It is natural for people to form friendships with others whom they interact with on a regular basis. Friendships can be formed through growing up in the same neighbourhood, meeting at school, college, university, social gatherings and via a number of other activities.
Friendship is something common amongst people, however there are different conceptions of it. Some common conceptions include the following: friends will always stick by your side, you can always rely on a friend, you can speak freely to your friend and tell them your problems, friends like you for who you are, etc. When people have personal problems such as disputes with their family members or if they require advice they usually turn to their friends.
Friendship in the West
Friendship in the West is based on benefit. Friends come together on the basis of mutual interest, so they will go to the cinema, parties and clubbing together. They talk about the opposite sex freely to each other and hide each others secrets even if they involve evil actions. They often gain comfort in backbiting and winging about other people who they don't like. Unfortunately some Muslims carry the Western notion of friendship as they follow the crowd rather than to looking to Islam for solutions.
Due to the fact that friendship is based on benefit in the West, it is easy for people to 'break out' with each other, have rows and even become enemies. This happens when their interests conflict and can be over petty things such as not going for a night out with them or larger things such as betrayal. In many cases people even talk negatively about some of their friends in front of others and even betray them by having affairs with their wife, sisters or girlfriend.
As Tupac Shakur, one of the most well known gangster rappers looked up to by many around the world said when asked about whether he keeps in touch with his friends, “On the whole, I don't have any friends. Friends come and go; I've lost my trust factor.” [June 1996, From the book "Tupac Shakur by the editors of VIBE."]
Friends even become status symbols, so people long to 'hang out' with a particular crowd to look cool. Often crowds have leaders with egos, so staying on the right side of certain people is important if you want to be accepted. For some this means 'sucking up' to them, for others it means undertaking actions to make them think you’re 'cool'.
Friendship in the West is based on using each other. The proof of this can be seen in the fact that when friends became unusable they drift apart. Typically, if someone’s friend was to suddenly change and stop clubbing, partying and drooling over the opposite sex at every opportunity they would start treating them differently and normally fall out with them. Especially if this person begins to account them when they are wrong and advise them upon their actions repeatedly. As an example if someone begins to practise Islam and stops committing Haram and advises his friends to do the same. Those with the Western concept of friendship would change their attitude towards them and they would be distanced and only occasionally spoken to. The reason for this is that it there is no more benefit in their eyes to keep a close relationship with them, in fact it completely contradicts their lust for pleasure as when the person speaks about Islam it is seen as an attack on their lifestyle.
Friendship in Western societies is normally false as the society is founded on greed, individualism and following lusts. Friendship in Islam is true as it is based on sincerity, trust and Taqwa (piety).
Friendship in Islam
Islam recognises that a Muslim will naturally spend more time with certain people and be more comfortable with them in raising their personal problems and issues. This does not mean in any way that the rest of the Muslims are not their brothers and sisters whom they love, rather all that it means that they will be closer to certain people than others just as people are usually closer to their family than others.
Islam recognises that friends have a strong influence on people and that their environment will affect the strength of their relationship with Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala). The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
المرء على دين خليله فلينظر أحدكم من يخالل
“A person follows the Deen (way of life) of his close friend; therefore let each of you look carefully at whom he chooses for friends.” [Tirmidhi]
A Muslim should choose friends that will advise him and remind him of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) rather than lure him to the path of Shaytan. It has also been narrated that our friends in the Dunya (world) will be our friends in the Akhira (afterlife). It is therefore vital for a Muslim to choose good friends.
The love between two Muslim friends is such that they would confide in each other, help each other in times of need and strengthen each other’s commitment to the Deen of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala). The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) encouraged for Muslims who have love for each other not to keep it to themselves.
It has been narrated by al-Bukhari in al-Adaabul-Mufrad (no. 191) that Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
إذا أحب أحدكم أخاه فليخبره أنه يحبه
“If one of you loves his brother for Allah’s sake, then let him tell him since it causes familiarity to endure and firmly establishes love.”
Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said,
(لا تدخلوا الجنة حتى تؤمنوا ولا تؤمنوا حتى تحابوا، ألا أدلكم على شيء إذا فعلتموه تحاببتم؟ أفشوا السلام بينكم)
“You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not guide you to something which if you carry out you will love one another. Spread as-Salaam amongst yourselves.” [Muslim]
Friendship in Islam is not based on using each other; on the contrary, helping each other to stay away from the Haram is fundamental to it. How could someone watch his brother burn without doing anything to save him? A person who did that would be ones worst enemy rather than a friend. Therefore Muslims always warn and advise each other. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
إن أحدكم مرآة أخيه فإذا رأى فيه شيئاً فليمطه عنه
"Each of you is the mirror of his brother, so if he sees any fault in him he should wipe it away from him." [Tirmidhi]
This means the purpose of confiding secrets to each other wouldn't be as in the Western values where people confide their secrets to feel good knowing that they will not be a comeback. Rather in Islam we confide our secrets to our friends to seek their sincere advice and help. So a Muslim will ask his friends about issues relating to marriage, problems within his family, troubles he feels at work or fears that he has.
Friendship has rules in Islam unlike in the West - to visit them especially when they are ill, to inquire about their family, feeding them when they are hungry, attending to their needs, keeping their private affairs to yourself and sharing your wealth with them without hesitation. It is related that Ibn Umar (ra) was looking about from right to left in the presence of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam), who asked the reason for doing so. Ibn Umar replied, “There is someone dear to me and I am searching for him, but do not see him”. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) then explained to him that if you love someone you should ask his name, his father’s name and where he lives as well as visit him when he is sick and help him if he was busy.
Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) said, "Encountering your brothers lifts all grief. If Allah blesses you with good relations with another Muslim, hold fast to it".
Rule of friendship with non-Muslims
As Muslims living in the West we interact with non-Muslims on a daily basis whether at work, University, college or in society at large. It is incorrect for us to cut ourselves completely from them and live in isolation. We should aim at building relationships with them in order to give them Da’wa to embrace Islam. Therefore we should have them as acquaintances, however this does not mean that we are allowed to have them as close friends, as Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا بِطَانَةً مِنْ دُونِكُمْ لَا يَأْلُونَكُمْ خَبَالًا وَدُّوا مَا عَنِتُّمْ
"O you who believe, take not into intimacy those outside your ranks: they will not fail to corrupt you." [TMQ Al-Imran: 118]
Not taking them as close friends means that you don’t share with them your innermost thoughts and feelings. For no matter how well you know them, they reject Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) and His Messenger (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam). The bond of Iman is even stronger than that of kinship. An example of this can be seen after the great battle of Badr, the Quraysh prisoners of war were bought to the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) who assigned them to the custody of individual Muslims. The Messenger (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said, “Treat them well.” Amongst the prisoners was Abu Aziz ibn Umayr, the brother of Mus’ab ibn Umayr (ra). Abu Aziz narrates what happened, “I was among a group of Ansaar…Whenever they had lunch or dinner they would give me bread and dates to eat in obedience to the Prophet’s instruction to them to treat us well. My brother, Mus’ab ibn Umayr, passed by me and said to the man holding me prisoner, “Tie him firmly… His mother (i.e. Mus’ab’s own mother) is a woman of great wealth and maybe she would ransom him for you.” Abu Aziz ibn Umayr could not believe his ears. Astonished, he turned to Mus’ab and asked: “My brother, is this your instruction concerning me?” Mus’ab ibn Umayr (ra) replied, “He is my brother, not you!” pointing to the Ansaari Sahabi holding him, affirming that in the battle between the Haq (truth) and Batil (falsehood), the bonds of Iman are stronger than the ties of kinship.
Prohibition of backbiting, slander, envy, jealousy & grudges
The relationship of friendship is one of trust as a good Muslim is trustworthy and not deceitful, betraying or a backbiter. In reality this makes the love between friends in Islam stronger than friendship according to Western values as there is no constant thinking about whether your friend is speaking ill of you to other people or whether they are having a hidden relationship with your sister or wife.
