Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "The example of a good pious companion and an evil one is that of a person carrying musk and another blowing a pair of bellows. The one who is carrying musk will either give you some perfume as a present, or you will buy some from him, or you will get a good smell from him, but the one who is blowing a pair of bellows will either burn your clothes or you will get a bad smell from him." (1)
Explanation of the Hadith:
The wisdom of Allah (may He be Exalted) in His Creation entailed that man inclines to associate with others, sit with them, and meet with them.
This association and sitting have great impact on man's thoughts, way of life, and behavior, and perhaps it was an effective cause in determining man's fate and his worldly and hereafter happiness. This was proved by the Shari`ah, reason, and reality.
An unjust person shall regret on the Day of Recompense because he accompanied those who went astray and deviated from the Straight Path, and those were the cause of his error and deviation. "And (remember) the Day when the Zâlim (wrong-doer, oppressor, polytheist) will bite at his hands, he will say: "Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad peace be upon him). * Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a Khalîl (an intimate friend)! * He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (this Qur'ân) after it had come to me. And Shaitân (Satan) is to man ever a deserter in the hour of need." [Surat Al Furqan: 27].
Ibn Hajar said: The Hadith contains prohibition of sitting with those who may harm a person when sitting with them in terms of religion and the world, as it contains exhortation to sit with those who benefit a person when he sits with them. (2)
An-Nawawy said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) likened a good and righteous companion with a person who carries musk and likened the bad companion with the one who blows a pair of bellows. The Hadith also indicates the virtue of accompanying righteous and good people and forbidding sitting and associating with bad people, the people of heresies, those who backbite people, those who spread falsehood, and all dispraised kinds of people. (3)
Lessons gained from the Hadith:
A- Showing the excellence of accompanying righteous and good people and exhorting people to do so, and of its benefits:
1- Those who sit with good people shall be included with the blessings and goodness that are being sent down on them in their gatherings even if their actions are not equal to one another because whoever sit with them shall never taste misery.
2- Getting affected by them because a person follows the way and doctrine of his friend, so let a person choose his friends carefully.
How beautiful the saying of:
Do not ask about a person and ask about his friends * because each person follows his friend
If you are among some people, so befriend their best * and do not befriend their worst lest they may do harm to you
3- Showing a person his defects so that he may fix them because a believer is like a mirror to his Muslim brother (through him, he can see his defects), when a person sees in his Muslim brother something which he does not like, he should correct him and protect him in secret and in public.
4- The people of goodness guide those who sit with them to the people of the like so that you may benefit from their companionship.
5- Stopping those who sit with them from committing sins, preserving their times, and occupying it with something beneficial.
6- Seeing righteous people remind the people of Allah (Glory be to Him). So, if this good is gained from just seeing them, how about those who sit with them?!
7- Righteous people are good companions in prosperity, support one another at the time of hardship, and good provision after death by their supplication to their companions and those who used to sit with them.
8- Sitting with pious people is a cause for the love of Allah (may He be Exalted) to a person. It was reported in a Hadith: "My love is entailed for those who love each other in Me, and those who sit with each other (to mention) Me." (4)
B- Warning against sitting with bad and evil people, and of which harms are:
1- A bad person makes his companion doubt his sound beliefs and directs him away from them, exactly as the state of the people of Fire. "A speaker of them will say: "Verily, I had a companion (in the world), * Who used to say: "Are you among those who believe (in resurrection after death). * "(That) when we die and become dust and bones, shall we indeed (be raised up) to receive reward or punishment (according to our deeds)?" [Surat As-Safat: 51- 53].
Look at the death of Abu Talib who died as a disbeliever because of his bad companions when they said to him: Would you abandon the religion of `Abdul-Muttalib?! So, he died as a disbeliever.
2- A bad companion invites his companion to commit deniable and prohibited acts as he does because a wrong doer likes to see all people do deniable actions like him and because associating with him reminds of sin and urges a person to do it.
3- Getting affected with bad habits and bad manners of a wrong doer.
4- A bad companion introduces you to evil people whose gatherings are not free of backbitting and gossip. Moreover, because of him you shall be deprived of accompanying righteous people who occupy their times with obeying and mentioning Allah (may He be Exalted).
(1) Sahih Al Bukhari No. (5534) and Sahih Muslim No. (2628).
(2) See: Fathul-Bary, commentary on Sahih Al Bukhari of Ibn Hajar Al `Asqalany, 4/ 324.
(3) See: The commentary of An-Nawawy on Sahih Muslim, 16/178.
(4) Reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, 5/ 233, No. (1711) and Al Albany graded it as authentic. See: Sahih Al Jami` No. (4331).