The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved to Massachusetts.
Among the momentous changes a move across country entails – moving into a new house, starting at a new school, and becoming accustomed to a different climate – it wasn’t long before I realized that the biggest and most unpleasant change facing me, was the difficulty I found in not being around my closest childhood friends.
Although we continued to communicate by text and social media, neither form of communication could compare to face-to-face conversations and bonding; I miss them every single day.
It’s because of the Muslim friends Allah (swt) blessed me with, that I have the commitment to my faith, strength of character and consciousness about my everyday actions that I do today. This wasn’t something I fully realized until my family and I moved away.
In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [Dawood and Tirmidhee]
The benefit of having Muslim friends in my life has been invaluable in countless ways; here are just a few:
My Friends ‘Get’ Me
Everyone naturally gravitates toward people they feel they can relate to. For practicing Muslims, our faith affects most aspects of our lives; we tend to share experiences and viewpoints that endear us to one another.
Fasting for a month during Ramadan, for example, is something you can’t fully understand unless you’ve experienced it, especially since so many non-Muslims lack knowledge on the topic.
As cliché as it may sound, I often feel as though my Muslim friends ‘get’ me, my family, and my life in ways other friends never could.
To have a person or group of people in your life to fall back on, depend on, and trust is a blessing.
My Muslim Friends Inspire Me
My Muslim friends provide an excellent example for me; we inspire one another in striving to maintain our religious convictions, just as we are taught in the Qu’ran:
“Content yourself with those who pray to their Lord morning and evening, seeking His approval, and do not let your eyes turn away from them out of desire for the attractions of this worldly life, and do not yield to those whose hearts We have made heedless of Our remembrance, those who follow their own low desires, those whose ways are unbridled.” [18:28]
I am about a year younger than most of my friends, so I look up to them. When I see them praying, fasting with little complaint, staying up late during Layat al Qadr in Ramadan to pray, being kind and giving individuals, I aspire to be more like them.
Although I’ve never consciously imitated them, they have always been role models in my life.
I thank Allah (swt) for my friends; because of their positive influence, I am a better person.
They Helped Me Navigate Dressing Modestly
Coordinating modest outfits that are cute – while maintaining compliance with Islamic principles – is no simple task.
My friends were particularly helpful when I first started to cover because they had already been covering for a couple years and had the wisdom that comes with experience.
I saw how they’d all created a unique style reflecting their individual personalities while incorporating the hijab, and masha’Allah, they wear it beautifully.
We also swap and give one another articles of clothing to add to our arsenals. One of my best friends gifted me a hijab that remains one of my favorites to this day.
They Showed Me What Islamic Bonds of Sisterhood and Brotherhood Look Like
When I reflect upon the 14-years our family lived in California, my happiest memories are derived from the many gatherings with our Muslim family friends.
Eid picnics, iftaars, hijab parties, and sometimes girl parties – thrown simply as an excuse to do our hair and makeup, dress up, and enjoy each others’ company – were all gatherings during which I felt loved, valued, and part of a close-knit community.
They Created a Wholesome Environment
Finally, being surrounded by my Muslim friends meant I was in an accepting and wholesome environment; a close-knit circle in which everyone’s conviction to their faith was evident.
We dressed in accordance with Islamic regulations and reminded one another to pause our activities for prayers; often going to great lengths in order to find an appropriate place to do so.
It was after moving away from California to attend a school where the vast majority of my classmates practiced other religions (or no religion at all), that I noticed the physical distance from my Muslim friends had the potential to alter my mindset on certain matters.
For example, when I heard on numerous occasions from thoughtless girls in the locker room, that I looked so much prettier without a scarf, those opinions penetrated my mind, causing me to dwell on them.
Experiences like this pose a harsh contrast to being around my friends, who also cover, and know firsthand how hurtful such a statement can be.
The very first friends I remember having are, to this day, my closest friends. I haven’t always been able to see them on a consistent basis, but we’ve been a constant presence in one another’s lives for as long as I can remember.
I truly don’t know where I’d be without these exceptional individuals. While my friends have taught me a lot, they remain, first and foremost, the people I most associate with laughter, love, and happiness.