FRIENDSHIP IN ITS PROPER SETTINGS
For the believing youth, it is absolutely necessary for a human being who is a believer to select the atmosphere in which to nurture well his faith. It is as if he were looking after a seedling which, if planted in an inhospitable environment, would not mature in naturally even if he were to use every artificial means to encourage its growth, increase its size and length. All these would not give it spirit or life. As such, we find that the plants that grow organically differ in their characteristics from those that are grown through artificial means in artificial environments. Likewise, it is essential that a believing person nurture his faith in a natural atmosphere.
From this starting point, our Islamic focus is on the believing man who marries a religious woman, and on the believing girl who marries someone whose religion and character are pleasing. The marriage union represents a nursery for the rearing of the faith of the spouses in their private life. In this vein, Islam repudiates a marriage which "produces dung," according to the Hadith: "Stay away from the production of dung. . . and the people said, `What is the production of dung?' [The Prophet] replied, `A beautiful woman in the hothouse of evil."' This is because the hothouse of evil can have a negative effect on the natural nurturing of faith of this woman. Her morals would then reflect the environment in which she was brought up, exactly as a shoot takes all its nourishment from the filth in its surroundings by which it is reared.
This is where a positive role can be played by the companion and the friend who exemplify the emotional attachments which bind one human to another. We know that emotions affect life, more than thought for thought is achieved by that which convinces, and it is difficult to convince anyone of your ideas without presenting the grounds for accepting your views. Emotion, on the other hand, may grab the feelings and sensitivities of a person in such a manner that he becomes heedless in his thinking.
ROLE OF SENTIMENT IN RELATIONS
We observe that many youths are influenced by groups with different outlooks on thought and faith. This is due to the influence of feelings, whether these sentiments stem from relations with women, companions, friendship,or the like. Many people belonging to such groups may find-when they inquire further-that their affiliation is the result of feelings they developed during their relationship with a companion or friend.
A believer, therefore, must choose a friend at his level of faith, with whom he can develop and improve. Therefore, he must not befriend an ignoramus, who will lead him astray and cause him to perceive ignorance as a natural state in its own right, the hub of his friend's life revolves. He must avoid befriending the foolish, who cannot see things in a balanced way; as stated in some sayings, "He misleads you when he wants to benefit you." He must not befriend the sinful who draw him into sin; the natural impact of friendship may cause one to admire another's habits, values, views, and actions. He must not make a non-believer his friend, insofar as this relationship makes him completely receptive to the letter's ideas, which are not viewed in any critical light.
Instead, he must choose an intelligent, contemplative, believing friend who has profound faith and whose outlook is in harmony with his regarding life. This way, he will not face the problem of conflict between functioning in the path he has chosen for himself and the confusing influences of his friend.
CAUTIONING AGAINST EVIL FRIENDS
The gist of the idea then is that a person exercises influences, both positive and negative, on the perceptions of his companion. This relates the issue of friendship to the way a person conducts himself in different circumstances. We note these in the words of God, when He relates some images of the Resurrection; these images are as a direct result of the trials of human beings in life experiences. That day the wrongdoer will bite his hands, and God shall say, "O! Would that I had taken the path with the Messenger! Woe to me l Would that 1 had never taken this one as a friend! He did lead me astray from the Reminder after it had come to me. And Satan is but a traitor to humankind! "(Furqan, 25:27-29)
By studying this example which God gives to us, we see that a human being lives this grief and sorrow in his life as a consequence of having followed a distorted lifestyle. This is due to being influenced by his friendships with those who wish only evil for him. They exploit his compassion, which he acquired after reaching a stage that pushed him far away from God's mercy.
A QURANIC EXAMPLE
As an example, there is a general topic which the Quran speaks of regarding those who follow and those who are followed-this being in the form of suggestions to anyone living in the sphere of the arrogant or the oppressed. Perhaps we could derive from this a meaning that is comprehensive for the followers, even from the point of view of feelings-such as a husband who follows his wife out of affection, or a wife who follows her husband for the same reason, or a friend who follows his buddy. Those who are followed will clear themselves of those who followed: they will see the penalty and all relations between them would be severed. And those who followed will say: "If a return were possible for us, we would disown them as they have disowned us ;Thus will God show them their own deeds as anguish for them.
