FRIENDSHIP IS DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER RELATIONSHIPS: CONCEPT OF COMPANIONSHIP IN ISLAM
by Syarif Hidayat
Friendship is different from all other relationships. Unlike acquaintanceship, it is based on love. Unlike lovers and married couples, it is free of jealousy. Unlike children and parents, it knows neither criticism nor resentment. Friendship has no status in law. Business partnerships are based on a contract. So is marriage. Parents are bound by the law, as are children.
But friendship is freely entered into, freely given, freely exercised. “Friends never cheat each other, or take advantage, or lie. Friends do not spy on one another, yet they have no secrets. Friends glory in each other’s successes and are downcast by the failures.
Friends minister to each other, nurse each other. Friends give to each other, worry about each other, stand always ready to help. Perfect friendship is rarely achieved, but at its height it is an ecstasy.” – Stephen E. Ambrose’s book: “Comrades”.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linkedin, Friendster and Multiply etc, now we have better facilities to bridge and enhance national as well as international friendships and to form a powerful worldwide “real time” social media. Through which, we could get many “first hand information” from almost any corner of the world and have a better understanding about each other cultures and in the end we would have a mutual understanding among all people in the world.
FRIENDSHIP by – Eleanor Roosevelt:
– Friendship with oneself is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.
– Many people will walk in and out of your life, But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
– To handle yourself, use your head; To handle others, use your heart.
Anger is only one letter short of danger. If someone betrays you once, it is his fault; If he betrays you twice, it is your fault.
– He who loses money, loses much;
He who loses a friend, loses much more;
He who loses faith, loses all.
FRIENDSHIP by -Nancy Studnicka:
– A friend is someone we turn to when our spirits need a lift,
A friend is someone we treasure for our friendship is a gift
A friend is someone who fills our lives with beauty, joy, and grace
And makes the world we live in a better and happier place.
– Friends are people who do not judge you, that stay by your side through good and carry you through the bad times.
– Friends are people you can call night and day, and they are still happy to hear from you. They are there emotionally, and feel your pain. They shied a tear for your sorrow, and rejoice with your glory.
– Friends will say a prayer for you each night, until the good lord answers it. When you are sick they bring you a bowl of soup, and when you are feeling blue, they bring you some sugar cookies and a smile.
– Friends give you hugs, and words of encouragements. They tell you the truth when you don’t want to hear it. And their love for you is Unconditional.
“A great and lasting friend is like the world’s ocean within its waves lies constancy, within its rhythms lies vitality, and within its depths lies truth.” – M. Repeaux “A GREAT FRIEND”
Perfect friendship is rarely achieved. A faithful friend is indeed hard to find. The German proverb says: “Freunde in der Not, gehen 1000 auf ein Lot.” – Translation: “In time of need, 1000 friends shrink to a lot (16.5 grams).” – Meaning: “In bad times you have very few friends.” – Equivalent1: A friend in need is a friend indeed! – Equivalent2: Remember man and keep in mind: A faithful friend is hard to find!
Concept of Companionship and friendship in Islam
Human Beings in all phases of life, from the very beginning of childhood and youth, old age till his death, are in need of friendship and association with others. Owing to his social nature, man is compelled to live in society and with other individuals. And most of our lives depend on interaction with others.
Friendship is such a beautiful gift. A friend in need is a friend in deed after all. A friend is a very important person in one’s life. Those who have worthy friends are never lonely and friendless in the world, since in joy and sorrow, their true friends help and support them. Naturally, a human being feels happy at the companionship of friends, and is sad at being lonely and distress and having no worthy companions.
Islam has placed tremendous importance on the aspect of sociability and friendship. This sense of companionship holds a lot of significance in any relationship. In the Noble Qur’an, Allah (SWT) clearly states that He too chose friends for himself; who were none other than Prophet Ibrahim, Khalil Allah (as), and Prophet Muhammad, Habib Allah (saw).
