Wednesday 19th of January 2022
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   Maintaining a healthy balance in relationships and adopting some basic principles in personal and social interactions are very important in building strong and healthy relationships. On the other hand, being negligent towards maintaining golden mean, has proved to be the root of many a bitter break-ups and loss of friendships.

   As we all know, having good friends or companions is one of the preliminary needs in the life of an individual. It is only through loving and constructive inter-relations that one can experience the beauty and sweetness of life. In fact, successful friendships actually give meaning to one's life. In this regard, the Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abu Talib (AS) says that the failure of an individual in this matter reflects a weakness in his character. He says in the Nahjul Balagha:

   "The most helpless of all men is he who cannot find a few brothers during his age, but still more helpless is he who finds such a brother but loses him". (Saying No. 12)

   Most people are however, unaware of the importance of moderation in relationships and they often tend to go to extremes in both friendships as well as enmity. Quite often, we find that people wrongly believe that to make and maintain successful friendships, one has to sacrifice everything for a friend. They give such exaggerated importance to the friend that they are constantly seeking the approval of the friends in all issues in their lives. In fact, they believe that the friend is even more important than parents and family, and thus sometimes invest much more in a friendship than in their lives with their spouses and children. They consult with their friends on all matters and share all their deepest secrets with them. They discuss their current and future plans with them and disclose to them all their likes and dislikes. Sometimes, so much so that they are willing to be negligent towards the rights of their parents and family in order to share everything, material and otherwise with their friends.

   Unfortunately, we find that such individuals fall prey to opportunists, who first, in the name of friendship learn all their innermost secrets and sometimes, for the most trivial reasons break up the friendship and trust. Many such "friends turned enemies" are known to then misuse the confidence they had earlier shared and in many cases also blackmail or manipulate their former friends into doing things against their wills and principles. This is especially common among the youth and is unfortunately the root of great personal damage and many social evils.

   On the other hand, in the same way that some people misunderstand and misuse the beautiful bonds of friendship by going to unfavorable extremes, there are yet others who go to extremes in expressing their enmity. For them, when any friendship sours, they get so bitter and venomous that they leave no stone unturned in getting even with their ex-friends. They don't miss any opportunity to bad-mouth their former friends and have bitter and heated confrontations with them. At times they go to such extremes that they don't leave any place for a reconciliation or make-up. At other times, in case there is a patch-up in the lost friendship, all their acts of impulse are very embarrassing for them and always remain a matter of deep regret, since the effects of certain acts in life cannot be undone.

   In this regard Imam Ali (AS) says in the Nahjul Balagha:

   "Have love for your friend up to a limit, for it is possible that he may turn into your enemy some day; and hate your enemy to a limit for it is possible that he may turn into your friend some day." (Saying No. 278)

   Thus, every individual must strive to maintain a healthy moderation in his personal and social interactions, both in expressing his affinity as well as his displeasure and must refrain from indulgence in excesses. Thus, he would be able to maintain life-long friendships with dignity and would be able to deliver on his human and social responsibilities powerfully.

   Mutual trust in relationships is another very important element in personal and social life. It is almost common knowledge that lack of faith or breach of trust do not give rise to anything but lethargy, disillusionment and destruction of all mutual bonds and friendships which are the very foundations for the growth and development of societies and civilizations.

   The Glorious Qur'an has emphasized on the importance of this crucial element in the building of a strong society and has given specific instructions regarding this matter in several verses. Also since the Qur'an is Divine in origin, its instructions are most conducive with human intellect and nature. It says:

   "O, You who believe! Fulfill the obligations." (5:1)


   "O, You who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in  

some cases is a sin, and do not spy, nor let someone back-bite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it! And be careful of your duty to Allah, surely Allah is oft-returning (to you), Merciful". (49:12)

   Thus we see that even in this matter, it is very important to maintain a healthy moderation between having a lack of trust and being over-trusting in relationships. In today's times, we find great damage being done because of a lack of proper understanding of this matter. Most common instances of this imbalance are:

   (1) Unexamined or unquestioned family relationships: Quite often, we are not careful about choosing our friends or the families we choose to interact with. This rashness and lack of discernment is based on false trust and results in transfer of undesirable customs and behavior.          

   Research and statistics also indicate that most cases of molestation too happen within of unhealthy and unchecked family relationships.

   (2) Children from homes that have unhealthy atmospheres and discord tend to seek strangers for escape or as confidants, and thus often fall prey to vested interests who misuse this trust and inspire them into evil ways.

   (3) Parents too, often tend to leave unsuitable reading material, movies, magazines, etc., where children or young adults have access to them, without considering the natural tendencies of childish curiosity and adolescent urges. This kind of false trust too has proved to cause deep damage to the child. Besides, indiscreet physical interaction between parents in front of young children can leave severe psychological scars on the child's psyche. Also, inappropriate dressing, even within the home can have extremely harmful effects. Islam thus lays great emphasis on "hijab", and specifies who are "mahram" and "na-mahram". It is necessary here to know that it is very important to dress decently even within of "mahram" relationships.

   To sum up this discussion, we can say that Islam also advocates the theory of "familiarity breeds contempt". It also emphasizes that prevention is better than cure. It is thus better not to lose trust than to later try to salvage it. In the words of Imam Sadiq (AS): "Do not be naive even with the most trusted people". (Wassil ash Shi'a, Vol. 8, p. 412)

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