From the minute we are born, we can see how crucial human interaction is to our development. We were created as social creatures, the word "Al-Insan" (Human) is partly derived from the word "Unsiyah" which means to love or be social. Socializing is in the very definition of what it means to be a human being.
If it wasn't for our ability to socialize with our parents, we wouldn't learn how to walk or talk. We wouldn't learn right from wrong. For the first 6 years of our lives, we are influenced completely by our parents. That environment shapes the foundation of our personality. The building blocks of who we will grow up to be. Then we leave the nest of our parent's guidance and teachings, and venture out into a new world.
For the first time in our lives, our thoughts, speech and actions are influenced by someone other than our parents. Thoughts, speech and actions can easily become our morals, character, and even our beliefs.
We are no longer influenced by our parents, but we are now influence by friends.
There is no better support than a loving friend. There is no one who understands you better. They can anticipate your thoughts and feelings, and know just the right way to ease your worries and offer kind advice for any trials you may be facing. A good friend is someone who is not satisfied with simply having your company and companionship in this life, they want to be friends in the Akhira (Afterlife) as well.
That is the description of the ideal friend. But unfortunately, friends like this are not easy to come by.
Friends, they are meant to lift you up, but they sometimes hold you down.
They are meant to encourage you, but sometimes they belittle you.
They are meant to remind you of your purpose in life, but sometimes they distract you.
They are meant to help guide you to success, but sometimes they lead you to failure.
We usually blame the Shaytan for leading us into sin or bad deeds.
But sometimes our failure lies not from the influence of the Shaytan but from the influence of those around us.
The fact is even the wisest among us underestimates the powerful effect our friends can have on us.
The Prophet ﷺ said "A man is upon the religion of his friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends." (Tirmidhi)
The company you keep, although it may not define you, may define your level of faith.
Therefore chose friends who will aid you on the journey to increase your Iman (faith) rather than hold you back.
The heart is influenced by the environment it is surrounded by. There are three gates to the heart; They are the eyes, the ears, and the tongue. If we are looking at unlawful things, this affects our heart. If our friends use foul language, this enters our ears, which then enters our heart.
We are not immune to being affected and changed by the environment around us. Just like a chameleon changes the color of its scales to match its surroundings, humans change and adapt to the people around them. Little by little you will pick up the interests, character, and mannerisms of the people you spend the most time with.
Don't wait until the Day of Judgement to realize the disastrous effects a bad friend is having on your life.
Allah says in the Noble Qur'an:
الْأَخِلَّاء يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ
"Close friends, that day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous." (43:67)
Worldly friends may help you achieve what you think you want in this life (fun and entertainment) but in order to achieve true success (and success in the Akhira) we need to surround ourselves with those who are on the same mission in life as we are.
A friend should be the sail that helps guide your boat through life, who helps you stay afloat while venturing through harsh water, not the anchor that pulls you down to sink.
Many of us have probably seen the damaging affects of toxic friendships. They can lead to people isolating their family, committing crimes, and falling into sin. Although we may not see these cases everyday, there is one scenario that does happen everyday as a result of not choosing friends carefully. It is the greatest catastrophe we can face: losing our connection to Allah.
Picture this scene: Salma decides she wants to change her life and improve her deen (religion). She tells her best friend Mona she is going to wear hijab. Mona makes fun of her, telling her she will look ugly if she wears hijab.
When Salma and Mona are out together, Salma wants to stop at a nearby Mosque to pray, but Mona refuses, and tells her to go alone. Every good effort that Salma makes, Mona minimizes by reminding Salma of her past.
Little by little, Mona's negative comments begin to chip away at Salma's self-esteem and even her faith.
Most likely, the scene I have just described is a familiar one for many people. Maybe this has happened to you or one of your close friends.
In this day and age, following the commandments of Allah and observing our Deen is not easy. We are bombarded with distractions and roadblocks to the righteous path everyday. For this reason, surrounding ourselves with righteous friends who will further our journey and not hinder it is essential to perfecting our religion.
I believe there are only two true friends in the world, the first and foremost being the Almighty Allah, and the second, all those who remind you of Allah.
Real friends are those who strive for Jennah and those who urge you to do so as well.
If you don't have any friends like this then BE that friend. The ripples of our actions may rise and fall in waves higher than we can imagine. You have no idea how many lives you may inspire simply through setting the Islamic example. Dawah is not just about calling non-Muslims to Islam. In this day and age the people most in need of dawah are Muslims. You can give dawah everyday by simply being a supportive friend, a friend who enjoins good and forbids evil, a friend who is understanding and always open to give advice.
"The one I love the most is the one who tells me my faults."
As we can see from these wise words, friends who help us to see the flaws we often overlook are priceless indeed. A true friend isn't someone who is nice to you all the time. It isn't someone who always agrees with you. They are the ones who tell us what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear. Who tell us when we're wrong and when we're making mistakes. They are not afraid to make us angry for a short time, they are more concerned with pointing out our mistakes which will be better for us in the long term.
The subject of friendship is a very important one to me, I can say from personal experience that if it hadn't been for Allah placing righteous friends in my path I might never have found the light of Iman. I dedicate this in all sincerity to that friend, whom I love for the sake of Allah and who never ceases to encourage me with her wonderful example. May Allah grant you success in all of your endeavors in life.