for vegetation. If Allah can revive the dead earth, He can also revive our dead hearts.
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He also asks us a question, and in it lies the solution to this problem:

“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?”

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Allah sends down rain to revive the dead earth, and He sent down the Quran to revive dead hearts. The more Shaytan whispers doubts into our ears, the more we should read the Quran to counteract those doubts. Quran erases all doubts and leaves our hearts clean for reform to happen. We no longer try to deceive ourselves with false beliefs and can see the right way clearly. Our goals change from this temporary world to the eternity of the hereafter. Then it becomes easy for us to give up things which Allah dislikes, and to embrace what He likes.
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And in the same ayah Allah gives us a warning:

“And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.” (57:16)

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Just like the absence of rain hardens the earth to the point of causing a famine, the absence of Quran hardens our hearts, to the point of spiritual famine.
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So connect with the Quran in every way you can. Recite it, listen to it, learn it, go deep into its message, ponder on it, and, most importantly, implement it in your life.

 

Watch: Nouman Ali Khan: How We Lost Our Eeman

This article was first published in Ibana: http://www.ibanaway.com/the-process-of-falling-into-hypocrisy/

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