35The Review of Religions – November 2005 There is an old West Africanproverb which states: ‘Life is when you are together, alone you are an animal.’1 This proverb indicates that man should be with company and should not seclude himself as a hermit. However, the type of company one should spend one’s days with should be chosen with wisdom and not taken lightly. Failing to do this may have disastrous conse- quences on our lives and on our children’s lives. The way we behave in our daily lives is shaped by factors of social influence or so a social psychologist might suggest. This can be illustrated in the context of hearing a joke. Consider, for example, a joke which is told among a group. If those who are present all laugh at the joke, whether one of the members in that group understands the humour of the joke or not, he or she will also laugh. This phenomenon is known as behavioural contagion2 in the discipline of psychology. The question is why do people conform in such a way? A conformity study was conducted by a well-known social psychologist named Asch in 1952. Asch wanted to prove how the decisions made by a single person were influenced by those decisions made from the company he or she associates wit h. The way Asch tested his hypothesis was by gathering several individuals who, unknown to the single participant taking part in the study, were actually accomplices of the e x p e r i m e n t e r. The single par- t i c i pant was told the study was about something totally different and not aware that it was about conformity. The next step was to show everyone two cards. On Blessings of Righteous Company By Kalim Anwer – London, UK 36 The Review of Religions – November 2005 one card a straight line was drawn (see fig 1) and on the other card three straight lines were drawn, of which one of the lines was in equal length to the previous line drawn on the other card (see fig 2). The experimenter then asked everybody in turn, making sure the single participant was asked last, which of the three lines is of equal length to the other line. The accomplices gave the wrong answer on purpose so that the experimenter would see whether the single participant would follow suit in giving the same answer. The results showed that after all of the tests were conducted, one third of all participants who took part in the study gave the wrong answer and followed the answer of their c o u n t e r p a r t s3! Asch concluded from the conformity evidenced in the study that it may be due to the desire to fit in to the social group or norm. What Asch’s study tells us is that an individual’s decision-making can be influenced by the company he keeps. The question now arises, what if it is a group whose members possess not one iota of righteousness in their hearts? Then if one makes a decision purely to fit into his or her company and that company is inclined to immoral activities, surely the consequences would be disastrous. What is interesting to note is that this phenomenon discovered in the mid-20th century by psychologists, was actually stated in the limitless treasures inherent in the Holy Q u r’an approximately 1400 years ago. The Holy Qur’an has stated the benefits of keeping BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY Fig 1 Fig 2 37The Review of Religions – November 2005 righteous company and the dangers of being in the company of those who have gone astray. For example, it is stated: And keep thyself attached to those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His pleasure; and let not thy eyes pass beyond them, seeking the adornment of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his evil inclinations, and his case exceeds all bounds. (Ch.18:V.29) The verse tells us exactly who the righteous are and it also instructs us to keep company with people of this calibre who pray continually and remember their Lord day and night. If we keep company with people of this nature, psychological evi- dence suggests that we will also conform to this type of behaviour though something much more is taking place that cannot be based upon psychology alone. A great spiritual transformation is taking place in our hearts. By being in the company of the righteous, the blessings of Allah are showered upon us and His angels too descend to be within our c o m p a n y. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah(ra) relates that the Holy Prophet(sa) said: ‘When a company foregathers for the remembrance of Allah its members are surrounded by angels and are covered by mercy and comfort descends upon them and Allah makes mention of them to those around Him.’ (Sahih Muslim) The latter part of the verse previously quoted tells us of the company of people who seek to attain greatness in this world without any heed to the eternal and ever-fulfilling Afterlife. They pay homage to materialistic designs and are heedless of the Sovereign Who created them and all that which is in the universe. The Holy Qur’an speaks more specifically on the issue of being BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 38 The Review of Religions – November 2005 in righteous company, as we are again reminded to be watchful and remain with the truthful: O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with the truthful. (Ch.9:V.119) The verse indicates that belief is further enhanced by two components – by inculcating the fear of Allah to a degree whereby you are always conscious that He is right beside you and watching over your every action and also keeping company with the truthful. The Promised Messiah(as) has further elucidated this principle, that is, keeping company with the truthful. He says: ‘The word Insan (human being) is actually derived from Unsan i.e. the collection of two affections. One affection of man is for God and the other is for human beings. Since a human being is closer to him and he finds him very near to himself and m o reover he is his own species, he is very much influenced by him – and very quickly too. That is why the company of a perfect and righteous person grants man the Light which makes him see God and he is thus saved from sin.’ (Malfoozat Vol 3, p.6 cited in So Said The Pro m i s e d Messiah p.117) If we, as followers of our beloved Holy Prophet(sa), do not take heed of such a simple instruction, we will not only lose out on partaking of the blessings that Allah, the Most Merciful, rains upon us but something extremely dangerous will happen. As Allah, the Most Wise, tells us: O ye who believe! Take not My enemy and your enemy for friends. Would you, offer them love, while they have disbelieved in the Truth which has come to you and drive out the Messenger and yourselves f rom your homes, mere l y because you believe in Allah, your Lord. (Ch.60:V.2) This verse has the intensity of BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 39The Review of Religions – November 2005 striking right at the heart. The intensity comes from the fact that Allah, the Most Gracious, speaks in the first person warning us not to be friends with those who have turned their backs on Allah’s law. The verse tells us that an enemy of Islam is an enemy of Allah Almighty and thus an enemy of the righteous. Even associating with company of this nature will surely lead to our destruction, as we will be led astray and no guidance or mercy will be sent to us. We will be like those who are blind in this world and blind in the H e r e a f t e r. In complete contrast, those on whom Allah, the Most Merciful, bestows His favours are upon those who are righteous: Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All- Aware. (Ch.49:V.14) Thus we have two options. We could choose to associate with those who Allah dislikes and in turn ruin our own physical and spiritual beings or we can make friends with the righteous and as a result increase our own knowledge and love for Allah to the extent that we may be the recipient of His Divine favours. It is interesting to note that the two types of people can never mix as the vast wisdom of the Holy Qur’an states: And the blind and the seeing a re not alike, nor the darkness and light, nor the shade and heat, nor alike are the living and the dead… (Ch.35:Vs.20-23) BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY It is worthy of note here that the pull of the Holy Prophet(sa) was so great, that he managed to reform a nation with only his sublime character and heartfelt prayers. He not only revived the spiritually dead but raised them to such a lofty spiritual station that even they experienced revelation directly from Allah Almighty. ‘ ’ 40 The Review of Religions – November 2005 The Holy Qur’an expresses so beautifully the notion that those who have gone astray can never merge with those who are truly righteous. Had all the great poets over the ages combined all their e fforts, they could not even compete with the above verses from the everlasting treasure- trove of the Holy Qur’an. The verses above show a juxta- position of various attributes. It cannot be said to be dark and yet be light. Thus when the Holy Qur’an tells us that the living are different to the dead, the living are being referred to as the righteous believers as Allah, the Most Merciful, has bestowed upon them a new life. Those who are dead are those who fail to recognise the truth which is the essence of life and thus bring about their own spiritual death; they are no different to those who are already in their graves. A logical question which arises is how to decide what company one should associate with. In other words, what is and what is not righteous company. If you find that by associating yourself with a certain companion or company, your faith, moral and spiritual qualities, resolution to perform good works and obedience to the injunctions and teachings of the Holy Qur’an are enhanced, then that companion or company is of benefit to you. If, other than inspire you to good and goodly things, a particular companion or company engenders in you an inclination towards evil and a propensity towards vice, then commonsense dictates that such companionship is bound to hinder your spiritual progress. It is worthy of note here that the attraction of the Holy Prophet(sa) was so great, that he managed to reform a nation with only his sublime character and heartfelt prayers. He not only revived the spiritually dead but raised them to such a lofty spiritual station that even they experienced revelation directly from Allah A l m i g h t y. The Promised M e s s i a h( a s ) comments on this great spiritual phenomenon in the following words: ‘Our Holy Prophet(sa) was a BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 41The Review of Religions – November 2005 g reat Reformer for the p roclamation of truth, and restored to the world the truth that had been lost. No Prophet sha res with him the pride that he had found the whole world in darkness and by his appearance that darkness was converted into light. He did not die till the people among whom he had a p p e a red had cast aside the garment of paganism and had put on the robe of the Unity of God. Not only this, but they achieved high grades of faith and performed such works of righteousness and fidelity and certainty which are not matched in any part of the world. Such success was not achieved by any Pro p h e t other than the Holy P ro p h e t( s a ). It is a stro n g a rgument in support of the t ruth of the Holy Pro p h e t( s a ) that he was raised in an age when the world had fallen into deep darkness and called for a grand Reformer. He departed the world at a time when hundreds of thousands of people had abandoned paganism and idol worship and had adopted the Unity of God and the straight path. Such perfect reform was par- ticular to him that he taught a people who were at the level of animals in the ways of humanity; in other word s , he converted wild beasts into men, and then turned them into educated men, and then made them men of God, and b reathed spirituality into them and