A true friend then, is the one who takes us closer to Allah’s compassion and grace.
Making and becoming friends is inherent in man’s nature. This process of companionship commences right from the early stages of man’s life and continues till his death. Islam as explained before, is in complete harmony with man’s nature. Hence, it has dealt with this topic in some detail.
Friends are by no means only a means for ‘time-pass’ or entertainment. Indeed friendship is more profound than that. Friendship and companionship are inseparable aspects of an individual’s life. A friend’s character and personality will rub off on that individual. It is for this reason that it is said, ‘A man is known by the company he keeps.’ Hence Islam, while emphasising the need for companionship, also clearly outlines the qualities of a true friend.
The Holy Imams (a.s.) were at pains to explain the etiquette and decorum of true friendship. Hazrat Ali (a.s.) observes,
‘He indeed is unfortunate who does not have any friends, but worse is the one who has friends, but loses them.’
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 73 p.278)
Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) elucidates,
‘One who takes up a friend to please Allah, has reserved for himself a house in Paradise.’
(Amaalie Tusi vol. 1 p. 82)
‘Acquire more and more friends, because on the Day of Judgement each believer shall exercise his right of intercession (shafa’at).’ (Mizaanul Hikmah vol. 3)
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) narrates,
‘After the advent of Islam, the greatest benefit to a Muslim is in the guise of that friend he has selected, only to please Allah.’
(Mizaanul Hikmah). Books of ethics and traditions abound with such traditions.
Hazrat Ali (a.s.) narrates,
‘Any friendship and companionship that is not for Allah’s pleasure, is deviation and to rely on such ties (of friendship) is impossible .’ (Ibid.).
The Holy Quran expounds further,
‘The friends shall on that day (of judgment) be enemies of each other except those who guard against evil.‘(Zukhruf : 67).
One who seeks friendship for worldly benefits, will find himself deprived (Mizanul Hikmah).
A lot of people establish their bonds of friendship and enmity based on the gain they are likely to accrue on a personal level. That is, if a person has some utility, he qualifies as a friend, else he is an enemy. However, that should never be the benchmark for us. For the sake of Imame Zamana (a.t.f.s.), may Allah grant us the taufeeq to seek friends only for His pleasure and satisfaction.
Imam Baqir (a.s.) narrates from his father who said,
“O my son don’t befriend five types of people:
(a) Don’t befriend a liar. For a liar is like a mirage. He shows the distant as near and the near as distant. He will always deceive you and trouble you.
(b) Don’t befriend a transgressor. For he will forsake you for a paltry sum and make your sins appear very alluring to you. He will make you a victim of Allah’s chastisement through his petty sins and take you farther away from His obedience and satisfaction. He will make Allah’s worship appear as His disobedience, and His disobedience as His worship. He will drag you along with himself in the fire of hell.
(c) Never befriend a miser. For in your time of need and distress, he will withhold his wealth from you, while he is in a position to assist you. (He values his wealth more than anything else. And to that end he is prepared to forsake even his friends)
(d) Do not befriend a fool. For (in his foolishness) he will harm you while he intends to help you. (That is why it is said, ‘A shrewd enemy is better than a foolish friend’)
(e) Don’t befriend the one who breaks relations (with his relatives). For, such a person has been cursed in the Quran in three places. He is engrossed in his own affairs with scant regard for others. (Friendship with such a person will eventually lead the individual towards sins and disobedience of Allah)”
Quran discusses the believers in the following manner,
The Holy Quran says,
“The men and women from among the hypocrites are friends of each other, and they invite the people towards sin and transgression, and dissuade them from goodness and virtue. They withhold their wealth from charity, and refrain from spending in the way of Allah. Indeed, they have forgotten Allah and Allah too has forgotten them. Verily these hypocrites are transgressors and immoral.’
”The men and women from among the believers are friends of each other. They call the people towards goodness and piety and abstain from evil and transgression. They uphold the prayer, pay the poor-rate (zakaat) and obey Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Indeed, these are the ones for whom Allah shall soon manifest His mercy and grace. Verily Allah is all-powerful, and the most wise.”
(Ale Imran : 71)
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) narrates, ‘Friendship entails certain trusts and duties. Then the one who observes these obligations is a true friend and the one who breaches this trust is unworthy of friendship. These obligations are as follows;
1. He should be the same outside as he is inside. In other words, he should not have a dual personality. (In this age however, we often come across people who are exceptionally humble and modest on the outside, with little, if any humility, on the inside)
2. He will consider your virtues as his virtues and your misdeeds as his misdeeds. (In other words your virtues will cheer him and your faults will grieve him. God forbid, he must not feel relieved after observing some vice in you, and take solace from the fact that he himself is above that vice.)
3. If he acquires a position of power and authority, it must not bring about a drastic change in his attitude. In other words, prosperity must not transform the individual adversely. (There are some people who make the best of friends in adversity. But a positive change in their financial condition, reveals a dark, hitherto unknown side of their personality. On the other hand we see some people who make good friends in prosperity, but misfortune transforms them, disclosing their fickleness.)
4. He must give his friendship (with you) priority over all his worldly possessions. In other words in times of adversity, he must be willing to give his all to redeem you.
5. He must never leave you alone in times of misfortune and distress.
(Behaarul Anwaar vol. 74 p.173)
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) remarks,
‘My best friend is the one who gifts me my weaknesses and shortcomings.’
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 74 p. 282)
Syed Mohammad Masoom