What Are the Qualities of a Friend?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: According to Islam what is the purpose of a friend? How does one show gratitude to Allah for a friend?

Friends

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

One’s friends should be people who are helping one draw closer to one’s Lord.

Imam Ghazali (rah) in his Beginning of Guidance (Bidayat al-Hidaya) lists a number of qualities to look for in a friend noting the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “A person’s religious life is only as good as that of his friend, so let one of you consider well whom he befriends.” [Tirmidhi]

[1] Intellect

– As there is no good friendship with a foolish person;

– Specifically seek someone with practical intelligence who has the capacity to seek benefit, even if worldly;

[2] Good Character

– Ghazali states that someone of bad character is one who cannot restrain their [i] anger or [ii] desire;

– Somebody who truly cares for others. “The religion is sincere counsel.”

[3] Righteousness

“Do not obey someone whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who follows his inclinations, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.” [Qur’an, 18:28]

– As witnessing the transgression of a wrongdoer on a regular basis will remove from your heart all sense of the enormity of the crimes and make them seem insignificant.

[4] Lack of Greed

– Someone concerned with amassing “things” of this world

– Human nature is designed to imitate and follow (by example), so one person’s nature may take from another without even realizing it.

[5] Honesty

– As one will always face deception from the liar.

Imam Ghazali (rah) continues that after finding a decent friend, one should uphold, respect and fulfill the duties of being a friend.

Gratitude and Growing

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an, ‘If you are thankful, I will surely increase you’ [Qur’an, 14:7] The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Whoever does not thank people has not thanked Allah’. [Tirmidhi]

Be grateful for them, appreciate them, and grow in love for one another — the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, narrating from His Lord, “My love is incumbent for those who love one another for my sake; those who sit with one another for My sake; those who visit each other for My sake; and those who spend on each other for My sake.” [Musnad Ahmad]

And Allah knows best.

Wassalam,

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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“Actions are but by intentions”: Ibn Rajab’s Commentary on Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith

The hadith of intentions is not meant to be taken in a vacuum. Nothing in the Shari`a is in a vacuum. It needs to be taken together with all the other injunctions of Allah and His Prophet which includes five hundred commands and eight hundred prohibitions. Furthermore the hadith of intention is a warning to eliminate self-display and self-delusion because they cancel  reward and have negative consequences. There are other applications as well. An important requirement is to tread the path of teachers and not to try and split hairs by philosophizing on our own.

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Ibn Rajab’s Commentary on Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 
Translation and copyright: Mohammed Fadel

‘Umar b. al-Khattab RadhiAllahuanhu narrated that the Prophet () said: Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends. Therefore, whosoever has emigrated for the sake of Allah and His messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His messenger. Whosoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain, or a woman [whom he desires] to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which [moved him] to emigrate.” Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

This hadith has only one path to ‘Umar: Yahya b. Sa’id al-Ansari on the authority of Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Taymi, on the authority of ‘Alqama b. Abi Waqqas al-Laythi, who narrated it from ‘Umar b. al-Khattab. Large numbers of people narrated this hadith on the authority of Yahya b. Sa’id, including Imam Malik, al-Thawri, al-Awza’i, Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Layth b. Sa’d, Hammad b. Zayd, Shu’ba, Ibn ‘Uyayna and others.

This was the first hadith Bukhari recorded in his book, where it serves the purpose of the introduction (khutba), pointing out that all deeds that are devoid of the proper intention are vain (batil). ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Mahdi is reported to have said that “Were I to compose a book comprised of various chapters, I would place the hadith of ‘Umar regarding deeds and intentions in each chapter.” This is one of the firm hadiths which serves as an axis of Islam. Al-Shafi’i said that it comprises a third of all religious knowledge. Ahmad b. Hanbal said that the principles axes of Islam, in terms of hadith, are three: the hadith of ‘Umar that “deeds are judged only by intention,” the hadith of ‘A`isha, “Whoever introduces into our affairs that which does not belong, it is rejected,” and the hadith of al-Nu’man b. Bashir, “The licit is clear and the illicit is clear.” Ishaq b. Rahawyahi also included this hadith as one of the axises of Islam. Abu Dawud, the collector of the Sunan, is reported to have said that of the 4,800 hadiths in his book, it is sufficient if a person knows four, the hadith of ‘Umar regarding intentions and deeds, the hadith “Part of person’s virtue in Islam is to ignore that which is of no concern to him,” the hadith “The believer is not a believer unless he desires for his brother what he desires for himself,” and the hadith “the licit is clear and the illicit is clear.”

