The Company We Choose to Keep
The company we choose to keep and the people we choose to mix with are very important in our lives. First of all this refers to our friends, the people who are a continuation of our family, those whom we see most often, whose advice we seek, whom we emulate. What are friends for? How do they influence our lives? We find guidance on that matter in the Holy Quran and the Hadith.
A true friend is a valuable asset, one that every person has great need of. It is so sad that some people live through their whole lives without finding one. The Prophet said: “A believer is the mirror of his brother. A believer is the brother of another believer. He protects him against loss and defends him behind his back.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, 239) Indeed, this is true. And this is why it is so important to choose the right company, because of the reflection of that person in yourself.
If your friend is a strong upholder of Islamic values, he will set a good example. You will, involuntarily, strive to be a better Muslim too. If he is an honest and just person, this will be a call upon yourself to honesty and justice. And as your shield, a true friend will certainly protect you in trouble and defend you against the evil snares of this world and enemy attacks. If none of these is present in a friendship, it is unwise to take it any further. The Hadith is not only indicative of what a true friend should be, it tells you what a true friend should not be, namely, if you do not see in someone the ability to stand by you and be your companion in good deeds, simply walk away. For improper company can be ruinous.
Of such a company, the Hadith says “The example of a good companion who sits with you 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 your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2101) This ‘nasty smell’ is easy to tell. It is peer pressure to turn you away from the good things in your Muslim world and make you sin. This ‘nasty smell’ creeps up on you like a snake. What’s wrong with hanging out with your office friends at the pub after work? No one says you must drink. Just keep them company, have a laugh, relax. This is exactly what bad peer pressure is about. Even if they mean well, they do you harm. They do not care about your world. They do not understand that in your world there is no place for outings like that.
In true friendships peer pressure will not be an issue, because in true friendships there is always respect. They will respect your character, your resolve to stay a Muslim in any situation, and they will help you in this by being supportive.
Do not be sorry to put an end to a wrong friendship. Your harm in the hereafter would have been much worse than your temporary anguish in this life. “And keep yourself patient by being with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever in neglect.” (18:28)