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During my travels as an Army brat and now as an adult, living in three different countries, eight states, and over 15 cities, I have come across all kinds of people. By age 35, I had already moved about 20 times, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on packing, unpacking, and meeting new people. Because of the constant relocating, it became difficult for me to find a place where I fit in, as well as making and keeping friends.
Although being the new kid constantly was challenging, it was not always a bad thing. Eventually, I learned to adapt and appreciate the wealth of cultures and knowledge to which I was exposed as a child. My travels have taught me to be selective about who I choose to share my life with, where to invest my time, and how to value true, meaningful relationships. These experiences have also helped me in guiding my children on the correct ways to approach relationship-building in their formative years.
In Islam, choosing good friends is highly emphasized, because the company we keep can have a significant impact on our behavior, actions, and beliefs. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
“A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)
I tell my children that, undoubtedly, most of us will make plenty of friends in life, but less than a handful become your close friends. Good friends are hard to come by and good friendships and communities are even harder to maintain. Abu Musa reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, the parable of good and bad company is that of a seller of musk and a blacksmith. The seller of musk will give you perfume, you will buy some, or you will notice a pleasant smell. As for the blacksmith, he will burn your clothes, or you will notice a bad smell.”
(Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
Friends Are Like Flowers
As cliché (or “cringe” in their terms) as it may sound, there is some truth to the statement: Friends are like flowers. Some of them look and smell good and you want to keep them around you always. Some don’t smell like anything at all, but they are visibly appealing. Still others come with thorns that can hurt if not handled properly. There are flowers that are easy to keep and will bloom year after year with little effort; others take some serious gardening but can add a lot of goodness into your life. When picking a bouquet of flowers to beautify your home, you will always choose the best. Likewise, we should always pick the very best types of friends – those who will benefit us and remind us of Allah.
Like flowers, friends come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and they have different needs. However, there are some things they have in common, like the need for sunshine, water, and soil, or whatever keeps them thriving. Relationships thrive in a functional community – a place that provides the shelter and elements a flower needs to bloom. There needs to be fertile soil in this planting bed of a community with plenty of space for all types of greenery. Think of yourself also as a flower or a beautiful plant that provides benefit for others. You are beauty, shade, softness, nourishment, and fragrance that is appealing to the senses. Your pleasant, smiling face is like colorful petals in full bloom, making others feel comfortable and welcome.
Likewise, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, likened the believers to date palm trees that are firm and produce fruit, even in the middle of the harshest desert. Abdullah Ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, narrated: Allah’s Messenger said, “Amongst the trees, there is a tree, the leaves of which do not fall and is like a Muslim. Tell me the name of that tree.” Everybody started thinking about the trees of the desert areas. And I thought of the date-palm tree but felt shy to answer; the others then asked, “What is that tree, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “It is the date-palm tree.”(Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
Good friends who are committed to their faith can help strengthen one’s own faith and lead to positive spiritual growth. Conversely, being friends with those who have weak faith or engage in sinful behavior can open the way to negative influences and possibly even lead one astray from the path of righteousness. Islam encourages us to choose friends who have good character, are honest, trustworthy, kind, and compassionate. These are the sweet-scented perfume sellers or flowers. These qualities not only benefit our development but also contribute to a healthy and positive social environment.
Choosing good friends is of utmost importance in Islam. It can positively impact our faith, by helping us maintain our religious principles and values. Muslim parents can encourage their children to choose good friends by setting a good example themselves and by teaching their children Islamic values and principles from a young age.
Here are some specific ways to encourage your children to choose good friends:
1. Teach Islamic values.
Faith-based knowledge begins at home. Parents can teach their children about the importance of having good character, honesty, trustworthiness, and compassion. This can be done through modeling appropriate behavior, reading, and discussing Islamic books, stories, and hadiths with your children. One of the concepts that is stressed throughout the Quran and the Sunnah is that Muslims are one community and one brotherhood. Thus, friendship between Muslims goes far beyond just the casual small talk. Allah instructs us in the Quran:
“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 charity and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have mercy upon them, for Allah is Almighty and Wise.”
