When they meet those who believe, they say: “We believe;” but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say: “We are really with you: We (were) only jesting.”
The following excerpt is taken from “Tafsir As Saranbi” surah al baqarah pg. 58-6:
In this ayah Allah (swt) continues with the description of the hypocrites. In the previous
ayahs we saw how Allah (swt) told us that these were a people who spread fasad in the land
while they claim that they are doers of good. Allah (swt) showed us how when they are called onto have Iman like the true believers have, they refer to the true believers as fools. We said that this was because they had become so deluded by the life of this world that what was good for them had appeared as bad and what was right for them had appeared as wrong. They forgot that the purpose of their life was only to worship and serve Allah (swt). They forgot the reason for which they had been created. Instead they started to think that they were only in this world
to enjoy themselves as much as possible. They thought that they had been created and that they
continue to be sustained only so that they can serve themselves. They foolishly thought that they
can make a life for themselves in this temporary and fleeting world that is doomed for
destruction. Such was the utter foolishness of their thinking.
In this ayah Allah (swt) brings our attention to another facet of their hypocrisy and that
is how they change their behavior depending on how they are with. There is nothing that is true
about the life of a hypocrite; his entire existence is a deception. In this ayah Allah (swt) shows us
how they behave a certain way when they meet the believers and how they behave in a different
way when they go back to their devils. When they meet the believers they say that they believe
and they try to act like true Muslims, they may even perform the Salah alongside the Muslims
and make the Hajj. But this is all lies and deception. Allah (swt) shows us how when they return
to their devils they say that they are with them and they say that they were only mocking in the
way that they behaved with the believers. The scholars say the word “devils” in this ayah could
refer to the leaders of the hypocrites or it could refer to the Jews with whom the hypocrites had
made alliances with and worked together to destroy the Islamic State. It seems that both
meanings are possible and as always Allah (swt) Knows best! But simply the fact that Allah (swt)
uses the word “devils” to describe such people tells us how evil they are.
So we see that the only reason why these hypocrites behaved like Muslims is because
they wanted to win the friendship and love of the believers. They wanted to deceive the true and
sincere believers into thinking that they really are their brothers. This is why when they met the
believers they said that they are believers also. We know that this is a flagrant lie because in the
previous ayah Allah (swt) showed us how they thought the believers to be fools. They may even
have done their ibadah alongside the believers, but Allah (swt) showed us how all of this was
falsehood and deception. In their words and in their actions there was nothing but deception.
Their only objective was to try and fool the Muslims by saying that they are one of them. This
way they could continue with their plots to destroy the Islamic Sate from within the ranks of the
believers without being discovered.
Then Allah (swt) brings our attention to what they do when they return to their devils, to
their allies in evil with whom they are working together to destroy the Islamic State. The first
thing they do when they return to their devils is to say that surely we are with you. They want to
reassure their evil allies that all the words that they had spoken with the believers and even the
ibadah that they may have done alongside the believers was not a sincere show of friendship and
brotherhood on their part. They reassure these devils that they are really with them and not with
the believers. Once again we see the fear that is apparent in their words and in their deeds. We
can see from these ayahs that the last thing that the hypocrites want to do is upset anyone.
When they are with the believers they behave in a way to make them happy and when they are
with their devils they behave in a way to make them happy. They are so scared of everyone and
everything. This is the extent to which they have distanced themselves from Allah (swt). They
fear everyone and everything but Allah (swt) when in reality He (swt) should have been the One
deserving of their fear.
To reassure their devils these hypocrites then go even one step further. They say that
they were only mocking in their behavior towards the believers and even in their claim to be
believers. In claiming to be believers and even in participating in the ibadah with the Muslims
they tell their devils that they were only making fun and mockery of the Muslims. So not only do
these people see the true servants of Allah (swt) as fools but they also mock and make fun at the
servants of Allah (swt). They mock and make fun of those who are striving to please Allah (swt)
because of their efforts and striving. Can you see now the extent of the evil of such people? How
can a people be so heedless of Allah (swt)? How can a people mock the worshippers of Allah
(swt)? Can you imagine how much of the Wrath of Allah (swt) they are brining down on themselves? Can you even begin to imagine the kind of the punishment that Allah (swt) has kept reserved for such people? May Allah (swt) save us from ever becoming like them!
As Saranbi, Abduraheem (2019). Tafsir As-Saranbi. (p. 75-76). https://ia800704.us.archive.org/16/items/surah-baqarah-quran-tafsir-org-saranbi pdf/surah%20baqarah%20quran%20tafsir%20org%20saranbi%20pdf.pdf