There For You

And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Quran (Pickthal Translation)9:71

In his beautifully written post titled, “What is Friendship?” Tariq Nelson shares the pain and disappointment he experienced when his friends weren’t there for him. Tariq shows us a lesson about the process of forgiveness. He then asks us to be real with ourselves so that we can begin to develop and establish authentic relationships.
Tariq wrote:

As I reflect on the past 14 years of my life, authenticity is the exact opposite of what I have found in many of these relationships. Rather than environment of honesty and humility there is pretentiousness and shallow conversation. A real friendship should be about giving and receiving, sharing responsibilities, and helping each other. Engaging in a friendship requires courage because it means facing our fear of rejection and being hurt again.

A number of people, including myself, have related to and have been moved by his post. I am really grateful that he shared so openly and honestly. It was a conversation that we needed to have. Inspired, I decided to write something on friendship myself. I doubt that I’ll be able to do the topic justice. But since this is a timely topic, that has frequently come up time and time again in conversations, I thought I’d engage with the idea of friendship. For over a year I have wanted to write about friendship, exploring the real meaning of the word and how should we as Muslims really develop authentic relationships. In order to begin to explore what it means, I’ve decided to first focus on the meaning of friendship. Then I will begin to point to new possible ways we can develop better relationships with others, and as a result become more human.

As I have stated before, I am a stickler for definitions. So I went to Marriam Webster online to find a working definition of friendship.

Main Entry: 1friend
Pronunciation: \ˈfrend\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English frend, from Old English frēond; akin to Old High German friunt friend, Old English frēon to love, frēo free
Date: before 12th century
1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem b: acquaintance2 a: one that is not hostile b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group3: one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)4: a favored companion 5capitalized : a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and an ordained ministry, and opposes war —called also Quaker

I then went to the primary source for Muslims, the Qur’an. I was interested in what the Qur’an said about the purpose of friends, and as the above verse mentioned, “protecting friends” is what believers are supposed to be for one another. I also looked at the Qur’an database search today to see how many times friend was mentioned in the Qur’an. The answer is kind of tricky, since the database was in English (call me lazy, but my time commitments didn’t allow me to peruse an Arabic/English definition. Just to be clear, I do not think that the English word for friend encompasses the true meaning of the spirit of friendship and companionship in Islam. In the Qur’an and Islamic texts such as the Hadith (Prophetic traditions), Seerah (biography), and exigis ,here are several Arab words that correspond to the English word “friend.” These include (الوالي)wali, (الصديق)sadeeq, (الصاحب) sahib. I used the Hans Wehr dictionary to outline the basic meaning of these terms as they relate to true authentic friendship.
wali (الوالي): helper; supporter; benefactor; sponsor; friend; close associate; relative; patron; protector; legal guardian
sadeeq (الصديق): friend; friendly; connected by bonds of friendship (the word also derives from truthful)
sahib (الصاحب): associate; companion; comrade; friend; adherent; follower

All three of these definitions encompass what we really need out of at least one other human being to feel connected: someone who will join us, someone who is kind to us, and someone who will help us look after our affairs. We need a someone we can trust, who has our best interest at heart. Someone we can be honest with, someone we don’t have to put on a mask to be around. We need someone who will listen to us, protect our secrets. We need someone who will share what they have when they can. We need someone who will stand by us when the world seems against us. We need someone who will lift us up as the world is crashing down on us, someone who will hold our hand to help steady uneven steps. We even need someone to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. We need someone to be there for us, as Damian Marley sings, “even when I’m not there for myself.” We have to learn how to be that for someone else. We cannot demands the three aspects of true and deep friendship without being willing to give up a bit of ourselves and our whims. The reality is that we have a really deep model of friendship from our Prophetic tradition: Muhammad’s (s.a.w.)relationship with his companions. Now this is the model of true and authentic relationships that we should strive for.