Today, we see intense disputes and altercations arising even between parents and children and as well as among siblings. This is chiefly due to the fact that, though their relationship is marked with blood ties, the all-important sentiments of fellowship and friendship are sorely missing. Our experience will tell us that friendship often takes precedence over blood relations. Man tends to heed his friends more than his relatives. He trusts his companions more than his own kin. The youth today, confide in their friends, while being discreet with their parents.
Islam is in complete harmony with man’s nature. Hence, it has dealt with this topic of friendship in detail. Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Ahlul Bayt (as) were at pains to explain the etiquette and decorum of true friendship, so that we can acquire benefit out of companionship; a benefit whose effects will be manifested in the world as well as the hereafter. Imam Ali (as) observes, “He indeed is unfortunate who does not have any friends, but worse is the one who has friends, but loses them.”
Imam Ali (as) Says: “Live amongst people in such a manner that if you die they weep over you and if you are alive they crave for your company (friendship).”
Imam Ali (as) also said, “Try to have as many as possible true friends, for they are the supplies in joy and the shelters in misfortunes.” In another tradition it is narrated, “Acquire more and more friends, because on the Day of Judgment each believer shall exercise his right of intercession (shafa’at).” Thus a person with maximum believer companions not only happy in this world but also enhances his chances of intercession and consequently, salvation in the Hereafter.
For us Muslims who are living in a society where we are clearly a minority, the issue of choosing right companions is essential for preserving our religion (Deen). Befriending righteous and virtuous Muslims is an essential means for staying on the Straight Path. Strong individuals are the core of a strong community, something that Muslims should always strive for.
We all know that Allah (SWT), the Most High has brought us to life in order to test us. Thus we are here for a relatively short period of time and that we shall meet Allah (SWT) one Day, so we need to use our present life for what is best for us in the Hereafter. Once we know our purpose and our goal in life, we should seek ways to achieve them so as to benefit our own selves.
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) considers real friends as the treasures of this world and the hereafter, and he says: “Find friends for yourself from among your coreligionist brethren, since they are the treasures of this world and also the next world.”
The point to which the leaders of Islam pay great attention in connection with friendship, is that, it may be considered worthy only if it is fostered for the sake of Allah (SWT), and a reliable friend is the one whose friendship is based on spirituality. Imam Ali Reza (as) elucidates, “One who takes up a friend to please Allah (SWT), has reserved for himself a house in Paradise.” To choose someone for friendship purely on the basis of his piety and faith, only to satisfy Allah (SWT) is akin to earmarking a place in Paradise.
This was one facet of friendship. Now let us look at the flip side. A friendship that is made for the sake of wealth, position, beauty and such things will disappear automatically when those factors come to an end. No material thing can act as the basis of a lasting friendship or produce happiness. Imam Ali (as) narrates, “Any friendship and companionship that is not for Allah’s pleasure, is deviation and to rely on such ties (of friendship) is impossible.”
Lot of people establishes their bonds of friendship and enmity based on the gain they are likely to accrue on a personal level. That is, if a person has some utility, he qualifies as a friend, else he is an enemy. However, that should never be the benchmark for Muslims.
Another point to which Islam attaches much importance is the choice of a friend. From the viewpoint of Islamic leaders, one should not make friends with each and every individual, since there are some persons whose friendship is harmful and dangerous. Without any doubt, every friend affects the material and spiritual affairs of his own companion, and each of them unconsciously influences the ideas, morals and conduct of the other.
Friends are by no means only a means for ‘time-pass’ or entertainment:
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) Says: “Make friends with ones who are higher than you so that you progress.” Friends are by no means only a means for ‘time-pass’ or entertainment. Indeed friendship is more profound than that. Friendship and companionship are inseparable aspects of an individual’s life. Experience has shown, too, that many friendships have changed the destiny of individuals and their course of life. Friends influence each other’s ways, faith and religion. That is why while Islam has emphasized the importance of friendship, it has also stressed on the qualities that a friend should necessarily possess. It has clearly demarcated who is worthy of friendship and who is not.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said: “Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you associate with.” And at another place Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said: “A person is likely to follow the faith (Iman) of his friend, so look whom you befriend.”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) who has the noblest character and dealings with fellow humans gave us a very clear and simple message and advice in regard to friendship.