The first question regarding this hadith is whether it refers to all actions, or only those actions whose validity requires an intention (niyya)? Thus, if it refers only to the former, it would not apply to the customary areas of human life, e.g., eating, drinking, clothes, etc., as well as transactional matters, e.g., fulfilling fiduciary duties and returning misappropriated properties. The other opinion is that the hadith refers to all actions. Ibn Rajab attributes the first position to the later scholars whereas the second position he attributes to earlier scholars.

The first sentence of the hadith, innama al-a’mal bi-l-niyyat,” is a declaration that the voluntary actions of a person are a consequence only of that person’s purpose to perform the act or bring it into existence (“la taqa’ illa ‘an qasd min al-‘amil huwa sabab ‘amaliha wa wujudiha.“). The second sentence, wa innama li-kulli imri` ma nawa,” is a declaration of religion’s judgment of the act in question (“ikbar ‘an al-hukm al-shar’i“).? Thus, if the intention motivating an act is good, then performance of the act is good and the person receives its reward.? As for the corrupt intention, the action it motivates is corrupt, and the person receives punishment therefor.? If the intention motivating the act is permissible, then the action is permissible, and the actor receives neither reward nor punishment. Therefore, acts in themselves, their goodness, foulness or neutrality, from the perspective of religion are judged according to the person’s intention that caused their existence.

Niyya is used in two senses by the scholars of Islam. The first is to distinguish some acts of worship from others, e.g., salat al-zuhr from salat al-‘asr or to distinguish acts of worship (‘ibadat) from mundane matters (‘adat). This is the primary usage of the term in the books of the fuqaha`. The second usage is to distinguish an action that is performed for the sake of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, from an act done for the sake of Allah and others, or just for the sake of other than Allah. This second meaning is that which is intended by the gnostics (‘arifun) in their discussions of sincerity (ikhlas) and related matters. This is the same meaning that is intended by the Pious Ancestors (al-salaf al-salih) when they use the term niyya. Thus, in the Qur`an, the speech of the Prophet (S) and the speech of the Salaf, the term niyya is synonymous, or usually so, with the term desire (irada) and related terms, e.g., ibtigha`. The texts of the shar‘ testifying to this usage are too numerous to be cited in this posting, but include such verses as “Among you are those who desire (yurid) the profane world and among you are those who desire (yurid) the next,” and “You desire (turidun) the profit of the profane world but Allah desires [for you] the next,” and “Whosoever desires (yurid) the harvest of the profane world, etc.” and “Whosoever desires (yurid) the immediate [gratification of the profane world], we hasten it to him what We wish to whom We desire,” and “Do not expel those who call out to their Lord in the early morn and in the evening, who are seekers (yuridun) of His face and let not your eyes wander from them out of covetous desire (turid) of the frivolity of the profane world.”

Likewise, Imam Ahmad and al-Nasa`i report that the Prophet (ﷺ ) said that “Whosoever takes part in a military campaign in the cause of Allah, but sought only booty [thereby], shall gain [only] what he intended (nawa),” and on the authority of Imam Ahmad, “Most of the martyrs of my community shall die in their beds (ashab al-furush), and many a man killed in battle whose intention is known only to Allah,” and the hadith of Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas in Bukhari, where the Prophet (ﷺ ) says “Indeed, you shall never spend of your property an amount whereby you are desirous (tabtaghi) of pleasing Allah save that you shall be rewarded for it, even the morsel of food that you place in your wife’s mouth.”Similarly, it is reported that ‘Umar said “One who has no intention (niyya) has no [meritorious] deeds (“la ‘amala li-man la niyyata lahu”).

Despite the importance of having a good niyya, and its centrality to Islam, it is among the most difficult things to achieve. Thus, Sufyan al-Thawri is reported to have said, “Nothing is more difficult for me to treat than my intention (niyya) for indeed it turns on me!.”Yusuf b. Asbat said, “Purifying one’s intention from corruption is more difficult for persons than lengthy exertion (ijtihad).”?

