Yesterday I got a tweet from one of my Twitter friends that most of my “followers” (I hate that term) aren’t aware of saying that she had decided that someone she had been friends with for a number of years had proven to be all take and no give, and that she was on the point of abandoning her. Later, she wrote that she was writing a letter to “takey friend” explaining her feelings. I suggested that it might be a better idea just to conveniently be ill or busy next time this woman (I presume it is a woman) wants to cling to her for emotional support, but she replied, “I decided I’d feel better if I was just upfront & honest that they’d made me feel like crap, now I can let it go”.

I felt kind of sad that she felt the need to do this. Normally people would spent a lot of ‘neutral’ time together, having fun, not just giving or taking emotional support; however, since this woman has a painful medical condition, I expect there is less of that than with other people. I don’t pretend to know all the reasons why my friend may have chosen to end this friendship, but I do know that some people are better able to give others emotional support than others, something which is particularly true of men but also of some women. I can recall many times when I’ve been talking to people who have an emotional crisis of one sort or another and being at a loose end for something to say to them.

Sometimes, however, I’ve felt the urge to discontinue friendships, not because I found that they weren’t there for me when I needed them, but because they were rude or discourteous or didn’t have any time for me. There was one friend whose flat I used to go to who does a lot of work abroad (not sure what it all is but some of it is charity work), and it often happened when I visited him the phone would ring, he would pick it up and would talk to people in a foreign language for twenty minutes or more. Another time, I was with him and another Urdu-speaking friend and he told me that they would speak Urdu to each other, if I didn’t mind, and of course I was in no position to mind.

However, I actually never did cut it off with those two, although I’ve seen much less of them in recent years (one of them is no longer in the country). One of the reasons I had the urge to discourage the person I mentioned at the beginning from cutting “takey friend” off was that, after what seemed like a minor public disagreement over a political matter, someone apparently decided that they no longer wanted to be my friend after six years. This was someone I’d shared quite a lot with and vice versa, and I thought our friendship was stronger than that. I actually was not angry with that person, just a bit annoyed with something they’d written. I got quite depressed about it for a week or so afterwards. But you can choose your friends, but you can’t force them to choose you.

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  • Tim

    Salam alaikum,

    Everyone has their ups and downs. Apologies, humility and prayer all help. But perhaps too, in this age of online communications, another thing…

    Seriously avoid airing your frustrations in public, with words that could be interpreted in any way depending on the mood of the reader.

    People are blasting their friends on Facebook. Now, we learn, on Twitter. And blogs? Yes, I have seen comments about people / friends / bloggers left on other people’s blogs that would shake anyone’s faith in their friends.

    The best thing to do is go back to the sunnah and learn and implement all the wisdom pertaining to the rights of friends and brethren. People forget that our deen applies to all spheres of our lives.

  • Salaams Dear:

    Remember that there is a difference between a “friend” and an “acquaintance.”

    I use the following hadith in my email signature. It sums up how I perceive people, lol:

    The Prophet (saw) said: “Whoever is mainly concerned about the Hereafter, Allaah will make him feel independent of others and will make him focused and content, and his worldly affairs will fall into place…but whoever is mainly concerned with this world, Allaah will make him feel in constant need of others and will make him distracted and unfocused, and he will get nothing of this world except what is decreed for him.” (Tirmidhi)

  • Sayedunna Muhammad (saws) said: “The example of a good Friend and a bad Friend is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows.. So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim

    Some words of wisdom from Imam Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi’s ‘Al-Akhlaq wa’l-Siyar’ (Chapter V- Friends, Close Friends, and the Exchange of Advice)

    121.Criticizing a friend is like melting an ingot: it will either become refined or it will disappear.

    1. Do not expect any help in return from anyone except God the Almighty and Great. As you go on your way always remember that the first person you help will be the first to do harm and turn against you. Indeed, because of their profound jealousy, men of bad character detest those that help them when they see that the latter are better off.

    2. The definition of friendship: [it is the middle point] between two extremes.What makes one friend sad makes the other sad too. What makes one happy makes the other happy too. Any relationship less than this is not friendship. Anyone who answers to this description is a friend. A man may be the friend of someone who is not his friend for a man can love someone who hates him. This is the case above all with fathers and their sons, brother and brother, husband and wife, and all those in whom friendship has become burning love. Not every friend is a counsellor although every counsellor, by giving advice shows himself to be a friend.