created a relationship between them and the True God. They were s l a u g h t e red like sheep in the cause of God and were t rodden under foot like ants, but they did not abandon their faith, and marc h e d f o rw a rd in the face of every c a l a m i t y. ’ (pp.4-7, L e c t u re Sialkot c i t e d on pp.211-212, Essence of Islam Vol 1, Alden Press) Thus history bears witness to this testimony that the people around the Holy Prophet( s a ) w e r e transformed from drunkards into BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 42 The Review of Religions – November 2005 saints purely through the blessings of the righteous companionship of the Holy Prophet(sa). Would that we could spend just one moment beside our beloved Master. May Allah shower His special blessings upon the Holy Prophet(sa) and his followers! Another aspect of attaining blessings from righteous company is the institution of marriage as our partners are companionship for us. It is a physical and spiritual law that Allah, the Most Beneficent, made everything in pairs so that we may prosper and increase in our love for the Creator. As it is stated: Holy is He Who created all things in pairs… (Ch.36:V.37) Everything that exists in the universe, be it animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic, has a partner. Thus we too are blessed with companionship in the form of our spouses. As Allah, the All-Wise, says: They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them. (Ch.2:V.188) We should be mindful of what sort of partner we choose to spend our lives with. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(sa) said: ‘Usually one marries a woman for four reasons. For her wealth, for her family, for her beauty or for her righteousness. Give pre f e r- ence to the one who is righteous. May you re m a i n humble.’ (Sahih Bukhari) Our beloved Holy Prophet(sa) to whom we pledge allegiance and for whom we are ever ready to o ffer sacrifices, gave us such excellent advice with regard to finding a suitable companion. If one sticks to such advice and chooses a partner for his or her piety, he or she will surely attain blessings from Allah and the righteous union will shine through all trials and tribulations. BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 43The Review of Religions – November 2005 The Holy Qur’an gives us such a beautiful metaphor of marriage in terms of a garment. Just as a physical garment protects us from the elements of nature, similarly our spiritual garment, that is, our partners protect us from satanic insinuation. If one does not take heed of such advice, one will not prosper. What once was harmony in the beginning of the marriage will turn to discord. This Divine spiritual law is stated in the Holy Qur’an: And marry not idolatro u s women until they believe; even a believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress, although she may highly please you. And give not believing women in marriage to idolaters until they believe; even a believing slave is better than an idolater, although he may highly please you. (Ch.2:V.222) The Holy Qur’an emphatically states not to marry idolaters. What is idolatry? The inspiring writings of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi ( a s ) tell us. Commenting on the verse: Shun t h e re f o re the abomination of idols and shun false speech ( C h . 2 2 : V.31), the Promised Messiah(as) writes: ‘Shun the abomination of idols and stay away from the telling of lies which is no less sinful than idolatry. Anything which turns you away from your true goal, that is an idol in your path.’ (Roohani Khazain Vo l . 3 : Izala-e-Auham, Pt. 2, p.550 cited in Selected Wr i t i n g s from the Promised Messiah, p.36, Islam International Publications Ltd) Thus idolatry can even take the form of materialism, as one’s quest for materialistic desires takes one away from him quest for the truth. We should be ever wary in this day and age where materialism runs rampant that we choose a partner who we think possesses fear of Allah and not one in whose heart there is a yearning for the world. BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY 44 The Review of Religions – November 2005 The members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community should be ever ready to join with the righteous and forsake those who seek to blow out the light lit by its founder Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). For it is by these blessings of righteous company that Allah, the All- Powerful, will enable Islam to be restored to its full grandeur and g l o r y. As Allah, the All- Knowing, has Himself decreed: How many a small party has triumphed over a large party by Allah’s command! And Allah is with the steadfast. (Ch.2:V.250) Thus keep righteous company and pay heed to the wisdom imparted by the Holy Prophet(sa) who gave his followers the following advice: ‘The case of a righteous companion and that of an evil companion is like that of one who carries perfume and of one who blows into a furnace. The carrier of perfume might give you some as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at the very least you might smell his fragrance. As for the o t h e r, he might set your clothes alight and at the very least you will breathe the foul air issuing from the furnace.’ (Sahih Bukhari, cited on p.82 Gardens of the Righteous by Imam Nawawi, translated by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Curzon Press) May Allah have mercy on our souls and may He bestow upon us blessings of righteous company. Ameen. References 1 Barra, G. (1960) Kikuyu Proverbs, London & Nairobi. 2 Cardwell, M. (1996) Psychology for A-Level, p.45, Collins Educational. 3 Gahagan, J. (1975) Interpersonal & Group Behaviour, p.84, Methuen & Co Ltd. BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUS COMPANY
A look at some of the qualities of the Successors to the Holy Prophet(sa) who could not be corrupted despite the absolute religion and temporal powers they enjoyed.