Ranks of Friends in Islam (II)




There is also the one who is righteous and trustworthy and guards his tongue but is not friend-material, nor is he an enjoyable companion. If he were on the banks of the Euphrates while you are burning with thirst, he would not hand you a glass of water!
Another is the one who is willing to help and please his friends but would not mind compromising his own religion in the process. He may betray the trusts and undermine his honor for the sake of his friends, helping them commit sins, devour people’s rights, and steal their wealth. He perceives such compromise acceptable and allowable for the sake of friendship! Such a companion takes your hand until he leads you to Hellfire with him!
Another companion may be pious, helpful to his friends, and complying with the Limits of Allah. He does not commit sins nor engage in forbidden acts, but he is ignorant of the proper etiquettes of social interactions, table manners, and all the common norms of decorum. Such a person would disgust you and get on your nerves.
There is also the foolish and vulgar, or the reckless and foul, or the one who befriends you for your prestige or high position. He uses you as an adornment for today and an asset for tomorrow. To him, you are a trophy on the wall!
In brief, we can say that there are five different categories of companions: 1) a companion who is like the air; you cannot dispense with him, 2) a companion who is like food; you cannot live without him, but it may taste bad or be difficult to digest, 3) a companion who is like a medicine that tastes bitter but sometimes is necessary, 4) a  companion who is like wine; it delights the one who drinks it but ruins his health and honor, and 5) a companion who is like a calamity that befalls you.
As for the companion who is like air, it is he who benefits you with regard to your religion and worldly life. You enjoy his friendship, and you find delight in his company.
The companion who is like food is he who benefits you with regard to your worldly life and religion but sometimes annoys you due to his roughness, lack of a sense of humor, and harsh nature.
As for the companion who is like medicine that tastes bitter, he is the one whom you may need and benefit of, but you do not approve of his religiosity nor enjoy his company.
The one who is like wine is he who helps you satisfy your pleasures and gratify your desires, but he corrupts your moral character and incurs loss on you in the Hereafter.
Finally, the companion who is like a calamity is he who does not benefit you with regard to your worldly life or religion, nor do you enjoy his companionship or conversation, but you inevitably have to keep his company.
You should take religion as a standard, and the pleasure of Allah as a scale. The one who benefits you with regard to your religion, hold on to him, unless you cannot endure his companionship. The one who harms you in this regard, cut him off and forsake him, unless you are compelled to keep his company. In this case, such companionship is considered a necessity, and necessities overrule prohibitions (i.e. permit what is normally forbidden), provided that such company does not exceed the scope of necessity.
As for the one who does not harm you with regard to your religion nor benefit you with regard to your worldly life, but he is a pleasant and enjoyable person to be around, you should settle for enjoying his pleasant personality provided that such companionship does not prevent you from carrying out your duties or lead you to futility or sin.
As for the companions who cannot be classified under any of these categories, they are the ones about whom an Arab poet said (translation of meaning):
“If you do not have knowledge to benefit us, nor are you religious that we may keep your company for that sake, and you are not one expected to help when disaster strikes, it would be better if we mold a clay figure to replace you!”

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