‘CHECK that out; that guy walks likes this!’ exclaimed a friend, pointing discreetly at a passerby in the university hallway as we sat perched on the stairs during a free slot between classes. She then made a swinging movement with her shoulders and waist that made the rest of us burst out laughing in loud guffaws. The person under ‘dissection’, realizing that he was the source of our jest, made himself scarce as peals of our laughter echoed through the halls.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “A person is on the faith of his friend; so watch whom you befriend.” (Sunan Abu Dawood)
During student days at school and university, we tend to hang out with the most popular crowd. Peer pressure kicks in and we do anything, good or bad, to “fit in” and be accepted by the group. Sadly, sometimes we end up committing major sins this way, such as backbiting, slander, malicious gossip, rumormongering, cheating in examinations, and having flings with members of the opposite gender.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used an analogy to explain the opposite effects of good and bad company.
Abu Musa reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying:
“The similitude of good company and that of bad company is that of the owner of musk and that of the one (iron-smith) blowing bellows; the owner of musk would either offer you some free of charge, or you would buy it from him, or (at least) you would smell its pleasant fragrance; and as for the one who blows the bellows, he would either burn your clothes or you shall have to smell its repugnant smell.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 6361)
This hadith clearly emphasizes how one’s company has an effect on one’s actions and personality. It is therefore very important to sort out our priorities early on in life; and, if pleasing Allah tops the list, we need to ensure that our friends during youth are pious and Allah-fearing; those who feel guilty when they commit a sin and immediately submit to the commands of the religion when reminded. This is because, more often than not, childhood friends go on to become friends for life.
After graduation, college friends dissipate and go their ways, but most of them keep in touch with each other over the years. Especially in this age of communication technology, we are easily able to share positive milestones in our lives such as marriage, parent-hood and career progressions, online with all our old Alma Mater friends. When friends visit their hometown during vacations, they eagerly make plans in advance to meet up and hang out like in the past.
Recently my old friends requested me for a luncheon at my house. It was only in the gathering that it dawned on me how little their mindsets had changed over the years. After the preliminary greetings, when I went into the kitchen to bring food to the table, I heard slivers of conversation filtering in through the door.
Despite having progressed to managerial-level career positions, boasting hefty paychecks in multinational companies, or having garnered several years of experience living with and adjusting to in-laws, my guests’ conversation still centered around exchange of gossip and rumors, backbiting and demeaning others by referring to them by derogatory college-era nicknames! I realized deeply how the absence of knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah makes a void in a person’s life. That void is usually covered up by the insinuations of Shaitan.
Reflecting on the narrations that stress on keeping company with good Muslims and the pious, I realized the great wisdom behind the Prophet’s sayings (peace be upon him).
It doesn’t mean that we don’t meet people who may not be that practicing. We should socialize and try to inspire them and influence them into good. We must perhaps give da’wah to them in some form or other.
As Muslims, we ought to be polite with everyone without judging them. But our close friendships that result in frequent company, especially over regular meals and parties, should be with those who are practicing and whom we look up to for their adherence to the religion.
This is an effective way of ensuring that we do not slip down the slope of piety, but instead keep climbing to higher ranks of righteousness Insha Allah. – SG