Friday, May 24, 2013

Friendship in Islam

There are many blessings in friendship. In his essay, “Of Friendship”, philosopher Francis Bacon describes a few benefits. Primarily friendship is a source of happiness or as he puts it “… the ease and discharge of the fullness and swellings of the heart…”.The second benefit is clarity of thought which is achieved by discussing issues with friends. Finally he states that a good honest friend is a source of constructive feedback. This idea was stated by the Prophet (SWAS) when he is reported to have said: "A believer is the mirror of his brother. When he sees a fault in it, he should correct it."

The benefits above are universal and apply to all human societies. Let’s see what our Creator has advised the Muslims about such a beneficial institution as human friendship.
“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (9:71)
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people..” (5:51)
"Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed - those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship]." (5:55)
Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah , except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination. (3:28)
On the face of it one may think that Allah (SWT) wants the Muslims to only befriend people of their own community and have no friendly relations with the non-Muslims. If one studies the Sunnah, it soon becomes apparent that this is not the case.
Often we tend to look at friendship as black and white. The “either you are with us or against us” doctrine does not reflect the reality of the full range of possible relationships in a typical human society. Scholars have tried to categorize human relations.
The most general type of human relation possible is Muwasaat. This entails wishing well for all Creation, including all of humanity out of human compassion. After Badr, the Muslims took the kuffar as prisoners of war. They were kept in the Prophet’s masjid and were treated in the best manner. They were given the best food, while the Muslims had to do with little. During the reign of Syedna Omar Ibnul Khattab (RA), the non-Muslims used to receive monthly stipends from the Treasury of the Muslims. The Muslims were not adverse to the kuffar but to their kufr.
The next type of relationship is Mudaraat, where one deals with people of the other communities on a one-to-one basis. These interactions may take place if for example one has a non-Muslim guest or a neighbor or sitting besides them in a flight. Again the Muslims are supposed to show their best behavior in such interactions. A Jew visited the Prophet (SWAS) once and was invited to eat there and sleep in his (SWAS) bed during the night. The next day when he left he forgot his sword which the Prophet (SWAS) kept safe until he came back to collect it later.
The third type of relationship is Muaamalaat, where Muslims associate with non-Muslims on the basis of some work, e.g. as an employer, employee, co-worker, teacher, doctor, librarian, cab driver, etc. The Prophet (SWAS) borrowed money from Jewish money lenders by pawning his belongings to him.
The last category of friendship is Muwalaat, in which people become close intimate friends with each other. They tend to support each other at all cost, even at the cost of their beliefs. It is this friendship, in which one makes the non-Muslims their wali, that the verses above refer to and is prohibited for Muslims. The Prophet (SWAS) said:“A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” Such type of friendship influences one's likes and dislikes, one's aspirations, one's perspective and ultimately one’s entire way of life. If a Muslim comes in such close friendship with non-Muslims he will forget his responsibilities as a member of the Ummah, supporting the non-Muslims even if it is against fellow Muslims. Such friends are eager to please each other. If a Muslim condones all actions of his non-Muslim friend, how can he tell him about the deen? He will ultimately weaken and lose his eeman, something that the Shariah is supposed to protect as a principle. Thus such friendships are not allowed.
Islam encourages Muslims to take full benefit of the institution of friendship. They must have compassion for all humanity, deal well with any non-Muslim they come in contact and work with them constructively for common objectives in society in a exemplary manner. But they must reserve the intimate nature of friendship only for fellow Muslims.