A well know Arabic saying advises, “Don’t talk about a person. Ask about his companions.” This simply means that if you want to enquire about a person — about his character, what are his habits, is he responsible, etc., then do not enquire specifically about him. Instead enquire about the company he keeps. If he keeps good company, insha-Allah he will be likewise a good and upright person. On the contrary if he remains in the company of people accustomed to sin and vice or people of low character and morals, he will generally be judged accordingly.
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has emphasized upon us to always maintain good company. He is reported to have said: “A person follows the way of his friend, therefore beware of who you befriend!” (Sunan Abi Dawood #4833) In another hadeeth a good friend has been likened to one who sells musk. One will either receive some musk from him as a gift, or buy it from him or at least one will enjoy the fragrance of musk by merely being in his company. In other words one can only benefit from him. The bad friend has been compared to a blacksmith. He will either burn your clothes due to the sparks and embers flying out of his furnace, or at the least one will breathe the toxic fumes. (Saheeh Bukhaari #2101) Thus one will not be able to escape the harm of being in his company. Merely being in the company of the bad friend will leave its negative effects on one.
Friend in Need
Another common saying is, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Supposing you are stranded on a journey and want to reach home. A friend comes and offers you a lift. He then leaves you at the door of your house. Indeed he will be regarded as a true friend. However, if he gave you a lift and dropped you off at the door of your enemy, you will be extremely disappointed and regard his claims of friendship as false. We are all presently on a journey in this world. Our greatest need is to safely reach our home which is Jannah. The person who assists us to travel on the Straight Path and guides us to our home is our true friend. The one who gives us a lift to the vice dens, encourages us to commit sins and ‘helps’ us to engage in vice is dropping us of at the door of our worst enemy. Such a ‘friend’ is either totally ignorant — that he is destroying his friend and thinking that he is doing him a favour — or he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing! He merely pretends to be a friend but is a hidden enemy.
Friendship is also a two-way street. While you should choose the right friends, also be a true friend. In the guise of friendship do not push people towards the destruction of this world and the Hereafter by encouraging towards evil or passing on bad habits. Nevertheless choose your friends carefully. A friend will either make you… or break you!