You Are Your Circle: What Islam Says About Friendship

We spend a great majority of our time with coworkers, family, friends and loved ones. It’s a known fact that we mirror the behaviour of our social groups–a side effect of the human desire to be accepted, and to ‘fit in.’ Because we take on traits and behaviours from those around us, its all the more important to surround ourselves with the right kind of company.

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Especially as Muslims, we need to be mindful about who it is we are spending time with. Are we with people who encourage Taqwa (mindfulness of God) or with people who distract us from Taqwa, and encourage us into sinful, self-destructive behaviour?

Good company builds us up:

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When we surround ourselves with believers who challenge us, encourage us, and hold us accountable, we are better people. Try surrounding yourself with people who are the type of person you’d like to be ideally.  Living the life of a wrongdoer might be enjoyable now, but the Qura’an says that at the Last Day, wrongdoers will wish that they had taken a different path.

“And (remember) the Day when the wrong-doer will bite his hands and say:
Woe to me! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger. Woe to me!
If only I had not taken so- and-so as a friend! He has led me astray from this Reminder
(the Qur’an) after it had come to me. And Satan is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.”
Qur’an: Chapter 25, Verses 27-29]

So, surround yourself with people that will keep you from going astray, who model the path of the Messenger. If your friend is devout in prayer, you will be more influenced to pray. If your friend has a giving soul, you’ll be more likely to give. If your friend holds you accountable when you’re doing something wrong, you’ll be all the more likely to do the same for him.

Bad company tears us down

When we surround ourselves with bad people, we become wrapped up in their lifestyle. Befriending those who practice bad habits will ultimately lead us to imitate and tolerate wickedness. The influence isn’t immediate–it burns slowly. If you are friends with an alcoholic, you may not be tempted to drink to excess at first. But over time, you’ll likely fall into repeating patterns.

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The Prophet (PBUH) encouraged us to be mindful of the company we keep:

“Do not keep company with anyone but a believer and do not let anyone eat your food but one who is pious.”
Abu Dawood]

Advice on keeping good company:

-Join social groups that are encouraging of ‘good behaviors,’ like book clubs, hiking and travel groups, the local Muslim community, etc.

-Find hobbies that make you happy and challenge you, without resorting to substances,  violence, or ‘bad behaviours.’

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Advice on getting rid of bad company:

-Recognize troubled people before you befriend them. Before entering a relationship or friendship with somebody, look for warning signs. Find out if they are the type of person who will be good or bad company. Are they violent? Angry? A drug abuser? By finding warning signs first, you can avoid getting wrapped up in bad crowds.

-Learn to say NO. ‘No’ is a powerful word, and using it can save your skin. When people in your life tempt you into something that you know is wrong, have the willpower and confidence to reject that. 

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