It has been established that the Prophet said: “A man is upon the deen (i.e., way of life) of his khaleel (i.e., close companion), so each one of you should look to see whom he takes as a khaleel.” [Related by Aboo Daawood, (13/179 ‘Awn); at-Tirmidhee, 4/589; Ahmad, 2/303; al-Haakim, 4/171 and al-Baghawee in Sharh as-Sunnah, 13/70 and it is a hasan hadeeth]
Ibn ‘Abdil-Barr said: “The meaning of this and Allaah knows best is that a person accustoms himself to the actions he views from those he accompanies and the (meaning of) deen is habitude. As such, he ordered one to only accompany the person who is seen to have (manners) that are graceful and beautiful, since goodness is mannerism.
The saying of ‘Adee Ibn Zayd embodies the meaning of this hadeeth:
‘About the person, do not question, but ask about his companion
Since every companion emulates the one he associates with’
Likewise, the saying of Abee al-‘Itaahiyyah:
Who could (still) remain unknown to you If you were to look at his companion?
The like of this is very great. The meaning of this is that a person is not to associate with one who will lead him to actions and ways that are lamentable. As for the one who is not feared (to give such an effect) in this regard then there is no harm in accompanying him.” [Bahjah al-Majaalis, 2/751]
Aboo Sulaymaan al-Khattaabee said: “His saying, ‘A man is upon the deen (i.e., way of life) of his khaleel (i.e., close companion) means: do not take as an intimate companion anyone other than one whose deen and trustworthiness you are pleased with, because when you do take one as an intimate companion, he will lead you to his deen and way. Do not endanger your deen or take a risk with your soul by taking as an intimate companion one whose deen and way is not pleasing.
Sufyaan Ibn ‘Uyaynah said: “It has been transmitted in connection to this hadeeth, ‘Look at Fir’awn, with him was Haamaan. Look at al-Hajjaaj, with him was Yazeed Ibn Abee Muslim, who was worse than he was. Look at Sulaymaan Ibn ‘Abdul-Malik; he was accompanied by Rajaa’ Ibn Haywah, who then put him aright and directed him.’
It is said that al-Khullah is derived from ‘The love interpenetrated (takhallala) the heart and firmly established itself within it’. It is the highest level of brotherhood and that is because people are initially strangers to each other. Once they attain a familiarity, they strike harmony with each other, so they become good friends. If they become homogeneous, they then have love for each other and if this love intensifies it becomes khullah.“ [Al-‘Uzlah, pg. 56]
It has also been said, “People are like flocks of sand grouse’ [i.e., a type of game-bird. [t]] because of the resemblance of form they bear to each other and also because of their imitation of the actions of each other. It is for this reason that the one who initiates good or evil will carry the same share of reward or sin of the one who follows him.” [Refer to al-Istiqaamah by Ibn Taymiyyah, 2/255]
Some wise folk have said: “The pillar of love is homogeneity and every love or friendship that is not based on homogeneity is swift to dwindle and be over.” [Al-‘Uzlah by al-Khattaabee, pg. 62]
The reason for the prohibition on mixing with associates of evil and for the warning of taking company with them is that the make up of a person is naturally disposed for emulating and copying whoever he associates with. Thus, taking company with students of knowledge stirs in oneself the eager desire to seek knowledge. Taking company with ascetics, causes one to renounce worldly pleasures. Taking company with the people of desires causes one to tumble into the abysses of innovations and taking company with one who covets the world stirs in oneself the eager desire for the world and so on.
As such, it is essential that a person chooses of his colleagues and associates those who will be bring about for him good and benefit because of mixing with them.
One who reflects on the condition of the Salaf and contemplates on their life histories will come to know this and he will observe their severe caution and warning against associates of evil be them fussaaq, innovators or others. [Look up on this for example, al-‘Uzlah by al-Khattaabee, pg. 56 and onwards, al-Ibaanah of Ibn Battah, 2/431 and onwards and others]
Aboo Dardaa’ said: “It is from the intelligence of the servant (to consider and be aware) of whom he walks with, enters with and exits with.” Aboo Qilaabah, who related this account, then said: “May Allaah fight [Not to be taken in its literal sense in this context, since the Arabs employ such terms in different ways and at times they use phrases containing words of censure but actually intend meanings of the opposite such as praise and amazement. [t]] the poet who said:
About the person, do not question, but look at his companion
Since the companion emulates the one he associates with [Related by al-Khattaabee in al-‘Uzlah, pg. 59 and Ibn Battah in al-Ibaanah, 2/439]
Al-Asma’ee said concerning this verse of poetry: “I have not seen a verse more similar to the Sunnah than this one” [Al-Ibaanah of Ibn Battah, 2/440]
It has also been reported on ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood that he said: “Assess people by their intimates, for a person only befriends one whom appeals to him and whom he admires.”
Al-A’mash also relates: “They (i.e., the Salaf) did not ask about a person after (having ascertained) three (things): whom he used to walk with, whom he used to enter with and whom his acquaintances were among the people.”
Sufyaan said: “There is nothing more influential upon the corruption or rectification of an individual than a companion.”
Qataadah said: “Indeed, By Allaah, we have not witnessed a person accompany except one who is like him and of his own manner; so accompany the righteous from the slaves of Allaah, you may then be with them or like them”
Al-Fudayl said: “It is not for the believer to sit with anyone he desires …” [These accounts have been related by Ibn Battah in al-Ibaanah, (2/439, 452, 476, 480 & 481)]
Narratives of this sort are numerous, the mention of which would be lengthy. I have however, selected from them a subsistent and adequate amount. One who ponders over these cited accounts as well as others, will know of the danger there is to the individual’s religion and character in associating with people of evil, fisq and fujoor.
You may witness a person who is upright, virtuous and righteous, when he mingles and associates with people of evil and fisq and accompanies them, he becomes a faasiq and faajir like them and this is the pattern of Allaah in his creation.
Hence, mixing with the fussaaq and people of evil is one of the most severe causes for the decrease and weakness of eemaan. In fact, even for its disappearance and annihilation and that is dependent upon the condition of evil of such people as well as the level of mingling with them.