Quranic Reflection No 594. Āyāt 25:27-28 – Traits of a Good Friend

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وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلً‎ ٢٧﴾‏ )

يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا ‎(٢٨)

Wa yawm ya‘udduz-zālim ‘alā yadayhi yaqūlu yā laytanī ittakhadhtu ma‘arrasūli sabīlan. Yā waylatā laytanī lam attakhidh fulānan khalīlan.

It will be a day when the wrongdoer will bite his hands, saying, ‘I wish I had followed the Apostle’s way! Woe to me! I wish I had not taken so and so as a friend!

(Sūrat Al-Furqān, No 25, Āyat 27-28)

As was mentioned in last week’s Quranic Reflection, a friend has an important impact on their fate. So often a person’s ultimate happiness or wretchedness in the hereafter is tied to that of their friend! The above verse shows the regret in the hereafter of a person who maintains wrong friendships in this world. The Quran vividly describes the scenes of the Day of Judgment in a manner that one can almost visualize what will happen that day. There will be much regret on that day. In fact, the Quran calls it a Day of Regret: And warn them of the Day of Regret, when the matter will be concluded (Q 19:39). When people see how they lost the chance to earn eternal happiness through the time they had in this world, they will feel intense regret.

The misfortune of the person described in this verse is from two causes: leaving the path of the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and having a bad friend. A friend who does not have pious and righteous qualities can have a lot of negative influence on the journey of a believer towards Allah. Thus, we see that traits of a good and a bad friend have been mentioned in various narrations, using different words such as akhadīqkhalīl, and sahib. The below are just a few of these narrations, all taken from the book Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim (Exalted Aphorisms and Pearls of Speech available online at https://www.al-islam.org/ghurar-al-hikam-wa-durar-al-kalim-exalted-aphorisms-and-pearls-speech).

An interesting point worthy of mention is that in the early centuries of Islam, the Shī’ah community gave a lot of importance to memorizing the words of Amīrul-Mu’minīn Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām, a practice that has not been completely left aside, even in this day and age. The sermons, letters, and short sayings of this Imam hold a unique position among the entire Hadith corpus, due to reasons such as their extreme beauty and eloquence as well as their comprehensive nature. Because of Imam Ali’s position as the khalīfah of the Muslim world, more Islamic discussions pertaining to society, politics, economics, war, and numerous other aspects of life can be found in his words as compared to those of other Imams.

The following hadith of Imam Ali (a) describe some qualities of a friend:

  1. The best of your brothers is one who rushes towards good and pulls you towards it and enjoins you to righteousness and assists you in it.
  2. One who points out your faults to you and defends you in your absence, then he is your true friend, so protect him. ‏
  3. The worst of your brothers is the one who beguiles you with vain desire [by making you follow it] and distracts you with this world.

It is important to ensure that as believers, our criterion for a friend is solely based on such Islamic values, not our own whims, ego, and personal comfort. It should not be the case that I take someone who is nice and respectful as a close friend even if he is not a pious individual. While on the other hand, God forbid I am quick to cut off with those who are pure and God-fearing just because they are at times difficult to deal with! Such difficulties in interacting with people are normal and must be tolerated. Even when they are inexcusable, they cannot be the sole basis upon which we cut off with others.

We pray that the Almighty may grant us the tawfīq to stay away from bad friends who can influence us in the wrong way. We pray to Him to give us the company of those who espouse the lofty qualities the Imam articulated in the above narrations, and not be quick to break away from such people due to our ego. Let this verse be a warning to us so we are not from those who regret on the Day of Judgement.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Āyatullāh Muhmmad Bāqir Tahrīrī, Insān va gustaray-i huqūq-i bandegī (A Commentary on the Risālat al-huqūq).