    3. The definition of advice is that the man giving it feels bad about what harms his friend, whether the latter feels good or bad about it, and he feels happy about what is good for him, whether his friend is happy or unhappy about it. This is the added factor which a counsellor has which goes beyond the limit of simple friendship.

    4. The highest aim of friendship, and there is nothing higher than this, is to have all things in common, one’s own person, one’s belongings, without any constraint, and to prefer one’s friend to every other being. If I had not known Muzaffar and Mûbârak, the two masters of Valencia, I should have thought that such a sentiment had disappeared in our times. But I have never seen any two other men draw so deeply on all the joys of friendship, despite events which would have separated other men.

    5. There is no virtue which so much resembles a vice as the faculty of having many friends and acquaintances. But it is really a perfect virtue, made up of various qualities, since friends are only gained by tolerance, generosity, patience, loyalty, signs of affection, shared feelings, and moderation. It is important to protect one’s friends, teach them what one knows, and to win over them by every kind of praiseworthy action. .-= Salman´s last blog ..Abyss of enticement =-.

  • Afrah

    Sadly in the real world it is rare to see “friends” who take these hadiths to heart. The speaking in a different language thing I see all the time especially in my own Somali community, its so frustrating bringing a friend who doesn’t speak Somali to a family or an all Somali event because in this day and age people are just very rude and will not accommodate another person and speak in English or at the very least translate what is being said. I have sadly started separating friends into English and Somali speaking to avoid these types of embarrassing situations.

  • Salaams Afrah,

    You’ve reminded me of a Somali family, one of whom was a marriage prospect for me five years ago, who have continued inviting me back to their house periodically, particularly for Eid al-Fitr. Whenever I go round there, the others spend their time talking in Swahili or Somali in front of me. Of course, they have no idea they are being rude but it always makes me want never to go back there.

  • Afrah

    Wa alaikum asalam,

    I was recently put in that type of situation for the first time when I was invited out to dinner by a Yemeni friend of mine and most of the other sisters attending the dinner were Arab as well (but Arab sisters who speak perfect English)…and yes everybody started speaking Arabic, telling jokes and stories etc. and since I can understand about 30-40% of what was being said I wasn’t completely lost but there were some Ethiopian sisters there who were just sitting there very lost, and the shocking thing is that these people are normally very well mannered but for some reason cant see how rude this type of behavior is.

  • Umm al-Ma’arik

    This thing has been going on forever. When I first came to Islam 25+ years ago, a sister took me with her to an iftar, which I thought was very kind. Then she proceeded to blabber away in Urdu for the next 3 hours, leaving me stranded. (And proceeded to make disparaging marks about English people/architecture/homes/culture all the way home too.) Unfortunately it was just the first of many such incidents. I now get very twitchy about being the only non-[whatever] in any gathering and tend to ask filtering questions before accepting any invites. I am so tired of this rudeness, and am very sad to read about it still happening.

  • Mitsurugi

    “Whenever I go round there, the others spend their time talking in Swahili or Somali in front of me.”

    As someone who always struggled with Somali, that’s basically my life story. But I think anyone can be guilty of this. Quite often I would be talking to a guy in the street, until he sees a friend of his - he then breaks off to talk to his friend and I’m left there looking like some hanger-on intruding on someone’s private conversation.

  • Lady_Murasaki

    With friends of mine who speak languages I cannot understand for extended periods of time when we are in the middle of something, I find it helps to make it clear that you are not happy with this sort of behaviour; it is rude, and by and large people know it is rude. If in the middle of a conversation someone picks up the phone and proceeds to blather away for 20 minutes without any explanation, I say, “You’re obviously busy.” and take my leave. With a group of people who all share the same language (apart from myself) I take out a book and begin reading. If I’m invited to an event and the person who takes me abandons me, I don’t really have an issue with telling them as nicely as possible, just how I felt about being neglected. Bah, it makes me sound about a hundred, but I just don’t like bad manners, and excluding a single person from a group is particularly embarrassing to witness.

    (Also, while we are at it, could we also ban mobiles in the masjids and babies at lectures? No, no one needs to hear the inimitable beats of your bangin’ choon in the middle of jumuah, and lectures on Kalaam clearly make little Ahmed cry.)

    Will stop now.