And they will not escape the fire" (al Baqara, 2:167).
We can see that the Quran emphasizes that the followers also bear responsibility, even where there are material or emotional pressures which cause them to follow. For God draws the attention of humankind to the fact that they must benefit from this trial, and extricate themselves from the situations they find themselves in-wherever they are pressured. We construe this from another verse: "As for those whom the angels cause to die while they wrong themselves, they the angels] shall say: What was your situation? They said: We were oppressed in the land The angels said: Was the earth not wide enough for you to emigrate (elsewhere) in it? The abode of those is the hellfire What a horrible ending!" (al-Nisa, 4:97)
When God cast upon these oppressed people the responsibility for their own deviance, along with the arrogant and their wrong ways, He wanted for them to distance themselves from the perverse environment, that they might be relieved of pressures. This is implicit proof that a person should not place himself in a situation where there is the pressure of sentiment and the material things which may cause him to be negatively influenced. And when he finds himself in such an atmosphere, he must flee, freeing himself from it.
These educational guidelines, which are generally the Quran's point of departure, relate to the influence of one human over another. A person must retain his senses in order to avoid others overcoming his mind. He must extricate himself from pressure situations, and he must function on the basis of the unadulterated form of his faith.
FRIENDS IN THE HEREAFTER
There is the verse "Friends on that day will be enemies to one another, except those who guard against evi1J" (al-Zukhruf, 43:67). From the previous discussion, we equally understand that the friendship built on everyday life incidents in this world will merit the charge of responsibility in the hereafter. Those friends who used to gather together in the world to waste time and to be idle, for deceit, perversion, or sin, etc., will face an inevitable results, each person assuming responsibility for having guided the other astray. And it is normal that friendship should then change to enmity; each person who was so overcome by the influence of friendship as to deviate from the right path will discover that his fiend was actually an enemy in the guise of a friend.
But the pious who assisted each other in piety and godliness, mindful of God and exhorting truth and patience, will normally maintain their friendship; for it was positive in this world, their path clear which led to the good of this world as well as the hereafter.
THE RIGHTS OF FRIENDS
In sayings about social relations, we have "A Friend in need" and "In travel you know your brothers." What are the rights which one friend has over another?
The meaning here is that friendship is based on a sort of oneness of sentiment between two friends. When people speak of friendship, they speak of fidelity and sacrifice. It is probable that the saying "A friend in time of need" or "You know your friends while on travel" relates to the difficulties which help display the sterling qualities of a person. When we reflect on friendship and what it encompasses in terms of sentiments towards the aspect of faith, we see that Islam exhorts the believer to open himself up to his believing brother, sharing with him his distress, overcoming his difficulties, answering his needs, aiding him in all his affairs, protecting him in body, property, and honor.
The believing person, in a brotherhood of faith strengthened by the bonds of friendship, recognizes his friend in times of hardship and travail, and in all times of difficulty in his life.
THE INJUNCTION OF PRAYER
The words of God in the Glorious Quran are: "So worship Me and establish prayer for My Remembrance" (Ta Ha, 20:14). How is this command to be effected? In other words, is the command the outcome of the hoped for results of the prayer?
The expression here is not to be taken in any literal, lexical sense; it implies every action performed to achieve the goal of making one's family obey God ( the Exalted). This is based on the view that prayer represents a distinctive, reified aspect of worship of God and dedication to Him. Hence, every person must do all that is necessary in this area, and if words are of no avail, then we may have to resort to action-encouraging attraction, threat; creating the appropriate environment; warning about inappropriate places; or any of the normal human methods.
The expression implies functioning in this sense through every means possible; it is to be expected that any approach used by a person to convince another-by deed or word-will not be one hundred percent effective on its own. No matter how ingenious this person may be, or how dedicated to the idea he propounds, there is always a unique facet intrinsic to the person whom we would like to guide, a mindset in reaction to words or movements, or to the environment, with every assessment of a weak point and strength in his positive and negative traits.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THOSE WHOSE CALL IS TO ISLAM
Islam directs everyone who calls to the right path -the preacher, the guide-thus: "You must give of everything you have in order to guide another, to change that person's line of thinking, and to correct his way. When you do this, you will have fulfilled your obligations in this respect." In the words of God: "O you who believed Save yourselves and your families from fire whose fuel is human beings and stones, over which are angels, stern and sever. They do not disobey God in that which they are ordered, but do as they are commanded (al-Tahrim, 66:6). In the interpretation of this verse, a question was put forward to one of the Imams. It was asked, "How do we save them?" He said, "Commanding them and prohibiting them." It was said, "We command and we prohibit, but they do not obey us." He said, "If you have commanded and prohibited them, you have fulfilled your duties."
