Choosing a Friend
Hakimul Ummah Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi rahmatullahi alayh
The following is a lecture delivered by Hadhrat Thanwi rahmatullahi alayhi in Lāl Masjid, Gangoh, U.P. India, on the 1st of Shabān 1330 A.H.
Following the phrases of Khutbah, Hadhrat commenced his lecture thus: "Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has said: "A person is on the creed of his friend. Therefore a person should sed who he ir affiliated`with."
Preamble and Reason for the Selection of this Topic
I have justbrecited a saying of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam in which he touches on a very beneficial and important topic. I have chosen this specific topic simply because time is limited. If time had permitted, other important topics could have been discussed as well. Nonetheless, it seems most appropriate to select a topic which, while being beneficial to all Muslims, is indispensable to them as well.
The Division of Religious (Deeni) Requirements regarding the Preamble
A detailed account of the point is that religious`compulsions are divided into two groups. The first group deals with compulsions that are not compulsory upon everyone. For example, the compulsion of Zakāt. Those who are in possession of wealth are compelled to pay Zakāt whilst others are not compelled to do so. Even though there is a degree of generalisation in Zakāt but the compulsion is confined to Sahibe-Nisāb (one who possesses a Zakātable amount). Similarly, Haj is compulsory only upon those who are in possession of wealth. Nevertheless the distinguishing features in these devotions lie in those people who are legally obligated to carry them out. Certain devotions are characterized by time eg. Salāh, Saum etc.
The second group comprises of those religious compulsions in which there are no specializations, neither in terms of the legally obligated nor in terms of time. In other words, they are not such that they are compulsory upon Zaid and not upon Amr nor are they such that their compulsion is restricted to certain times only. They are compulsory upon every individual at every moment. Such a religious compulsion is termed as a Jami (comprehensive) and Âm (all-inclusive) compulsion.
Nonetheless, there are many topics of this nature. The afore-mentioned Hadith deals with an obligation that is comprehensive and all-inclusive. It is not subjected to a specified time nor to legally obligated individuals. Henceforth, it seems most appropriate to comment - though briefly - on this Hadith. However, this brief explanation should be sufficient. It would be brief in a sense that the forthcoming commentary would exclude corroborative and substantiative statements etc. Any additional points made during the course of this discourse will be for purposes of clarification only. This was the preamble.
Designation of the Above Topic
Now understand this important topic. The fact that this topic has been repeatedly discussed in the past and the fact that we haven't visualized its importance as yet, renders it a seemingly trivial topic at a cursory glance. This is evident from the fact that the said topic is totally omitted whenever the "indispensabilities" are mentioned. However, since this concept is totally against reality, the benefit and importance of it will also be mentioned.
Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam stated:- "Every person is on the creed (way of life) of his friend. Therefore, a person should see who he is affiliated with." In other words, if his friend is religious, he will also be pious. If he is irreligious, he is sure to be the same. Hence, the irreligiousness of his friend is a cause for his irreligiousness and the piety of his friend is a cause for his piety. And this cause is what is referred to in technical terms as "common external causes." The real or actual cause for everything is however, subjected to the will of Allāh Ta'ala. Allāh Ta'ala has made certain causes logical but they are all "common external causes." This is the gist of this Hadith.... In other words, a person should ponder over his friendship and contemplate that the person whom I have selected as a friend, in terms of religiousness and piety, is he worth befriending or not?
Even the "Religious" Disregard Pious Company
Think about the importance people attach to this topic. Nothing whatsoever! Let alone the worldly-minded, even those that are referred to as religious, are unmindful of this religious injunction. The "religious - minded" who, other than Salāh, Zakāt, Haj etc, are extremely keen on performing other optional devotions such as recitation of the Holy Qur'ān, Nafl (superogatory) Salāh and so forth and they are considered to be great saints but none of them except a few are really concerned about the company they keep. None of them consider a pious friend as important and beneficial nor do they regard evil company as detrimental. In fact, we have heard them saying:- "Everyone is for himself. If a person is bad, his evil is confined to him alone. He (the friend) is a well-wisher." (How strange that we believe in contagious diseases but we don't believe in this!)
The Baseless Concept of Contagious Diseases
Friends! In certain diseases, which are considered to be "contagious", we take precaution. Let alone the Ulema, even the medical fraternity seems divided over the transmission of diseases. Some doctors have totally rejected this concept. There are reports of some people who implanted the bubonic plague bacterium into their skins but nothing happened to them. In Bareli, a Bengali Hindu extremely grieved with the loss of his son became disgusted with life. In order to bring his life to an end, he pursued the external causes of inflicting himself with the plague virus. He started wearing the clothing of the afflicted, started eating in their utensils and lived in the same quarters. He assumed all the external causes of infection but to no avail and he remained as healthy as before. So, if there are some incidents of contagion, there are more incidents of non-contagion. This is why Islam has passed a splendid judgement in this regard. If Allāh wills, the person is infected and if He does not will, he will never be infected. This judgement also brings about some conformity between the Qur'ānic Verses and Ahadith in which some texts favour the concept of contagion whilst other texts refute it.
