[5:100] Proclaim: "The bad and the good are not the same, even if the abundance of the bad may impress you. You shall reverence God, (even if you are in the minority) O you who possess intelligence, that you may succeed."
We, human beings, are social creatures - we seek to fit into our societies, we care about our reputation/how others view us, and seek the approval of people around us. We want "respect" from the people we consider our friends. Its in our nature.
So what happens when the people around us are misguided, adhering to corrupt values and standards? As believers, we are not automatically invulnerable to peer pressure, but we have been blessed with a scripture from God that highlights the dangers, reminds us, strengthens and reassures us:
[6:116] If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.
[47:14] Are those enlightened by their Lord the same as those whose evil works are adorned in their eyes, and they follow their own opinions?
A very direct example of peer pressure as a cause for idolatry can be found in 29:25, as Abraham debated with his people:
Social Pressure: A Profound Disaster [29:25] He said, "You worship beside God powerless idols due to peer pressure, just to preserve some friendship among you in this worldly life. But then, on the Day of Resurrection, you will disown one another, and curse one another. Your destiny is Hell, wherein you cannot help one another."
Our human tendency to "go with the flow" is so strong, avoiding it is a challenge even for appointed messengers:
[17:73] They almost diverted you from the revelations we have given you. They wanted you to fabricate something else, in order to consider you a friend.
[17:74] If it were not that we strengthened you, you almost leaned towards them just a little bit.
In 33:36-39, we learn that Muhammad feared the people instead of God:
[33:37] Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by God, and blessed by you, "Keep your wife and reverence God," and you hid inside yourself what God wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only God. When Zeid was completely through with his wife, we had you marry her, in order to establish the precedent that a man can marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. God's commands shall be done.
From the Quran, we learn that Satan & Co are always going to use their human assets to entice us to to go astray and try to revert us:
[6:121] Do not eat from that upon which the name of God has not been mentioned, for it is an abomination. The devils inspire their allies to argue with you; if you obey them, you will be idol worshipers.*
[7:201] Those who are righteous, whenever the devil approaches them with an idea, they remember, whereupon they become seers.
[7:202] Their brethren ceaselessly entice them to go astray.
[3:100] O you who believe, if you obey some of those who received the scripture, they will revert you, after having believed, into disbelievers.
Also 2:109, 2:217, 3:72, 4:89, 4:119-120, 15:39, and 17:64.
Knowing the dangers and magnitude of the challenge, what are we to do?
There are many verses where God reminds us that we are not to be impressed by the disbelievers, how they appear, what they say, or their apparent success in this worldly life:
[2:204] Among the people, one may impress you with his utterances concerning this life, and may even call upon God to witness his innermost thoughts, while he is a most ardent opponent.
[2:205] As soon as he leaves, he roams the earth corruptingly, destroying properties and lives. God does not love corruption.
[2:206] When he is told, "Observe God," he becomes arrogantly indignant. Consequently, his only destiny is Hell; what a miserable abode.
[3:196] Do not be impressed by the apparent success of disbelievers.
[3:197] They only enjoy temporarily, then end up in Hell; what a miserable destiny!
[9:85] Do not be impressed by their money or their children; God causes these to be sources of misery for them in this world, and their souls depart as disbelievers.
[22:8] Among the people there is the one who argues about God without knowledge, and without guidance, and without an enlightening scripture.
[22:9] Arrogantly he strives to divert the people from the path of God. He thus incurs humiliation in this life, and we commit him on the Day of Resurrection to the agony of burning.
[63:4] When you see them, you may be impressed by their looks. And when they speak, you may listen to their eloquence. They are like standing logs. They think that every call is intended against them. These are the real enemies; beware of them. God condemns them; they have deviated.
God warns us against picking up such behavior, pursuing mere appearances:
[2:224] Do not subject God's name to your casual swearing, that you may appear righteous, pious, or to attain credibility among the people. God is Hearer, Knower.
God repeatedly lets us know we will be mocked and ridiculed for believing in Him, in the Last Day, and leading a righteous life; it is to be expected, and He informs us who the real winners are, in the hereafter:
[23:109] "A group of My servants used to say, `Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us and shower us with mercy. Of all the merciful ones, You are the Most Merciful.'
[23:110] "But you mocked and ridiculed them, to the extent that you forgot Me. You used to laugh at them.
[23:111] "I have rewarded them today, in return for their steadfastness, by making them the winners."
[38:62] They will say, "How come we do not see (in Hell) people we used to count among the wicked?
[38:63] "We used to ridicule them; we used to turn our eyes away from them."
[83:29] The wicked used to laugh at those who believed.
[83:30] When they passed by them, they used to poke fun.
[83:31] When they got together with their people, they used to joke.
[83:32] Whenever they saw them, they said, "These people are far astray!
[83:33] "They have no such thing as (invisible) guards."
[83:34] Today, those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers.
[83:35] On luxurious furnishings they watch.
[83:36] Most assuredly, the disbelievers are requited for what they did.
In 11:38 we have a good example from Noah:
He Who Laughs Last Laughs Best [11:38] While he was building the ark, whenever some of his people passed by him they laughed at him. He said, "You may be laughing at us, but we are laughing at you, just as you are laughing.
God tells us the fate of those who mock:
[39:47] If those who transgressed owned everything on earth, even twice as much, they would readily give it up to avoid the terrible retribution on the Day of Resurrection. They will be shown by God what they never expected.
[39:48] The sinful works they had earned will be shown to them, and the very things they used to mock will come back to haunt them.
