Like anything else, there are criteria for evaluation of friendship. And based on this, friends are classified at different levels. And again according to the same standard, some people are not considered as a friend! If you want to know a sincere friend, read the following Islamic tradition.
Imam Sadiq (the sixth Imam of Muslims) says: “There are certain criteria for sincere friendship. Do not attribute perfection in sincere friendship to one who does not possess these criteria. Do not attribute any (degree of) sincere friendship to one who has none of these criteria. Firstly, his inner and outer self should be the same for you. Secondly, he should consider your honor to be his honor and your dishonor to be his dishonor. Thirdly, worldly wealth and position should not change him. Fourthly, he should not refuse you anything he has the capacity to attain. And fifthly, he should not desert you in times of affliction.”(Al Amali by Saduq, p.397)
In the world full of hardships, we surely need a friend as a refuge and as a solace for our heart and soul. And these five characteristics listed, will be a great help to find a good and sincere friend.
Why we should be careful in choosing friends? The best answer is this tradition of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him and His Progeny): “A man follows the faith, ways and habits of his friend.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 375) it means if your friend is a good person you will be a good man too and vice versa.
One of the most important criteria for judging others is whether they respect the rights of others or not. Islamic teaching is full of directives concerning the respecting the rights of others. For instance, Imam Ali (the first Imam of Muslims) says: “make yourself the judge between you and the others. Like for the others what you like for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself.” (Nahjul Balagha, the letter n.31)
Thus, we need someone as a friend who will respect the rights of others, because if someone does not respect the rights of others he/she will not respect our rights too. Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) told His son: “Do not be friend with those who deprive their kin of their rights.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 376)
As I said here and in previous posts and base on the tradition of Imam Sajad (Peace Be Upon Him), a liar, a sinner, a stingy and a stupid person are not deserve to be good friends, because “Such persons are shorn of Allah’s Blessings and are accursed people.”(Ibid)
Association and friendship with wise people has many benefits for humans. Such friends are the greatest gifts of God. They are the solace for our heart and the refuge for us. Due to the high understanding they are always to be useful for their friends. In proper time they encourage and exhort and also in right time they criticize and admonish. Such friends always think to growth in the final end of friendship. Of course such friends are very low. If you have such a friend you should thank God. Another type is stupid friends. This kind of friends has good intention too but they are not able to recognize different conditions. Once they are going to be useful but bring a lot of harm to you and in another time, they want to prevent damage but, in fact, many benefits would be lost by them. And it is because of lack of high understanding.
Therefore, Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) told His son: “Do not make a stupid person your friend, lest he bring harm to you with his stupidity. It is possible that with all good intentions, he might bring harm to you with his foolish actions.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 376)
One of the most important benefits of a good friend is his/her helping during the life. As you know the world is full of hurdles and hardships and it is absolutely necessary for every individual to have a good friend. But what kind of friends helps us in times of need? I think it depends on his/her characteristics because some people do not like to help others inherently. For this reason, Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) told his son: “Do not make a stingy person your friend who may not help you in times of need.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 376)
Stinginess is the opposite of generosity and the sacred religion of Islam has warned His people strongly against it. A stingy person refrains from spending something which is needed for others even his/her friends. Such a person due to the excessive love for money and property refrains giving freely to someone else. So, a stingy person cannot be a good friend because he/she deprives his friends of his fortune and does not regard them.
By choosing such persons as friend we will not reach our goal because as Imam Sajjad (a.s) said, a stingy person will leave us alone he/she will not help in times of need.
Due to much of our lives is spent in interaction with others especially our friends, so they have a great influence on our personality affairs. This effect can be either positive or negative. It is a fact of life that you become like those with whom you closely associate. This point should convince us that the character and conduct of the friends should be observed before we pick a friend.
For this reason, Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) advises his son to observe some points for choosing a friend. One of them is this: “Don’t make a transgressor and sinner your friend because he/she might sell you for as low a price.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 376)
Transgressor and sinner persons are addicted to sin and go beyond the limits prescribed by God and justify the forbidden. Such people do not respect God’s commands let alone the rights of friends.
In another tradition, Imam Ali (the first Imam of Muslims) has said: “Avoid making friendship with transgressors and sinning persons because evil creates evil.”(Bihar al-anwar, v 74, p. 199)
As a result, transgressors and sinning persons are not considered as good friends because they encourage you to do what is pleasing to Satan, that which misleads you and leads you to the fire of Hell.
Everybody is not worthy of friendship. I mean some criteria should be considered for choosing a good friend. One of the most important criteria is the subject of this post. Imam Sajjad (the fourth Imam of Muslims) told his son: “Don’t be friends with a liar. He/she will be like a mirage. He/she will trick you. When a thing is far, he/she will say it is near; and when it is at hand, he/she will say that it is very far.”(Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 376) According Islamic teachings, lying is a sin which is classified among the Greater sins. Imam Hasan al-Askari (the eleventh Imam of Muslims) has said: “All the evils have been locked in a room and its key is lying.”(Bihar al anwar, v.78, p.377) so, if we associate with a liar, in fact, we associate with the source of all evil! They are not reliable at all. The liar does not deserve friendship.
Imam Ali (the first Imam of Muslims) says: “Every Muslim is supposed to avoid friendship and brotherhood with a compulsive liar, because one who befriends a liar is himself considered a liar. Even if he speaks the truth, he is not trusted.”(Wasa’il ul-Shia, v.12, p. 280) So, a liar must be avoided and we must not be friends with him/her.
Who are the best people for friendship and association? Due to we inherit and follow Our Friends’ habits and behaviors we must be careful for choosing a friend. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him and His Progeny) says: “A man follows the faith, ways and habits of his friend.” (Usul al-Kafi, v 72, p. 375) as it is clear this is the reason the Religion of Islam exhorts its peoples to abstain from wrong-doing companion.
What Islam recommends in this regard? Whom must we associate with? The Prophet of Islam says: “Associate with the people of religion and recognition (of God). If you cannot find any such people, then solitude is more companionable and safer.” (Bihar al-Anwar, v.74, p.196)
It is because such people are righteous and virtuous and sitting with them helps us for staying on the Straight Path. Again such people wish for us (from good) what they wish for themselves and they do not lead us towards destruction and Hell fire. In continuation of above tradition, The Holy Prophet said: “If you insist on associating with people, then associate with the people of honor who do not utter unseemly speech in their gatherings.”
It indicates that religion people are the best option and after them the people of honor are the best, but choosing wicked persons for friendship is totally forbidden.