Islam has prohibited backbiting and slander and thus removing the cause of suspicion and doubt amongst people. Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيم
“Neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother. You abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.” [Al-Hujarat: 12]
It is narrated by Abu Dawud on the authority of Anas (RA), the Messenger of Allah said:
لما عرج بي مررت بقوم لهم أظفار من نحاس يخمشون وجوههم وصدورهم فقلت من هؤلاء يا جبريل قال هؤلاء الذين يأكلون لحوم الناس ويقعون في أعراضهم
“On the night of Isra I passed by some people who had copper nails and they were clawing their faces and chests with them. I asked Jibriel: Who are these persons? He said: These are the people who eat the flesh of human beings and disgrace them.”
Islam also forbids envy and jealousy which are the common causes of problems amongst friends in Western societies. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
لَا تَقَاطَعُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَحَاسَدُوا وَكُونُوا عِبَاد اللَّه إِخْوَانًا وَلَا يَحِلّ لِمُسْلِمٍ أَنْ يَهْجُر أَخَاهُ فَوْق ثَلَاثَة أَيَّام
“Do not have malice against a Muslim; do not be envious of other Muslims; do not go against a Muslim and forsake him. O the slaves of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala)! Be like brothers with each other. It is not violable for a Muslim to desert his brother for over three days”. [Sahih Muslim, Tirmithi]
Belittling each other is almost a pastime in the West. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
بحسب امرئ من الشر أن يحقر أخاه المسلم
“The believer can do no worse than belittle his brother”. [Ihya Uloom ad Deen]
A Muslim should not hold grudges against another Muslim even if they are differing personalities. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) warned against this when he said,
“The gates of Paradise will be open on Mondays and on Thursdays, and every servant [of Allah] who associates nothing with Allah will be forgiven, except for the man who has a grudge against his brother. [About them] it will be said: Delay these two until they are reconciled; delay these two until they are reconciled; delay these two until they are reconciled”. [Muslim]
Friends should feel at ease with each other without feeling inferior or superior. Ego’s must be tamed according to Islam.
It is important to conceal a friends faults, this does not mean that we ignore them; it means that we advise them and help them overcome their shortcomings.
Uqbah ibn Amir narrated that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
من ستر عورة مؤمنٍ فكأنَّما استحيا موءودةً من قبرها
“He who sees something which should be kept hidden and conceals it, it will be like the one who has brought to life a girl buried alive.” [Hadith 2292: Abu Dawud]
Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah's Apostle (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
ومن ستر مسلما ستره الله في الدنيا والآخرة والله في عون العبد ما كان العبد في عون أخيه
“He who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in the world and in the Hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother.” [Hadith 1245: Muslim]
Generosity & Kindness
Sharing wealth with others is greatly encouraged in Islam. This encourages trust and closeness amongst people. It is sometimes difficult for Muslims to grasp this principle especially when they are affected by Western society which promotes greed and selfishness. Giving someone something without expecting anything in return is uncommon in the West even amongst friends. When the non-Muslims give each other presents such as on Birthday’s, Christmas, New Year’s or when someone leaves the work place it is done more out of tradition and knowing that they will get something in return rather than sincerity.
Imam Bukhari narrated that our beloved Messenger Muhammad (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى يحب لأخيه ما يحب لنفسه
“None amongst you believes (truly) till one likes for his brother, that which he loves for his himself”.
Examples of this perspective towards others can be clearly seen in the companions of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam).
It is transmitted by Imam Ahmad, in Al-Bidayah, volume 3, page 228 that Anas (ra) narrated, “When Abdur-Rahman ibn Auf (ra) immigrated to Medina, the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) established brotherhood between him and Sa’d ibn Al-Ansari (ra). Afterwards Sa’d said to Abdur-Rahman ibn Auf, ‘O my brother! I am a wealthy person of Medina. Look! Here is half of my wealth, take it! I have 2 wives. I will divorce one of them whom you like more so that you may marry her.’ Abdur-Rahman ibn Auf replied, ‘May Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) prosper your family and wealth, just show me the way to the market so that I may make my fortune with my own hands.”
The Ansaar of Medina were extremely generous to their brothers, the Muhajireen from Makkah. Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that they once approached the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) with the request that their orchards of palm trees should be distributed equally between the Muslims of Medina and the Muslims of Makkah. But the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) was reluctant to put this heavy burden upon them. It was, however, decided that the Muhajireen would work in the orchards along with the Ansaar and the yield would be divided equally amongst them.
