One of the most important aspects of a person’s life is the concept of friendship. With all the difficulties and hardships in life, we all need companions whom we can lean on for support and consolation. We also need friends to celebrate the beautiful things in life such as graduations, marriages, and the birth of a child. Similarly, it is just as important to have friends who keep us close to our religion and to reconsider friendships with those who distance us from our Creator. Thus, it is important for us to choose carefully those special people with whom we are willing to share these moments. Narrations tell us that the Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “A man follows the same creed as his friend, so it is vital to be careful of whom we befriend.”1

Characteristics of Good Friends

Throughout this journey of life, we build relationships with many people at school, work, and places of worship. Among all the people we build relationships with, there are a few people with whom we share strong bonds. However, sometimes we do not build these bonds with the right people, and we end up making mistakes and being regretful. The Holy Household (pbut) have given us some guidelines to help us realize who is a good friend, whom we should stick with, and from whom we should disassociate ourselves. Imam Jafar al- Sadiq (p) states, “The Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, ‘the disciples asked Isa (p), “Whom should we sit with?” He replied “Those who when you see them, you remember God, and when they speak, your knowledge increases, and their actions make you desire [performing good deeds for] the hereafter.”’”2  We see the importance of making sure that our friends are those who keep us close to the Almighty and not those who enjoy backbiting, lying, and hurting others.

Furthermore, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (p) states, “A friend is not really a friend until he has helped his brother in three things: during calamity, absence, and the time of his death.”3 True friends are those who pick us up when we are going through the difficult times in life. If those we consider our friends suddenly disappear (without good reason) when we are in need of their support and encouragement, that is enough for us to realize who our real companions are.

Moreover, a good friend is one who will keep the same good opinion of us in our presence and in our absence, and more importantly look to benefit us even if we are not there. Imam al-Sadiq (p) states, “You are at the same station [to your friend] secretly and publicly [i.e., when you are present and when you are not].”4 Good friends will never act like they have good opinions of us while we are in their company but backbite us once we have left them. If we find ourselves in such a situation, we know that we must part ways from such people.

The Rights of a Friend

Just as we want our friends to treat us with the respect we deserve, we too should also follow the guidelines of the Holy Household (pbut) to be good friends to others. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) beautifully explains the rights of our friends over us. He states, “The right of a friend is that you act as his companion with bounty and in fairness. You honor him as he honors you, and you do not let him be the first to act with generosity. If he is the first, you repay him. You wish for him as he wishes for you, and you restrain him from any act of disobedience he might attempt. Be a mercy for him, not a chastisement. And there is no strength except for God’s.”5

Bits of Advice

1. Be mindful in choosing friends: In a beautiful tradition, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) advises his son, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p), “O My son, avoid acquaintance of five types of people:

1. Do not be friends with a liar. He will be like a mirage. He will trick you. When a thing is far, he will say it is near; and when it is at hand, he will say that it is very far.
2. Do not make a transgressor and sinner your friend because he might sell you for a low a price.
3. Do not make a parsimonious and stingy person your friend, who may not help you in times of need.
4. Do not make a foolish person your friend, lest he bring harm to you with his foolishness [i.e., It is possible that with all good intentions, he might bring harm to you with his foolish actions].
5. Do not be friends with those who deprive their kin of their rights. Such persons are [cut off] of God’s blessings.”6

2. Be a good friend: Just as we would want our friends to be faithful and loyal to us, we need to do the same for them. As mentioned above, we should follow all the guidelines provided to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut), so that we are able to give our friends what they deserve in a blessed relationship.

3. Ask God to give us positive relationships: It is important to have meaningful relationships in life—our family members, spouses and, of course, with our friends and companions. It is often difficult to find people who can allow us to grow and truly reach out highest potential. Thus, it is important to ask God to surround us with people who positively influence us, in the same way that we can positively influence them.

1. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 71, pg. 210.
2. Al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 1, p. 31.
3. Al-Radi, Nahj al-balagha, wisdom 129.
4. Al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 639.
5. Risalat al-huquq, The Rights of a Companion.
6. Al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 376.

1. روي عن النبي (ص): “المرء على دين خليله”
2. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع):” قال رسول الله (ص): قالت الحواريون لعيسى: يا روح الله! من نجالس؟ قال من يذكركم الله رؤيته، ويزيد في علمكم منطقه ويرغبكم في الآخرة عمله.”
3. روي عن الإمام علي (ع): ” لاَ يَكُونُ الصَّدِيقُ صَدِيقاً حَتَّى يَحْفَظَ أَخَاهُ فِي ثَلاَث: فِي نَكْبَتِهِ، وَغَيْبَتِهِ، وَوَفَاتِهِ.”
4. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع): ” أن تكون سريرته وعلانيته لك واحدة”
5. جاء عن الإمام زين العابدين (ع) في رسالة الحقوق: “وأما حق الصاحب فأن تصحبه بالتفضل والإنصاف، وتكرمه كما يكرمك ولا تدعه يسبق إلى مكرمة، فان سبق كافأته، وتودّه كما يودك، وتزجره عما يهم به من معصية، وكن عليه رحمة ولا تكن عليه عذابا ولا قوة إلا بالله.”
6. روي عن الإمام زين العابدين (ع): “إياك ومصاحبة الكذاب فإنه بمنزلة السراب يقرب لك البعيد ويباعد لك القريب وإياك ومصاحبة الفاسق فإنه بائعك باكلة أو أقل من ذلك وإياك ومصاحبة البخيل فإنه يخذلك في ماله أحوج ما تكون إليه وإياك ومصاحبة الأحمق فإنه يريد أن ينفعك فيضرك وإياك ومصاحبة القاطع لرحمه فإني وجدته ملعونا…”