An act that is not done sincerely for the sake of Allah may be divided into parts:

The first is that which is solely for display (riya`) such that its sole motivation is to be seen by others in order to achieve a goal in the profane world, as was the case of the Hypocrites in their performance of prayer, where Allah described them as “When they join prayer, they go lazily [with the purpose] of displaying [themselves] to the people.”

At other times, an action might be partially for the sake of Allah and partially to display one’s self in front of the people. If the desire to display one’s self arose at the origin of the action, then the action is vain. Imam Ahmad reports that the Prophet (ﷺ ) said, “When Allah gathers the first [of His creation] and the last [of His creation] for that Day for which there is no doubt, a crier will call out, ‘Whosoever associated with Me another in his actions let him seek his reward from other than Allah, for Allah is the most independent of any association (fa-inna allaha aghna al-sharaka` ‘an al-shirk).” Al-Nasa`i reported that a man asked the Prophet (ﷺ ), “What is your opinion of one who fights [in the way of Allah] seeking fame [in the profane world] and reward [from Allah]” The Prophet (ﷺ ) replied, “He receives nothing [by way of reward from Allah’.” The Prophet (ﷺ ) repeated this three times and then said, “Allah accepts no deeds other than those that are performed solely for His sake and by which His face is sought.” This opinion, namely, that if an act is corrupted by any desire to display one’s self (riya`) then that act is rejected, is attributed to many of the Salaf, including, ‘Ubada b. al-Samit, Abu al-Darda`, al-Hasan al-Basri, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib and others.

If one’s intention is corrupted with something other than the desire to display one’s self, e.g., to earn profit whilst on a jihad in the path of Allah, such an intention reduces one’s reward from jihad, but does not negate it entirely. Muslim reported in his Sahih that the Prophet (ﷺ ) said that “Soldiers in the path of Allah attain two-thirds of their reward immediately when they obtain booty [from the enemy], whereas they receive their reward in its entirety when they obtain nothing from the enemy.”

As for an action whose origin is for Allah, then it subsequently becomes corrupted by a desire to display one’s self, then the Salaf differed as to whether such an act is vain. Their differences on this matter have been reported by Ahmad and al-Tabari. Al-Hasan al-Basri is reported to have held that such a desire, in itself, does not invalidate the proper intention that was the origin of the act.

In conclusion, the saying of Sahl b. ‘Abd Allah is most beautiful in this regard: Nothing is more difficult on a person than sincerity because the person gains no share of that [act]. Ibn ‘Uyayna said that Mutarrif b. ‘Abdallah would repeat the following prayer, “O Allah! I seek Your forgiveness for that which I sought your repentance but to which I subsequently returned; I seek Your forgiveness from that which I rendered to You from my self, but then, I was not able to maintain faithfully; and, I seek Your forgiveness from that by which I claimed I desired your Face but my heart became corrupted with that which I did.”

Wa akhir da’wana an al-hamdu li-llahi rabbi al-‘alamin, wa-l-salat wa-l-salam ‘ala ashraf al-mursalin wa ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi wa azwajihi.

 

Purification of the self

It is said in the Qur’an:

He indeed shall be successful who purifies himself, and magnifies the name of his Lord and prays. (A`la, 87/14-15).

By the self and Him who balanced it, then inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it: he will indeed succeed who purifies it, and he will indeed fail who corrupts it. (Shams, 91/7-10).

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Inspired with the wisdom of these verses, Hadrat Maulana (Alaihi Rahma) said:

• “O traveler on the spiritual path! If you wish to know the reality, neither Moses nor Pharaoh died. Today they live within you; they are hidden in your existence. They do their fighting within you! So you had better look for those two, who are at enmity with one another, within you.”

• “The human being is like a forest. Just as a forest accommodates thousands of pigs, wolves, and other animals with good and bad natures, so within us live both virtues and vices.”

• “Do not seek to feed your body overmuch, for it will perish one day. It is better to nurture your soul, for that is what will reach the heavens and honor.”

• “Nourish your soul with mature thinking and discernment that will give it strength for its journey.”

• “When you get rid of your lower self, when you fully commit yourself to Allah, you will travel safely in the sea of divine mysteries.”

“No mirror has ever turned into iron again. No bread has ever turned into wheat again. No grape juice has ever turned into grapes again. No ripe fruit has ever become unripe again. So become mature, and prevent yourself from ever being immature again!”

