Seeking a Friend
Some pointers below on things to look out for when seeking a friend:
We are advised that: "When you meet a person, don't listen to what he says, watch what he does, and you will know the truth of what he's saying." This means that one's manner and conduct reveals more of his real personality than his speech. One of the tragedies of today's society is that we love to quote what people say, without observing who they really are.
How does he treat others? What are his values? We are advised by the early people not to accompany those who have no principles in life and who live their lives in foolish manner, without direction. Accompanying them and being patient in hoping for change is like to sitting in a leaky boat on a stormy night: it will soon sink with or without you in it. Today, many good people divert their attention on people who they believe are good hearted, even if they do not live by any doctrines or values. Years later, they find themselves swept to the bottom of the ocean with their companion.
The diseases of one's character can infect others swiftly. Accompanying a corrupted soul or being in the company of corrupted people can take anyone away from goodness. Gradually, your own identity erodes, and you will become like those you spend time with.
2. Travelling and Finances:
One's personality is often tested during travels or have financial dealings. When travelling, a range of habits is revealed to expose a person's consideration, punctuality, hygiene, patience and ability to compromise. When dealing with money, a person's generosity, honesty, pettiness and character become obvious. Many friendships have fallen apart after travelling together, or after one lends the other some money, because the true colours are revealed and the other side cannot tolerate it.
One of the early Khalifas asked a wise man: "What does it take to grow our intellect?" The wise man replied: "Sit in the company of those who have it."
An important element of choosing a companionship should be his mind and intellect, comprising wisdom and understanding of life. One does not have to be highly educated to be wise, but one needs wisdom to lead a fulfilling life. A wise person will lead others to wisdom.
If you are serious about your journey towards the hereafter, find a companion with deen (the Islamic way of life). The Prophet (SAW), said, “The believer is a mirror to his faithful brother. He protects him against loss and defends him behind his back.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)
A person with deen is not just someone who recites the Qur'an well or wears a hijab. We have to look beyond the rituals and examine his qualities, being the heart and core of the person, his understanding of life, his behaviour and his attitude.
5. Other friends:
One can obtain an indication of the person's character by the friends he keeps. The Prophet (SAW) said, “A man is upon the religion of his friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
Abdullah ibn Mas'aud RA used to say: "Nothing leads to something without something, similar to the smoke which leads you to the fire." If you assess your companions you will know who you are and vice versa. The early people used to say: "Get to know a person and his companion before you make him your companion."
This is timeless advice. For example, if you want to marry someone, but you dislike all of that person's friends, this is a warning sign worth investigating. A person's friends is often more reflective of his character than his own behaviour.
6. A Similar Soul
Choose the one whom your heart feels comfortable with, and trust your first impression. If you feel tense or uneasy the first time you meet a person, then follow your instinct. However, this requires absolute honesty, for it is easy to be distracted by a person's appearances, charm and education – all these being superficial elements which disguise the soul.
This is not easy. If you are a mu'min, your heart will distinguish the truth clearly, and will easily be attracted to those of the truth. If your soul is tainted or your iman is weak, you will be unable to see through people, and your heart will be drawn to someone just like you. The danger is that you will indiscriminately admit everyone into your lives, because you cannot distinguish the good from the bad. You will probably regret their company later on, even though it may have been you who initiated that relationship.
If you fall into this category and you are trying to improve, you must embark on the journey of iman and to develop yourself. The purer your heart, the more your vision and understanding of life will be transformed. You may lose all your old companions in the process, because the way you perceive things will change, as will your priorities and values. It is common that you will find yourself a stranger amongst your own friends and will find more benefit in discarding their company rather than remaining in it, but later on, you will find new companions who have similar goals and values to yours. This is a normal process and is nothing to regret or feel sad about.
The early people used to live by the following creed: "Taste and examine those who you want to be your companions before you do so." It is better undergo hardship with a person before you make him your companion rather than engaging in a companionship where you start fighting later on.
Keeping the Companion
"Whoever does not seek the right companionship is paralysed. The one more paralysed than that is the one who got a good companionship and lost it."
An early wise man classified companionship into three. The first level is like food, essential to our existence. The second level is like medication which we need sometimes. The third is like disease and poison, which we don't need at all.
A good companion is a treasure that should never be relinquished. Once you meet someone with manner, character and wisdom, you would be crazy to let that companion go. Such people are very few and far between.
We often see how people destroy themselves by keeping the toxic and diseased companionship which destroys their lives. A genuine companionship either benefits you, or benefits from you. A healthy relationship leads to goodness. A companionship from which neither party benefits is a disgrace and loss.
No companionship is perfect and sometimes the friendships can be at risk. The crucial point to remember is that no one is perfect. Regardless of how good the person, he is human and has flaws. Don't dwell on the small mistakes. Preserving a good companionship outweighs winning an argument over a tiny slip-up. This applies to all the valuable people in your life, including family, spouses and colleagues.
This needs justice, value and respect to your relationship. It requires a long-term vision of life and a deep understanding of the value the companionship. Underline "value" a hundred times – learn to value those who benefit us, support us to navigate this life and the hereafter.
Today, we tend to focus on this life, living for the moment and dedicating our time to the companions that make us go astray. Many of us are willing to be humble in order to preserve a companionship that can destroy us. Yet, upon finding a good companion, we do not have the patience to nurture and guard it. We are not appreciative of those who try to lead us to goodness, because the lure of dunia's and its immediate pleasures is often too addictive to resist. I consider this as one of the ultimate blindness and lack of value in today's complicated society.
Many elements of our lives are topsy turvy. Traditionally, all the good people of the earth, regardless of origin, emphasized goodness, integrity, character and manner. These characteristics used to be fundamental in any relationship they chose to engage in. Society today has diminished and swapped these crucial elements with rhetoric and meaningless talk, leading to pretentious, hollow and even destructive relationships. We need to return to the principles of manner and moral values to achieve a successful and beneficial relationship.
Ultimately, it depends on what we want in life. If it is the journey of iman that we are seeking, we will make every decision to elevate our iman, including keeping the right company to help us in our journey. May Allah guide us towards the best companions in this life and in the hereafter, ameen.