By nature, human beings are social creatures; they need companions and friends. Most of our lives depend on interactions with others and man is therefore compelled to live in society and with other individuals. Friendship in Islam is considered one of the divine blessings through which one overcomes loneliness and solitude.
Islam has placed tremendous importance on sociability and friendship. In the Quran, great emphasis has been placed on the concept of friendship because maintaining good company plays a pivotal role in shaping the life of the individual and it influences the path that will be chosen in life. Likewise, the Holy Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt (His extended family) on different occasions had clearly stated its importance, criteria for choosing a friend, characteristics of a good friend, and the rights of a friend.
Friends are an integral and important part of our social life as they contribute greatly to the development of one’s personality and they affect many aspects of our lives.
In the Quran, Allah says “On that day, friends will be one another’s enemies, except for the God wary.”
The Holy Prophet while explaining the impact of friends says: “Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you befriend.”
Similarly, the commander of the faithful; Imam Ali says: “Try to have as many as possible true friends, for they are the supplies in joy and the shelters in misfortunes”
Islam attaches great emphasis on the choice of a friend to be selected in life. For this purpose, it is expected that one should employ his/her judgment in a manner free from emotion and try to set aside the criterion for assessing his/her real worth. “One must know his/her inadequacies and weak points, his/her ideas, feelings, dislikes, and infirmities. Ultimately, one must discover the human merits and desirable qualities that he/she carries in the depth of his/her spirit so that one may benefit from his/her outstanding virtues.”
Therefore, for the great good or bad influences friends can have on the characters and personality of each other, it is important for every man of reason to choose friends that are characterized by good mannerisms and behaviour.
Meanwhile, by the sayings of the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt, a Muslim must avoid certain sets of people as friends: transgressors, hypocrites, foolish, liars, sinful, stingy, and disregardful to his/her relatives.
However, there is no hindrance for a boy having a girl as a friend or vice versa, so far as the Islamic regulations (such as the Islamic Hijab, avoidance of indiscriminate touching, etc.) are observed and they avoid any sinful act.
According to various Hadiths (precedents from Prophet’s life), friendship implies certain obligations and trusts. In Islam, a person who violates them is undeserving of friendship, but someone who upholds them is a loyal friend. Here are a few examples of friends' rights:
Respecting them and their personality
Rendering material supports in the time of need
Advising them when they need your advice
Forgiving their shortcomings
Concealing their lapses and faults from others
Visiting them when they are sick
Participating in their funeral when they die
Friends are integral parts of our social life, and it is important to be selective in the choice of companions and friends. The righteous ones who lead one to righteousness in this world and prosperity in the Hereafter should be considered friends.
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In contrast, hypocrites and ill-mannered individuals who are sources of the plight in this world and the Hereafter should not be taken as friends. Similarly, Islam teaches Muslims to observe certain matters in friendly relations. This is because immoderation in this regard may lead to deplorable consequences and bring regret and pain.