The dire consequences of the absence of Islam as the governing system of today's society are manifesting themselves in all aspects of our lives. The detrimental effects of not having the Islamic social system can be felt regardless of whether we live in the Muslim lands or elsewhere. There is nothing more painful than seeing our youth grow up amidst a non-Islamic atmosphere leading, in some cases, to Muslim youth losing their Islamic identity, their values and even their Deen.
When one examines why some youth deviate, a simple but terrifying fact is brought to light - most of the time, the cause is the influence of the friends that surround them. The task of choosing the right friends and companions is essential to preserving our identity. Befriending righteous and virtuous Muslims is one of the prerequisites for staying on the Straight Path and pleasing Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
Although most of us would strive to maintain our Islamic identity within our family, we sometimes overlook who our youth are associating with when they are outside the house or on the computer. Islam has given us a road map to navigate through our lives in order to succeed both in Dunya and Akhirah. We must always abide by the hukm sharai' in all aspects of our lives and choosing the right friends is no exception.
Staying in the Correct Atmosphere
Maintaining the correct atmosphere is vital for a Muslim to be able to avoid deviation from the right path. The type of atmosphere that exists amongst some of the youth today is corrupt, where the topics of discussion usually revolve around the opposite sex and ‘showing off' to each other. This type of atmosphere only serves to agitate the nafs of people and can potentially lead them further away from Islam.
It was narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "The example of a good companion in comparison with a bad one is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof." [Bukhari]
Islam recognizes that friends have a strong influence on people and that their presence will affect the strength of their relationship with Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "A person follows the Deen (way of life) of his close friend; therefore let each of you look carefully at whom he chooses for friends." [Tirmidhi]
A Muslim should choose friends who will advise him and remind him of Allah سبحانه وتعالى rather than lure him to the path of Shaytan. It is therefore important for a Muslim to choose good friends. The love between two Muslim friends is such that they will confide in each other, help each other in times of need and difficulty, and strengthen each other's commitment to the Deen of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم encouraged Muslims who have love for each other not to keep it to themselves.
It has been narrated by al-Bukhari that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "If one of you loves his brother for Allah's sake, then let him tell him since it causes familiarity to endure and firmly establishes love." [Bukhari]
Role of Parents
Part of staying in the right atmosphere is the role that parents play in their daughters' and sons' lives. Parents are responsible for watching who their kids associate with and who their friends are. They must strive to gain their children's trust by actively involving themselves in their lives while encouraging extra-curricular activities that give their children the chance to meet and become friends with righteous peers. Such friends will plant the seeds of belonging to the wider Muslim community, and preserve their identity as Muslims. Parents should always strive to promote in their kids the Islamic standards of Halal and Haram as the natural reference point in their lives. The most common mistake Muslim parents make is limiting their own roles in the family to only that of the provider which leads, in so many cases, to dysfunctional relationships with their teens as it leaves the youth vulnerable to the influences and pressures from their peers.
Characteristics of an Islamic Friendship
Islam has defined friendship in a manner that many of us in the West are not accustomed to. Islam bases ties and relations not on benefitting each other in worldly affairs but rather in our struggle for success in the Akhirah by seeking the pleasure of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. Islam recognizes the importance of such relationships and has set guidelines for us to follow on how to maintain them:
Loving Friends for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى - This means that we would undertake actions to help a friend or further our relationship with them for the sake of Allah even though they may go against our personal interests.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Whoever would like to taste the sweetness of Iman (belief) then let him love a person only for Allah's sake." [Ahmad]
Generosity and Kindness - Sharing wealth with others is greatly encouraged in Islam. This builds trust and closeness amongst people. It can be difficult for Muslims to grasp this principle especially when they are affected by Western concepts that promote selfishness and irresponsibility towards others. Giving without expecting anything in return is uncommon in the West even amongst friends.
Imam Bukhari narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "None amongst you believes (truly) till one likes for his brother, that which he loves for his himself." [Bukhari]
Giving gifts has also been recommended by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and he explained that it strengthens the relationship between people.
