‘And if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass it by with dignity.’ (25:72)

The preferred and chosen servants of the Almighty are those that if they happen to pass by such gatherings of immorality, they pass by with dignity and grace. That is to say that they do not attend such gatherings intentionally, if they happen to pass by them sometimes by chance they just walk away from there in a dignified manner.

Despite their belief that evil acts are hateful, they do not take pride or regard themselves as superior for not indulging in them. Once Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud happened to pass by an absurd and dissolute gathering, so he did not stop there but simply walked away. When the Holy Prophet learned about this incident, he remarked ‘Ibn Mas’ud has become dignified because he walked away from a dissolute gathering with dignity.’ (Ibn Kathir)

All acts of disobedience are poison to the heart and cause sickness and ruin. They result in it running off course, against that of Allah, and so its sickness festers and increases. Ibn al-Mubarak said: I have seen wrong actions killing hearts, and their degradation may lead to their becoming addicted to them. Turning away from wrong actions gives life to the heart, and opposing yourself is best for it. (Ibn Kathir)

Unnecessary companionship is a chronic disease that causes much harm. How often have the wrong kind of companionship and intermixing deprived people of Allah’s generosity, planting discord in their hearts which even the passage of time has been unable to dispel. In keeping such company one can find the roots of loss, both in this life and in the next life. A servant should benefit from companionship. In order to do so he should divide people into four categories, and be careful not to get them mixed up, for once one of them is mixed with another, then evil can find its way through to him:

The first category
They are those people whose company is like food: it is indispensable, night or day. Once a servant has taken his need from it, he leaves it until he requires it again, and so on. These are the people with knowledge of Allah and of the diseases of the heart and their remedies- who wish well for Allah, His Prophet, and His servants. Associating with this type of person is an achievement in itself.

The second category
They are those people whose company is like medicine. They are only required when a disease sets in. When you are healthy, you have no need for them. However, mixing with them is sometimes necessary for your livelihood, businesses, consultation, and the like. Once what you need from them has been fulfilled, mixing with them should be avoided.

The third category
They are those people whose company is harmful. Mixing with this type of person is like a disease, in all its variety and degrees and strengths and weaknesses. Associating with one or some of them is like an incurable chronic disease. You will never profit either in this life or in the next life if you have them for company, and you will surely lose either one or both of your religion and your livelihood because of them. If their companionship has taken hold of you and is established, then it becomes a fatal, terrifying sickness.

Amongst such people are those who neither speak any good that might benefit you, nor listen closely to you so that they might benefit from you. They do not know their souls and consequently put their selves in their rightful place. If they speak, their words fall on their listeners’ hearts like the lashes of a cane, while all the while they are full of admiration for and delight in their own words.

All in all, mixing with anyone who is bad for the soul will not last, even if it is unavoidable. It can be one of the most distressing aspects of a servant’s life that he is plagued by such a person, with whom it may be necessary to associate. In such a relationship, a servant should cling to good behavior, only presenting him with his outward appearance, while disguising his inner soul, until Allah offers him a way out of his affliction and the means of escape from this situation.

The fourth category
They are those people whose company is doom itself. It is like taking poison: its victim either finds an antidote or perishes. Many people belong to this category. They are the people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah and advocate other beliefs. They call the Sunnah an innovation and vice-versa. A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The results of doing so will either be the death of his heart or, at the very best, it’s falling seriously ill. Acts of obedience are essential to the well-being of the servant’s heart, just in the same way that food and drink are to that of the body. All wrong actions are the same as poisonous foods, and they inevitably harm the heart.

In order to maintain the well-being of his body, the servant carefully follows a strict diet. He habitually and constantly eats good food at regular intervals and is quick to free his stomach of harmful elements if he happens to eat bad food by mistake. The well-being of the servant’s heart, however, is far more important than that of his body, for while the well-being of his body enables him to lead a life that is free from illnesses in this world, that of the heart ensures him both a fortunate life in this world and eternal bliss in the next.

In the same way, while the death of the body cuts the servant off from this world, the death of the heart results in everlasting anguish. A righteous man once said, “How odd, that some people mourn for the one whose body has died, but never mourn for the one whose heart has died-and yet the death of the heart is far more serious!”