Friendship with worthy individuals is a great factor of happiness; and friendship and companionship with impure and polluted fellows are a cause of decline and distress.
Some people are so confident of their own purity and nobility; they imagine that they will not be subject to any harm in their association with wicked persons. They consider their personality as strong enough not to be influenced by vices. However, they forget that cotton wool gets aflame by proximity with fire, and glass breaks when it comes in contact with stones. Unfortunately, corruption and impurity can very quickly affect the human spirit, and easily make it catch fire like gunpowder, and burn the entire world with their flame.
Supposing you are so dignified and noble that you aren’t influenced by the wicked persons you associate with. What will people say about you? Will they not consider you as one of the rabble when you associate with them?
One of the Hadith says as: “Don’t judge anyone’s goodness or badness until you see his friend, since a person is recognized by his likes and companions, and is related to his friends.”
It would be impossible not to be affected deeply in our character by association with those around us, since man is by nature, an imitator, and everyone is more or less influenced by the conduct, manners and ideas of friends and companions.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Man imitates his friends. Hence, you must consider them whom you want to befriend.”
Association with biased and selfish people produces great losses since the effect of their character leads to the obscurity and limitation of thought, and to the death of the spirit of manliness and noble qualities. If association with them continues for a long time, the heart becomes heavy and hardened, moral powers are weakened, and willpower, sense of progress and excelling are destroyed in man. On the contrary, friendship and contact with those who are wiser, more experienced than us, are very valuable since their association breathes a new spirit into us, teaches us better way of life, and reforms our views about the attitude towards others. It appears as if they make us share their wisdom, knowledge and experience.
Thus, for building up morality nothing is more useful and effective than association with learned and active individuals, since such contact enhances our mental powers, adds to our willpower, sublimate to our objective in the world, and prepares us for managing our own affairs and assisting others.
How should we choose our friends according to Islam?
We should choose the friend that believes in and abide by our religion (Islam) and gives great respect to what Allah (SWT) and Prophet Muhammad (saw) had ordered us. And we should stay away from the one who is not well mannered and gives no attention to what Islam is about or what pleases or displeases Allah (SWT), for he will surely affect us negatively. There is no good if the companion drowns us in sins and displeasing Allah (SWT). The bases for the actions of those who follow the evil ways are corrupt; their actions are built upon misguidance and deviation.
Good friends are those who share with their companions both happiness and sadness. If we share our feelings with the wrongdoers whose actions are worthless and based on corruption, then we are following the same ways and standards as they are doing, and we will end up being as corrupt as they are, and then we are in a big trouble, how can we face Allah’s (SWT) dissatisfaction and displeasure? Instead of making friends with the misguided ones we should befriend the righteous, yet treat the rest in a gracious and just manner.
Staying at sufficient distance is necessary; yet treating everybody in a noble and kind manner is required. The danger of having corrupt friends isn’t confined to the worldly life. Such friendships produce repentance on the Day of Resurrection, too!
Allah (SWT), the Exalted says in the Noble Qur’an: “And (remember) the day when the unjust one shall bite his hands saying: O! Would that I had taken a way with the Messenger! O woe is me! Would that I had not taken such a one for a friend! Certainly he led me astray from the reminder after it had come to me;” (Surah Al-Furqan, 25:27-29)
The two main regrets on the day of judgment are:
– (1) Not following Prophet Muhammad (saw) on the path of guidance and;
– (2) Befriending a person who diverted one from the truth.
