By Dr. Jasser Auda
Do not befriend someone who does not elevate you with his state, or guide you to God with his speech. It could be that you are doing evil, yet you think that you are doing good because you are comparing yourself to your friend who is worse than you. So, how should the believer choose his friends?
Friends along the Way
Throughout our journey to God, we have learned how to dig for our flaws. We also learned that the origin of every sin, forgetfulness, and lust is in being self-righteous, and the origin of every good deed, awareness, and chastity is in being self-critical. Likewise, we have learned that one should be like the accusing voice of one’s conscience by which God swore in the Qur’an.
Here Ibn `Ata’illah talks to about another flaw which is that of the bad choice of friends. How should the believer choose his friends? He says; “Do not befriend someone who does not elevate you with his state or guide you to God with his speech. It could be that you are doing evil, yet you think that you are doing good because you are comparing yourself to your friend who is worse than you.”
Therefore, it is either that you befriend someone who is better than you or that you befriend someone who is worse than you.
Ibn `Ata’illah says that when you befriend someone who is worse than you will think that you are doing good because you are comparing yourself to your friend who commits minor and grave sins and does not care.
However, if you befriend someone who elevates you with his state, or guides you to God with his speech; i.e. you befriend someone who is religiously not worldly better than you, this friend will have a good influence on you.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said; “A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”
If you befriend someone who is of a good character, he might give you a physical perfume because the believer has a good smell. He might also give you a moral smell in the form of offering you a piece of advice, reminding you of a particular Quranic verse, guiding you to a good action, or smiling in your face.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said; “Smiling in the face of your brother is charity.” (At-Tirmidhi) He might be a good example for you, i.e. you see him giving in charity, doing a good action, or worshipping God. Therefore, you will imitate him by doing the same things.
The other friend who is like the blacksmith he might burn your clothes if you approach him because he smokes in reality. If you get closer and closer to him, he will burn your heart, i.e. he will incite you to commit sins like backbiting, gossip, giving false testimony, etc.
To be continued…..
The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda