"There was for Saba, aforetime, a sign in their homeland [Yemen] two gardens to the right and to the left . . . be grateful to Him[Allah] . . .But they turned away, and We sent against them the flood released from the Dams [Maarib dam]" (Qur'an. Saba:15-16)
The Prophet (saw) said: “A man will follow the religion of his close friend, so let each of you look to who he takes a close friend.” (Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, 2378)
It’s a piece of religious advice, which to many might not be associated with religion at all. We usually see forms of worship such as prayer, fasting etc. as part of religion, but friendships? Well, remember Islam is a way of life, so you can’t be choosy and apply it to some areas of your life and not others. So yes our Islam has a say about who we befriend.
Let’s go back to the hadith. So if we look up the meaning of the phrasal verb “look to” in Arabic we realize it has a deeper meaning: “to look attentively and closely, scrutinize, weigh, consider carefully, and speculate.” Sounds like a scientific process, not a friend-choosing-process. In other words, every “potential friend” is pending approval. For this purpose, the Qur’an has actually gone through great pains to describe to us the kinds of friends we will encounter in our lives.
During our first BB4 Muslimas Halaqa we talked about a number of friends as they appear in Qur’an. The first kind we talked about are very close and intimate friends called “qareens” which mean “intimate companions.” They can either be from the Jinn (43:36) as Prophet Mohamed (saw) told us or humans (37:51-61). The second kind of friends are those around you in good ole times—called “khadool” (25:29). They are the opposite of the common saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” By the way, Shaytan is this kind of friend—don’t be surprised some of us befriend Shaytan—and on Judgment Day he will totally abandon all his friends. Another friend Allah (swt) warns against as well are “al-akhdaan” (5:5) who today are to girls “boyfriends” and to girls “boyfriends.” These are friends of the opposite sex with whom one has lewd relationships out of wedlock.
Those were the negative kinds of friends. Let’s now look at the positive ones in the Qur’an. The first is a “rafeeq” (4:69) who at hours of need offers support and real comfort. A “rafeeq” should have the following characteristics: is righteous, relentlessly confirms the truth no matter the consequences, and is a walking example of Islam. Another great friend is a “walee” (5:55) who is a protective friend who has your back when you are in trouble—so you can definitely rely on them. Such friends are: Allah (SWT); the Messenger of Allah’s (saw) legacy; and the righteous Muslims who establish regular prayer, are humble, and purify their wealth through zakat. The third kind is a truthful friend– “sadeeq” (12:46)—who like a mirror gives you an honest image of yourself. A “sadeeq” is sincere in that he sees your flaws and points them out to you in all honesty. Another close friend whose love you feel deep in your heart, yea indeed you can almost call family is a “khaleel.” A “khaleel” is highly honored in the Qur’an for Allah (swt) took Prophet Ibrahim (as) as this type of friend. Moving on, another kind of friend appears in 70:10-11 in which Allah (swt) emphasizes the difficulty of the Day of Judgment, when those friends who were “hameem’s” in dunya would be within sight of each other but would each be occupied with redeeming himself. A “hameem” is a friend who expresses his friendship through actions, in other words they are willing to go all out for you. Yet, on the Day of Judgment you are a complete stranger to them.
Such are some of the kinds of “friends” in the Qur’an, and I am sure there are many others. But let’s take Prophet Mohammad’s (saw) advice to heart and pick out our friends with the utmost of care.