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) has said: “The felicity of this and the next world lie in two things: firstly, keeping secrets; and secondly, friendship with the good. And the miseries of this and the next world are summed up in two things: firstly, divulging secrets; and secondly, friendship with wicked persons.”
So take heed before the inevitable day of judgment comes and we are reckoned for our acts. Allah (SWT), the Exalted says in the Noble Qur’an: “Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqun (i.e. those who have Taqwa/Piety).” (Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:67)
It is wise to choose moderation in dealing with friends. Excessive love and confidence in friends are unacceptable since it happens that a friend may change into an enemy and use the secrets that he had shown as weapons. Allah (SWT), the Exalted says in the Noble Qur’an: “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression.” (Surah Al-Maeda, 5:2)
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) said: “When you cherish someone you should cherish him moderately for he may be your enemy someday, and when you hate someone you should hate him moderately for he may be your friend someday.” Also said: “If you intend to cut yourself off from a friend, leave some scope for him from your side by which he may resume friendship if it so occurs to him some day.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: “The secrets that you must show before your friends are only those through which your enemies cannot harm you, for a friend may change into an enemy.”
Who should not be befriended according to the philosophy of Islam?
When choosing our friends we should ask ourselves first: Are they going to help us achieve the purpose for which we were brought to life? Or will they take us away from it? Will they desire for us Allah’s (SWT) pleasure or is that completely irrelevant to them and not their concern at all? Are they leading us to Paradise or to the Hell?
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as) narrates from his father who said, “O my son don’t befriend five types of people:
1. Don’t befriend a liar (Kadhib). For a liar is like a mirage. He shows the distant as near and the near as distant. He will always deceive you and trouble you.
2. Don’t befriend a transgressor (Ghasib). For he will forsake you for a paltry sum and make your sins appear very alluring to you. He will make you a victim of Allah’s chastisement through his petty sins and take you farther away from His obedience and satisfaction. He will make Allah’s worship appear as His disobedience, and His disobedience as His worship. He will drag you along with himself in the fire of hell.
3. Never befriend a miser (Bakheel/Kanjus). For in your time of need and distress, he will withhold his wealth from you, while he is in a position to assist you. (He values his wealth more than anything else. And to that end he is prepared to forsake even his friends)
4. Do not befriend a fool (Ahmaq). For (in his foolishness) he will harm you while he intends to help you. (That is why it is said, ‘A shrewd enemy is better than a foolish friend’)
5. Don’t befriend the one who breaks relations (with his relatives/Khata Rahmi). For, such a person has been cursed in the Noble Qur’an in three places. He is engrossed in his own affairs with scant regard for others. (Friendship with such a person will eventually lead the individual towards sins and disobedience of Allah)”
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) said: “Do not befriend a sinner (Fasiq/Fajir) because he will sell you for a morsel.”
Imam Sajjad (as) said: “Do not make anyone your enemy even though you consider him harmless and do not turn down a person’s friendship even if you think he will not benefit you.”
The Noble Qur’an says, “The hypocritical men and the hypocritical women are all alike; they enjoin evil and forbid good and withhold their hands; they have forsaken Allah, so He has forsaken them; surely the hypocrites are the transgressors.” (Surah Al-Tawba, 9:67)
On the other hand, Noble Qur’an discusses the believers in the following manner, “And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Messenger; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Surah Al-Tawba, 9:71)
The two Qur’anic verses mentioned above only go to show how critical a role friendship can play in our lives. A true friend then, is the one who takes us closer to Allah’s (SWT) compassion and grace.
Having deliberated at length on who should not be befriended, we shall now see what kind of people should be befriended. Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) narrates, “Friendship entails certain trusts and duties. Then the one who observes these obligations is a true friend and the one who breaches this trust is unworthy of friendship.