(Surah At-Tawbah, 9:71)
Friends in Islam are a support system, and their mutual respect and love for one another will be rewarded in the next life. Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘Where are those who love each other for the sake of My majesty? Today, I will shelter them in My shade on a day when there is no shade but Mine.’”
2. Encourage positive behavior.
Parents can encourage their children to engage in positive activities, such as volunteering, helping others, and participating in Islamic events and gatherings. This will allow your children to meet like-minded individuals with similar values. Additionally, they will build emotional awareness and empathy towards others – both are skills that can aid them in the future.
There are many examples of how Muslims should behave with one another that the Prophet, peace be upon him, shared with his followers. On one occasion, he said:
“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
(Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
3. Monitor your child’s friends.
Parents should monitor their children’s friendships and get to know their children’s friends and their families. This will help them ensure that they are associating with good company and can help identify any negative influences.
4. Encourage socialization with good friends.
Parents should encourage their children to socialize with friends by inviting them over for gatherings, attending Islamic events together, and engaging in activities that promote good character. Just like adults, children need to socialize and feel like they are part of a community. Meeting with their friends can be a great stress reliever and provide them with opportunities to increase in good deeds. Consider the following story narrated from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:
“A man visited a brother of his in another town, and Allah sent an angel to wait for him on the road. When he came to him, he said: ‘Where are you headed?’ He said: ‘I am headed to a brother of mine in this town.’ He said: ‘Have you done him any favor for which you hope to be recompensed?’ He said: ‘No, but I love him for the sake of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted.’ He said: ‘I am a messenger from Allah to you, to tell you that Allah loves you as you love him for His sake.”
5. Foster open communication.
Parents should foster open communication with their children and create an environment where their children feel comfortable discussing their social lives with them. This will allow parents to address any concerns or issues their children may have with their friends in a constructive manner. Begin with affection (show them love), patience (allow them to express themselves without interrupting), and compassion (use empathy or “put yourself in their shoes”). Displaying these Prophetic characteristics with our children will surely keep the lines of communication open.
Abu Huraira reported that Al-Aqra ibn Habis saw the Prophet kissing his grandson, Hasan. He then said to him:
“I have ten children, but I have never kissed any one of them,” after which the Prophet responded: ‘He who does not show mercy (toward his children), no mercy would be shown to him.’”
6. Welcome good friends of all backgrounds and cultures.
Some Muslim parents become concerned when their child’s circle of friends expands to include people from cultures other than their own. For example, if their son or daughter befriends a non-Muslim, they worry about them being a bad influence. However, these fears are often rooted in unfair biases, ignorance, or even racism. The fact is these relationships are important to expose children to people of all backgrounds.
Allah says in the Quran:
“O mankind, indeed, We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware.”
(Surah Al-Hujarat, 49:13)
Islam teaches Muslims to be kind, respectful, and just towards all people, regardless of their faith or beliefs. Muslims are encouraged to maintain good relationships with their neighbors, colleagues, classmates, and others, despite their religion or culture. Every non-Muslim is a potential Muslim or ally. We should learn to see them just as we see ourselves, for no one is guaranteed to die as a believer. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, interacted with people of different faiths throughout his life, and showed them compassion despite their beliefs.
Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated:
“A Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he fell sick. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, went to visit him. He sat by his head and said: ‘Become Muslim.’ The boy looked at his father, who was also by his head, and his father said to him, ‘Obey Abu’l-Qasim.’ So, he became Muslim, and the Prophet left, saying, ‘Praise be to Allah Who have saved him from the Fire.’”
It is important to note that while Muslims are encouraged to befriend people of other faiths, they should also be cautious and maintain their Islamic values and principles. They should not be influenced by their non-Muslim (or Muslim) friends to engage in sinful or immoral behavior and should maintain their Islamic identity. Muslim children need to also have God-fearing Muslim friends who share their values and beliefs. Having them close can provide a sense of community, support, and may help strengthen one’s faith.
As Muslims, we have a responsibility to choose our friends wisely and to be good friends ourselves. By following the valuable lessons in the Quran and the Sunnah about seeking positive and supportive friendships, we can build strong and meaningful relationships that enrich our lives and help us to become better Muslims and better human beings. InshaAllah, God willing, our mutual love will blossom to aid us in this life and beyond as Allah has promised.
By Wendy Diaz
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.