It was narrated by al-Bukhari that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Give gifts and you will love one another." [Bukhari]
Kindness to our friends, helping them in need and consoling them in times of grief should become natural to us for everyone needs help, a shoulder to cry on and someone to share their joy.
Concealing the Faults of Friends - It is important to conceal the faults of a friend. This does not mean that we ignore them; it means that we advise our brothers of their faults in private and help them overcome their shortcomings.
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "He who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in the world and in the Hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother." [Muslim]
Prohibition of Backbiting, Slander, Envy, Jealousy & Grudges - The relationship of friendship is one of trust as a good Muslim is trustworthy and not deceitful. He does not betray nor backbite. In reality this makes the relationship between friends in Islam stronger than friendship according to Western concepts as there is no constant worry about whether your friend is speaking ill of you to other people or betraying you. Islam has prohibited backbiting and slander - thus removing the cause of suspicion and doubt amongst people:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيراً مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
"O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother. You abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful." [Al-Hujraat, 49:12]
Islam also forbids envy and jealousy which are the common causes of problems amongst friends.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Do not have malice against a Muslim; do not be envious of other Muslims; do not go against a Muslim and forsake him. Oh the slaves of Allah! Be like brothers with each other. It is not violable for a Muslim to desert his brother for over three days." [Muslim & Tirmidhi]
Relationship with non Muslims
As Muslims living in the West, we interact with non-Muslims on a daily basis whether at work, university, college, school or in society at large. It is incorrect for us to cut ourselves completely from them and live in isolation. We should aim at building relationships with them in order to give them da'wah to embrace Islam. It is important to always remind ourselves that our purpose in this life is to carry Islam to everybody and show them the right path - to rid themselves of the misery of man-made systems, thereby achieving the pleasure of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. We have to be aware of our purpose in this life and what may influence our adherence to Islam. Friendship plays a major influence in our lives, and so choosing good friends is not a trivial matter. Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَتَّخِذُواْ بِطَانَةً مِّن دُونِكُمْ لاَ يَأْلُونَكُمْ خَبَالاً وَدُّواْ مَا عَنِتُّمْ قَدْ بَدَتِ الْبَغْضَاء مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَمَا تُخْفِي صُدُورُهُمْ أَكْبَرُ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
"O you who believe! Do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people; they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still; indeed, We have made the communications clear to you, if you will understand." [Al-Imran, 3:118]
Weakness is part of human nature and being surrounded by friends who have no ties to the values of Islam is a slippery slope with one known outcome - slipping away form the right path and losing one's Deen. The pressure from the circle of friends is far stronger than the pressure from family. Without strong understanding of the values of Islam and a constant reminder from our friends, our youth will find themselves forced to "blend in". Such a Muslim would find himself in a situation wherein he/she is willing to hide his/her Islam in front of those who despise it (those that he/she considers as friends) and to separate from the believers. When this situation occurs, a point is reached when there is little difference between the Muslim and his wrong-doing companion. Such a companionship is one of the causes of sickness of one's heart and loss of one's Deen.
Instead of making friends with the misguided people we should befriend the righteous and treat the rest in a gracious and just manner. Staying at a sufficient distance is necessary; yet treating everybody in a noble and kind manner is also required. So let us take heed before the inevitable Day when we are called to account for our actions. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
الْأَخِلَّاء يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ
"Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah)." [Az-Zukhruf, 43:67]
Valuing Your Youth
Whilst we are young we have the potential to follow Islam by advancing our understanding and carrying Islam to others. Youth doesn't last forever so we must make good use of it before it is gone. We have to ensure that we follow the footsteps of the great Muslim youth of the past who were luminaries of humanity. Let us remember the words of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم who said,
"Value five things before five other things: Youth before old age; health before sickness; affluence before poverty; leisure before becoming too busy; and life before death." [Tirmidhi]
May Allah سبحانه وتعالى bless us with righteous friends and make them our support in carrying Da'wa under the shade of Khilafah Rashidah. Ameen.