The Malady of Bad Company is Eternally Contagious
Nonetheless, the point is that in regards to the contagion of certain diseases which are neither established nor convincing, such precautions are taken that people avoid visiting the patients and also protect their children from being exposed to the disease. But the sickness that is eternal, ie. the evil effects of bad company, no degree of vigilance whatsoever is awarded to it. Friends! remember this is the most contagious disease. Be very careful of it. Examine the condition of those you meet and come into contact with. Meeting in this context refers to intimate and loosely acquainted meetings. At times, coming into contact with others is inevitable eg. in the market-place, one meets all types of people. Such encounters are exempted (from our discussion). Only closely acquainted and intimate meetings are referred to in this discussion. This is why Rasullullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam used the phrase "upon the creed of his "Khaleel" (friend). He didn't say "upon the creed of his "sahib" (one in his company). Khaleel is a reference to a close and intimate companion. Do people pay due regard to the type of people they come into contact with? Do they ever contemplate over the piety or the irreligiousness of their companions?
People are Negligent of their Children's Character
We see that people pursue all the avenues for the success of their children. Some give them secular education, some impart religious education whilst others ensure that their children acquire some skill or profession. As for fostering the children physically, even the animals nurse their young. If the children fall ill, thousands of rupees are spent on their medical costs. In short, all our money, luxuries and comforts are sacrificed in favour of our children. But do we ever sacrifice a fraction of the child's life or a month every year or at least one week to enable the child to spiritually enhance his character in the company of a pious person? If anyone does think about the character of the child, he mentions a few words of advice to the child but be warned that the admonishment of an ordinary person is not sufficient. Experience has proven that the advice of an ordinary person is likely to be less beneficial.
The Impact of a Pragmatist's Word
The mystery lying behind the afore-mentioned fact is that a person's speech will only take effect when he himself practises upon what he preaches. This is so because without action (amal) the tone of the speech lacks dynamism and force. And dynamism and force are the most indispensable ingredients of an impressive speech. The dynamism of the Holy Qur'ān was one of the chief factors which slashed the spirits of the Arabs once they heard the recitation of the Holy Qur'ān.
An Incident Regarding the Dynamism of the Qur'ān
I will narrate an incident by which you will be able to ascertain the dynamic force of the Holy Qur'ān. When Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wasallam commenced his mission of Tableegh (invitation) towards Islam and he condemned the idols and when people started flocking into the fold of Islam, the chieftains of Makkah called up a meeting. Amongst other things, they discussed how Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam had vexed them and defamed their idols. They discussed the various plans to restrict him and to lull the prevailing social dissension he had caused. One of them mustered the courage and declared that he would somehow or the other tempt and satisfy Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam by which he will subsequently relinquish his Deeni activities. The block-head was under the false notion that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam was also amongst those whose sole objective is the world.
Nowadays People Approach Saints for a Variety of Vested
These days, many people regard their spiritual teachers in exactly the same light. Some associate with them with the sole objective of gaining a few rupees or of marrying a certain woman. What they don't realize is that when this person did not approve of the dunya (world) for himself, how can he provide a part of the dunya for others? By Allāh! It is a form of great oppression to present one's worldy objectives before the Ahlullah (saints). The parable of presenting worldly aspirations before the saints is likened to taking a damaged bedstead to a jeweller for repairs or like taking a hoe to a jeweller to be sharpened on a whetstone. The Ahlullah (saints) are spiritual doctors. They are there to treat spiritual maladies. Utilise them for this purpose only. Nowadays, conditions have deteriorated to such levels that people approach the saints to read on salts (as a Taweez) so that a certain woman may be acquired in marriage whilst others vex the saints for a Taweez to enable them to win a court-case and so forth.
How vexatious can people be!! It has been narrated in a Hadith: "Show pity upon three people" In other words, three people are really pitiable. One of them is: "An Âlim who is scoffed at by the ignorant." Taking inappropriate services from an Âlim can also be classified as scoffing. Taking a hoe to a jeweller for repairs, is obviously as good as ridiculing him. Moulana Muhammad Yaqoob Sahib (Rahmatullah Alayhi) used to say:- "The parable of us (Ulama) can be likened to a stingy person who employs a cook but due to his miserliness, he restricts him from preparing any delicacies. The cook responds: "Sir! I feel you should occasionally make me prepare a few delicacies for you because staying in your employment will surely make me forget the skill and art of cooking." This is a parable of the Ulama; people don't take from them what they are supposed to take from them. The only function of the Molvies nowadays seems to have dwindled down to performing Janazah Salāh and issuing Taweezes! Did the saints undergo spiritual exercises and mystic drills simply for the issuing of Taweezes?