• “Set fire to your lower self, dark as night, if you want to shine like the day.”

Allah Almighty endowed us with life for one time only. We will not be given it again. We should, therefore, use this chance carefully to come close to Allah by reaching spiritual maturity. It is only people who develop mature personalities who do not lose much in this life. Those who yield to raw ego are bound to lose much both in this world and in the hereafter. A self which is not restrained through spiritual training and purification is like a wild horse. A wild horse leads its rider over cliffs and, therefore, to extinction, instead of taking him to his destination. Yet if a horse is trained well, it will carry its rider to her destination no matter how dangerous the journey.

Being a Sufi

Ibrahim Effendi, the renowned Sheikh of the Sufi Lodge of Aksaray, eloquently voices the assorted definitions of the Sufi path in the following lines:

 

Being a Sufi, at the onset, is freedom from material existence, At the end, it is to rise to throne of the heart

Being a Sufi, at the onset, is to strip away the flesh, At the end, it is to enter the Lord’s palace of secrets.

Being a Sufi, is to remove the fading garment of the body, In return for a pure existence, and the light of the Lord…

Being a Sufi, is to kindle the candle of the heart with a flame Divine, And hence throwing it in the fire of love, to burn forever more…

Being a Sufi is save oneself from the grip of the ego, And hence to follow the Law and attain to true faith.

Being a Sufi is acquaintance with the ways of the Lord;
And hence to reach out a helping hand and cure to the needy.

Being a Sufi is to unlock the flesh with the key of the Lord’s Name, And to usher it in through the gates of nothingness.

Being a Sufi is to turn the Sufi words to action, Where each word uttered becomes a portion of life.

Being a Sufi is to learn to interpret the dreams and the word, To become a secret, in one’s own right, in the seat of life.

Being a Sufi is to become joyous and bewildered in Divine presence, To be in amazement before the secrets of the Divine.

Being a Sufi is to cleanse the heart of everything other than the Lord, To turn the heart into His Throne through faith

Being a Sufi is to reach East and West in the blink of an eye; To hence care for all people and offer them shelter.

Being a Sufi is to witness the Lord’s presence in every particle, To hence be a sun shining upon all creation.

Being a Sufi is to understand the languages of all creation; To assume to role of Solomon in the realm of intellect.

Being a Sufi is to seize the firmest handle, to burden the greatest duty; To hence reflect on the Quran and convey the news of Divine Mercy.

Being a Sufi is to treat all beings through the secret name of the Lord; The ability to absorb the commands of the Quran.

Being a Sufi is to seek the Lord in every gaze thrown,
To hence turn difficulty into ease for the fellow human being.

Being a Sufi is to turn the heart into a depository of Divine knowledge To lead a drop, the human being is, into the vast ocean.

Being a Sufi is to burn entire existence in the fire of negation; And then to revive through the light of affirmation”.

Being a Sufi is to call to the path, to say “sufficient is the Lord” (ar-Rad, 43), To nurture delight for the inevitable “return”. (al-Ghashiyah, 28)

Being a Sufi is to return to life after dying a thousand times each day, To act as a reviver for corpses from all creation.

Being a Sufi is to annihilate existence into the existence Divine,
To conceal oneself in the intimacy of being “even nearer”. (an-Najm, 9)

Being a Sufi is to surrender the soul to the beloved and become free; To remain with the beloved forever more.

Being a Sufi, Ibrahim, is to become a real servant of the Lord; To embrace and remain loyal to the Law of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).

Marriage ceremonies

The marriage ceremony is a means to share the happiness of a marriage with friends and relatives. It also serves as a way to carry out the requirement of publicizing a marriage. In addition, it is also a fine thing to turn such an important institution into an opportunity for joy and entertainment, which are part of our nature.

However, we should remember that ceremonies that are too extravagant, which reach the point of financially devastating the families involved, are never approved by Islam. Islam is a religion that urges moderation even in taking water from a river when performing ablution. It encourages its followers to be frugal. Therefore even if the parties are rich, they should act in consideration of the poor and needy of their community. Turning marriage ceremonies into theatres of ostentation, like many of today’s rich families do, is a manifestation of madness and a proof that Islam is not properly internalized.

