Share Others’ Concerns

One’s etiquette in social situations is the key foundation to having strong relationships with others. This article is the twenty-fifth in a series taken from the On Demand Course: Discussion on Sulami’s Adab of Keeping Company.

Different people have different backgrounds, levels of religiosity, and interests. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would give each person who was in his company their share of his attention. Such that nobody felt anyone mattered more than they did. Once when asked about the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) Zayd ibn Thabit said:

“When we talked about this world, he would talk about it with us. When we talked about the Hereafter, he would talk about it with us. When we talked about food, he would talk about it with us.”

As for children, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly would be walking and a young girl would grab his hand and take him to show what the girls were playing and he would give them attention according to what the little girls were interested in.

Out of your concern for their good, think about how you seek Allah’s pleasure in this company. Also, have a sincere concern for the good of your company. 

You want them to be happy. Also, you want the good of this life and the next for them. Genuinely, how can you be of service to them?


The early Muslims used to say, “If you meet with somebody who is unlearned, then keep their company with knowledge.” Mention things that would benefit them in a manner that is suitable to the person. 

Think, “How can I do it in a manner that will be of benefit?” Sometimes, the best things one can do are very indirect. Be like a shepherd in one’s relationships. You want to get the person going towards the good themselves. 

Once our master Anas ibn Malik came to serve the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) sent him on an errand. On the way, he saw some children playing and he joined in with them. So the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went looking for him and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) walked up behind him and just stood there. 

Anas turned around and he saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with a big smile. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not say, “Why did you not go, Anas?” He said, “Anas, have you gone where I told you?” Anas said, “O Messenger of Allah, I’m going.” He (Allah bless him and give him peace) let the decision come from Anas himself.


Likewise, they say, “Keep the company of the distracted through understanding.” For example, if you have a group of friends and they are about to make a foolish choice, keep them company with understanding. One of the ways is to suggest, “What is something that we could all agree upon doing together?” Then they might consider. Normally, friends want to include everybody. 

Use your wisdom. Consider how to facilitate the right outcome. One of the ways is to make alternative suggestions. Hold to your principles, but be considerate. 

There may be other people who you can just tell straight up. Under no circumstance should you make a choice that you know you should not make. 

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “A true friend isn’t the one who tells their friends what they like to hear. But rather the true friend is the one who tells their friends what they need to hear.” 

To benefit a person you have to see how you can say this in a manner that would be taken well and would have a good result. This sometimes means that you do not point it out right away. 


Every time you keep someone’s company, do it with intention. Visiting for the sake of Allah. It makes the company meaningful and substantial.

If you have invited a scholar to your house, they may ask you open-ended questions because they want to make you feel comfortable. They are good listeners. The benefit there would be to facilitate for them to benefit you by asking them questions. Of course, you participate in the conversation.

If the companions moved to a new house, they would invite the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). They would ask the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to pray in the place they used to pray and to make dua that Allah make this a house of devotion and so on. That is a beautiful custom. It is Sunna to have a place of prayer that you designate in one’s house. 

If you have somebody older, they have a lot of experience. Ask them questions that would bring out benefits for you. Benefit from their life experience. If you notice someone is down, choose the topics that would help uplift them. Keep this sense of purposeful company.

Closeness and Affection

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave this very simple principle. He said, “Begin with the closest, then those closest after them.”  

There are circles of closeness and family. You have your immediate family, which is your parents and siblings. Then you have close family, which is your immediate uncles and aunts and first cousins. Then you have your wider family, all the people that the family has ties of association with the kinds of people who get invited to weddings and the bigger functions. 

Try to keep relations with all of them. But, your siblings have more rights than your cousins.  Your immediate cousins have more rights over you than people who are further away. 

One should have a plan of how to keep in contact with each of these levels. There are beautiful norms of how people prioritize that in their lives. It is not a matter of time as much as it is a matter of prioritization. It does not take that long. 

Similarly with friends. There are close circle of friends, then one’s general circle of friends, and then there is a wider circle of friends or acquaintances. One should maintain that relationship, at least seasonally or annually.

Reach Out

Everybody you have any level of connection with, you should strive to reach out to them. Some people have rights over you as family. Furthermore, anybody who you have ever befriended has rights over you as well. 

Our master Jafar al-Sadiq, said, “A day’s affection is a relationship.” If you met someone once, this establishes a slight relationship. He says, “And affection of a month is like being a relative.” He also expressed how affection that lasted a year is like close family. And he said, “Whoever breaks the relationship, Allah cuts them off.” 

The people who come into your life are mercy. That is mercy that comes from Allah. You have to embrace that mercy. Others said that twenty days of friendship are like someone becoming a member of your family, of your wider family. That is how you treat relations. These are values found in most traditional cultures. 

The least is to reach out to them periodically.