Was Prophet Muhammad a Hypocrite?




Bassam Zawadi



Christian apologist and polemicist Sam Shamoun in this article puts forth the following hadith:



Narrated 'Aisha:


A man asked permission to enter upon the Prophet. When the Prophet saw him, he said, "What an evil brother of his tribe! And what an evil son of his tribe!" When that man sat down, the Prophet behaved with him in a nice and polite manner and was completely at ease with him. When that person had left, 'Aisha said (to the Prophet). "O Allah's Apostle! When you saw that man, you said so-and-so about him, then you showed him a kind and polite behavior, and you enjoyed his company?" Allah's Apostle said, "O 'Aisha! Have you ever seen me speaking a bad and dirty language? (Remember that) the worst people in Allah's sight on the Day of Resurrection will be those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to be away from their evil (deeds)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 59)


He argues from this hadith that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a hypocrite for behaving in a different manner depending on the presence of the man.


However, one must examine this hadith in a more analytical fashion and actually see the wisdom of the Prophet (peace be upon him).


We have it in Fathul Baari:

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With a fatha on the Taa and a shadda on the Laam (pronounced tatallaqa), which means that he cheered up and smiled to him, it is said (wajhun talq/taleeq) which means a cheerful and loose face that is not frowning. In another narration by Ibn Aamer "bashsha fee wajhihi" which means he smiled to him, and Ahmad relates in another narration on the behalf of Ayesha "and another one asked permission to enter, he told him what a good companion you are!" then when he entered he didn't smile to him and didn't cheer up like it said he did in the other narration. So I asked him and he cited the hadith.


Al-Khattabi said that this hadith convened knowledge and courtesy, and there is no backbiting in the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding his ummah (i.e. nation) when he mentions their bad deeds, however it would be considered as backbiting if it was among themselves. It is rather the Prophet's duty to show them [their errors] by disclosing them and informing people about them. This would be considered as an advice and compassion for the ummah. Nevertheless it was out of his noble nature and excellent manners that he didn't abhor him in his reply, so his ummah would emulate him in avoiding the evils of such a person and complying with him to be free of his harms and calamities.


I (i.e. Ibn Hajar) say: His speech appears to be one of the [prophetic] characteristics, but it isn't. It is rather that whoever would know something [bad] about a person and would fear that others might be deluded by his outward goodness, and would consequently fall into jeopardy, then he should tell them about that person's bad attribute(s) as an advice...


Al-Qurtubi said: This hadith states the permissibility of backbiting on the one who declares immorality, obscenity, tyranny in authority, or calling others to innovation in religion provided that it is valid to comply with them in order to avoid their harm, however this should not lead into cajolery on the expense of Allah's religion. Then he said according to Iyaadd: and the difference between Mudaraat (compliance) and Mudahanah (cajolery) is that compliance is exerting duniya (worldly matters) for the sake of worldly matters or religion or even both. That is permissible, and may be even desirable. While cajolery is exerting deen (religion) for the sake of worldly matters. Verily The Prophet (peace be upon him) exerted to him from his worldly matters his good companionship and gentleness in speech, however he didn't praise him in speech, so his words about him would contradict his deeds. Therefore, what he said about him is true, and what he granted him was good companionship, and thus the ambiguity is removed and praise be to Allah.


Iyaadd said: Uyaynah wasn't a Muslim yet at that time - Allah knows best - hence, talking about him wasn't considered as backbiting, or may be he embraced Islam, but he wasn't really a good Muslim, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted to demonstrate that so those who did not know his true inner feelings would not be deluded. During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and also after his death, he had shown some signs of weak faith, therefore the description of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is one of the evidences of his Prophethood. As for softening the speech for him after he entered, this was in order to make him feel at ease. Then he mentioned that which is similar to what was stated. This hadith is a foundation in Mudaraat (compliance), and in the permissibility of backbiting on the people of disbelief and obscenity" and the like and Allah knows best.  (Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Fathul Bari, Kitab: Al Adab, Bab: Lam Yakunn Al Nabai Sallah Allaahu 'Alayhi Wa Sallam Faahishaan wa laa Mutafahishan, Commentary on Hadith no. 5572, Source)


So as we can see the Prophet (peace be upon him) was gentle and kind to the man for there was no reason for showing any hostility towards him. If the Prophet (peace be upon him) did that then it would have most likely lead to problems. However, at the same time the Prophet (peace be upon him) had to let people know about the negative aspects of the man in order to caution them so that they may not get harmed by the man's ill effects. 


This is just another one of the many great practices of the glorious Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Those with evil hearts and intentions interpret it in other false ways.



Recommended Reading


http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/105391 (a verdict stating when it is permissible to backbite on others)


http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/13611  (a verdict regarding whether it is permissible for Muslims to backbite on non-Muslims)





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