Humans have always been social creatures and in need of friends and companions. A good part of our lives is spent in interaction with others. Befriending righteous and virtuous Muslims is a necessary means for staying on the Straight Path. In an authentic Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (Reported by Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi).
Mixing with followers of any way other than that of the Guidance results in a change in one’s behavior, morals and conduct. If we keep company with such friends, then we inculcate their habits, behavior and perhaps even their view of life. Many times a person is encouraged by his friends to do evil and to forget his duties. The result is that such a person himself often feels shy to leave them to perform prayer, his friends thus causing him to clearly deviate from the Right Path. Instead of making friends with the misguided ones we should befriend the righteous but still treat everyone else in a gracious and just manner.
In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows (respectively). So as for the seller of musk then either he will gift you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
In his commentary on this Hadith, Imam Al-Nawawi said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) compared a good companion to the seller of musk and spoke of the virtue of having companions who are good, who have noble manners, piety, knowledge and good culture. Such are those who give us from out of their virtue. And he (peace be upon him) forbade us to sit with those who do evil, commit sins and other bad deeds, as well as with liars, backbiters, and so forth. Another scholar said: “Keeping good company with the pious results in attainment of beneficial knowledge, noble manners and righteous actions, whereas keeping company with the wicked prevents all of that.”
Allah, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an: “And (remember) the Day when the wrong-doer will bite his hands and say: Woe to me! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger. Woe to me! If only I had not taken so- and-so as a friend! He has led me astray from this Reminder (the Qur’an) after it had come to me.” (25:27-29).
Allah also says: “Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah).” (43:67)
In two authentic narrations of the Prophet (peace be upon him), we have been commanded to keep company with a believer only, and are told that a person will be with those whom he loves. So if we love and associate with those who are misguided, we should fear for our fate. The wise person is the one who prepares himself for the Hereafter, not the one who neglects his faith and falls into the trap of Satan who tells him that he will be forgiven and that he can do whatever he wishes.
If we truly believe that the best discourse is the discourse of Allah and that the best guidance is the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we should act in accordance with them, lest we provide a proof against ourselves.
From another perspective, a “believer is the mirror of his brother,” and if he sees any faults in the other believer, he draws his attention to it in an acceptable manner, helps him to give it up and to wipe out any evil that he may have.
We ask Allah to cause us be friend the righteous ones and give us companions who will take us away from His wrath and lead us to His pleasure and Paradise.