Friends should have informality with each other so that they are not hesitant in asking for anything when in need. This can be seen from the example of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) and his dear friend Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) had stayed at his house when after arriving into Madina whilst he was waiting for the mosque to be built. The Prophet stayed in Abu Ayyub's house for almost seven months until his mosque was completed on the open space where his camel had stopped. He then moved to the roots which were built around the mosque for himself and his family. He thus became a neighbour of his friend Abu Ayyub.
Abu Ayyub continued to love the Prophet (saw) with all his heart and the Prophet (saw) also loved him dearly. There was no formality between them. The Prophet (saw) continued to regard Abu Ayyub's house as his own. The following anecdote tells a great deal about the relationship between them. Abu Bakr (ra) once left his house in the burning heat of the midday sun and went to the mosque. Umar (ra) saw him and asked, "Abu Bakr, what has brought you out at this hour? Abu Bakr said he had left his house because he was terribly hungry and Umar said that he had left his house for the same reason. The Prophet (saw) came up to them and asked; "What has brought the two of you out at this hour?" They told him and he (saw) said, "By Him in Whose hands is my soul, only hunger has caused me to come out also. But come with me."
They went to the house of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. His wife opened the door and said, "Welcome to the Prophet and whoever is with him."
"Where is Abu Ayyub?" asked the Prophet (saw). Abu Ayyub, who was working in a nearby palm grove, heard the Prophet's voice and came hurriedly. "Welcome to the Prophet and whoever is with him," he said and went on "O Prophet of God, this is not the time that you usually come." (Abu Ayyub used to keep some food for the Prophet every day. When the Prophet did not come for it by a certain time, Abu Ayyub would give it to his family). "You are right," the Prophet agreed. Abu Ayyub went out and cut a cluster of dates in which there were ripe and half ripe dates. "I did not want you to eat this," said the Prophet (saw). "Could you not have brought only the ripe dates?" "O Rasulullah, please eat from both the ripe dates (rutb) and the half ripe (busr). I shall slaughter an animal for you also.". "If you are going to, then do not kill one that gives milk," cautioned the Prophet (saw). Abu Ayyub killed a young goat, cooked half and grilled the other half. He also asked his wife to bake. When the food was ready, it was placed before the Prophet (saw) and his two companions. The Prophet (saw) took a piece of meat and placed it in a loaf and said, "Abu Ayyub, take this to Fatima. She has not tasted the like of this for days”. When they had eaten and were satisfied, the Prophet (saw) said reflectively: "Bread and meat and busr and rutb!" Tears began to flow from his eyes as he continued:
والذي نفسي بيده ، إن هذا لهو النعيم الذي تسالون عنه يوم القيامة، فكبر ذلك على صاحبيه. فقال : بل إذا أصبتم مثل هذا فقولوا : بسم الله ، فإذا شبعتم فقولوا: الحمدلله الذي اشبعنا ، وأنعم فأفضل فإن هذا كفاء بهذا
"This is a bountiful blessing about which you will be asked on the Day of judgment. If such comes your way, put your hands to it and say, Bismillah (In the name of God) and when you have finished say, Al hamdu lillah alladhee huwa ashbana wa anama alayna (Praise be to God Who has given us enough and Who has bestowed his bounty on us). This is best." [Ihya Uloom ad Deen]
In putting others first, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) demonstrated for us excellent examples. He (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) once entered a thicket with one of his companions and gathered two toothpicks, one of them crooked and the other straight. He gave the straight one to his companion, who said, “O Messenger of Allah, you are more entitled to the straight one than I!” The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) replied, “When a friend accompanies a friend, if only for one hour of the day, he will be asked to account for his companionship, whether he fulfilled his duty to Allah therein or whether he neglected it”. [Ihya Uloom ad Deen]
On another occasion the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) went out to a well in order to wash. Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman took a robe and stood screening the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) whilst he washed. Then Hudhayfa (ra) sat down to wash himself and Muhammad (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) took the robe and screened Hudhayfa (ra) from view. Hudhayfa objected saying, “My father be your ransom, and my mother too! O Messenger of Allah, do not do it!” Yet he (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) insisted on holding the robe and said, “Each time two people are in company together, the dearer to Allah is he who is kinder to his companion”. [Ihya Uloom ad Deen]
Giving of gifts has also been recommended by the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) and he explained that it creates love between people.