By this I don't imply that you should not forward your worldly desires before the saints at all. You should surely put them forward. However, the procedure you should adopt is that instead of requesting for a taweez, request them to make Duā for you because the issuing of Taweezes is not their job. The main reason is that they (the saints) are endowed with the attribute of "Abdiyat" (servitude unto Allāh). On the other hand, dealing with Taweezes is bound to create a degree of confidence and reliance upon the Taweez. The person for whom the Taweez has been issued has complete confidence in the Taweez whilst the person who issues it also has a degree of confidence in it according to his spiritual status. Hence, dealing in taweezes etc, falls contrary to Abdiyyat and Tawakkul (trust upon Allāh Ta'āla). This is why the saints tend to have an aversion towards the issuing of Taweezes.
Nonetheless, to make duā - whether it is for worldly or religious motives - is an act of Ibadat. Hence, requesting them to make duā for you is no problem at all provided your request for Deeni (religious) objectives exceeds that of worldly requests or you do intend to follow your worldly request with a Deeni request. In short, people judge the saints upon themselves and consider the saints to be in pursuit of the dunya (world) like themselves.
The Dynamism of the Qur'ān - (completion of incident)
Similarly, this person (Chieftain of Makkah) also approached Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam with the same frame of mind. As he approached, he submitted: "What is your objective? If wealth is your objective, we will make a massive collection for you. If status is what you desire, we will make you our leader. If you desire women, the most beautiful women of the Quraysh clan will be presented before you." But look at the perseverance of Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam that in spite of hearing all these accusations, he remained silent. When the disbeliever finally terminated his speech, all Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam did was he recited "Auzu and Bismillah" and recited the following verses:
"Ha-meem. This Qur'ān is a revelation from the most beneficent and most merciful." He continued reciting until he came to the verse:- "so if they turn away: say (unto them): I have warned you of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt of Âd and Thamud."
The dynamism and awe of these verses had such an impact on him that he fled from there saying that he is unable to hear anything. Returning to the chieftains of Makkah, he narrated the entire incident and submitted:" My condition, after going to him, has become strange. When he (Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam recited the above verses (in regards to the thunderbolt), I felt as though I was struck by a thunderbolt. If I sat for a little while longer, I would have relinquished my religion (and chose the religion of Islam)." So this was the effect of the divine word of Allāh. Since the reciter was also a practical person, it further enhanced the dynamism and impact of the divine words. In short, to consider personal spiritual supervision (of children) as sufficient, stems from gross ignorance.
Advice to the Rich Regarding Children's Character
Therefore, just as how the parents employ a tutor or master for the education of their children, at the same time, it is imperative upon them to pursue a patron (guardian saint). They should send their children to him every now and again and bear the expenses etc. of sending them as well. So tell me, how many Muslims have made concrete arrangements in this regard? The main reason for such indolence and negligence is that people have failed to grasp the indispensability and importance of this matter.
The Indispensability of Pious Company
This is why its importance is established from the Hadith. The afore-mentioned Hadith consists of an "informative sentence" (Jumlah Khabariyah) as well as an "injunctive sentence" (Jumlah Inshaiyyah). The first portion of the Hadith "A person is on the creed of his companion" is an informative sentence and the latter portion of the Hadith "every man should ponder over who he befriends" is an injunctive sentence: so the informative sentence is a comprehensive rule whilst the injunctive sentence is an application or elaboration of the first sentence so the object of the first sentence is as invariable as the second. So the comprehensive rule is: "Every man is on the creed of his friend". Applying this rule, it is further stated that since you are now aware that a person is on the religion of his friend and the reformation of a person's religious outlook is imperative, it therefore transpires that everyone should contemplate the company he chooses so that he can evaluate the effect his company has on his Deen (religion). From the sentence "Every man should ponder..." any person well-versed with the Arabic language can deduce that one of two things can be established; the companion is religious or irreligious. Henceforth, from this sentence (viz, every man should ponder...) two injunctions are deduced. The first is: "seek pious company" and the second is: "refrain from evil company." Now we should examine our own Deeni (religious) condition. Our present Deeni condition is such that every single one of us is content with the little Deen (piety) that he has without any intention of progressing.
The Urgency of Deeni Progress
Nowadays there seems to be a great furore over the trend of progress. Newspapers, journals and even lectures are not spared in making mention of progress. This in no way implies that we are hostile to progress but we ask: shouldn't there be any progress in our Deeni conditions as well? If someone asserts that there is practically no need for Deeni progress, my lecture is not addressed to him. You will surely be surprised to hear of people opposed to the progress of Deen. Allow me to inform you that there are many such people around.
"Abridge Islamic Law", says an Impudent Modernist
I have just received a book compiled by one of my friends. In it he gives a detailed account of the seventy odd branches of Iman. The subject matter is mentioned in the Ahadith as well. His compilation consists of a commentary on the various branches of Iman. Together with the despatch of this book to me, he writes that he sent this book to one of his relatives or friends who happened to be a lawyer. He (the friend) retorted: "You have prolonged Iman into exhaustive detail. What is Iman? Is it long like the entrails of Shaytān? The exigency of the times requires that you trim Iman down to a bare minimum." Taubah! Taubah! (Good gracious!) Allāh forbid! How can such a person be called a Mumin? His reply denotes that he is either grossly ignorant of Deen or he is extremely impudent. If he said this out of ignorance, he is quite negligent of the fact that nobody has the authority to increase or decrease the facets of Iman. On the other hand, if he said this in spite of his cognizance with Islamic beliefs, it is rather insolent and arrogant of him.
