“Do not befriend someone who doesn’t elevate you with his state, or guide you to God with his speech. It could be that you are doing evil, yet you think that you are doing good, because you are comparing yourself to your friend who is worse than you.”
Here Ibn Ata is teaching us about another serious flaw, which is a bad choice of friends, when you choose friends who are taking you away from the way of Allah.
This is inspired by the Quran, as well as the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For example:
And the Day the wrongdoer will bite on his hands [in regret] he will say, “Oh, I wish I had taken with the Messenger a way.
Oh, woe to me! I wish I had not taken that one as a friend.
He led me away from the remembrance after it had come to me. And ever is Satan, to man, a deserter. (Quran 25:27-29)
Good Friend vs. Evil Friend
They drove him/her away from Allah because they were not good friends. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had given an interesting simile about good friends and evil friends. He said:
The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof. (Al-Bukhari)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is teaching us here that someone who is a good character will always give you literally a good smell or, in the moral sense, will give you a piece of advice, a reminder, a wisdom, good guidance… He will take you somewhere good, help you do good things, or even smile in your face.
The evil friend will take you in the other direction. The evil friend will, literally, burn your cloths if they smoke or whatever; or, figuratively, burn your heart when they involve you in things that eat away your good character or good deeds.
It is very important when you look for your flaws, to look at your friends and see who is a good friend and who is an evil friend.
The sheikh here is saying, ‘do not befriend somebody who doesn’t elevate you with his or her state.’
The word “state” (Al-Hal in Arabic) is a concept here that is very important. The hal is how the heart feels.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had mentioned that there are two people; one who gave one dirham and the other who gave one hundred thousand dirham in charity. But the one dirham is better than the ten thousand dirhams.
When he was asked, he said:
The person who gave the one dirham had two dirhams, so he’s giving half of his fortune. And the person who had given a hundred thousand dirhams didn’t care really and had much more.
Therefore he is teaching them that it is not about the amount of wealth you give or the amount of time you give. It is about how precious this is in terms of your own heart.
Therefore this is the Hal that the Prophet is talking about. And his Hal himself, as you know from the Sunnah, would elevate the companions around him. They say that they would feel that they’re looking at heavens and earth as he speaks (peace be upon him) because of his hal (the state of his heart).
And we see this in our daily life, people who elevate you with their spirit without saying anything. With their high spirit and good connection they elevate you.
And people who take you down because of their spirit as well and their lack of connection with Allah.
So this step is to purify ourselves from evil friends in order to move forward in the journey towards Allah Almighty.