Association with the Pious

Wonderfully efficacious for spiritual progress is to join the company of the pious. One should endeavour to sit in the company of pious people so that talks of wisdom and piety as well as virtuous habits are acquired. The life-stories of the pious should be studied. This too serves the same purpose as association with the pious. Virtuous character is acquired by reading and studying the life-stories of the saintly men of Allah.
Allah Ta'ala has instilled in man the propensity to be influeced by others. Such influence is derived without any concentration and any special endeavour. The life and conditions of others generally influence people greatly. This acceptance of influence applies to both good and bad influence. The company of the pious is therefore extremely beneficial while evil company is extremely harmful. The company of the pious refers to acssociation with such a person who has sufficient knowledge of the necessary laws of the Shariah, and whose beliefs are correct. The one with whom association is struck up should be a person who refrains from bid'ah (innovation) and evil customs and practices. He should be one who is steadfast in Salaat, Saum and the essential acts of Ibaadat. His relationship and affairs with others should be impeccable. He should be a man of humility, piety and abstemious. He must be one who takes precaution in matters pertaining to halaal and haraam. He must be of uprighteous moral character. He must be man who does not hold the poor and the needy in contempt. Both his external and internal character must be virtuous. The fear and love of Allah should imbue his heart. He must not be a man of worldly greed. For the sake of the Deen he should care for nothing, neither for wealth nor honour. He should be a man who prefers the life Hereafter to the life of this world. He must be a man of sabr and shukr. A man of these capabilities and characteristics is indeed an alchemy for one's spiritual development.
These who lack the ability to discern or recognize the ability of a man whether he is a man of peity or not should take the advice of the pious people of the time described as pious will be worthy for company. Furthermore, by being in the company of a pious man a few times, one will discern in oneself an aversion for evil and an inclination towards virtue. A man whose company produces this effect on the heart is indeed a pious man.
Abstain as far as is possible from a man in whom evil qualities are discerned. Unless necessity compels one, do not enter into his company. Evil company utterly destroys one's Deen. At times evil persons harm not only one's spiritual life, but one's worldly life as well. Such worldly loss could be sustained in a variety of ways, such as in one's wealth, property, honour and life.
Then there are such people in whom one cannot discern good or bad qualities. Entertain good opinion about such people but do not cultivate their company.
Experience has proven that pious company plays a great and effective role in one's spiritual progress while the company of evil persons weakens the heart and ruins one's spiritual life. Some verses of the Qur'aan and ahadith pertaining to pious and evil company will now be cited.
Allah Ta'ala says: "O people of Iman! Fear Allah and join the company of the truthful.
Joining the company of the truthful is to associate with the pious and follow their ways of rectitude.
Allah Ta'ala says: "When you see those conjecturing (finding fault and jesting) in our Laws then turn away from them until (such time) that they engage in some other talk. And, if shaitaan caused you to forget (and you remained sitting with them), then do not sit after remembering with an unjust people."
The Qur'aan here very explicitly warns against association with those who jest with the Deen; with those who treat the Deen light-heartedly; with those who show no respect for the Laws of Allah.
3. Hadhrat Ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was asked: "Among those with whom we associate, who is the best?"
Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied: "The one who reminds you of Allah when you look at him; his speech improves your Deen and his acts remind you of the Aakhirah." (Abu Ya'laa)
Some of the important signs of a pious man, which have been mentioned earlier, are stated in this hadith.
4. Hadhrat Abu Umaamah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Luqman said to his son:" ‘O my son! Associate with the Ulama. Make this an obligation on you. Listen to the talks of the people of wisdom because Allah Ta'ala livens a dead heart with the light of wisdom in the same way as the dead earth is enlivened by abundant rai full." (Tibraani)
Wisdom refers to the subtle points of the Deen. Such words of wisdom flow from the lips of truthful saints of Allah Ta'ala.
5. Hadhrat Muaaz Ibn Jabal (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Allah Ta'ala said: ‘My love becomes incumbent for such persons who love one another for My Sake and who associate for My Sake..." (Maalik and Ibn Habbaan)
The meaning of "for Allah's sake" is for the sake of the Deen or Deeni motives and not worldly motives.
6. Hadhrat Abu Musa (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "The similitude of a pious companion and an evil companion is as a man standing with musk (this is the similitude of a pious companion), and a man stoking a furnace (this is the similitude of an evil companion). The man with the musk will give you some or (if he does not give) then you will at least gain its fragrance while the stoker of the furnace will burn your clothing (if a spark of fire falls on you) or (if he does not burn you) then at least the smoke of the fire will reach you." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Even if one does not derive the full benefit of the pious company, one will gain to a certain degree, and likewise even if the evil company does not fully harm, one will to a certain extent be affected by the evil.
7. Hadhrat Abu Saeed Khudri (radiallahu anhu) narrates that he heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) saying: "Do not associate with anyone except with a person of Imaan." (Tirmizi, Abu Dawood, Daarmi)
There are two possible meanings to this hadith, viz.,
a. Do not associate with a kaffir.
b. Associate with only one of perfect Imaan. Do not associate with a man of imperfect Imaan.