Friends! Every single branch of Iman and every facet of Shariat is such that even a fractional decrease renders it inelegant and inept. Any abridgement can be likened to the following incident. A royal falcon once landed in an old lady's house. As she caught hold of it, she found it's beak to be very large. Taking pity over the difficulty the falcon may be experiencing while eating, she trimmed it. A little later she examined it's claws and thought how the poor creature must be walking. Taking pity once again, she trimmed it's claws. In short, she did away with all it's features of exquisiteness and perfection.
If the laws of the Shariah are trimmed down like the falcon, the reality of Islam will fade away. This is the condition of their (modernists) rudeness and boldness and despite this, they still have the audacity to call themselves true Muslims! They still write that nothing eliminates their Iman no matter what happens.
For example, here in India, many men divorce their wives by pronouncing three Talāqs but in spite of this, they keep them at home. I once received a question regarding a person who divorced his wife but she was adamant. She declared: "I won't accept the divorce regardless of whether the divorce comes into effect or not." I myself have witnessed many such incidents where, despite the three Talāqs being issued, the husband keeps his "wife" at home. Owing to the fear of humiliation, they won't even make Halalah. So, just as how this Nikah is, so is the condition of their Iman. Their impudency spares not even Allāh Ta'āla and His Rasul Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Let alone the poor Ulama, even the laws of the Shariah are scoffed and jeered at. The Ulama have become their "mud-slinging targets." Let alone ordinary Mumineen, even the Ulama are vilified and considered notorious for making everyone into a kafir (disbeliever). Friends! making someone a kafir entails imparting kufr (acts of infidelity) to him. The Molvies don't make anyone a kafir. However, if you perpetrate an act of Kufr they will only pinpoint it to you... Nonetheless, their claims of being Muslims is only an unfounded claim, nothing more. In short, there are people who, let alone the progress of Iman, refute the indispensability of Iman itself. Anyway, this (section) of the lecture was in response to those who consider their Deeni enhancement as futile.
Retracting to the Topic of Deeni Progress
If you do accept the indispensability of Deeni progress, you should also search for the factors contributing to this Deeni enhancement. It won't just come about by wishful thinking but just as there is a teacher for every subject, similarly there are guides in this field as well. Progress in Deen can be achieved in their company. You people have relinquished this objective.
A Greater Need for Pious company than Ilm
Experience has proven that there is a greater need for pious company than Ilm (knowledge). This is why we see that people who have been in the company of pious saints, are far better than those learned people who lack the company (suhbat) of the pious.
We Don't Consider Deen to be Necessary
We have totally cast aside the importance of pious company. The main reason for our apathy is that we fail to grasp the importance of Deen. Friends! what is surprising is that we regard everything else such as eating, drinking, clothing and all other worldly activities as the indispensabilities of life while the only dispensable thing is Deen? If there is no Deen, what is the use of the dunya in its entirety? When people don't consider the Deen itself to be necessary, why will they consider the avenues leading to Deen as necessary?
Pride! Another Factor for the Relinquishment of pious company
Another reason for us relinquishing the pious company of the saints is our pride. We are under the notion that we are in no need for another human being like ourselves. After all, what are we short of? Friends! if you lose a guinea and learn that a certain despicable bhangee (toilet-cleaner) is in possession of it, surely you will ask him for it. What a shame! Look at the condition of worldly wealth that a person has no qualms about asking somebody much more inferior than him. Deen on the other hand had belonged to you once upon a time but you lost it. But shame and humiliation now precludes you from seeking the same from somebody of your own status.
A landlord once asked me to pinpoint a Shaikh (spiritual guide) who, while being splendid himself, honours his followers as well and he neither despises nor scorns them. This, I said, is a sign of pride. The Kuffār (disbelievers of Makkah) also commented in the same grain. They said:- "Why was this Qur'ān not revealed upon a noble person hailing from either of the two cities (ie. Makkah or Taif)." The same ancestral haugtiness continues to this day.
People flock to ignorant or defective peers (spiritual guides)
Even if people do have some conscience of pursuing pious company, they either drift to someone who lacks the complete (spiritual) treasure and he himself is in need of spiritual enhancement or they search for a person who performs supernatural feats even though he fails to perform his Salāh!
There was once a "peer" saheb who was not regular with his
Salāh. His mureeds (followers) used to defend him saying that their peer
performs his Salāh in Makkah Muazzamah. What a superb response was given against
this by another person. He said: "How strange! For his meals and toilet he chose
India and for his Salāh he chose Makkah? If he is performing his Salāh in Makkah,
he might as well eat there as well."