The Imam, in his answer with respect to the verse did not intend the command and the prohibition to have a superficial meaning. In fact, he meant them as two things achievable by word, deed, or environment. Therefore, do what you can to fulfill your obligation and prohibit what is forbidden. When you have availed yourself of every approach, then there is no further obligation on you.
This is what God was speaking about to His Prophet, guiding him, when He said: “Indeed you are only a warner, and to every people a guide” (al-R’ad, 13:7). “Remind them for you are only a reminder. You are not the supervisor of their affairs” (al-Ghashiyah, 88: 21). “Will you then compel people until they become believers?” (Yunus, 10:99). Your obligation is to ensure that you do all within your power to deal with the issue, and when you have done this nothing more is required of you.
On the basis of the above, we say “ordering” implies that functional aspect which a person puts into practice by every means at his disposal, directly or indirectly, with the full realization that this influence must be effective in a normal manner. Acting on these influences would then be the responsibility of the other person.
BEING GOOD TO PARENTS
In the words of God, “And if they strive to force you to associate in worship with me that concerning which you have no knowledge, obey them not, but be a companion to them with kindness and justice (Luqman, 31:15). How is it possible for a believing son to build the bonds of companionship through good conduct and justice with a father or parents who are not believers?
When we study the Islamic approach to the relationship with parents, we do not find that God has charged anyone with obeying his parents. This is because the bond that connects parent to child is a good [Ihsan] that flows from the parent to the child; it is not a state which requires a conduct towards the parent which extinguishes the child’s entire being, in deference to the parent’s desire.
Thus, the reaction towards this good on the part of the parents is that the child should be good towards his parents; not that he must always obey them. We observe in the Glorious Quran, that God addresses this topic in Surat al-Isra, with the words, “And God has decreed that you should not worship any but He, and that you be good to your parents”(Isra, 17:23). In doing so, He referred to the relation of worship between the worshipper and his Lord, between the created and the Creator, the slave to his Master, a being to the One who caused him to be. These bonds require worship and submission , since your presence stems from the fact that He wants it so. Therefore, it is necessary that your actions and your very presence be in accordance with His wants.
THE NOTEWORTHY DUTIES OF THE PARENTS
On the other hand, the matter is different for the parents, for they are the means by which you are here. And God is the one who put the secret of life in the sperm which becomes a clinging mass, then blood, then bones; then clothes these bones with flesh; then makes them into a different form of creation.
And when the child is born, it is God who puts the milk in the mother’s breasts. The role of the parents is then that of an intermediary; it is not their desire which caused your being. On this premise then, their status is that of anyone who is good towards you, and from here we go to the verse that states: “Is the reward of good any anything but good?”(al-Rahman, 55:60). From this, we see that that your relationship towards your parents is one of goodness, and example of which God has said: “Whether one, or both of them, attain old age in this life, say not a word of contempt to them, nor repel them, Address them rather in words of honor.” (Isra, 17:23).
Here God establishes the manner by which a person can endure every character flaw that the parents may experience when they become old, when they become testy, when the parents become a burden on the child. This is why God has revealed to the son that his position towards his parents should be one of humility, but not of degrading his humanness or self-worth. It is exactly how a person gives in to his little child.
In the context of God’s discourse on the struggles which the mother endures, we find that He tells us this in His words: “His mother bore him in agony upon agony” (Luqman, 31:14), and: ”His mother bore him in pain, and gave birth to him in pain”(al-Ahqaf, 46:15). Thus the child struggles on their behalf and they struggle on his behalf.
RESPONSIBILIES TOWARDS THE PARENTS
We understand therefore that the relationship is one of doing good- that is they did what was best and that now the son must conduct himself in kind. In this context, when the two parents are non-believes, or sinners, the child must maintain the view that: “And if they strive to force you to associate in worship with Me that concerning which you have no knowledge, obey them not” (Luqman, 31:15; Ankabut, 29:8). This is because it is not permissible to follow a person in non-belief, even when such a person happens to be one’s own mother or father.
