By Maria Haqqani – Freelance writer and engineering student
Imagine yourself to be standing in the middle of a garbage dump. The stench is overpowering. Now, imagine somebody pouring a bottle of perfume all over you. Will you smell great? No, you will still stink; well, maybe in a weird sort of way. Such is the example of a person surrounded by foul friends, as expressed by our Prophet (sa):
“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) has said: “A bad friend is worse than a snake. A bad friend is worse than Satan.” Why is that so? Let’s think rationally. Satan can only entice a human to do wrong. He will come and whisper in your ear to commit a particular sin and make it all the more appealing to you. But a bad friend will call you up, show you the wrong path, and take you along with himself to tread upon that path. Satan may make you think that drinking is the ‘in’ thing, but a bad friend will not only offer to pick and take you to the bar but also pester you to have a glass of wine.
“And (remember) the Day when the Zalim (wrong-doer, oppressor, polytheist, etc.) will bite at his hands, he will say: ‘Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)). Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a friend! He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (this Quran) after it had come to me. And Shaitan (Satan) is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.’” (Al-Furqan 25:27-29)
“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah 9:119)
The Deen of Islam is Yusr (easy). In the aforementioned verse, Allah (swt) does not say “be like the truest ones” or “follow the truest ones”. He merely says to associate with them – as a result, their qualities will definitely rub off on us. The same way the bad company will lead us to sin, good company will have the opposite effect and bring us closer to Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) said: “Solitude is better than being in bad company, and good company is better than solitude.” (Baihaqi) This Hadeeth stresses the importance of good company. Perhaps the biggest advantage of having the company of people close to Deen is illustrated by the following Hadeeth-e-Qudsi;
“Where are those who loved one another for My Glory? Today I will shade them under My shade, on the Day when there is no shade but Mine.” (Muslim)
The First Story: Only Between Allah (swt) and You
Maham, a third year Madrassah student and a pupil at a private university, related the following story:
The journey through classical Islamic learning is highly stimulating – not only does it bring you closer to Allah (swt) and transform your lifestyle, but it also makes your ideas and plans venture into a realm you’d never have possibly imagined. During my second year of studies, I began contemplating the Purdah, meaning the Niqab. Surah Al-Ahzab and Surah An-Nur are two Surahs that, if they hit home, make a woman strive for Allah’s (swt) love and do whatever He has commanded a woman to do. The fire to take this step was kindled, but, as usual, Satan got up to his tricks again and attacked me with inhibitions. “How will I explain to my parents that I want to don the Niqab? They’ll think I’ve gone crazy! How will my friends react? They’ll call me an extremist! I shall never fit into their group again! I’ll be an outcast! This is going to be so hard!
I decided to discuss this issue with one of my classmates, who had been blessed enough to have taken this step already. After lending a very patient ear to my effusions, she replied: “Honestly, Maham, you’ll hate it.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Yes, you will,” she ‘reassured’ me, eyeing my startled expression. “After donning the Niqab, you’re just not the same person anymore. You cannot fit into your crowd, your college mates will mock you and you cannot dress up. At times, I just feel like ripping it off and being the ‘old me’ again.”
I was speechless. Here I was, asking my friend for some encouragement, when I was in a state of mental turmoil, whilst all she could offer was excuses for me to drop the idea altogether? But, she leaned closer and continued, her eyes shining: “You know what keeps me going? The sole fact that when I step outdoors, I know that whether I’m happy or sad, whether I have a smile playing upon my lips or whether my face depicts anxiety, it is only my Allah (swt) Who can see. It’s mine and Allah’s (swt) little secret. That is what makes the Niqab so special. Oh, and you know another thing that’s so cool? I can see everyone, but nobody can see me. A Niqabi gets the spiritual edge, the edge in Dunya and in the Akhirah.” She smiled a smile that reflected pure satisfaction and contentment.
I suddenly realised I had tears in my eyes. The beauty of the idea and the sincerity with which Lubaina had uttered this statement touched my heart. Next time I stepped out of the house, a three inch cloth covered my face and barred most of my face from view, shielding me from recognition. My friends stared at me in wonder, as though a stranger had stepped into their midst. I smiled. I knew my secret was safe.”
The Second Story: The Power of Ya-Sin
Zareen, a third year Madrassah student studying at a private college, had a very interesting story to share:
When my best friend visited Pakistan from London during her university holidays, we would sleep over at each other’s place quite frequently. It was a Ramadan night, when she was over at my house. I had been reciting Surah Ya-Sin. I put aside my Quran, with the page open at Surah Ya-Sin, and started talking to her. Her inquisitive nature possessed her, and she asked me what I had been doing. I told her I’d been memorising Surah Ya-Sin.
“Why?” she asked.
“The Prophet (sa) said that Surah Ya-Sin is the heart of the Quran. Hence, I believe that if the ‘Heart of the Quran’ is inside a person’s heart, how can Allah (swt) burn that person and his heart in hell?”
The thought attracted Hooria. “So even if a person is a sinner, but he’s learnt the Surah, he won’t be put into the fire?” was her innocent question.
“Yes, that is what I personally believe,” I replied. “There is a Hadeeth, which implies that one only gets from Allah (swt) whatever he expects to get from Him. I expect this from my Allah (swt) and hence hope for the best.”
Hooria thought this over. “Okay,” she said finally. “I want to learn it, too. Let’s keep each other in check and set a target for every day.”
Excited, I agreed. This was indeed great news. Hooria was not very regular in her prayer; in fact, it was only in Ramadan that she would pray once or twice a day and very rarely the rest of the year, if at all. We kept a check on each other and progressed well into the Surah by the time she returned to the UK.
One day, we were talking to each other and she asked me: “If you give up something in your life, I’ll do something for you, whatever you ask.” I agreed.
After she’d told me what she wanted me to give up, I seized the opportunity and said to her, “Now, it’s my turn – you have to give up eating Haram food and switch entirely to Halal.” She agreed. Now, she began to be more conscious of what she was eating and consequently more conscious of Allah (swt). Soon she grew accustomed to eating Halal.
We kept up this process of doing things for each other. Next, I asked her to begin praying the Jumuah prayer. She agreed. This tiny step awakened her spiritual self. She began offering one prayer a day and that increased to praying five times a day!
When she visited Pakistan next, Hooria said to me: “You know, Zareen, when I came to Karachi this time, it was a different me. My heart was at peace. I was happy internally. Even in one Namaz, whatever I ask Allah (swt), He gives it to me. You always told me to ask Him for Him. I never knew Him. But now I’m getting to know Him a bit more. You know what? I didn’t miss a single prayer yesterday!”
I still marvel at how Allah (swt) helps people, who take a step towards Him. Hooria was most enthusiastic about her Ibadah. Her day was no longer complete without reciting Surah Ya-Sin. She’d feel something was terribly amiss, if she didn’t. She asked me questions and found out about the Chasht and Ishraq prayers and would offer them regularly. I told her that the Asr prayer is actually four Sunnahs and four Fard, although the Sunnahs are not compulsory. But her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Since then, it’s been eight Rakats for her in each Asr prayer. If I would leave my two Nafil in Maghrib, saying that I’m too exhausted, she’d blackmail me and say: “How would you feel, if Allah (swt) said to you that He’s too exhausted to put you in Jannah?”
“Instead of going from zero to ten, Hooria stepped from zero to a ninety-nine, Masha’Allah. She may not have started covering, but when I donned the Niqab, she was my best support,” finished Zareen.