The belief that a saint's word is destined to materialise
Some people affiliate themselves with saints to gain some worldly benefit. Many are under the notion that whatever he utters is bound to occur. A person once approached Moulana Fadhlur-Rahman Ganj Muradabadi and expressed some of his needs to him. Hadhrat replied that he will make Duā for him. The person remarked: "I can also make Duā. Why don't you say: "It has already been done". (He was under the false notion that Hadhrat's assurance is destined to come to pass).
Remember! nothing lies in the authority of the saints. Save Duās, there's nothing else they can do. There was a saint in a place called Pili Bheet. An old lady once approached him and gave an account of her constrained circumstances. The Saint ordered one of his servants to tell her:- "May Allāh Ta'āla be gracious and may he shower his mercy." The servant transmitted the message to the old lady thus:- Hadhrat says: "Allāh 'will' be gracious and merciful." On hearing the message being transmitted, Hadhrat became so agitated and restless that he retorted: "When did I say that Allāh "will"? What authority do I hold in such matters? I am nothing. Go at once again and tell her: "May Allāh be gracious."
So ponder over the above incident. The saints consider themselves to be in need and helpless. These are saints in the true sense of the word but many don't consider them as such. People regard those as saints who drink wine and talk utter nonsense whilst some people have confidence in Majzoobs ( A person fanatically lost in spiritual meditation). Even their faith in Majzoobs stems from worldly motives. Remember, only worldly people will maintain ties with Majzoobs because nobody can attain any religious benefit from them. Even worldly benefit that people do seem to attain from them, is purely psychological. In reality, there is nothing like this. People feel that whatever they say is bound to occur but nothing happens merely because of what they say. In fact, whatever is destined to occur emanates from their tongues at times. Even if they hadn't made such statements, those things were bound to occur.
In short, even if we do seek pious company, we tend to be foolish. Our condition as described by a poet is thus:- "When you are hungry, you become a dog and when you start eating you become fierce and surly."
In other words, you had no inclination to pursue pious company. Even if you do seek pious company, it is for worldly gain. Your pursuit of worldly gain from religious people is a gross error indeed. Only religious benefit should be the motive behind the pursuit of pious company.
The Importance of Pious Company and the Detriments of Evil
In short, the pursuit of pious company is extremely important. Every person should review the company he keeps and he should abandon evil company and seek pious company. A poet says:-
"A thousand friends who are not affiliated to Allāh Ta'ala, their lives can be laid down for a lone stranger who is familiar with Allāh Ta'āla."
If you encounter irreligiousness amongst your friends, I don't advocate that you should abandon them. Employ tact and wisdom. For example, tell them: "Brother! from today I've become regular with my Salāh. If you are my friend, then you should also start performing your Salāh regularly." If he seems adamant in spite of your frequent adominishments and planning, then leave him alone because there is no hope of solicitude and care from a person who is disobedient to Allāh Ta'āla. On the other hand, if you continue affiliating with him, you will be considered in the same light.
Are you not aware of the days of the mutiny? Those associated with the rebels or sided with them, were also considered as rebels. Hence, the friend of a rebel is also a rebel. If you are informed that a certain person is an enemy of your father, will you still associate with him on good terms? (Obviously not). Then why don't you cherish the same rancour for a person who has rebelled and transgressed against Allāh Ta'āla?
It is narrated in a Hadith that Hadhrat Jibraeel (Alayhis salām) was once commanded by Allāh Ta'āla to destroy a certain locality. Jibraeel remarked: " O Allāh! therein resides a servant who was never disobedient to You." Allāh Ta'āla declared: "Destroy him with them as well because he used to witness the acts of disobedience but that didn't affect him in the least bit."
Friends! If someone utters profanities against your mother, you are unable to bear it patiently but if a Moulana, driven by religious zeal, tends to become agitated and disturbed (due to prevailing circumstances) you regard him as prejudiced!!
Etiquettes of Asking the Ulama
However, if someone objects to this and says "How else are we going to eliminate our doubts if we don't ask the Ulama?" Remember! there is a method of trying to eliminate your doubts. This can be achieved by employing courtesy and respect in your questions posed to the Ulama if you really intend to analyse and examine the various laws of Deen. Generally, the condition of the people is such that they pose their questions as objections and criticisms. They first establish their own views and thereafter they pose their objective questions. The manner in which they convey their questions really hurts the heart. For example, the lawyer whose story was mentioned above. If he didn't refer to the multifarious branches of Iman as "the intestines of Shaytān," and expressed his objection in better words, the heart wouldn't have been as grieved. Similarly, another person refuted the story of Hadhrat Âdam Alayhi Salām and he employed provocative and heart-rending words in reference to Âdam Alayhis Salām. On one occasion he refers to him as: "Âdam, the father of the Muazzins". This is nothing short of mocking Deen. He (the aformentioned person) had also rejected the existence of the Angels with similar absurdity and obscenity. He mockingly refers to them thus: "The Muslims believe that the angels are a creation of Allāh Ta'āla which hover between the sky and earth like eagles." If he expressed it in better words, it wouldn't have been as heart-rending.
