Islamic Perspectives

The Basis of Friendship

We used to have friends and brothers that I would rely on. Then, after a time, I experienced a dryness from them, that is an abandonment of the expectations of friendship, which surprised me so I took to reproaching them. Then I thought to myself: What good will reproaching do? For, indeed, if they do what I want them to do (after I reproach them) then they are doing it just to avoid reproach and not from the pureness of their brotherly feelings. So I wanted to cut these so-called “friends” off. But I thought more and saw that my connection to people was of two kinds: Superficial acquaintances and friendships, and very close brothers. So I said to myself: It is not right to cut them off. Rather, I should just transfer them (in my mind) from the circle of brotherhood to the circle of superficial friendship. And if they are not good even as superficial friends, I should transfer them to the further circle of general acquaintances and interact with them as such.  Yahya ibn Mu’adh has said: “What a terrible brother he is whom you must remind to make du’a for you.”

The masses of people today are good as acquaintances. It is rare to find one who can be taken even as a superficial friend. As for pure sincere brotherhood, that is something that has been abrogated in our times. It should not be hoped for.

No one can find pure brotherhood even in a relative, or child, or a wife, let alone hope for a pure relationship. So keep some distance from people and interact with them as you would a stranger. And beware! Never be deceived by one that shows you pure love, for, indeed, with time it will become evident to you what he really feels about you. It may be that a person shows you pure love in order to gain something from you at your expense.

Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyadh has said: “If you want to befriend someone, then anger him. If you see him act appropriately, then befriend him.” However, nowadays it is dangerous to try such an experiment because when people are angered in our times they instantly make you an enemy.

The reason that pure brotherhood has gone extinct is that those of old used to be concerned only about the Afterlife. Hence, their intentions in mixing with people, and thus their brotherhood, were clear. Their relationships were for the sake of Allah, rather than for worldly reasons. As for now, the love of this world has taken hold of hearts. So if you see one boasting about their religiousness, then inform him that it is incomplete.

I have seen that in our times one who is healthy no longer recognizes the value of health, save when he becomes ill, just as he does not know appreciation for liberty except when he is imprisoned. I marvel at the state of people today: A man might have a woman with him who is not bad, yet his heart is not attached to her, though she is an attachment from which he derives delight. There are two reasons for this. First, she might not appear to be the most beautiful woman to him. Second, whatever is possessed is no longer desired, for the nafs - that is the self - is ever seeking for that which it does not or cannot have.

Hence, you see a person wishing for and desiring something he likes, or for a woman he loves, not knowing that truly he is seeking bondage that prevents the heart from thinking about the affairs of the next life, from pursuing beneficial knowledge, and from gainful work. This bondage holds his heart hostage in the life of this world. Such a lover remains the prisoner of the one he loves, all of his concern being about her.

How astounding it is for the liberated to prefer bondage, and for the tranquil to favour hardship! For example, if the woman such a man loves and seeks after needs much care and attention, then woe to him! For never shall he know again either tranquillity or peace of mind! Or if she needs a little of his attention and is independent, yet flaunts her beauty in public and cannot be trusted, then that is definite destruction. For the man will have no rest in sleep, nor sense of security whenever he leaves his home.

Or if she requires much spending of money to please her, money he does not have, then how many a bad situation will this man put himself in for her.

Or if she demands much sex while he is advancing in years, then such is a great devastation for him. Or if she hates him while he has exhausted all possible ways by which he can alter himself until it becomes disfiguring, then that is a man moving swiftly toward self-annihilation. For such a man in reality is like one who worships an idol. Then let this man fear God in the good woman that he has, and let him turn away from the desires and wishes of his soul because they have no end.

The truth is if a man were to attain a woman that he desired more than his wife, he would soon be bored of her and seek out a third woman. Then he would become bored again, and seek a fourth, and so on to no end. (Excerpts From Quarry Of  The Mind (Sayd Al-Khatir) by Ibn Al-Jawzi (d. 597H) - translated by Omar Abdl-Haleem

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2012 on page no. 21

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