I believe it is essential that we began to reassess the importance of connecting with other human beings and learning how to develop authentic and intimate relationships based on honest exchange and mutual understanding. Through this, we transcend our narrowness. We have to get beyond the slogans like, “I love you brother/sister, for the sake of Allah.” We have to really interrogate what loving someone for the sake of Allah means. As a Muslim, you’re not going to love every Muslim, but if you are disconnected and unable to love anyone, what does that say about your mental, emotional, and spiritual state? I am now reflecting on my own friendships, how I have failed as a friend, how I have been failed as a friend. I am trying to take the lessons from my 33 years and trying to become a better friend, companion, and helper. I am working on letting go of the pain, of forgiving, of reconnecting with old friends and forming new friends. But like Tariq said, first I must do some self reflection and refining of my own thoughts and inclinations. I have to be there for myself, in order to be there for you.

Just to leave you with some uplift, let’s turn to my boy Damian Marley:

“There For You”

[Indiscernable voice message]

Tra la la…Tra la la…
La la la…la la

[Verse 1]
Hey!
Vexation of spirit is a waste of time
Negative thinking, don’t you waste your thoughts
Verbal conflict is a waste of word
Physical conflict is a waste of flesh
People will always be who they want
And that’s what really makes the world go round
Unconditional love is scarce
(“Till shiloh I shall not forsake thee”)
Now and forever more
Forever more, forever more…
YEAH!

[Chorus]
You see, you gave precious life to me
So I live my life for you…You…
You see, you’ve always been there for me
And so i’ll be there for you…You…
(“Till shiloh I shall not forsake thee”)

[Verse 2]
Bless your eyes and may your days be long
May you rise on the morning when His kingdom come
Good deeds aren’t remembered in the hearts of men
(…..Oooooooh)
Bless your eyes and may your dreams come true
May you rise on the morning when Jah kingdom come
Good deeds aren’t remembered in the hearts of men
(“Till shiloh I shall not forsake thee”)
Now and forever more
Forever more…

[Chorus]
You see, you’ve always had faith in me
And so i’ll have faith in you…You…
You’ve always been there for me
And so i’ll be there for you…You…

Hey!
You’ve always been good to me
Even when i’m not good to myself
You’ve always been fair to me
Even when i’m not fair to myself
You’ve always done right by me
So I will do right by you…You…
(“Till shiloh I shall not forsake thee”)
You’ve always been there for me, mama
So i’ll be there for you, papa
You’ve always been fair to me, brother
And so i’ll be fair to you, sister
You’ve always had faith in me
And so i’ll have faith in you…You..

You’ve always been good to me
You’ve always been to kind to me
You’ve always stood up for me
You’ve always been there for me
You’ve always been…oooooh
You’ve always been…oooooh
You always did care for me…yeh
You always did share with me…yeh
You always been true to me
And so i’ll be true to you…

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6 thoughts on “There For You

  1. As salaam alaikum,

    You know what, I’ve also considered writing about friendship. I was thinking about the personal experiences I’ve had- both good and bad- when it comes to my friendships with other Black women and other Muslim women. What I don’t understand it why it’s so difficult…but that’s another subject. Maybe I should blog on the subject.

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  2. Walaikum salaam,
    Thanks for your kind words of support all.
    Jamerican Muslimah, I hope you do write down your thoughts on friendship. I think one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a blogger is engaging with your ideas. It is like we build off each other or provide our different takes on an issue. It’s much better than the typical, “hmmmm food for thought” comments. It also gives me hope that we can move our writing to the next level of discourse. Another Muslim activist brought up the idea of a cyber place where we can develop a republic ideas, where thinkers, artists, academics, activists, journalists, and musicians can get together and exchange. I’m not saying I’m ready to start another online community, but it would be kinda of fun to pick a topic each weak to write our spin. What do you think?

    In the meantime, yeah, we have to work on the sisterhood thing. Part of it is difficult because of our condition, the constant barrage we get as Black women and Muslim women of so much negativity. There is a lot of self-hate. And if you hate yourself, how can you really be there and love someone else. There’s some people I have reach out to…That’s another blog

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  3. “There is a lot of self-hate. And if you hate yourself, how can you really be there and love someone else. There’s some people I have reach out to…That’s another blog”

    That is very true. I just wrote about this sort of. I wrote about forgiving ourselves. We can move on with all the extra baggage. But Yes, Friendships are very important. I dont think I ever knew how important they are until I moved to the Gulf. You just can not manage with out at least one good friend. Life here can make you crazy.

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  4. Comment removed upon request. [Yes I do insert editorial notes in comment or edit them if they violate my explicitly stated or implied rules.]

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