Merits of Friends

Man has longed for making friendships so that he can obtain individuals supporting him, alleviating his troubles, and sharing in his sorrow and joy. Amir ul-Mu'minin Imam Ali (PBUH) said: Try to have as many as possible true friends, for they are the supplies in joy and the shelters in misfortunes. Imam as-Sadiq (PBUH) said: A friend occupies a great position to the degree that even the inhabitants of Hell will seek his help before the relatives. In this regard, Allah, conveying the words of the inhabitants of Hell, says: so, we have no intercessors, nor a true friend.(1) A wise man said: The true friends are the most favorable gain in this world. They are adornment in luxury, support in misfortune, and aid for acquiring good living and good deeds. As a wise man was asked whether he prefers his brother or friend, he answered: I prefer my brother when he is a friend of mine.

Reality of Friendship

Some people may think that the true friend is the one who treats them courteously and bright-facedly, but if such one is tested, his falsity is proved. Old and modern writers have gone on complaining about friends alienations in spite of the love that is born for them. This is because of:

(1)The ignorance of the reality of friendship and the incapability of making distinction between the true and false friends, or,

(2)Most of the friends are characterized by common social weak points, such as changeableness and disloyalty.

Amir ul-Mu'minin (PBUH) said: There are two classes of friends: friends of confidence and friends of grimace. The friends of confidence represent the hand, the wing, the family, and the wealth. Regarding your relation with the friends of confidence, you should offer your wealth and body to them, act with sincerity towards him who acts with sincerity towards them, antagonize him who antagonizes them, conceal their secrets and flaws, and publicize their nice qualities You should know that friends of confidence are as rare as red sulfur. Friends of grimace are those from whom you can gain pleasure; therefore, you should not prevent them from gaining pleasure through you. Do not expect anything more from them. As long as they show you good humor and good wording, you must show them the same.

Imam as-Sadiq (PBUH) said: Friendship is nil unless its limits are kept. He who does not keep these limits should not be regarded as friend. The first limit is that the inner self and the appearance should be identical. The second limit is that the friend should regard your goodness as his goodness and your evil as his evil. The third limit of friendship is that a position or fortunes should not change the relation with the friends. The fourth limit is that the friend should not deprive his friend of anything that he is capable of doing. The fifth limit which is the most comprehensive-, is that the friend should never leave his friend alone in calamities.

Friends Selection

The characteristics of friends move between them very quickly. The bad, however, move in greater speed. It frequently happens that well-behaved individuals have gone astray because of the influence of their bad friends. So, it is important for every man of reason to choose friends that are characterized by good mannerism and behavior.

The Ideal Friend

The first characteristic of the ideal friend is intelligence. In fact, the companionship of the foolish is vicious and malicious because the foolish injures his friend when he intends to benefit him: Amir ul-Mu'minin (PBUH) said: The foolish does not advise you of good and is not expected to save you from any problem even if he does his best. Moreover, he may harm you as he intends to benefit you. His death is better than his life, his silence is better than his words, and his remoteness is better than his closeness.

Friends must be characterized by faith, uprightness, and well mannerism. Friends who are empty of such traits are insignificant since they are anticipated to mislead their associates: It will be a hard day for the unbelievers. It will be a day when the unjust will bite their fingers, (regretfully) saying, "Would that we had followed the path of the Messengers. Woe to us! Would that we had not been friends with so and so. He led me away from the true guidance after it had come to us. Satan is a traitor to people."(2)

The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: Man imitates his friends. Hence, you must consider them whom you want to befriend. Amir ul-Mu'minin (PBUH) said: To sit with the evils causes mistrust in the good. To sit with the good attaches the evils to the good. The sinful ones sitting with the good ones attaches the sinful ones to the good ones. If you cannot discern the belief of somebody, you should investigate his associates. If they are following the right creed, he will inevitably be on the right creed. If they are not, he then has no share in the religion of Allah. The Prophet (PBUH&HP) used to say: He who believes in Allah and the Final Day should not fraternize with any disbeliever or associate with any sinful. He whoever fraternizes with a disbeliever or associates with a sinful one is certainly regarded as disbeliever and sinful.

Imam al-Baqir (PBUH) said: My father Ali ibn al-Hussein, once, advised me: “O son, do not associate, talk, or accompany five classes of people. Who are they, father? asked I, and he (PBUH) answered: Beware of associating with the liar, for he is as same as mirage: he shows you the near as remote and shows you the remote as near. Beware of associating with the sinful, for he will disappoint you for a single bite or even something less valuable. Beware of associating with the stingy, for he will let you down when you are in urgent need of his property.

Beware of associating the foolish, for he harms you when he intends to do you favor. Beware of associating with the disregardful of his relatives, for I found him cursed in the Book of Allah. Friends should exchange expressive desires of affection and fraternity so that their handle of friendship will be firmer. But if such tendencies fade away, the relation will be enfeebled, and the alienated party will expose himself to criticism and revulsion. Amir ul-Mu'minin (PBUH) said: To alienate the one who desires for making friendship with you is diminution of reason, and to desire for him who does not want you is humility.

Standards of Love

Aspects of love may be confused among people in general and friends in particular. Suspect may creep into the relations of friendship. Solving this problem, the Ahl ul-Bayt (PBUH) identified definite mental standards that reveal the actual feelings and hidden. Imam as-Sadiq (PBUH) answered the man who asked him how he would realize the real feelings of those who claim bearing love towards him: You should test your heart. If you really love him, he will really love you.

Imam al-Baqir narrated that, while he was dying, Amir ul-Mu'minin (PBUH) gathered His Sons Imam al-Hasan(PBUH), and Imam al-Hussein(PBUH), and Mohammed ibn al-Hanafiyya, and the other sons and commanded them:  Sons, you should associate with people in such a way that they will long for you when you are absent and will weep for you when you depart this life. Sons, hearts are well-mobilized troops; they recognize each other by means of amiability as well as hatred. Hence, you should expect good from the one whom you love without seeing any good from him. Likewise, you should beware of the one whom you dislike although you have not seen any ill behavior from him.

Friendship between Ebb and Flow

Which is better: to have many friends or to be friendless? Answering this question, people of reason have had various opinions. Anticipating the pleasures of sociability and benefits of solidarity, some people have preferred having many friends to being friendless. Others, however, have opted for the opposite, claiming the many problems of friendship that originate hatred an enmity. In fact, the question has nothing to do with the number of friends. It is related to the traits of nobility and sincerity that friends must bear. However, the noble, sincere friends are, unfortunately, very few. A single sincere friend is of course better than thousand insincere ones. In this regard, Alexander said: He who has many friends arbitrarily is as same as him who has many stones, and he who has few, but selective, friends is as same as him who has selective pearls.

Continue in the next article: ( RIGHTS OF FRIENDS 2 )



1. (26:100-1)

2. (25:27-9)