But their on-belief, polytheism, and sin must not remove you from the human relations which God has enjoined on you. One facet of this companionship is revealed by:” Say not a word of contempt to them, nor reel them” (Isra, 17:23). It may be that in some situations to spend on them, to yield to them, to smile and kiss them, to look after them, to care for them medically, etc. In the caring of a human being in the course of life and with feelings of compassion.
TRANSFORMING LOVE TO GUIDANCE
In the light of this, it is possible for the believer to plan the transformation of this condition to a method of guidance for his parents, as we see in the story related from Imam Al-Sadiq, where a Christian came to him and converted to Islam. The man then said to the Imam, “I have a mother who is Christian; how should I behave towards her when I have become a Muslim and she still remains in non-belief?” Imam al-Sadiq replied, “See how you used to treat her when you were still Christian, and then go and improve on that.”
The man went and did as the Imam had counseled him, caring ever more for her in all her ordinary needs. She was astonished at this conduct from him. She said to him, “What is all this? You used to be good to me, but you have added in your goodness towards me; what has changed you?” The son said to her, “I have converted to Islam, and the leader of this religion has taught me to do thus. “ She said, “Is he a prophet? “He said, “No, the offspring of a prophet. “She said, “ These are the morals of prophets, O my son Explain your religion to me!” And so he explained Islam to her, and she embraced Islam.
From this narration, we may infer that the Muslim child, in offering all his compassion and love, his solicitude towards his non-believing or sinful parents, can clearly put light into his conduct and feelings that transform to bring about openness to the path of righteousness.
PLEASING THE PARENTS… IS THERE A LIMIT?
In the light of the foregoing, how do we explain the Hadith “Pleasing God is pleasing the parents?’
We sometimes hear this adage, and I do not know whether it is a Hadith or not. But it is another way of saying that God wants the person to please his parents. The purpose of pleasing the parents, however, must be obedience to God wherever the parents bring on no predicament-for example, ordering their child to do something against his best interests, detrimental, or leading him away from situations where he can show obedience to God(as in commendable deeds). For God does not wish that anyone should be in such a position of control over another, causing him problems in his religion-by leaving that which is commendable or committing the abominable, etc.
From here, we understand that pleasing God is pleasing the parents –i.e, pleasing them in the sphere of parental relations where God has decreed the rights of parents over the child. And so, it is essential that the child conduct himself there at the divine level; for God (Exalted) will not be pleased until the parents are pleased. This is because if the child were to stray from the divine path, and to rebuke his parents, thereby failing to act towards them in a goodly manner, then he has deviated from the path of God.
HARMONIZING WORD AND DEED
O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to God that you should say that which you do not do’(al-saff, 61:2-3). Is the prohibition in this verse an absolute one with respect to the words which are not accompanied by deed, or does it refer to the intention of a speech which is unaccompanied by action?
The verse means that harmony between word and deed is mandatory; or between faith (on the assumption that words are profession of faith) and the actual conduct –which the Imam makes obligatory on the believing person. This holds in areas which necessitate harmony with faith. It is as if God were saying: “You people profess faith. But you do not conduct yourselves in a manner which such faith makes obligatory on you, in terms of action which (should) make you struggle in the path of God. Rather your faith is an abstract intellectual concept which does not translate into action. And God[Exalted]does not like those who declare their affiliation with Him, His path, and religion, but do not obey Him.
However, if the matter were such that the person utters a word for a practical purpose in order to safeguard Islamic objectives-to protect his Islamic position or the safety of an Islamic region, uttering words which he does not believe or saying something to which he does not lend credence –then this does not come under the umbrella of the verse. Why? Because if we understand that it is incumbent on you to balance between faith and action, in that words are professions of faith, then someone who makes a declaration in which he does not believe, or takes a stance he does not believe in, has not distanced himself from the locus of faith, for his statement was made on grounds tat the nature of faith compelled him to do so.
