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How to Choose a Friend in Islam?

By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlullah
We observe that many youths are influenced by groups with different outlooks on thought and faith. This is due to the influence of feelings, whether these sentiments stem from relations with women, companions, friendship, or the like. Many people belonging to such groups may find-when they inquire further-that their affiliation is the result of feelings they developed during their relationship with a companion or friend.
A believer, therefore, must choose a friend at his level of faith, with whom he can develop and improve. Therefore, he must not befriend an ignoramus, who will lead him astray and cause him to perceive ignorance as a natural state in its own right, the hub of his fiend's life revolves. He must avoid befriending the foolish, who cannot see things in a balanced way; as stated in some sayings, "He misleads you when he wants to benefit you." He must not befriend the sinful who draw him into sin; the natural impact of friendship may cause one to admire another's habits, values, views, and actions. He must not make a non-believer his friend, insofar as this relationship makes him completely receptive to the latter's ideas, which are not viewed in any critical light.
Instead, he must choose an intelligent, contemplative, believing friend who has profound faith and whose outlook is in harmony with his regarding life. This way, he will not face the problem of conflict between functioning in the path he has chosen for himself and the confusing influences of his friend.

Cautioning Against Evil Friends
The gist of the idea then is that a person exercises influences, both positive and negative, on the perceptions of his companion. This relates the issue of friendship to the way a person conducts himself in different circumstances. We note these in the words of God, when He relates some images of the Resurrection; these images are as a direct result of the trials of human beings in life experiences. That day the wrongdoer will bite his hands, and God shall say, "O! Would that I had taken the path with the Messenger! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken this one as a friend! He did lead me astray from the Reminder after it had come to me. And Satan is but a traitor to humankind!" (Furqan, 25:27-29)
By studying this example which God (Exalted) gives to us, we see that a human being lives this grief and sorrow in his life as a consequence of having followed a distorted lifestyle. This is due to being influenced by his friendships with those who wish only evil for him. They exploit his compassion, which he acquired after reaching a stage that pushed him far away from God's mercy.

A Quranic Example
As an example, there is a general topic which the Quran speaks of regarding those who follow and those who are followed-this being in the form of suggestions to anyone living in the sphere of the arrogant or the oppressed. Perhaps we could derive from this a meaning that is comprehensive for the followers, even from the point of view of feelings-such as a husband who follows his wife out of affection, or a wife who follows her husband for the same reason, or a friend who follows his buddy. Those who are followed will clear themselves of those who followed: they will see the penalty and all relations between them would be severed. And those who followed will say: "If a return were possible for us, we would disown them as they have disowned us. Thus will God show them their own deeds as anguish for them. And they will not escape the fire" (al-Baqara, 2:167).
We can see that the Quran emphasizes that the followers also bear responsibility, even where there are material or emotional pressures which cause them to follow their twisted trail. For God draws the attention of humankind to the fact that they must benefit from this trial, and extricate themselves from the situations they find themselves in-wherever they are pressured. We construe this from another verse: "As for those whom the angels cause to die while they wrong themselves, they [the angels] shall say: What was your situation? They said: We were oppressed in the land The angels said: Was the earth not wide enough for you to emigrate (elsewhere) in it? The abode of those is the hellfire. What a horrible ending!" (al-Nisa, 4:97)
When God cast upon these oppressed people the responsibility for their own deviance, along with the arrogant and their wrong ways, He wanted for them to distance themselves from the perverse environment, that they might be relieved of pressures. This is implicit proof that a person should not place himself in a situation where there is the pressure of sentiment and the material things which may cause him to be negatively influenced. And when he finds himself in such an atmosphere, he must flee, freeing himself from it.
These educational guidelines, which are generally the Quran's point of departure, relate to the influence of one human over another. A person must retain his senses in order to avoid others overcoming his mind. He must extricate himself from pressure situations, and he must function on the basis of the unadulterated form of his faith.

Friends in the Hereafter
There is the verse "Friends on that day will be enemies to one another, except those who guard (against evil)" (al-Zukhruf, 43:67). From the previous discussion, we equally understand that the friendship built on everyday life incidents in this world will merit the charge of responsibility in the hereafter. Those friends who used to gather together in the world to waste time and to be idle, for deceit, perversion, or sin, etc., will face an inevitable result, each person assuming responsibility for having guided the other astray. And it is normal that friendship should then change to enmity; each person who was so overcome by the influence of friendship as to deviate from the right path will discover that his friend was actually an enemy in the guise of a friend.
But the pious who assisted each other in piety and godliness, mindful of God and exhorting truth and patience, will normally maintain their friendship; for it was positive in this world, their path clear which led to the good of this world as well as the hereafter.

The Rights of Friends
In sayings about social relations, we have "A Friend in need" and "In travel you know your brothers." What are the rights which one friend has over another?
The meaning here is that friendship is based on a sort of oneness of sentiment between two friends. When people speak of friendship, they speak of fidelity and sacrifice. It is probable that the saying "A friend in time of need" or "You know your friends while on travel" relates to the difficulties which help display the sterling qualities of a person. When we reflect on friendship and what it encompasses in terms of sentiments towards the aspect of faith, we see that Islam exhorts the believer to open himself up to his believing brother, sharing with him his distress, overcoming his difficulties, answering his needs, aiding him in all his affairs, protecting him in body, property, and honor.
The believing person, in a brotherhood of faith strengthened by the bonds of friendship, recognizes his friend in times of hardship and travail, and in all times of difficulty in his life.

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