Keeping Bad Company
Suhaib Ashraf Bhat
Friendship and companionship are important things. A good friend is one who accepts your shortcomings, but at the same time guides and supports you. A good friend is one who accommodates your faults but corrects them where possible. A good friend is one who will love and forgive you for the sake of Allah swt. It is important to choose your friends carefully. Prophet Muhammad Salalahualihiwasalam warned the believers about this too. He said that a person would be influenced by his friends, and he warned that everyone should look carefully at those they consider to be their friends. What we can understand from this is that it is easy to be influenced by the people around us. It is easy to take on their mannerisms and qualities without even being aware of it. If these are good qualities then it is a good thing but what if the people you consider friends have pushed you away from the remembrance of Allah swt? This could be a disaster, and Allah swt warns about it in the Quran.
“And (remember) the Day when the wrong-doer (oppressor, polytheist etc.) will bite on his hand, he will say: ‘Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger. Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a friend! He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (the Quran) after it had come to me.’” (Quran 25:27)
Unnecessary companionship is a chronic disease that causes much harm. How often have the wrong kind of companionship and intermixing deprived people of Allah swt’s generosity, planting discord in their hearts which even the passage of time-even if it were long enough for mountains to be worn away-has been unable to dispel. In keeping such company one can find the roots of loss, both in this life and in the next life.
A servant should benefit from companionship. In order to do so he should divide people into four categories, and be careful not to get them mixed up, for once one of them is mixed with another, then evil can find its way through to him:
The first category is those people whose company is like food: it is indispensable, night or day. Once a servant has taken his need from it, he leaves it be until he requires it again, and so on. These are the people with knowledge of Allah-of His commands, of the scheming of His enemies, and of the diseases of the heart and their remedies- who wish well for Allah swt, His Prophet salalahualihiwasalam and His servants. Associating with this type of person is an achievement in itself.
The second category is those people whose company is like a medicine. They are only required when a disease sets in. When you are healthy, you have no need of them. However, mixing with them is sometimes necessary for your livelihood, businesses, consultation and the like. Once what you need from them has been fulfilled, mixing with them should be avoided.
The third category is those people whose company is harmful. Mixing with this type of person is like a disease, in all its variety and degrees and strengths and weaknesses. Associating with one or some of them is like an incurable chronic disease. You will never profit either in this life or in the next life if you have them for company, and you will surely lose either one or both of your religion and your livelihood because of them. If their companionship has taken hold of you and is established, then it becomes a fatal, terrifying sickness.
Amongst such people are those who neither speak any good that might benefit you, nor listen closely to you so that they might benefit from you. They do not know their souls and consequently put their selves in their rightful place. If they speak, their words fall on their listeners’ hearts like the lashes of a cane, while all the while they are full of admiration for and delight in their own words.
They cause distress to those in their company, while believing that they are the sweet scent of the gathering. All in all, mixing with anyone who is bad for the soul will not last, even if it is unavoidable. It can be one of the most distressing aspects of a servant’s life that he is plagued by such person, with whom it may be necessary to associate. In such a relationship, a servant should cling to good behaviour, only presenting him with his outward appearance, while disguising his inner soul, until Allah swt offers him a way out of his affliction and the means of escape from this situation.
The fourth category is those people whose company is doom itself. It is like taking poison: its victim either finds an antidote or perishes. Many people belong to this category. They are the people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws) and advocate other beliefs. They call what is the Sunnah a bid’ah and vice-versa. A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of his heart or, at the very best, its falling seriously ill.One of the most important things we must do, which sadly many people neglect, is that we should avoid bad company.
We should seek out pious friends who fear Allah swt and who have the qualities of humility, charity, compassion, modesty and knowledge. If we sit with them we will always benefit and they will be a means for us to get closer to Allah swt.