Due to obvious reasons we are more inclined to befriend like-minded individuals. Someone who’s there for us when we need them, someone who empathises with us when we’re stressed out, someone who understands us and thinks in the same way that we do, this is the basic criteria of choosing a friend. So if we have friends whom our parents don’t approve of, friends who behave in a shameless and immoral manner, friends who break all the limits ordained by Allah (swt), what does this reveal about us?
Human nature is imitation; we automatically subconsciously copy the actions of those who are around us. In other words those who have a close friendship with people who are immoral or evil will be negatively affected by them. This effect does not appear suddenly, but is a gradual process that unfolds with time. If one believes that they will be able to remain indifferent around immoral people, then they are only deluding their own selves. Social pressure is an incredibly powerful force. It works by appealing to our desire not to be insulted, ridiculed, or criticised and instills in us a strong desire to fit in and feel accepted.
The Prophet (saw) likened good and bad company: bad company is like standing next to a furnace. Although you do not get burnt, the smoke comes onto you and others can smell the offensive odour on you. Similarly, keeping good company is like standing in a perfume shop, although you may not be wearing any perfume, other people will be able to smell the scent on you.
Traditionally it has been said that one should “not inquire about a man, but should observe his companions, for indeed one companion imitates the other”. Our Holy Prophet (saw) has said “A man takes on the religion of his companions”. The company of a person who delays or neglects prayer, is disrespectful to his parents or is promiscuous drags others into his way of life. On the other hand one takes on the praiseworthy characteristics of pious friends who can be a great source of help and support to leading a righteous life, as principled and morally conscious individuals.
It is embedded in our fitrat (natural disposition) to associate with others. However, when we associate ourselves with those who maybe giving in to temptation, we feel satisfied and smug with our spiritual state. We focus on their negative points and feel reassured that we are better then them. As a result we either become spiritually stalled or return to square one. In the same way when we associate ourselves with those individuals who are living their life according to the laws ordained by Allah (swt) we get a strong insight into our own shortcomings.
There are some people who feel at ease with the concept of having a close friendship with a member of the opposite sex. They reassure others and themselves, by telling them that they’ll never pursue the matter forward because they “don’t even see them in that way”. This self-justification allows them to meet a member of the opposite sex in private whenever they want without any feelings of guilt or unease.
This situation is similar to viewing a naked flame and wanting to touch it, (even though you know that you shouldn’t) in the hope that when you touch it won’t burn you…..but it still does. In the same way girl plus boy equals the inevitable. Girls were made for boys and boys were made for girls, they complement each other physically, mentally, psychologically, and even spiritually. This is why Islam does not recognize this kind of friendship. Regardless of how pure and sincere one is on their side, and how pure and sincere the other person is on their side, it’s still inevitable. This is why it is said that when a man and woman are alone together, the third person with them is Shayton (devil).
One can never put their hand on their heart and claim that they know what their male/female friend is thinking about at all time and one can never know whether the other is secretly carrying a torch for them. Which is why, it is better to be safe then sorry. One should also avoid so called platonic relationships with those whom they have a bit of a crush on, because that’s just asking for trouble.
Before making friends without anyone Imam Hassen Al Basri used to ask himself, whether this friendship would benefit him in the hereafter. The Holy Prophet (saw) said, "Allah (swt) has made it obligatory upon Himself to love those who love one another for His sake". In other words it is impossible for Allah (swt) NOT to love those who love one another for His sake. Therefore, loving one another for the sake of Allah (swt) can guarantee His love and is one way of becoming His Beloved.
This is a simple concept that holds many positive implications for the believer, yet how many of us love or befriend others for the sake of Allah (swt)? Not because we know them, not because we have any business with them, not because they have done us any favour in the past, but simply and only because being with them increases our love for Allah (swt). Unfortunately most of our friendships are based on worldly ulterior motives.
In conclusion, it is recognized in virtually all traditions and cultures that the company one keeps has inroads to ones heart and morality. When a person is surrounded by people who are sincere and pious, and has no ulterior motive out of his association; he only stands to benefit from them. One should know that Allah (swt) has promised seven types of people His shade on the Day of Judgment, as a mark of distinction and honour. Two people who love each other for the sake of Allah (swt) are one of those people. A friendship based on the love of Allah (swt) is of a divine nature. One should also realise that people with weak Iman (faith) are faced with internal conflicts which are fuelled by the pressures of society and bad company can ultimately lead to their destruction and downfall in this world and in the hereafter.
Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali said: Live as long as you may, for verily you must die. Love whoever you wish, for one day you shall taste its separation, and do what you will, you will be rewarded accordingly.
May Allah (swt) keep us in the blessed company of those whose hearts are illuminated with His light, Ameen.
By Alveena Salim