In the 19th Juz (section of the Quran), beginning with 25:21 and concluding with 27:59, Allah provides us with a concise definition of what makes us a good servant of His, and talks about an often-neglected component of that role, companionship. When defining good servants of Allah, in Surah Furqan, The Criterion, He says: The ˹true˺ servants of the Most Compassionate are those who walk on the earth humbly, and when the foolish address them ˹improperly˺, they only respond with peace. (25:63)
In the following verses He then continues stating their other characteristics as being “those who spend ˹a good portion of˺ the night, prostrating themselves and standing (praying), those who spend neither wastefully nor stingily, who do not bear false witness, and when they come across falsehood, they pass ˹it˺ by with dignity. when reminded of the revelation of their Lord, do not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to it. (this is a brief summation of verses 25:65-73)
This clear and definite description of Allah’s servants is an important reminder of our purpose. We are servants of The Most Merciful, and our responsibility is to advocate for a justice that aligns with that mercy, adhering to the revelation of our Lord, spending in appropriate and non-wasteful portions, challenging falsehood, but responding with peace. Every Muslim recognizes that these are part of our faith, but the people in our lives can make it easier or harder to act on those facets of it. The impact of our company is the theme I want to focus on in this reflection.
The Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him said what means “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” (reported by Tirmidhi) Throughout this Juz, Allah uses stories of multiple Prophets to show how the Prophets delivered the same message consistently through time, and embedded in those stories are examples of both good relationships, and of bad and deeply harmful relationships.
Beginning with healthy relationships, Allah tells us the story of Prophet Musa (AS), who was charged with confronting Pharaoh. Pharaoh was an oppressive ruler who claimed to be God and was willing to kill anyone who disagreed. We are all, to some degree, responsible for spreading Allah’s message of monotheism, justice, and mercy, but we are thankfully not burdened in the way that Prophet Musa (AS) was. Allah reveals Musa’s response to Allah after receiving this heavy responsibility:
He replied, “My Lord! I fear that they will reject me. And ˹so˺ my heart will be broken and my tongue will be tied. So send Aaron along ˹as a messenger˺. 26:12&13
How often do we see people demand loyalty over morality?
I absolutely love these verses because of the humanity shown in them. The burden of opposing injustice is heavy, and the prospect of doing it alone is terrifying. It’s not wrong to ask for help, and it’s unreasonable to think you don’t need it. Good company is a blessing that can expand our capacity and enable us to take on challenges we can’t accomplish on our own. Allah strengthened Prophet Musa (AS) with his brother, and he was able to accomplish his mission. May Allah give all of us the support we need to serve Him as we are meant to.
This Juz also provides an example of bad company. Returning to the story of Pharaoh who rejected Prophet Musa’s (AS) request to free the people of Israel, saying
…, “Did we not raise you among us as a child, and you stayed several years of your life in our care?” (26:18).
This is especially interesting because rather than engaging with the morality of the request made to him, Pharaoh cites their previous positive relationship as a demand for loyalty. We have all been in situations where people we knew and loved wanted us to compromise our own values in service to what they wanted. Pharaoh was an extreme example of this, but this is a reality we all navigate regularly. How often do we see people demand loyalty over morality? What kind of person would see those things as mutually exclusive? What price would we pay for choosing loyalty in those situations? Allah actually reveals the answer to that question, describing the day of Judgment where people will be confronted with their sins and terrified of their fate. They will look everywhere for excuses, and will try to blame their errors on their friends. Allah describes what they say in the verse below:
“Woe to me! I wish I had never taken so-and-so as a close friend. It was he who truly made me stray from the Reminder after it had reached me.” (25:28-25:30 validate)
This is the reality of bad company. They may have a high status you hope to achieve from associating with them. They may have a job connection you hope to take advantage of. They may have a shared history with you that makes you feel indebted to them as the Pharaoh did. But if they call you to anything other than serving Allah as He should be served, then we have to make a choice:
- We can reject their invitation and call them to be better, as all the Prophets did, despite the conflict, frustration, and sometimes danger that comes with it.
- Or we can let them take us away from God and be punished with them, May Allah protect all of us from that fate.
It’s not wrong to ask for help, and it’s unreasonable to think you don’t need it. Good company is a blessing that can expand our capacity and enable us to take on challenges we can’t accomplish on our own.
It’s easy to think of the extreme examples that our Prophets had to deal with and envision ourselves making the right choices alongside them, but do we have the fortitude and strength to make the much easier choices we have been charged with? This juz should make us all evaluate our lives. What kinds of friends do we have? Do they remind us to hold our tongues, give generously, lower our gaze, and busy ourselves with worship? Are we those kinds of friends for other people? Will we be grateful for our closest relationships when we meet Allah, or will we wish we had made different choices?
These can be frightening questions to ask ourselves and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by our mistakes. We may know better now, but I’m sure we have all had problematic friendships or been problematic friends in the past. Fortunately, Ramadan is a month where we can reinvent ourselves. More important than our actions though, is that Allah promises to help us in doing so.
As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 25:70
To conclude, the last ten nights of Ramadan are upon us. We should take this opportunity to pray for success in applying the lessons of this Juz. May Allah help us to build strong relationships with those who love Him, and make our relationships beneficial, both to ourselves, and to all of His creation. May Allah make us the kinds of people who call our loved ones to good and call them away from evil. May Allah forgive us for the times when we have fallen short, make us of those who turn to Him in repentance, and replace our bad deeds with good deeds. Ameen. Please keep me in your du’a. You are absolutely in mine. Salaam, and Ramadan Mubarak.
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Osama Abdul-Salaam is Education Director, Board Member, and Officer at CenterDC, a community founded by Lauren Schreiber and Imam Suhaib Webb with the goal of helping Muslims and new converts in the DC metro-accessible area to grow their faith and find community in a welcoming and accessible environment. Previously he has held volunteer roles with Yaqeen Institute, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, and the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in Silver Spring Maryland.
C. Islaah Abd’al-Rahim | April 12, 2023
Al hamdu lillaah. This is a very timely topic. May Allaah reward you for sharing your perspective on it.
After the isolation of a pandemic, we have re-emerged from our cocoons as social beings. With those interactions come both the tests and the rewards of realtime companionship. The Qur’ān must serve as our guide as we navigate friendships. May Allaah bless our choices in this regard.