Yeah, I know, I got the saying wrong, but it does make a better alliteration. Anyways, the point is that you assemble with who you resemble (another alliteration, or rhyme, or whatever…). Whether it be in race, origin, background, ideology, thinking or action; you hang out with who and what is familiar to you. Which, in a way, is normal; the less difference, the less disagreement. Let’s face it, differences are what cause disagreement and ultimately conflict. So when it comes to choosing friends, one more often than not limits the differences. Why, because you actually get to chose who is your friend, unlike your family or your neighbors; your friends are of your own doing.
Now, as the next sayings goes: “Tell me who are your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”, and this other one in Arabic: “As-Sahib, Saheb”, meaning: “The friend can drag”. Explanation, please!? The fact that you chose your friends, anoints them with a kind of invincible power over you that compels you To follow along Regardless of the outcome. Now, this could be detrimental to one’s self if it involves wrongful conduct (stealing, drugs, intimidation) but can only be characterized as fruitful if righteous conduct is involved. For instance, there is a car stuck in the snow (yes in Canada we have snowbanks the size of houses), you see this but you don’t react, so you keep on going minding your own business. However, your friend says:
- C’mon let’s go!
and the only thing meant by his words is “help”. Therefore, by doing so, you’ve just alleviated someone’s turmoil (asking for help, paying for towing, arriving late, etc.). The fact that your friend dragged you into something was actually beneficial for you. Here is an example of what a bad acquaintance is capable (or almost capable) of doing.
And they will approach one another blaming each other.
They will say, “Indeed, you used to come at us from the right.”
The oppressors will say, “Rather, you [yourselves] were not believers,
And we had over you no authority, but you were a transgressing people.
So the word of our Lord has come into effect upon us; indeed, we will taste [punishment].
Sourat As-Saffat (37 – 27-31)
And they will come out [for judgement] before Allah all together, and the weak will say to those who were arrogant, “Indeed, we were your followers, so can you avail us anything against the punishment of Allah ?” They will say, “If Allah had guided us, we would have guided you. It is all the same for us whether we show intolerance or are patient: there is for us no place of escape.”
Sourat Ibrahim (14 – 21)
As for the people of Heaven
And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other.
A speaker among them will say, “Indeed, I had a companion [on earth]
Who would say, ‘Are you indeed of those who believe
That when we have died and become dust and bones, we will indeed be recompensed?'”
He will say, “Would you [care to] look?”
And he will look and see him in the midst of the Hellfire.
He will say, “By Allah, you almost ruined me.
If not for the favor of my Lord, I would have been of those brought in [to Hell].
Sourat As-Saffat (37 – 50-57)
This also reminds me how Allah recompenses a believer when he is in good company on Earth:
Allah (glorified and exalted be He) has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah’s name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, filling that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven. He (the Prophet (ﷺ)) said: Then Allah (mighty and sublime be He) asks them – [though] He is most knowing about them: From where have you come? And they say: We have come from some servants of Yours on Earth: they were glorifying You (Subhana llah), exalting you (Allahu akbar), witnessing that there is no god but You (La ilaha illa llah), praising You (Al-Hamdu lillah), and asking [favours] of You. He says: And what do they ask of Me? They say: They ask of You Your Paradise. He says: And have they seen My Paradise? They say: No, O Lord. He says: And how would it be were they to have seen My Paradise! They say: And they ask protection of You. He says: From what do they ask protection of Me? They say: From Your Hell-fire, O Lord. He says: And have they seen My Hell-fire? They say: NO. He says: And how would it be were they to have seen My Hell-fire: They say: And they ask for Your forgiveness. He (the Prophet (ﷺ)) said: Then He says: I have forgiven them and I have bestowed upon them what they have asked for, and I have granted them sanctuary from that from which they asked protection. He (the Prophet p.b.u.h) said: They say: O Lord, among them is So-and-so, a much sinning servant, who was merely passing by and sat down with them. He (the Prophet p.b.u.h) said: And He says: And to him [too] I have given forgiveness: he who sits with such people shall not suffer.
40 Hadith Qudsi, English book reference, Hadith 14.
Another important factor, when it comes to a friend, is that the religion of Islam is the only jurisdiction that defines the right of a friend over you. As far as I know, no law, constitution or code engages you to be responsible in front of the law towards your friend. In Islam, you have a duty to help him materially if he is in need (and you have the means); you must check on him should he fall ill; and you have the obligation to keep him on Allah’s path by enjoining him to do good and prevent him from doing injustice.
Another story that comes to mind is the one of Jaafar As-Sadiq who was asked, who was his dearest friend. To which he replied, it is Sufyan Ath-Thawriy, for the reason that Sufyan does not shy away to bring up my (Jaafar’s) faults. This is an example to learn from and apply, we are talking about two great Islamic scholars after all. It is not useful to have fair-weathered friends or yes-men surrounding you; you need someone who can tell you what you need to know even if you don’t want to hear it.
With this said, there are a lot of other obligations towards your friend but they are not exclusive or specific in nature; such as overlooking his faults, forgiving his mistakes, offering protection, providing company, etc. Now, even if you choose your friend diligently and do your part as a friend, you will never get through life without having an argument, the best among people argued.
For instance, Abu Bakr and Umar used to disagree and argue on different matters, to the point that they would leave the sitting angered. However, in the morning, they would always reconcile and mention “oh, how the night was long!” for not being in company with one another and for having regretted leaving one another angry.
Let’s all remember that disagreements are a mercy, but dissension is a scourge. Let’s face it, it is being with others that makes life interesting; friends are the spices of life. No spice, and your life is bland; too much spice, and it will burn you. So add carefully.
As for one final saying, a good friend is hard to find, harder to let go, and impossible to forget. So make the most of this privilege and responsibility in choosing a friend.