"Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken such-and-such as a friend!”
[Quran, Surah Al-Furqaan: 28]
The one who is always there to console you when you want to talk about a problem, the one who sticks by you through thick and thin, the one whom you can count on to be there for you – this is the person who leaves no doubts in your mind that he or she is your “best friend”. You like each other’s company and love to spend time together. If something important happens in your life, they’re the first to know. You trust them and depend upon them in times of need. They may be a classmate, a colleague, a neighbor, a sister, a mother; or even your spouse! It could be anyone who fits this description.
But are they really your “true” friend? How can you find out? Ask yourself: are they taking you towards the most certain and perpetual success and benefit: that of the Hereafter, or are they going to be the cause of regret for you on the Day of Judgment? See for yourself. Here is a checklist.
When in each other's company, you both:
- Comfortably backbite and make fun of people.
- Laugh at others together, be it a passerby or someone you are discussing.
- Pass comments about others.
- Call each other demeaning names in fun.
- Laugh at each other’s cruel jokes about someone else.
- Start a conversation with “Hi!” and plunge into an exchange of the latest gossip.
- Hardly ever mention or discuss Allah, the Quran or Hadith in the time spent together.
- End up spending money on things you don’t need.
- Feel hesitant to discuss religion, unless it is a criticism of any aspect of Islam.
- Confirm each other’s doubts about the Hereafter.
- Never point out each other’s faults politely; if one does, the other quickly changes the subject or gets defensive.
- Get involved in activities that delay/do away with salaah (Islamic Prayer), the major obligation from Allah.
- Have never prayed any salaah together.
- Support each other in fulfilling every desire – a dress that caught your fancy, or the in-fashion shoes, even if they are not needed.
- Discuss unimportant things and events in meticulous detail, such as a film, the latest clothes you got tailored, or a wedding party you attended.
Besides the above points, you both are fully aware of each other’s family’s and in-laws’ faults and short-comings. When one of you feels guilty about having committed a sin, the other quickly offers reassurance that “It’s no big deal, everyone does it”, and comes up with convincing excuses for the other not to feel guilty about it. When one of you starts doing something that is impermissible in Islam, the other offers support and help; for example, when one starts to backbite, the other becomes attentive and listens closely. When one discovers a shortcoming of the other, they leave no chance to make fun of it. If they take something that belongs to you, you know that you will not get it back unless you ask for it
About a ‘friendship’ that has most of the above characteristics, Allah says in the Quran:
"Friends on that day will be foes to one and another - except the Righteous Ones."
[Quran, Surah Al-Zukhruf: 67]
All such “friends” will, on the Day of Judgment, become each other’s enemies, each lamenting and blaming the other before Allah, for having supported and encouraged them towards the ultimate and eternal destruction. Allah makes an exception to this situation in the Quranic verse above: “except those who are al-muttaqeen: the righteous ones”. So who are these ‘righteous ones’, who will be happily together in the Hereafter just as they were together in the world? How can you tell whether your friend is really and truly your sincere “friend”? Here is another checklist of characteristics that depict a friendship that will lead to success in the Hereafter.
When together, you both:
- Remind each other of Allah when you set eyes on each other.
- Leave each other’s company with a higher level of imaan (faith in Allah).
- Inevitably start the conversation with the Islamic greeting ‘as-salaamu-alaykum’, and receive the masnoon reply for it.
- Do the masnoon mu’aanaqah (hug) and musafahah (handshake) on a regular basis.
- Almost always mention Allah, the Quran, or Hadith in some context or the other, in your conversations.
- Strengthen each other’s belief on the Hereafter.
- Always end up exchanging useful and mature ideas and thoughts.
- Love each other above and beyond worldly benefits.
- Give each other more duaa’s (well wishes) than material gifts.
- Enquire regularly about the health of the other’s family.
- Attend religious study-circles/ halaqah’s together.
- Have prayed salaah together many times.
- Have watched each other cry, out of fear of Allah or out of regret for committing a transgression.
- Listen attentively if the other is saying something that pleases Allah.
- Politely point out and reform each other’s mistakes or bad habits in the best way possible.
- Return an amanah (item placed in other’s trust/safekeeping) belonging to the other in its original state.
- Laugh a lot together, but with decent, non-malicious humor.
- Become uninterested and change the subject if the other starts to say something that is impermissible.
- Always discourage the other if they plan to do something wrong.
- Always encourage the other if they intend to do a good deed that they’re hesitant to do.
- Consult each other in important matters.
- Give each other advice seriously and sincerely.
- Never waste each other’s time in useless activities.
- Never invite the other to a place or gathering of sin.
- Have full trust that they will never reveal secrets or personal problems to others, nor will they gossip about you behind your back.
- Address each other in a respectful and loving manner.
- Forgive each other’s faults and shortcomings, and hide them from others.
Those whose friendships possess most of the above characteristics are among the fortunate people who can experience a glimpse of the assembly of Paradise in the life of this world itself, where they have such sincere and true friends – friends who love them for the sake of Allah. It is they who shall be saved from all kinds of discomfort and pain on the Day of Judgment when their Lord will provide them with a special place under His Throne, according to His promise:
Narrated by Abu Hurairah [may Allah be pleased with him]: Allah's Messenger [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] said: “Verily, Allah will say on the Day of Standing:
‘Where are those who had mutual love for the sake of My Glory? Today I shall shelter them in My shadow when there is no other shadow but the shadow of Mine.’”
[Sahih Muslim Number 6225]