I was never really quite the extrovert. My shyness as a kid somewhat morphed into forced extroverted-ness when I became older, the kind where you find yourself alone in a social situation and have to force a smile and stick out your hand to people you don't know... and then wonder why you're making so much effort for something that won't last eventually. I craved deep, meaningful conversations, to be a confidante and a listener.
As I grew older, my craving grew into unrealistic expectations that others would feel the same way I did, valued friendships the way I did. However, my small mind could not comprehend that people are different, and are just seeking different things in life, even in their friendships. If they didn't match my expectations, I thought they were 'using' me for their own benefit, and leave me as soon as they had no longer any use for me. Of course, this resulted in my own 'self-fulfilling prophecy'- I treated them the way I thought they treated me, and I lost many friends as a result.
These though, I soon discovered, were material expectations. Everything was about ME, and MY expectations. When I first learnt about the concept of sisterhood and brotherhood in Islam, it baffled me- it just seemed like another exaggerated term to describe a type of temporal friendship, like how a bride would describe her bridesmaids as "sisters" when she gets married, and when the event is over, they're no longer termed as "sisters". But as I experienced more, I was slowly taught the reality- the relationships on this Earth, the ones worth keeping around, are those that make you strive to be a better Muslim AND human being.
Above: I love this photo, because it serves as a reminder that those who help make me strive to be a better Muslim are not just my Muslim friends, but my non-Muslim friends as well. <3
The 4 main types of friendships, according to Islam:
- The friend who is like medicine. These are those higher than you in the religion, in that you are in need of them to cure your diseases and help you with your weaknesses.
- Friends who are like your staple food. These are those who encourage you daily and give you the energy to persevere in obedience to Allah on your path to get closer to Him.
- Friends who are like diseases. These tend to spread their own diseases of envy and gossiping and other serious diseases to you, the more you keep their companionship, the more ill you get.
- Friends who are like fatal poisons. These destroy your dunya and akhirah by dragging you onto disobedience and sin.
The true friends for Allah mutually remind each other of Allah, have mercy and love towards each other, and have concern for the other more than for the self.
An Example of True Friendship
This is taken from the incident between Rasulullah ﷺ and Abu Bakr (r.a.) when they were hiding in the cave of Thur, and when Abu Bakr (r.a.) expressed his concern for Rasulullah's ﷺ safety out of love for him, Rasulullah ﷺ expressed mercy and gentleness and remembrance of Allah to him by saying,
لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَنَا
"Don't be sad, surely Allah is with us."
And when this happened, Allah declared their friendship in the Qur'an by referring to Abu Bakr (r.a.) as Rasulullah's ﷺ companion.
Here is a dua to read in asking for true companions and for yourself to be a true companion for the sake of Allah, to be read in sujud when you pray 2 rakaats in the night:
اَللَّهُمَّ دَلَّنِي عَلَيكَ وَ دَلَّنِي عَلَى مَنْ يَدُلُّنِي عَلَيك
Oh Allah, lead me to You, and lead me to those who will lead me to You.
"That which unites one Muslim individual to another in a wondrous and unique bond of brotherhood which transcends the restricting limitations of race and nation and space and time and is much stronger than even the familial bond of kinship is none other than this Covenant...
Though one be in the East and the other in the West, yet they feel a joy and comfort in each other's talk, and one who lives in a later generation than the other is instructed and consoled by the words of his brother. They were brothers involved in the same destiny long before they appeared as earthly brothers... So here we see that the same Covenant is the very basis of Islamic brotherhood (ukhuwwah)."
- Muhammad Naguib Al-Attas (Syed.)
I wanted to write you a comment because I felt such a strange sense of awe whenever I read your blog. You were actually my senior in secondary school and we are friends on Facebook because I think you were one of my OGLs in one of the Uni camps or something like that. So I know you by your Christian name. I think a few years back, you changed your Facebook name from your Christian name to the current one and I got a bit of a shock because I was thinking to myself did I manage to add some weird person as a friend or something, who is this?!??! Haha. I’m quite particular about only adding people I know so that’s why it was a bit of a shock for me.
But actually, it was just you embracing your faith. :)
I’m a Catholic, one of those baptised at birth, went to catholic school in my formative years etc etc kind. I’m quite sure of my faith. God is very important to me and while I do struggle with my commitment to my faith and sometimes God is far away, I’ve never felt doubt in it and I’m sure I’ll remain a Catholic till I die and my children will be brought up in the faith. However, I want to tell you that I really truly admire you for your courage to convert and for finding such grace in Islam. I particularly admire your curiosity, in constantly reading and understanding more about your faith. I admire the strength of your faith and even though we are of different religions, I take a lot of comfort and find a strange soothing joy in reading your posts. I wish I was as close to God as you were, or at least I wish I tried harder to be closer to God. I think with daily life and it’s distractions, it’s really very easy to brush God’s voice aside and find delight in the material world. Perhaps that is why I find your posts to be a poignant reminder of my own faith and what it calls me to do, calls me to be, strange as that sounds.
So thank you. Thank you very much for documenting your experiences. While our religions are different, the lessons are not that different. And I will continue to look forward to your posts. :)