If one of them is told: "I've heard that your mother sits in a brothel, is this correct?" The same people, who advise the Molvies to answer all objections patiently regardless of the manner of presentation, will no doubt feel extremely offended. So how do you then expect the mocking of Deen to be condoned? Today our condition has become such that we hear everything but yet we remain indifferent to it.
The Detrimental Effects of Evil Company
These are the repercussions of joining irreligious company. Our sense of honour and concern for what we should have been defending has vanished. The first effect of evil company is the sense of indifference towards evil builds up whilst the effect of pious company is that a person realizes his shortfalls and secondly, he regards evil to be evil and gradually all evil traits tend to fade away. Therefore, be very particular in pursuing good company.
Nowadays, people themselves don't refrain from evil company nor do they ensure that their children keep away from bad friends. People flock to wherever they wish to and they sit with whom they want to. They employ irreligious people to teach them without paying any attention to their character or to their beliefs.
The Issue of Imparting English to Children
Thereafter, they (the parents) defame the Ulama and claim that the Ulama are preventing them from seeking English (secular) education. If you are careful and attentive towards pious company, nobody will prevent you from seeking English education. They prevent you because evil company brings in it's wake evil character and corrupt beliefs. English is after all only a language. Learning the language is no doubt permissible. To pursue it as a means of livelihood is another matter altogether. It's actual permissibility does not necessarily entail unconditional permissibility. In fact there is some detail to it. Some occupations are permissible whilst others are not. A similar rule applies to those who seek Arabic studies. If, after completing their studies, they intend to teach etc. then the pursuit of Arabic studies is permissible. In fact it is a form of Ibādat. However, if the intention is to lecture (for worldly reasons) or to become a spiritual guide as a profession (to earn the dunya), then even the pursuit of Arabic is not permissible. However (after completing the studies), if someone is presented with a gift without any greed on his part, there is no problem in this if the endower presents the gift out of love and sincerity.
On the contrary, if he pursues religious education to attain the dunya, it is Harām for him to do so. The same details would apply to the aspirants of other languages and sciences. As a language itself, there is no prohibition in seeking English but nowadays people tend to relinquish their Islam once they seek English (secular) education. Studying in a college - even though it is referred to as an Islamic college - is indeed fatal (to one's spiritual health). A number of incidents bear witness to this fact. Government schools are not as bad as these free "Islamic" colleges simply because in government schools, the students tend to encounter members of other religious groups. (Due to such encounters and debates etc. the Muslim students tend to preserve their Islamic life-styles). I once asked a student who qualified in one of these colleges why he doesn't perform Salāh. He replied:- " Who should I devote my Salāh to? I am skeptical and doubtful of the very existence of Allāh Ta'āla." I felt extremely grieved about this. Thereafter, with tears in his eyes, the student remarked: "The burden lies on the shoulders of my parents. They despatched me to such a place to pursue my academic studies."
So the people are destroying their children with their own hands.
Caution Against Evil Company and Advice regarding Pious
If this was checked at the very outset and if they were prevented from evil company and made to pursue good company, such repercussions wouldn't have arisen. The impact of the company one keeps is such that he is bound to change according to the nature of his companion. As a Persian poet says:- "A pious companion will make you pious whilst an evil companion will make you evil."
As far as possible, refrain from an evil friend because an
evil companion is more fatal than a venomous snake. A venomous snake is only a
threat to life but an evil friend is a threat to both life and Iman. A little
while in the company of the saints is better than a thousand years of sincere
Ibadat. He who longs for the companionship of Allāh Ta'āla, should seek the
company of the friends of Allāh.
I heard of an incident regarding Mirza Mazhar Jān-e-Jāna. On one occasion, the following Hadith was recited in his Majlis: "There is a time (during the day) that if a person makes Duā during that time, his Duā is accepted." Following the recitation of this Hadith, frantic discussions took place in the Majlis as to what Duā a person should make if he comes across this time. Mirza Sahib finally commented: "We will make Duā for pious company because pious company is a great blessing and a fountainhead of goodness and piety."
Pious Company is More Virtuous than Solitude
Pious company is obviously better than solitude. However, if pious company is unavailable, then solitude is imperative. This is the basic principle in this regard. Many people have become fanatics over the issue of solitude without taking into account the afore-mentioned principle. What a wonderful way, Moulana replies to such fanatics. He says: "O you who give unconditional preference to solitude over socialising! Don't you realize that you ascertained the benefits of solitude only through socialising. So how dare you give preference to solitude over socialising. Nonetheless, if pious company is not available, solitude is the best."
Solitude is Better than Evil Company
People claim that solitude perplexes them. Friends! you have within yourself such a garden that if you occupy yourself with it, it won't satiate you. Then how will you become perplexed? But since our attention is not focussed towards it, we fail to see it. Solitude is bound to perplex people at the very outset but once they develop the habit of "Zikrullah", they will become perplexed not with solitude but with sitting in the company of others.
