IN OUR CONTEMPORARY society, friends are made at school, at work, in neighborhoods and even over the Internet. Friends are made and kept for a variety of reasons. People make friends with others who share common interests, hobbies, and even vices. The final goal of a friendship is often simply company, a desire to spend time with someone, doing something that they both enjoy. A Muslim ought to choose friends more carefully and critically.
Certainly, Muslims, like everyone else, want friends who share interests and who are fun to hang out with. We all enjoy going to the movies with a friend or going out to dinner with friends, and who wouldn’t like to go to a party with some of their best friends? But, that is not only what a truly Islamic friendship is all about. In fact, an Islamic friendship is not that simple at all. In Islam, true friendships are bound by brotherhood and sisterhood, bonds that are stronger than typical friendships. They are bonds that exist for a much higher reason, with a greater goal.
Muslims make friends knowing that the relationship that will ensue is an important bond between two people who share mutual goals. Their friendship is one that exists primarily for the sake of Allah the Almighty. The love and camaraderie that is born from such a friendship is a secondary benefit, for sure.
True Love for the Sake of Allah the Most High
Love for another comes in different forms. Love between a husband and wife is one type of these forms, and friendship is another form. However, all forms of fondness that any one person can have for any other person –for the purpose of this article– will be referred to as ‘love.’
Realistically, pure love of another person only for the sake of Allah is difficult. Few people can attain such a friendship, which is why Allah rewards such an act of faith generously. The Prophet ﷺ explained,
Allah said: Those who love one another for My glory will have minbars of light, and the prophets and martyrs will wish that they had the same. (Tirmidhi)
Nevertheless, many of us, to reach this high level of faith, must try to make and build strong friendships that benefit us and our Ummah. In Islam, true friendship is brotherhood or sisterhood- a bond that is strong and enduring. In this bond, men and women can find the sweetness of faith:
There are three things that whoever attains them will find therein the sweetness of faith: if Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anyone or anything else; if he loves a person solely for the sake of Allah; and if he would hate to return to kufr after Allah has rescued him from it, as much as he would hate to be thrown into the Fire. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
The rewards of loving another for Allah’s sake are consistent with its importance. And its impact is not singular- it affects the entire society. For an entire society to exist in harmony and peace, its constituents must be peaceful. If we could each want for our friends what we want for ourselves, the world would be a better place. This is what Islam ensures. If there is brotherhood and unity among the people, the society at large will be united.
The Prophet understood the significance of true brotherhood and instilled a deep-rooted love into the hearts of the Ṣahâba to create a model Islamic society that all Muslims thereafter can emulate. Prophet Muhammad realized that the best way to eliminate hatred, jealousy and rivalry is to induce brotherhood, a sincere love and friendship. Islamic society is ideally built upon the foundation of brotherhood, as the Prophet ﷺ advised.
Believers are like a structure, parts of which support one another. The believers, in their mutual friendship, mercy and affection, are like one body; if any part of it complains, the rest of the body will also stay awake in fever. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
How to Love a Believer
Since love among the believers is a condition of faith in Islam, the peace and harmony that is desired by all can be achieved, in that everyone strives to do good and to ﷺ ﷺ earn reward. So, what can we do? How can we be sure that our friendships are for the sake of Allah? Our lives are full of opportunities to increase and better our friendships. First, as with any undertaking, we need to make clear, pure and sincere intentions. Pertaining to the existing friendships that we already have, we should make a conscious effort to love our friends for the sake of Allah. And, as we make friends in the future, we should also make conscious intentions that those new friendships will be for the sake of Allah.
After a pure intention, we need sincere actions. The Prophet ﷺ recommended a very simple but significant way to help Muslims gain brotherhood.
By the One in Whose hands my soul is, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do it, you will love one another? Spread salâm amongst yourselves. (Muslim)
Greeting each other properly and lovingly is the first step to achieving the ideal brotherhood.
It would seem that greeting another with al-salâm ʿalaykum is an easy action. However, given the nature of men and women and our vulnerability to changing emotions, sometimes these simple words are hard to utter. In other words, there are times when even this simple greeting is hard to say to someone with whom we might have argued. The beauty of Islam is that it is realistic. So, it is allowed for us to take time to “cool off,” but we are not allowed to cut off friendships based on rash and unreasonable emotions. The Prophet ﷺ said,
It is not permissible for a Muslim to be estranged from his brother for more than three days, both turning away from one another when they meet. The better of them is the one who is first to greet the other. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
These teachings encourage Muslims to better themselves, thereby improving their society.
Do not break off ties with one another, do not turn away from one another, do not hate one another, and do not envy one another. Be brothers, as Allah has commanded you. (Bukhâri)
The memory of the Prophet memory and his words live in our hearts and minds. Heeding his advice, we should realize that we are supposed to be brothers or sisters in Islam because we share a common religion and belief. We are to be brothers and sisters in our hearts because we share a common goal: Allah’s pleasure.