They will envy us then, and wish they had joined us:
[6:27] If only you could see them when they face the hellfire! They would say then, "Woe to us. Oh, we wish we could go back, and never reject our Lord's revelations, and join the believers."
God commands us to reverence Him alone, to put His commandments first, always:
Choose Your Friends Carefully [3:28] The believers never ally themselves with the disbelievers, instead of the believers. Whoever does this is exiled from God. Exempted are those who are forced to do this to avoid persecution. God alerts you that you shall reverence Him alone. To God is the ultimate destiny.
[5:49] You shall rule among them in accordance with God's revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of God's revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that God wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.
The misguided will try to make us feel bad, and reprimand us, simply for pursuing righteousness. We must stay on God's path, and strive in His cause, without fear of blame:
[5:54] O you who believe, if you revert from your religion, then God will substitute in your place people whom He loves and who love Him. They will be kind with the believers, stern with the disbelievers, and will strive in the cause of God without fear of any blame. Such is God's blessing; He bestows it upon whomever He wills. God is Bounteous, Omniscient.
We must never go along with them, seeking to preserve some friendship:
[6:68] If you see those who mock our revelations, you shall avoid them until they delve into another subject. If the devil causes you to forget, then, as soon as you remember, do not sit with such evil people.
[6:150] Say, "Bring your witnesses who would testify that God has prohibited this or that." If they testify, do not testify with them. Nor shall you follow the opinions of those who reject our revelations, and those who disbelieve in the Hereafter, and those who stray away from their Lord.
[11:113] Do not lean towards those who have transgressed, lest you incur Hell, and find no allies to help you against God, then end up losers.
[47:25] Surely, those who slide back, after the guidance has been manifested to them, the devil has enticed them and led them on.
[47:26] This is because they said to those who hated what God has sent down, "We will obey you in certain matters." God fully knows their secret conspiracies.
[47:27] How will it be for them when the angels put them to death? They will beat them on their faces and their rear ends. Commandments
[68:8] Do not obey the rejectors.
[68:9] They wish that you compromise, so they too can compromise.
Sadly, our social nature is not something we can just switch off. However, we can choose our friends and thus to an extent choose what kind of peer pressure we subject ourselves too, in order to turn it into a positive:
[18:28] You shall force yourself to be with those who worship their Lord day and night, seeking Him alone. Do not turn your eyes away from them, seeking the vanities of this world. Nor shall you obey one whose heart we rendered oblivious to our message; one who pursues his own desires, and whose priorities are confused.
God gives us an example of one who obeyed his transgressing friend:
[25:27] The day will come when the transgressor will bite his hands (in anguish) and say, "Alas, I wish I had followed the path with the messenger.
[25:28] "Alas, woe to me, I wish I did not take that person as a friend.
[25:29] "He has led me away from the message after it came to me. Indeed, the devil lets down his human victims."
And He gives us an example of one who did not obey his transgressing friend:
[37:51] One of them will say, "I used to have a friend.
[37:52] "He used to mock: `Do you believe all this?
[37:53] " `After we die and turn into dust and bones, do we get called to account?' "
[37:54] He will say, "Just take a look!"
[37:55] When he looks, he will see his friend in the heart of Hell.
[37:56] He (will go to him and) say, "By God, you almost ruined me.
[37:57] "If it were not for my Lord's blessing, I would have been with you now.
God informs us that no friends will help in the hereafter, and they will be enemies of one another, except for the righteous:
[43:67] The close friends on that day will become enemies of one another, except for the righteous.
[44:40] The Day of Decision awaits them all.
[44:41] That is the day when no friend can help his friend in any way; no one can be helped.
[70:10] No friend will care about his close friend.
All the above said, it must be mentioned for clarity that God does not forbid us from having non-submitter friends, as long as they do not fight us because of religion:
[60:8] God does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend them and be equitable towards them. God loves the equitable.
[60:9] God enjoins you only from befriending those who fight you because of religion, evict you from your homes, and band together with others to banish you. You shall not befriend them. Those who befriend them are the transgressors.
When subjected to peer pressure, it helps to keep in mind that just as our friends and other people are with us, watching and waiting for our response, so is God and His recording angels:
[10:61] You do not get into any situation, nor do you recite any Quran, nor do you do anything, without us being witnesses thereof as you do it. Not even an atom's weight is out of your Lord's control, be it in the heavens or the earth. Nor is there anything smaller than an atom, or larger, that is not recorded in a profound record.
[50:16] We created the human, and we know what he whispers to himself. We are closer to him than his jugular vein.
[50:17] Two recording (angels), at right and at left, are constantly recording.
[50:18] Not an utterance does he utter without an alert witness.
God is With You Now [58:7] Do you not realize that God knows everything in the heavens and everything on earth? No three people can conspire secretly without Him being their fourth, nor five without Him being the sixth, nor less than that, nor more, without Him being there with them wherever they may be. Then, on the Day of Resurrection, He will inform them of everything they had done. God is fully aware of all things.
And it helps to keep in mind that this worldly life with its vanities is not nearly as important as many people would have us believe - its no more than a temporary illusion:
[57:20] Know that this worldly life is no more than play and games, and boasting among you, and hoarding of money and children. It is like abundant rain that produces plants and pleases the disbelievers. But then the plants turn into useless hay, and are blown away by the wind. In the Hereafter there is either severe retribution, or forgiveness from God and approval. This worldly life is no more than a temporary illusion.
Peaceful Friday, salaam, and God bless.