God [Exalted] wishes for the believing person to conduct himself under conditions of duress in a manner that protect his higher goal. Here, the issue of the word that is contrary to the deed differs according to the scenario to which the word is applied. Is it a scenario with which God wishes the person to associate, or does God want that person to utter the words merely for self preservation, although these words do not reflect that person’s actual beliefs?
Were the “Companions of the cave” feeling certain conditions or had they chosen ostracism for a time?
When we meditate on the youths of the Cave, we find that there are two possibilities in the issue. The first is that the situation was one where pressure had become so dangerous that they feared the tyrants would oppress them for their religion, forcing them to commit acts of infidelity [Kufr]; that they would have to endure this atmosphere so long that they could no longer stand it.
We have previously considered the words of God regarding to oppressed who sinned and whom the angels took away in death. We saw how God (Exalted) wanted them to emigrate and to flee with their pressure, wronging themselves in the process. Is it not possible that this was the issue of the people of the Cave?
The second possibility is that they may have wanted to take time for themselves in order to prepare for some new undertaking, hiding from the oppression, and then re-emerging in a new situation. There are few situations like this. God wanted to make their situation a lesson for the believers who came afterwards, and to show that He rescues His servants in different ways and modes, according to His wisdom.
WORSHIP IN ITS BROAD UNDERSTANDING
“And I have not created the Jinn or Humankind except to worship [Me] (al-Dhariyat, 51, 56). What is this worship for which He has created us?
The word ”worship” means absolute submission. In other words, God (Exalted) commanded the jinn and humankind only to submit to Him in all that He wished for them, and that their wants be subordinate to His wishes. Their movements have to accord with His commands and prohibitions. Their entire life in this world should be structured upon what God wants from them in respect of the responsibility of the vice regency of human beings on this earth.
In the light of the foregoing, we find that “worship” covers everything covered by the commands and prohibitions of God(Exalted). The term includes everything that comes under the rubric of that which is done for God’s pleasure and love in this life. This is what we understand from the narrative which states: “Worship is seventy parts, the best of which is seeking that which is lawful”; “The best worship is virtue”; “The servant of God can be no more than virtuous in thought and in chastity’ –the Hadiths speak of the pursuit of knowledge as worship. Indeed “to reflect for an hour is better than to worship for a year”. A reflection is a form of worship which is better than a year’s worship-namely, prayer without contemplation.
COMPREHENDING GOD’S DESIRES
In this manner, we affirm that the worship of God, which God requires of both jinn and man, is a life goal which consists o the realization of God’s desires for the universe. We may construe this from the words of God regarding the wisdom of sending the prophets and the revelation of the scriptures: “We sent Our messengers with clear proofs and revealed unto them the Book and the Balance, that humankind may conduct itself with righteousness” (al-Hadid, 57:25). This tells us that the purpose behind sending the messengers was to let humankind stand for justice. For this reason, the messengers were sent to the human race to explain clearly what God wanted from us -namely, to conduct ourselves with righteousness and justice.
ACHIEVING JUSTICE IN THE UNIVERSE
It is possible to state standing in righteousness and achieving justice in the universe is one from of functional worship to which God wants His servants to apply themselves. For the verse (mentioned earlier) does not give the well-known vox populi meaning of worship, i.e., that God made the jinn and humankind perform the prayer or fast, for worship transcends those. As we know, the jurists state that any action by a worshipper intended for the pleasure of God and nearness to Him is considered worship.
THE QURANIC YOUTH
“We need Quranic Youth.. a Quranic generation…”
How can we bring this about?
When you use the phrases “Quranic generation” and “Quranic youth”, you refer to the concepts of the Quran which one desires to reflect on with respect to the actions of youth, whether these are doctrinal concepts, notions of worship, ethical concepts, or basic action concepts. For this, we require that the youth open themselves to the Quran through contemplative study, in such a manner that there are Quranic directives based on motivational reflective study, not barren directives based on imitation which seek a literal understanding of the text.
Our youth who live in the path of Islam, and that of propagation of the religion, are able to live anew the trials experienced by the active youths of the first era of the Islamic Call-the time of the revelation of the Quran. They do this from the perspective that the Quran was the divine active element which motivated the outlook and deeds of youth; enough to face the task of the call to God with all its attendant responsibilities and to face the entire world.
