Humans are social creatures by their nature and in need of friends and companions. Much of our lives is spent in interaction with others. For us, Submitters (Muslims in Arabic), who are living in a society where we are clearly a minority, the issue of choosing the right companions is essential for preserving our religion and maintaining our righteousness.
Befriending the right people is an essential mean for staying on the Straight Path. In choosing our friends we should be looking for friends who believe in God and His scriptures. Living in a society where Submitters (Muslims) are a minority is a challenge by itself that is rewarded by God fully. In such a society, finding the righteous friend may not be easy at the beginning but insisting on them and looking for them is a sign to God that you are sincere in your search and He will direct you in the right path.
Since we cannot always find other Submitters (Muslims) near us, God permitted us in the Quran to befriend other people from other religions as long as they do not mock God or our religion. If you have school mates or neighbors who are not Submitters (Muslims) whom you like, who behave righteously as far as their religion command them and who do respect your beliefs and religion, you can have them as friends. Those who do not respect your beliefs, and mock your religion or God do not deserve you and you should not keep them any more. If you choose to befriend non-Submitters, remember that you cannot compromise any aspect of your religion just to please your friends. Always remember that we are here in this life to please God first. Also remember that some of those who are born in a Submitters (Muslim) family and call themselves Submitters (Muslims) while in reality have not got a grip on their religion, may be as bad friends as non-submitters who mock your religion. Beware, only befriend those who believe God and respect His commandments, do not think because a person call him/herself a Submitter (a Muslim) , guarantees that he/she will be a good friend.
A good friend will always remind you of God, remind you of performing your Salat (Contact prayers), support you when you fast, remind or encourage you to pay Zakat (obligatory charity) and do righteous work and behave respectfully in your community as God told us in the Quran. Having bad friends is the same like having the Devil as your guidance. The bases for the actions of those who follow the evil ways are corrupt; their actions are built upon misguidance and deviation. Their deeds are worthless to them as God said:
[25:23] "We will look at all the works they have done, and render them null and void. "
Friends are those who feel for their companions, in both happy and sad moments. If we share our feelings with the wrong- doers whose actions are worthless and based on corruption, then we are following the same ways and standards as they are. Affection which results from that friendship leads to love and closeness to other than the righteous believers, and this may even lead to avoiding those who are on the Straight Path. Mixing with the wrong friends also results in a change in one's behaviour, morals and conduct. If we agree, follow and are pleased with such friends, then we inherit their habits, behaviours and even the wrong practices of their religion. Such a person would find him/herself in a situation wherein he/she is willing to hide his/her correct beliefs in front of those who despise it and to separate from the true believers. When this situation occurs, a point is reached when there is a very slight difference between the Submitter (Muslim) and his wrong-doing companion. Such a companionship is the root of sickness of one's heart and loss of one's religion.
Instead of making friends with the misguided ones we should befriend the righteous of among all God's religions, and treat the rest in a gracious and just manner. Staying on a sufficient distance is necessary, yet treating everybody in a noble and kind manner is required.
God, the Most Merciful says in the Qur'an:
[25:27-29] 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. "Alas, woe to me, I wish I did not take that person as a friend. "He has led me away from the message after it came to me. Indeed, the devil lets down his human victims.
This shows, how important is choosing our friends. So take heed before the inevitable Day comes and we are reckoned for our acts.
God, the Most-Wise also says:
[43:67] The close friends on that day will become enemies of one another, except for the righteous.
A reminder that bad friends in this life will be the worst enemies, blaming each other for getting into the eternal Hell.. This lesson is for us to know and take heed.
It is through the good company that God, the Most Merciful, saves those who are astray and guides the wicked. The benefit of mixing with the righteous is immense, and it will, God willing, be even more obvious to us in the Hereafter.
[5:105] O you who believe, you should worry only about your own necks. If the others go astray, they cannot hurt you, as long as you are guided. To GOD is your ultimate destiny, all of you, then He will inform you of everything you had done.
We pray to God to make us of the righteous ones and give us companions who will be with us when we walk away from His Wrath and lead us to His Pleasure and Paradise.