These obligations are as follows:
1. He should be the same outside as he is inside. In other words, he should not have a dual personality. (In this age however, we often come across people who are exceptionally humble and modest on the outside, with little, if any humility, on the inside)
2. He will consider your virtues as his virtues and your misdeeds as his misdeeds. (In other words your virtues will cheer him and your faults will grieve him. God forbid, he must not feel relieved after observing some vice in you, and take solace from the fact that he himself is above that vice.)
3. If he acquires a position of power and authority, it must not bring about a drastic change in his attitude. In other words, prosperity must not transform the individual adversely. (There are some people who make the best of friends in adversity. But a positive change in their financial condition reveals a dark, hitherto unknown side of their personality. On the other hand we see some people who make good friends in prosperity, but misfortune transforms them, disclosing their fickleness.)
4. He must give his friendship (with you) priority over all his worldly possessions. In other words in times of adversity, he must be willing to give his all to redeem you.
5. He must never leave you alone in times of misfortune and distress.”
There are three types of ‘friends’…
Those that are necessary like nourishment and you cannot live without them; those that are like medicine and are beneficial, so you need them sometimes; and finally, those that are like a sickness and you do not need them at all!
Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said, “The believer is like a mirror to other believers (in truthfulness).” Like a mirror, your friend gives you an honest image. He forgives your mistakes, but does not hide or exaggerate your strengths and weaknesses.
Once Prophet Muhammad (saw) was asked, “What person can be the best friend?” “He who helps you remember Allah (SWT), and reminds you when you forget Him,” the Prophet Muhammad (saw), counseled.
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) said: “A friend cannot be considered a friend unless he is tested on three occasions: in time of need, behind your back and after your death.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) also remarks, “My best friend is the one who gifts me my weaknesses and shortcomings.” In other words one who brings to your notice your defects and flaws is indeed your true friend.
However, there is one very imperative point in the above-mentioned tradition of Imam Jafar Sadiq (as). When one presents an offering to a close friend, he does so with utmost care, not willing to overlook anything. He offers the gift with total respect and regard. For, even the most valuable gift if not presented with correct etiquette, can look very ordinary.
While presenting the offering, the friend tries to make the most expensive gift seem very ordinary so as to not embarrass the recipient. On the other hand, the recipient of this gift tries to make even the most ordinary gift seem very precious, so as to please his friend.
Similarly, when we wish to point out certain shortcomings to a friend, we must do so with a degree of respect and sincerity. Our sole intention must be to reform the friend and there should be no hint of any malice and self-righteousness. Likewise, when a friend highlights for us, our defects, we must acknowledge the same with respect and gratitude without any ill will and hostility. Imam Hassan Askari (as) Says: “Those who advise their friend secretly are respecting them, and those who advise them openly are humiliating them.”
Indeed if we establish these as the standards of friendship, the believers shall soon find themselves enveloped with friends who will take them closer to Paradise and farther away from the fire of hell.
Allah (SWT) says in the Noble Qur’an: O you who believe! Take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did. (Surah Al-Maeda, 5:105)
There are certain tips to remember if you wish to keep a stable friendship.
1.Do not dispute with him and do not be hostile to him.
2.Do not ridicule him. Do not quarrel with him. Instead accord friends the respect they deserve.
Imam Hassan (as) Says: “Befriend people in the same manner you would like them to befriend you.”
3 Do not hold him in contempt nor consider him to be lower than you. Instead guard the honor of your friends during their absence and after their death.
4. Do not claim precedence and supremacy over him. Instead forgive the short-comings of your friends, because everyone makes mistakes in life.
5. Do not crack indecent jokes with him.
Finally, we ask Allah (SWT) to make us of the righteous ones and give us companions that will take us away from His Wrath and lead us to His Pleasure and Paradise. (T/HSH/E1)
1. Stephen E. Ambrose’s book: “Comrades”
2. “FRIENDSHIP” by – Eleanor Roosevelt
3. “FRIENDSHIP” by – Nancy Studnicka
6. The Holy Al Qur’an‘s Tafsir (The Holy Qur’an Program Version 8.0) by Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Khan
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)