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Beware of the company you keep

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his pure Household (pbut) often gave the faithful divine advice that are as valuable as precious gems.  Here is one such gem from the 9th Holy Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Jawad (p):

Imam Jawad (p) said, “Beware of the company of the evil person since he is like a sword which is apparently beautiful looking but its effect is bad (in shedding blood on the way of falsehood.)” [1]

People are heavily influenced by the company that they keep. Friends can either influence and motivate each other to do great things or they can drag one another down to do unspeakable crimes that they would have never even imagined doing. How many times have we seen people who commit crimes say, when asked why they did it, that their friends put them up to it or influenced them?  Peer pressure is a serious issue that youth, especially, have to deal with. They should be well equipped with the knowledge of Islam and the sayings of the Infallible Guides from the Prophet’s Household (pbut), so that they will know how to appropriately respond to the tactics others use to influence people to make bad decisions.

Choose your friends wisely

So,  it is of great importance that we choose our friends wisely. This brings us to the question: what are the criteria for friendship? Are there any Islamic traditions for us to follow in this regard?

We find a beautifully enlightening tradition from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he quotes the beloved prophet Jesus, son of Mary (p), saying to his disciples:

Sit with someone (keep company with) who upon seeing him makes you remember God, his logic adds to your knowledge and his practice makes you inclined toward for the hereafter.”[2] 

From this narration, we learn that when we make friends, we should look for someone who will remind us of God, religion and the hereafter. This is very important, because when you have God-conscious friends you will remind each other if anyone of you gets distracted by something which is against your religion or if one of you starts to drift off from the right path. We can see this in another narration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said, “The best friends are those who help you when you mention (a matter) and remind you when you forget.”[3] 

The second thing we can learn from this is that we should look for friends who like to discuss beneficial things which will increase our knowledge about religion, life, and other significant topics. So, we should strive to acquire friends who talk about meaningful things rather than gossip or other useless topics.

A third thing we can gather from this narration is that we should befriend those whose actions and good deeds inspire us to be better people and inspire us to work towards securing our hereafter. 

Make friends for the right reasons

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said with regard to friendship:

“Anyone who becomes friends with others for the sake of God, will attain a rank in Heaven.”[4] 

From this we see that a key quality in seeking friendship is to become friends for the right reasons. People often become friends based on some sort of benefit that they will attain from the other person, such as materialistic gain, political affiliation, status, or wealth. These are all superficial and useless things that will fade away and are not a good solid foundation for true friendship. Friendship should be based on sincerity and based on the mutual love of God, His messenger (pbuh) and the Holy Household of His messenger (pbut). 

Imam Baqir (p) warns us of befriending certain classes of people in the following narration, 

“Do not approach or make friends with the fools, the misers, the cowards, or the liars. Fools will harm you instead of benefiting you. Misers will take things from you and not give you anything in return. Cowards will run away from you and their parents. Liars will testify but will not tell the truth.” 

We should do our utmost to examine our associates to make sure they do not have these negative qualities so that we will not be harmed by their negative impacts. We have a narration from Imam Sadiq (p) which outlines the limits of friendship:

“There are certain limits to friendship. Whoever does not fall within those limits should not be considered to be a perfect friend, and whoever does not have anything that falls within those limits should not be ascribed anything related to friendship. The conditions for friendship are:

1- A friend should not hide anything from you, and be the same person to you in private that he is in public;
2- He should consider your positive characteristics as his own, and your negative characteristics as his own;
3- Wealth and position should not change him;
4- He should not withhold from you what he has power over, and
5- He should not abandon you during times of hardship.”[5]

What wonderful qualities to find in a person! May God grant us all the ability to secure good and sincere friendship for His sake. We ask that He protect us from acquiring the evil friend that Imam Jawad (p) has described as something which deceives us by its beauty, but in reality can lead to our destruction.

 

[1] Bihar al-Anwar, vol 78, p 364

[2] Tuhful Aqool, p 44

[3] Tuhful Aqool ,ch Maxims of the Prophet, h 6

[4] Al-Tabarsi, Mishkat al-Anwar fi Ghurar il Akhbar,h 1056

[5] Al-Tabarsi, Mishkat al Anwar fi Ghuraril Akhbar,h 395

[1] Bihar al-Anwar, vol 78, p 364

[2] Tuhful Aqool, p 44

[3] Tuhful Aqool ,ch Maxims of the Prophet, h 6

[4] Al-Tabarsi, Mishkat al-Anwar fi Ghurar il Akhbar,h 1056

[5] Al-Tabarsi, Mishkat al Anwar fi Ghuraril Akhbar,h 395

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