They are utterly deaf, dumb, and blind; they can no longer recover.(Al-Baqarah 2:18)
They are deaf, dumb and blind, and so they do not think and understand. (Al-Baqarah 2:171)
One of the above verses refers to hypocrites, and the other describes the state of unbelievers. According to these verses, hypocrites and unbelievers are similar in that they are both are deaf, blind, and dumb. Just like unbelievers, hypocrites, even if they are Muslim in appearance, do not believe. The three main causes of unbelief are prejudices, wrong viewpoints, and submersion in wrongdoing. Unbelievers and hypocrites are deaf and blind to the truth due to prejudice, self-pride, egotism, igno-rance, or enmity; they do not have a sound viewpoint and thus cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood, between the way of faith and that of hypocrisy and commit, therefore, wrongdoing and injustice.
Though these verses depict the three most important characteristics hypocrites and unbelievers share in common, they end with different statements. The first verse explains that the hypocrites have lost and are no longer able to recover both the original human nature God gives eve-ryone at birth and the faith they accepted while the other points to the unbelievers’ incapability to use their intelligence. Hypocrites and unbe-lievers share many qualities and characteristics that confirm their blind-ness, deafness, and dumbness. They are unable to read correctly the Book of the Universe, which has been exhibited before them generously to help human beings discover the Supreme Creator. They cannot study and read existence and incidents properly. They ignore what the Scriptures say, and they cannot give ear to the voice of their conscience. If they had taken advantage of the aforementioned issues, then they would have been able to use their intelligence and declare “lā ilāha illa’llāh” (There is no deity but God)—as the believers do. This way, they would also have returned to their original human nature; as a result, they would have lived their lives according to God’s orders and prohibitions. However, they are deaf be-cause while every creature in the universe proclaims the existence of God by their unique language, they are incapable of hearing that. They are dumb because they are incapable of acknowledging what they feel in their conscience. They are blind because they cannot see the ways that lead to the truth of God’s existence and Oneness.
As for the conclusions of the verses, the verse about unbelievers de-clares that they do not use their intelligence and they do not actually think. If they had been able to think, they could have found the ways leading to faith easily. Indeed, in the atmosphere of peace after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah concluded in the sixth year of the Hijrah (628 CE), many among the obstinate unbelievers of Makkah, who had persecuted God’s Messenger and his Companions for many years, had the opportunity to recognize what and how Muslims really were and how they lived. Abandoning their bias and obstinacy, they confessed, “We had been in a great error!” and accepted the Truth. They came to this point by using their intelligence properly. So since the deafness, dumbness, and blindness of the unbelievers who obstinately rejected faith had arisen from their incapability to use their reason and think properly, the Qur’ān concludes the verse about them with the statement, “they do not think and understand.”
In another verse, the Qur’ān describes the hypocrites as, “Vacillating between (the believers) and (the unbelievers), neither with these, nor with those” (An-Nisā’ 4:143). Hypocrites shuttle between believers and unbe-lievers, and though they seem to belong in either group, they display the deprivation of the light of insight and the loss of consciousness and percep-tion and thus cannot ever be truly counted among the believers. In addi-tion, as they prefer the worldly life, they endeavor to taste the worldly pleasures at all costs. Belief and unbelief do not make any difference to them; they prefer the company of those that can offer them high living standards and comfort. Hence, they even go to mosque and pray when they deem it to their advantage; nevertheless, they only show off and pray lazily, as the Qur’ān says: “When they rise to do the Prayer, they rise lazily, and to be seen by people (to show them that they are Muslims); and they do not remember God (within or outside the Prayer) save a little” (An-Nisā’ 4:142). This means that the hypocrites apparently live as Muslims and seem to follow God’s Messenger; they are, however, far from seeing the truth because their hearts are veiled and their thoughts are not based on faith and far from sincerity. Therefore, the biggest problem of the hypocrites is their insincerity. Accordingly, the Qur’ān concludes this verse (2:18) with, “Lā yarji‘ūn” (They cannot return to the line of the truth and the purity that they originally had as human beings). In the same way, the verses in Sūratu’l-Munāfiqūn (The Hypocrites) also end with the conclusion: “Lā ya‘lamūn” (They do not know) or “Lā yafqahūn” (They do not grasp [the gist of the matter]). It is not fitting to use “Lā ya’qilūn” (they do not think and understand) or “Lā yatafakkarūn” (they do not reflect) to describe hypocrites because those attributes usually belong to the unbelievers.