The Evil of Sitting at Street Corners
I don't have any complaint regarding those who are involved in the dunya to earn a living. I feel dejected with those people who, because they have sufficient to eat and drink and because they are not encumbered with any responsibility, waste their time at street corners and village pavilions. Their conversation revolves around futile subjects. "This is what "Zamindar" newspaper reported today; this is what so and so advocate had to comment on it; so and so place is struck by plague or drought ..." and many other futile subjects are discussed by them.
Hadhrat Bahlool was once informed about the hike in the price of grain. He commented: "Such things don't concern us. We should do whatever we have been commanded to do. Sustenance lies in His (ie. Allāh's) hands alone."
These were the intelligent people of the past. The profound degree of precaution exercised by the friends of Allāh can be gauged from the following incident. "A mureed once wrote to his peer (spiritual guide) about the wrangles taking place between the Muslims and the Kuffār in his locality and he requested the peer to make Duās. The peer wrote back: "We didn't depute you to that locality as a news-reporter. Continue with your responsibilities without meddling in other affairs."
Friends! relinquish all your futile habits, and occupy yourselves in your objectives. Allāh Ta'āla has rendered you free of any concern regarding the earning of your livelihood. This is a great favour and blessing upon you. How marvelously the poet describes it:- "Leisure is a great marvel. Once a person is at leisure, he won't desire anything more. Even if a person has more than his needs, he should keep himself occupied instead of whiling his time away in futile pursuits."
Hence, sitting around street corners and village clubs etc. should definitely be brought to an end and the thing that draws them out of their homes and brings them to these places is the huqqah (smoking pipe). The huqqah should be burnt and thrown apart. This is the chief reason for getting together. This is why I have made specific mention of this. If there are other reasons, they should also be relinquished. In short, abandon evil friends and pursue pious companionship if available or else opt for solitude.
Severing Ties with Evil Connection
I feel rather disgruntled that in spite of you being a man, you don't have the courage to sever ties with your evil friends whereas even a small girl is prepared to do this. Don't you see that the condition of a girl is totally different to her condition after her marriage. Before her marriage, her parent's home is her home, her parent's friends are her friends, her parent's enemies are her enemies. But the moment she comes to her husband's home after her marriage, she undergoes radical change. From that day onwards, her husband's home is her home, her husband's friends are her friends, her husbands enemies are her enemies. A fifteen year old girl left aside all her other relations for the sake of one man to such an extent that even if one of her old friends is her husband's enemy, she will now consider him an enemy as well. Being a small girl, she sacrificed everything but what a shame upon you that in spite of being a man you are unable to subject yourself to one being (and that is Allāh Ta'āla). Your condition should have been - as a poet describes:- "If your heart is connected to the beloved, turn your gaze away from the rest of the world."
(In other words, if you have a spiritual relationship with Allāh, sever all other ties).
The poet further says : "Like Ibraheem (Alayhis-Salām), we should raise our voices with the statement he made: "Lā uhibbul-Âfileen - (I don't love those who disappear)."
How courageous of a young girl to do so and we on the other hand are fifty and sixty years old but yet we lack the courage to abandon our old friends who are in opposition to Allāh and His Rasul Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. If you really want to know, we are much worse than that young girl.
Persuasion to Seek Pious Company or Solitude
By now, I'm confident you understand the reality of pious company. Let us now vow that as from this day onwards, we will pursue pious friends only and develop this habit within us. If pious company is unavailable, abstain from bad company at least. If the required medicine is unavailable to a sick person, the least he is compelled to do is to abstain from certain foods and follow a strict diet.
Nonetheless, pious company is not unavailable. There are many saints around. However, if an area lacks pious people, solitude is the best remedy. Even in solitude, don't just sit idle. Read the stories of the saints and courageous people. It would create an effect similar to that of sitting in the company of the pious.
Nowadays, people don't want to exert themselves. They wish to transcend this realm of spiritualism with just a glance from the peer. This is no doubt possible with the omnipotence of Allāh Ta'āla but it is not His normal habit to do so. For example, the birth of Eesa (Alayhis - Salām) without a father or the birth of Hawwa (Alayhas - Salām) from Âdam (Alayhis -Salām) without the medium of a wife. Today, will anybody be content on getting children without the medium of a husband or wife? No doubt, Allāh has the power to bestow something without any effort on our part but it is very rare. The provider is Allāh Ta'āla alone but the wont of Allāh Ta'āla lays down: "As you sow, so shall you reap." I haven't witnessed anyone from amongst those people leaving aside their businesses, farms and jobs and sitting in hope of finding some treasure. (They all work hard for their livelihood then why don't they exert themselves in this field of spiritualism as well?) I don't imply that you should abandon all your worldly occupations and sit down with a Tasbeeh in one corner totally engrossed in the Zikr of Allāh Ta'āla. This is not in the capacity of every individual. All I am saying is that you should pursue pious company and abstain from evil company and while in solitude read books of the pious. However, don't go beyond this and start studying the intricacies of spiritualism. Only study those books which deal with the courage of the saints as well as books which deal with the spiritual remedies for the eradication of evil habits. The studying of such books will be highly beneficial.