In the light of this hadith, only a man of perfect Imaan a man who is fully pious is worthy of association.
8. Hadhrat Aby Razeen (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said to him: "Should I not inform you of something which is a (great) pivot of this Deen and by means of which you can acquire the success of this world and the hereafter? Firstly, adhere to the gatherings of the people of Thikr (those who remember Allah much); secondly, when in solitude, keep your tongue moving with Thikrullah as much as is possible; thirdly, love for the sake of only Allah and hate for the sake of only Allah." (Baihaqi in Shu'bul Imaan)
Experience too has established that pious company is the root or basis of the Deen. Among the various ways of strengthening one's Deen and experiencing the sweetness of Deen, the most efficacious is the company of the pious.
9. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrates that once he was in the company of rasulullah (sallalahu alayhi wasallam) who said:
"In Jannat are pillars of Ya'qoot (a precious stone of Jannat). On these pillars are erected mansions of zabarjad (a material of Jannat). In these mansions are open doors which glitter like bright stars."
The people asked: ‘Who will occupy these lofty mansions?" Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied: "Those who loved one another for the sake of Allah; those who associated with one another for the sake of Allah and those who met one another for the sake of Allah." (Baihaqi in Shu'bul Imaan)
10. Hadhrat Samurah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Do not live with the mushrikeen nor be together with them. Whoever lives with them and associates with them is one of them." (Tirimizi)
From these aayaat and ahadith it is abundantly clear that association should be with men of piety so that one may gain spiritually and be influenced by the virtue and statements of wisdom and piety of the pious men. The derivation of spiritual benefit from the company of the pious has been amply proven from the aforegoing references. Such aayaat and ahadith will now be cited by which it will be provedn that this same benfit is also attainable by studying the life-conditions of the pious.
11. Allah Ta'ala says: "We narrate all these stories of the Ambiyaa (Nooh, Hood, Saalih, Ibraheem, Loot, Shuaib and Musa - alayhis salaam) to you so that We strengthen your heart." (Surah Hood)
This then is one benefit of reading and studying the stories of the pious people. The heart is strengthened and imbued with comfort and contentment. The heart becomes fortified against falsehood just as the pious people were strong and steadfast against falsehood. As a result of such steadfastness, Allah Ta'ala bestows His Aid. In another aayaat Allah Ta'ala declares: "We aid Our Messengers and the people of Imaan here in this world and We will also aid them on that Day when these (Angels) bearing testimony will stand." (Surah Mu'min)
It is evident that the Aid on that Day of Qiyaamah will be only for the obedient ones. They will be the successful ones while the disobedient will be met with failure.
As a result of the stories of the pious people, one gains strength and firmness on the Deen while at the same time it is learnt that these pious ones will attain the loftiest states of the Aakhirah, hence one is encouraged to follow in their footsteps thereby also gaining the lofty ranks in the Hereafter.
12. Ibn Mas'ood (radiallahu ahu) says: "Whoever wishes to adopt the path of piety forever, should adopt the path of those (pious ones) who have passed away."
There is no absolute certainty that a man who is living will remain firm on the path of piety unto the end. The danger always remains of him going astray. Hence, the path of piety of a living man could be adopted only as long as he remains on that path.
The perpetual path of piety is the path of the Sahaban of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). It is also stated in the hadith that the character and habits of the Sahaabah should be established as a standard as far as is possible. (Jam'ul Fawaaid) It is quite obvious that the adoption of the character and ways of the Sahaabah can be possible only if one is aware of their life-stories. It is therefore essential to study books on the lives of the illustrious Sahaabah.
13. Like The Qur'aan Majeed, the Ahadith similarly narrate the stories of the Ambiya, Ulama and Auliya with a view of inducing in people the urge to follow the uprighteous and pious personalities of the past. This purpose is stated in the order:
"Therefore, follow their guidance."
The Ahadith are replete with the stories of pious and accepted personalities. These stories are an effective way of exhorting people towards piety and spiritual progress. It is precisely for this reason that we find the Auliya always making it a point to compile such books.
The following are some books in this regard. Do make a special effort to read these books or let someone read and explain the books to you. If the services of an Alim are available for this purpose then it will be most beneficial.
· Taarikh Habeebullah
· Nashrut Teeb
· Maghaazi-e-Rasool
· Qasasul Ambiya
· Futuhush Shaam wal Misr wal Ajam
· Futuhul Iraq
· Futuhaat Bhunsa
· Firdaus Aasiyah
· Hikayatus Saliheen
· Tadhkaratul Auliya
· Anwarul Muhsineen
· Nazhatual Basateen Imdadul Mushtaq
· Naik Beebiyan
N.B. Certain things in some of these books will be above the understanding of most people. Such difficult and incomprehensible sections should be omitted.