The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
A man follows the religion of his friend, so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
When I first started practicing Islam more seriously in my young adulthood, I began to evaluate my life choices and think about whether they were compatible with an Islamic lifestyle.
Naturally, this included the company that I kept. Although I had many close friends that I enjoyed being with, some of them had starkly different values than me. Or, I should say, different values than the “new” me.
I felt guilty for even thinking about distancing myself from these friends. After all, I had chosen to be friends with them at a time when I myself was very similar to them. I also consider myself to be a loyal person. It felt wrong to throw our friendship away just because I was more “practicing” now. It felt like a self-righteous action. As if I were full of myself and thought I was better than others. That’s probably how it would seem, too.
But it’s not so simple. The concept of shared values is not a small thing. Having a similar mindset as our friends when it comes to big things like religion and lifestyle choices should not be belittled.
So I grappled with this idea while undergoing spiritual changes within myself. My worldview was changing, and it was making me feel like I had less and less in common with some of my old friends.
I also did not want to test my imaan (faith). Some might say that if a person is confident in their own beliefs, they should not be threatened by another person’s opposing beliefs. But this is oversimplifying the subject.
Sure, I was not threatened by my friends’ ways of life being different than my own. But I was also not going to risk being influenced in a way that would slowly harm my religiosity. After all, as human beings, we are naturally affected and influenced by those around us. It might be a slow process sometimes, but it still happens.
Another reason why I felt uncomfortable with these friendships is because now that I was taking Islam more seriously, I realized that I did not like some of the things my friends were doing.
I did not want to participate in things like gossip, smoking hookah, or talking lustfully about the opposite gender. These are all very normal things among many social circles, but they are disliked by Allah.
The closer I became to my Creator, the more I wanted to please Him. So that meant staying away from offensive settings and conversations like these.
Seeking Good Friends
I became distanced from some friends. It wasn’t even an intentional thing, for the most part. We naturally drifted apart because both parties realized that the pool of commonalities was shrinking. So, what now?
I knew that not having friends was not a sustainable choice for me, because even though I am not a social butterfly, I do value and need a few close friends in my life. That is when I feel the most socially healthy.
Friends give us someone to talk to, laugh with, and share our problems and secrets with. They make us feel less alone and more alive. A good friendship is not something that should be taken for granted.
Even though I did not want to be friendless forever, there was a short period of time when I did not have someone I could call a “close” or “best” friend. And I was fine with that.
As cheesy as it sounds, Allah was sufficient for me, at the end of the day. I used that time to foster my relationship with Him and grow spiritually. I was still building my religious identity and learning a lot about Islam and myself. I was going through some big changes.
What I did during this time, though, is I prayed for Allah to put good people in my life. I prayed for good, righteous, trustworthy friends. Friends who would bring out the best in me and help me on my religious journey.
And I didn’t stop there.
I remembered learning that we should tie our camel and trust in Allah. Meaning, don’t leave your house unlocked and just pray that Allah will protect it from burglars; lock it up properly and then pray for protection. I prayed, but I also knew I needed to do my part.
It Takes Time
Making good friends takes time, but it is so worth the effort. Even though isolating oneself can seem easier at times, friends can greatly enhance our spiritual and emotional experience. I started going to the masjid regularly and over time, I met some great people. I also gave my college MSA another chance, since I had not had a great experience the first time I’d joined it. That also proved to be a good choice.
Now, several years later, I am in a new place and a different stage of my life. Making good, righteous, trustworthy friends still proves itself to be a challenge. But I know it is worth it, so I have not given up.
May Allah grant us all good friends and make us good company for others. Ameen.