There’s a well-known hadith in Sahih Bukhari about three men who got trapped in a cave while traveling, and got out after each of them made du’a to Allah and told Him about a deed they had done only for His sake.
This hadith is often used in reminders about sincerity and the permissibility of making du’a to Allah in this fashion, which are both very important topics. However, we need to look at it from another angle as well, which is: if we were the ones who got stuck in that cave while traveling with our two closest friends, would we have made it out through calling on Allah this way? Which action would we be able to say we’ve done for only His sake- the One who knows even our inner thoughts and hidden intentions? Would our friends be able to assist us in getting out?
It’s not up to us to judge anyone’s intentions, but from what we know of them, are they the kinds of people who try to please Allah through all their actions, and encourage us to do the same? Do we offer that kind of friendship to others, or would we be the reason why two of our closest companions would be trapped inside forever?
When it comes to your most intimate friendships and the people you hang out with most of the time, make sure they’re not taking you down a path you’ll regret.
There is no doubt that friendship is a big deal in Islam, just as it is in our lives. The Prophet (saws) told us that we’re very likely to follow the lifestyle of our friends, so we should be careful about who we take as close friends [Tirmidhi]. Good, genuine friends can be difficult to come across, and sometimes it seems easier to just give up on actively searching for them and accept our social lives the way they are. It’s fine to have friends who may not be “practicing” the same way you are, but when it comes to your most intimate friendships and the people you hang out with most of the time, make sure they’re not taking you down a path you’ll regret.
In a very powerful passage of the Qur’an, Allah tells us about how a man will be ready to ransom his children, spouse, siblings, parents, and the entire earth, altogether, just to escape the torment of that Day. The ayah that kicks off this passage is actually about friends. It is said about the man who is in this situation, that he won’t bother asking about his really good old friend, even though they’ll see each other from up close (70:10-14). The arabic word used to describe their friendship (Hameem) illustrates that they had a deep connection and warmth between them, and really cared about each other- almost like family.
We can’t even imagine being in a situation where we would drop such a great friend like a bad habit, especially when they need us the most, but this is the Reality we need to think about and prepare for, in order to avoid going through it. The worst part is that it’s not just that they won’t ask about one another, but that they’ll ignore each other completely after seeing each other. You know when you accidentally meet eye contact with someone and you both look away quickly to avoid an awkward situation? This isn’t like that. This is like seeing your closest friend- that person who you open up to completely and who makes you feel warm inside- while you’re in a horrible situation, and they just walk past you as if they don’t know you, after seeing you in that state. There are no words to describe that feeling of betrayal.
There’s another kind of person that’s mentioned in the Qur’an who, after reaching Jannah by the Mercy of Allah, says that he used to have a really close friend that he would always be with, and wonders what happened to him. He recalls how his friend would try to lead him away from the Path of Allah by making it seem like the Afterlife was fake, or a joke, and would question whether we’ll really be held accountable for everything we do. The person in Jannah sees his ex best friend in Hell, and swears by Allah that this friend would have destroyed him too, if it weren’t for Allah’s favor on him. (37:51-57).
We’re also shown the other perspective: that of a person who is headed for Jahannam on the Day of Judgment, and is literally biting his hands- not his nails- and cursing himself for taking “so-and-so” as a close friend, because that person took him away from the remembrance of Allah (25:28-29). This was a friend he loved, and trusted to always have his back. His “homie” became a “that guy,” whose name he couldn’t even remember because of the extreme regret he was feeling, and because that person was a nobody to him now, a stranger. He didn’t want anything to do with him, let alone call him a friend. His self-deception in the duniya led to indescribable remorse and anguish after this short-lived friendship was over, and eternity had begun.
“Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the muttaqeen” (43:67). In order to avoid being from those who will be the enemies of our friends, we need to wake up and work on being from those who have taqwa and are cautious of Allah. We should strive to be a positive influence on the friends in our lives, and try to make sure we’re surrounded by people who will stick with us ’til the end- ’til Jannah, inshaAllah.