The issue then is that the generations of Muslims make the understanding of the Quran part of this cerebral makeup, emotionally and through actions, in their sphere of activities, so that the Messenger of God could become an example for them in this endeavor. We saw that one of Prophet’s wives described his morals thus: “His character was the Quran. “Our character then should be the Quran, so that it will be possible for the people to see in our lives and conduct, the functional embodiment of it.
ADDENDUM ON NARRATIONS(1)
On Longing Imam Ali said: “longing is the ruin of the intellect.”
“Base desis are lethal poisons.”
“The sweetness of lust is spoiled into the baseness of humiliation.”
“Heaven welcomes calamities, and Hell welcomes base desires.”
“Depravity is commensurate with the evil of delight.”
The Messenger of God said:
“I t is possible that an hour of lust gains long-lasting grief.”
Imam Ali said:
“God will grant a legacy of abasement unto those who delighted in disobeying Him.”
“Lust is a god worshipped, the intellect a praiseworthy friend.”
“If you bow to your lust, it will make you deaf and blind, and spoil your hereafter.”
“The first part of lust is happiness, its last part is destruction.”
“Tame your lusts for they are loose; if you submit to them, they will pull you to the greatest depths.”
Imam al-Sadiq said:
“Beware of your lusts as much as your enemies, for there is nothing more inimical to men then those who follow their lusts and speak emptily.”
Imam Ali said:
“Ridding the soul of its base desires is the greatest jihad.”
On Getting Together (“Hanging Out”)
The Messenger of God said: “the totality of evil is comparable to the mate of evil.”
Jesus was asked by his disciples: “O spirit of God, whom do we take as friends then?” He said: “He who, when you see him, makes you remember god, and his logic helps you in your work, and his works make you long for the hereafter.”
Imam Ali said: “A good friend is a blessing; an evil companion is an affliction.”
Imam Zayn al-Abidien said: “Sitting with the righteous is an invitation to propriety.
Luqman said to his son: “O my son, sit with the scholars, and touch knees, for surely God enlivens the hearts with the light of wisdom, the same way that the earth is enlivened by the torrents from the sky.”
Imam Ali said: “Sitting with the scholars brings joy.”
The messenger of God said: “Befriend the pious, for if you do good, they will praise you, and if you err, they will not be harsh with you.”
Imam Ali said: “Sit with the poor, you will receive more thanks”.
The Glorious Prophet said: “Ask the scholars, address the sages, and sit with the poor.”
From Ali: “The company of the people of lust is the abandonment of faith and a nursery for the devil.”
He also said: “Eschew the evil ones, and sit with the good ones.”
On Shyness or Shame
The Messenger of God said: “Shyness comes only with good.”
And he said: “Shyness is from the ways of Islam.”
And he said: “God loves the shy, moderate person, and detests the lewd, demanding, forward boor.”
Imam Ali said: “Shyness is a way to everything beautiful.”
And he said: “He who takes shyness as a garment has his faults hidden from view.”
And he said: “Shyness lowers the eyes.”
And he said: “The best garment in this world is that of shyness.”
The Glorious prophet said: “Lewdness is only what disgraces; shyness is only what beautifies.”
And he said: “Were shyness a person, he would be righteous.”
Imam al-Kazim said: “Shyness is from faith, faith from heaven, lewdness from loathsomeness, and loathsomeness from the hellfire.”
On Social Relations
The Messenger of God said: “Some who follows the religion of his friend, observe carefully whom you befriend,”
Ali said “Grant your blood and property to your brother, justice and objectivity to your enemy, and your good deeds and participation to the general public.”
He also said: “Love your friend only do much, for perhaps one day he will be someone you hate; hate your enemy only so much, for perhaps one day he will be someone you love.”
“Deal with your brothers by being good to them, and cover their sins with forgiveness.”
“To show love to people is the height of intelligence.”
“Affection emphasizes love.”
“Excellence in social relations eternalizes love.”
“Never send your friend away with a farewell that expels him from your friendship, but strive to show him a friendship to which he is certain to return.”
“The heart is structured on social relations with wise people.”
“Companionship with those who are virtuous gives life to the heart.”
Social relationships uncover the hidden aspects of character.
Imam Ali counseled his son Hassan thus: “Love for your brother what you love for yourself, and hate for him what you hate for yourself.”
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