It was reported by al-Bukhari in al-Adaabul-Mufrad (no. 594) that Rasool-Allah (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
“Give gifts and you will love one another”.
Kindness to our friends, helping them in need and consoling them in times of grief should become
natural to us for everyone needs help, a shoulder to cry on and someone to share their joy.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said, "Pay attention to your brothers for they are your provision in this life and in the hereafter. Do you not listen to the cry of the people of the fire?
فَمَا لَنَا مِنْ شَافِعِينَ * وَلَا صَدِيقٍ حَمِيمٍ
“So we have no one to intercede for us nor any dear friend” [Ash-Shu'araa: 100-101]
Loving someone for the sake of Allah
In the West people love each other for the sake of material benefits whereas in Islam we are encouraged to love each other for the sake of Allah. This means that we would undertake actions with regards to each other that even contradict our personal interests in order aid a friend or further our relationship with them.
It was reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
أن رجلا زار أخا له في قرية أخرى فأرصد الله له على مدرجته ملكا فلما أتى عليه قال أين تريد قال أريد أخا لي في هذه القرية قال هل لك عليه من نعمة تربها قال لا غير أنى أحببته في الله قال فإني رسول الله إليك بأن الله قد أحبك كما أحببته فيه
“A man went to visit a brother of his in another town and Allah deputed an angel to await him on his way, so when he came to him he said, “Where are you going?” He replied, “I am going to visit a brother of mine in this town.” He said, “Have you done him some favour which you desire to be returned?” He said, “No, it is just that I love him for Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent.” He said, “Then I am a messenger sent by Allah to you (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you have loved him for Allah’s sake.”
The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) also said:
من سره أن يجد حلاوة الإيمان فليحب المرء لا يحبه إلا الله
“Whoever would like to taste the sweetness of Iman (belief) then let him love a person only for Allah’s sake.” [Ahmad]
It was reported by Abu Dawud that Umar ibn al-Khattab narrated that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said:
" إِنَّ مِنْ عِبَاد اللَّه عِبَادًا يَغْبِطهُمْ الْأَنْبِيَاء وَالشُّهَدَاء " قِيلَ مَنْ هُمْ يَا رَسُول اللَّه لَعَلَّنَا نُحِبّهُمْ ؟ قَالَ " هُمْ قَوْم تَحَابُّوا فِي اللَّه مِنْ غَيْر أَمْوَال وَلَا أَنْسَاب وُجُوههمْ نُور عَلَى مَنَابِر مِنْ نُور لَا يَخَافُونَ إِذَا خَافَ النَّاس وَلَا يَحْزَنُونَ إِذَا حَزِنَ النَّاس " ثُمَّ قَرَأَ " أَلَا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاء اللَّه لَا خَوْف عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ "
“Indeed from the servants of Allah there are some who are not Prophets, yet they will be envied by the Prophets and the martyrs”. It was asked, “Who are they? That we may love them”. He (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said, “They are people who have mutual love through light from Allah, not due to kinship or ancestry, their faces will be enlightened, upon pillars of light, they will not fear when the people fear, or grieve when the people grieve”. Then he (SallAllahu alaihi wasallam) recited:
أَلاَ إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللَّهِ لاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
“No doubt! Verily, on the friends of Allah there is no fear nor shall they grieve.” [TMQ 10: 62]
In conclusion, it should be apparent that we can’t live in isolation and require company. Friendship provides a natural support structure the Muslim community. Therefore we should ensure that the company we keep helps us in remembering Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’aala) and strengthens our commitment to Islam. This is more important for us living in the West as the corrupt society continuously bombards us with its poisonous culture and attempts to catch us in its net.
Extract from the book 'Muslim Youth: Followers or Leaders', Al-Khilafah Publications.