The Pre-requisites for the Fruitfulness of Pious Company
Some people raise objections that they lived in the company of the pious for periods of up to ten years but to no avail. Their company failed to bring about a fruitful transformation within their lives.
Friends! There are various ways of staying in the company of the pious. If a person stays for years on end in the company of a doctor and yet he is ill, he is not justified in complaining that in spite of staying so long in the company of a doctor, he failed to recuperate. If he does complain, he will be told: "You were not under treatment. Your complaint will only be legitimate if you had undergone treatment at the hands of the doctor."
Similarly, people tend to have various motives for pursuing
the company of saints. Some people come to them with information related to the
dunya. They inform the saints of what's happening throughout the world. They are
wasting their own time as well as the time of the saints. When you visit the
saints, leave aside nonsensical and futile talks. Take your spiritual ailments
to them instead. If a beggar takes a bag filled with stones to the door of a
generous person, how can the generous person place something in the bag. The bag
has no place in it. As a Persian stanza describes it: "If a utensil is brimming
with something, how will anything else fit into it?"
Similarly, if you are filled with your own thoughts and notions, what benefit will you attain from their company. When you visit the saints, don't sit so silently before them that you don't even answer their questions. Some people are such that when the saints ask them about their motive for coming over, they reply:- "Hadhrat himself has great insight to determine the reason of our arrival." How foolish and stupid of them to answer in such an ambiguous manner. When you go to them, lay out your spiritual ailments plainly before them and comply with the remedy they prescribe. This is how it should be done. If you are unable to go to them personally, correspond with them. However, don't write futile things in your letters to them. Enquire about the remedies for your spiritual ailments but don't specify a particular type of remedy. Leave that unto them to decide. A person wrote to me saying that he is not regular with his Salāh and I should indicate a Wazeefah which will enable him to perform Salāh. This is the problem nowadays. Ill-planning has become a widespread disease. He was under the notion that the recitation of a Wazeefah will render him consistent with his Salāh. I wrote back to him that for every Salāh he omits, he should skip a meal. If he omits five Salāhs, he should skip five meals in one stretch. This is the remedy for your problem and not Wazeefahs.
In treating all spiritual ailments, comply with their prescribed form of treatment. This is the only way one can achieve benefit from them. If you are continuously absorbed in this, continue asking questions and develop a habit of visiting the saints regularly, you will Insha-Allāh, someday or the other, be successful. Nowadays, in spite of being ba'yt to the Shaykh, many people don't even have a negligible relationship with him. Don't they realize that the relationship between a peer and mureed is similar to the relationship between a doctor and patient. If the patient continues exposing his condition to the doctor and carries out his instructions it won't be long before the patient recuperates.
A Word of Advice to Secular School Students
For Allāh's sake, take more pity than this on your children. The storm of atheism has engulfed the present generation. One has to be very careful. Ensure that you prevent your children from joining bad company and seek pious company for them.
You are probably under the impression that it is rather difficult to compel them to leave secular education and pursue Islamic education. I do accept your position. So let us do away with that as well. Allow them to study at school but please do accept a single request of mine. Instead of your children loitering about during the school holidays, send them to the Ahlullah (saints of Allāh) during the school holidays at least.
However, if you remonstrate that you won't have any time left
with your children if they attend school during the year and pursue the company
of the pious during the holidays, I have a solution to that problem as well.
Analyse the duration of the holidays and keep them with you for a greater part
of the holiday and send them to the Ahlullah for a few days only. This advice
was in favour of the children.
Now there remains a group towards which people pay no attention whatsoever, neither in regards to their education nor to their spiritual enhancement. People pay attention to their children albeit in an ungraceful way but they pay no attention to this group at all. And this group is the group of women. There is an urgent need to (spiritually) reform them. If they are in order, the children will also turn out to be pious because the very first years of a child's life is spent in their company. This (spiritual) reformation can be achieved either by teaching them or by reading to them books dealing with jurisprudence and stories of the pious. Whether she listens or not, don't let it bother you. Sit at home and recite these books aloud. Continue doing this and Insha-Allāh it will have a fruitful effect on her. However, don't purchase the books without consulting the Ulama. Request them to make a selection of good books. In short, this is a method of (spiritual) reformation which doesn't entail much physical exertion nor will it affect one's worldly activities.
Conclusion - Dua
Now you realise how cheap pious company is but yet how beneficial it can be. What a magnificent prescription but yet so cheap. How simple it is! You are not compelled to abandon your farming nor your businesses. Continue with your occupation but at least develop some relationship with the Ahlullah. Visit them occasionally or at least correspond with them. Insha-Allāh, even a negligible degree of relationship will not go to waste. Now make dua unto Allāh Ta'āla that He grants us all Taufeeq (divine assistance) Âmeen.
DARUL ULOOM ILAHIYAH
INSTITUTE OF ISLAMIC RESEARCH
ILAHI BAGH, BUCHPORA, SRINAGAR, 190011, KASHMIR, INDIA