Marriage ceremonies should properly be performed with Islamic grace and refinement. They should stay away from every kind of lavishness. People should have modest ceremonies appropriate to their financial situations. But using the event as an opportunity to show off one’s financial status contradicts the object and the spirit of a marriage ceremony.

In particular, to launch such a blessed institution with unlawful acts and customs, such as drinking alcohol, leads people to error and ignorance. Only those marriage gatherings which observe the laws of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are blessed places where prayers are accepted. Some types of entertainment are harmless, so long as the men and the women are not mixed. Women can entertain each other and men can do the same among themselves without committing any forbidden act.

Another significant issue is the importance of inviting poor, needy and homeless people to the walima, the marriage feast. This is expressed in the following hadith:

“The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari, Nikah, 72; Muslim, Nikah, 107. See also Ibn Maja, Nikah, 25)

It should be remembered that the Muslim community receives divine assistance because of the prayers of the weak. Therefore destitute and needy people particularly need to be invited to the walima. On one occasion Moses (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed to Allah the Almighty and asked, “Dear Lord! Where should I look for You?”

Allah the Almighty responded, “Look for Me by the broken hearts.” (Abu Nu`aym, Hilya, II, 364)

The prayers of those who are destitute and have broken hearts are acceptable in the presence of Allah. This is why all Muslims should take care to merit their prayers, especially during those times when we begin an important undertaking like marriage.

How should families take care of disciplining children?

First of all, we should be very clear that children are divine trusts to us and sprout from our own essence. For sensitive souls, the melodies of happiness at home begin with the soothing music of happy children.

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As it is expressed in the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), children are “flowers of Paradise,” “fruit of hearts,” and “divine blessings.” Children are the best blessings of our Lord. How can anyone forget the joy at the birth of a first child? Children’s smiles are like gifts from Paradise. For a mother to discipline, raise and contribute fine children to society is therefore the most honorable of occupations. A mother’s heart is the first school of a child: here the child receives its basic training. In addition, righteous generations raised with great care will be protective shields between their parents and Hellfire. One of the most important duties of parents is to equip their children with Islamic virtues and good character. Yet it is not merely the central duty of parents to raise faithful and upright children: it also is a guarantee of receiving continuous rewards until the end of time.

Children are exceptional fruits of family happiness and a strong connection between the mother and the father. They are the most valuable trusts of Allah to the parents. People’s responsibilities are expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

All of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges: … a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for his charge; and a woman is guardian of the household of her husband and is responsible for her charge … (Bukhari, Wasaya, 9; Muslim, Imara, 20)

The Qur’an says:

O you who believe! Save yourselves and your fam- ilies from a fire whose fuel is men and stones … (66:6)

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) explains this verse, saying:

Keep them away from committing the things prohibited by Allah the Almighty and encourage them to perform good deeds. That is the way to save them from Hellfire. (Alusi, XXVIII, 156)

Discipline of children should begin with the training of parents; such an important job can only be successfully performed with the benefit of proper training. How can inadequate parents discipline their children? As the poet says,

He, himself, is a dodderer in need of help

How is he supposed to help others?

Thus if child discipline begins starts parent discipline, it will yield more effective results. Again, as it is expressed by the poet Seyri:

Father, pillar of the family, must be upright and strong

Mother, heart of the family, must be a rose, sweet and warm

What kinds of good news have been given by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about righteous women?

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:

After mindfulness of Allah, a believer gains nothing better for himself than a pious wife who obeys him when he commands her and pleases him when he looks at her. When he asks her to carry out a task, she is true to him and when he is away she protects her chastity as well as her husband’s property.” (Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5/1857)

A good wife is the one who obeys her husband and is compassionate to her children.

“The whole world is providence and the best provision of the world is a pious woman.” (Muslim, Kitab al- Rada, 64; See also: Nasa`i, Nikah, 15; Ibn Maja, Nikah, 5)

Thawban (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

When the verse “…and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement” (9:34) was revealed, we were with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) on an expedition. Some of the Companions said that now that we knew the ruling about gold and silver [we would no longer hoard them, but give them in charity]. We wished we knew what is good for us, so that we could accumulate that instead. Upon hearing this, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The most valuable possessions are a tongue that mentions the names of Allah, a thankful heart and a wife who strengthens the faith of her husband.” (Tirmi- dhi, Tafsir, 9/9)

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