We recently got a letter from someone— we’ll call her Samina— who was having trouble with a close friendship. Samina felt betrayed by her best friend, and she wanted to know if she was justified in reducing the friendship to a polite distance.
An excellent question, and the kind of thing that makes most of us feel torn; our instincts tell us one thing, the world tells us another, and our loved ones something else. So what does our highest written authority tell us about friendship?
Friendship is divine— something we share in common with Allah. He has close friends among human beings, and He’s clearly a friend to us.
And who is better in religion than one who submits himself to Allah while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allah took Abraham as an intimate friend. [Quran, 4:125]
For them will be the Home of Peace with their Lord. And He will be their protecting friend because of what they used to do. [Quran, 6:127]
False friendship is conditional on our acceptance of falsehood.
And indeed, they were about to tempt you away from that which We revealed to you in order to [make] you invent about Us something else; and then they would have taken you as a friend. [Quran, 17:73]
True friendship is founded on righteousness.
And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. [Quran, 41:34]
Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous. [Quran, 43:67]
The Quran suggests that we’re not required to fellowship with anyone or to refuse fellowship. We are, however, required to greet each other with salaam.
. . . There is no blame upon you whether you eat together or separately. But when you enter houses, give greetings of peace upon each other – a greeting from Allah, blessed and good . . . [Quran, 24:61]
Allah forbids us to take His enemies as our friends. (This is not to say that we shouldn’t speak with those among the unbelievers who are sincerely searching for truth.)
O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah, your Lord. If you have come out for jihad in My cause and seeking means to My approval, [take them not as friends]. You confide to them affection, but I am most knowing of what you have concealed and what you have declared. And whoever does it among you has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way. [Quran, 60:1]
So what should we answer Samina? For one thing, she needs to know that she has a tremendous amount of liberty. If her friendship is not founded on righteousness and truth, or if her friend is an enemy of Allah (swt), her friend’s actions should serve as a signal that the friendship should be ended.
If the friendship was founded on righteousness and truth, and if her friend is not an enemy of Allah (swt), Samina still has the choice of ending contact with her friend, but— she must continue to greet her with salaam when she meets her.
More importantly, Samina needs to recognise that friendship is a divine gift, and that sometimes problems in friendships are tests meant to make us better people. If we’re honest with ourselves and obedient to Allah (swt), we may come to see that it was we ourselves who were at fault, and not our friends.
May your mind and heart be opened, enlightened, and nourished.
The Understand Quran Academy Team