The Way of Friendship in Islam
By: M. Torabi
Human Beings in all phases of life, from the very beginning of childhood and youth till old-age, 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, he must benefit from the aid and cooperation of friends.
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 having no worthy companions.
Imam Ali ibn-e 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 co-religionist brethren, since they are the treasures of this world and also the next world.”
In another remark, the Imam considers virtuous friends as the equivalent of the noblest parts of the body, and he says:
“He who loses his pure-hearted friend whose friendship he has sought for the sake of Allah, resembles as if he has lost the noblest part of his body.”
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 God, and a reliable friend is the one whose friendship is based on spirituality.
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.
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. 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.
The Prophet of Islam (SAW) has said: “The way of each person accords with the faith and religion of his friend and companion.” (Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, vol. 4)
“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.” (Mustadrak-ul-Wasa’il, vol. 2)
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.
Socrates says: “Each person values something: someone desires wealth; another wants beauty; a third longs for honor, but in my opinion, a good friend is better than all of them.”
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 cottonwool 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.
He who is proud of his own excellence and doesn’t fear to have contact with the mean persons, is like an individual who builds his house on the course of a torrent, hoping that the force of the torrent cannot affect his house.
An old Arabic saying compares a bad companion with a blacksmith. If he does not burn you with his fire, his smoke will at least hurt your eyes!.
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?
The danger of having corrupt friends isn’t confined to the worldly life. Such friendships produce repentance on the Day of Resurrection, too!
The Holy Qur’an says about those who are to receive chastisement from God in future life:
“They wish that they had not made friends with the impious, for, it was they who misled them.” (5:32)
Imam Ali (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.” (al-Ikhtisas)
The Holy Prophet of Islam (SAW) says: “The happiest person is he who associates and befriends the magnificent.” (Amali Saduq)
A learned woman said to her children: “As our body is nourished by food to gain strength, so also our spirit acquires virtue or vice by association with good or bad 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.
The Spanish have a saying to the effect that going among wolves will teach you, howling!
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 will-power, 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 will-power, sublimate to our objective in the world, and prepares us for managing our own affairs and assisting others. (Ethics, Samuel Smiles)
I asked it if it was musk or perfume that intoxicated me with its fine fragrance. It said: “I used to be worthless clay, but kept the company of a flower a while; the perfection of my companion affected me, otherwise, I am still the clay that I was.”
The Sixth Imam, Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) says: “My father, while advising me, said:
“O my son! He, who associates with the wicked persons, will not remain safe from their injury. And he who steps into unsuitable places will become defamed; and he who cannot control his tongue, will become repentant.” (al-Khessal, vol. 1, p. 80)