Friends can make or break us. It’s true! And even backed-up by the sunnah and science. So, how do we find good friends, and how do we keep them?
If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. If anyone makes it easy for the one who is indebted to him (while finding it difficult to repay), Allah will make it easy for him in this worldly life and in the Hereafter, and if anyone conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps His slave as long as he helps his brother.” -Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), narrated by Abu Hurairah [Muslim].
Showing mercy to a fellow believer is a big deal. Some examples: listening to the heartaches of your friend’s family drama; helping your friend with homework, or giving feedback on your friend’s resume draft.
Where to find good friends
Good people gather in good places. You stand a better chance of finding good friends in places like mosques, circles of knowledge at people’s homes, or through volunteering in places such as soup kitchens, retirement homes, hospitals, and non-profit organizations.
What to look for in a friend
Prophetic character traits are what you want to look for in a friend. Traits like kindness, patience, courage, honesty, and generosity are the kinds of qualities you want in your closest friends; friends who will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it.
Trust your parents
Parents have a keen sense regarding the character of your friends. If there’s something about your friend that rubs your parents the wrong way; pay attention. You may not like what they have to say, but try to keep an open mind. Believe it or not, your parents were once teenagers once, they have life experience and wisdom.
Know your strengths
What are your best qualities? If you are kind, then your friends can count on you when they are feeling down. If you are honest, your friends can rely on you to give them good advice when they’re feeling stuck. If you have a good sense of humor, your friends will know they can count on you to make them laugh. Remember though, being a good friend is a two-way street; know what you bring to the table.
Know your weaknesses
Everyone has weaknesses. If you know you have a bad temper, then it’s important to remember that, and avoid getting into heated discussions with your friends. Take responsibility of your weaknesses, and see them as ways to improving your character.
Friendships that compliment your weaknesses can help you improve them, but it might not be easy for friends to stick around if you keep pushing them away. Spend time reflecting on how your patterns of behavior may cause issues in your friendships.
Practice conflict resolution
Friendships that stand the test of time always involve resolving conflicts. It’s not easy when you have your first argument with a good friend, but instead of giving up on your friendship, choose to work it out.
Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than (voluntary) fasting, prayer and almsgiving (sadaqah)?” The people replied, “Yes, Prophet of Allah!” He said, “It is putting things right between people. Spoiling relations is the shaver.” (Abu Dawud)
Maybe your friend meant something contrary to what you understood. Maybe your friend touched on a sore point that you need to work on at a personal level. It takes time and practice to figure out the best ways to resolve conflict with one another, as we all have different personalities, but these are all chances to help you grow.
You will find that some friends are more open to resolving conflict, while others are not. Many people carry their own hurts; you cannot heal them, but you can try to be empathetic.
Prophet Muhammad had an amazing sense of empathy. Allah the Almighty said about him:
There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” (At-Tawbah 9:128)
Hold your friend and yourself accountable
And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong.” (At-Tawbah 9:71)
It’s important to hold yourself accountable for your own behavior. If you know you have a tendency to blame others, work on taking responsibility for your own mistakes. Making the intention to improve your character, for the sake of Allah the Almighty, is how you will grow as a believer.
By the same token, if you notice problematic patterns in your friend’s behavior, think of a gentle way you can bring it to their attention. It’s an act of kindness and vulnerability to explain that you felt hurt by your friend. Bottling up feelings will only lead to resentment, which will hurt both you and your friend. It takes time and lots of practice, but the results are worth it.
If you are close enough to your friend, then the sting of receiving feedback will eventually fade. This is a more honest and brave way of approaching your friendships, rather than ghosting them when they hurt you.
There’s a concept known as How to Fight Smarter: Soften Your Start-Up , which you can definitely use as a guide in tricky conversations.
Forgive yourself and your friends
Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” -The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr [Tirmidhi]
Forming solid friendships is a lifelong journey, and everyone makes mistakes. When we are under exam stress, have family challenges, or feel sick, it is at these times that we are more likely to say or do things we later regret.
Part of being a good friend is choosing to forgive and overlook one another’s mistakes, let them go, and not bring them up again. Being a good friend is hard work, but there are great blessings to be found in perseverance.