[Yea-] and most certainly will God mark out those who have [truly] attained to faith, and most certainly will He mark out the hypocrites.7
This is probably the earliest occurrence of the term munafiq in the chronology of Qur'anic revelation. Idiomatically, the term is derived from the noun nafaq, which denotes an "underground passage" having an outlet different from the entry, and signifying, specifically, the complicated burrow of a field-mouse, a lizard, etc., from which the animal can easily escape or in which it can outwit a pursuer. Tropically, the term munafiq describes a person who is "two-faced", inasmuch as he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage to him in the situation in which he happens to find himself. Since a person thus characterized usually pretends to be morally better than he really is, the epithet munafiq may roughly be rendered as "hypocrite". It should, however, be noted that whereas this Western term invariably implies conscious dissembling with the intent to deceive others, the Arabic term mun afiq may also be applied - and occasionally is applied in the Qur'an - to a person who, being weak or uncertain in his beliefs or moral convictions, merely deceives himself. Hence, while using in my rendering of the Qur'anic text the conventional expression "hypocrite", I have endeavoured to point out the above differentiation, whenever possible and necessary, in my explanatory notes.