“The example of a good companion and a bad one is the bearer of musk and the worker on the bellows. A bearer of musk would give you some, you might buy some from him, or you might enjoy the fragrance of his musk. The worker on the bellows, on the other hand, might spoil your clothes with sparks from his bellows, or you get a bad smell from him.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) uses an effective example to bring to the hearer’s conception the impact of good company and bad company.
A good companion is compared to a musk seller or a perfume seller. A perfume seller might give you some of his fragrance, and a good companion might give you some good advice or a useful tip. A perfume seller can be useful by selling you some of his musk, and a good friend can be useful by responding readily to your demand for help in any matter, mundane or religious. At the very least, a musk seller is nice to have around, even without being beneficial in any practical way, as the pleasant smell emanating from his direction is a pleasure in itself. Similarly, a good companion is at least useful to you for your good name and the pleasure of good company. Just to feel his presence improves your spirits.
In contrast, a bad companion is comparable to a worker on the bellows. If you come close to the bellows, sparks might hit your clothing and make holes in them. Even at some distance, you will feel the stench of burning. Your only hope is in keeping away from the horrid smell. And it is the same way with a bad companion; if you are close to him and identify with him, you will take over some of his perversity, and your character will be harmed, just as your clothes will be spoiled if you come too close to a worker on the bellows. Even if you remain safe from the influence of a bad companion, you cannot escape people talking about you for consorting with bad company. You cannot even be sure that such a person will not adversely affect you in the end: To remain within reach of a wild beast, means it will surely spring on you one day.
The following verses from the Qur’an may drive the idea home:
- And incline not to those who do wrong, or the fire will seize you.(Hud 11:113)
- Therefore, shun those who turn away from Our remembrance and desire nothing but the life of this world. (An-Najm 53:30)
In another place, the Qur’an directs a believer to seek the company of the well guided.
Restrain thyself along with those who call on their Lord morning and evening seeking His face. (Al-Kahf 18:28)
The following tradition, on the authority of Abu Hurairah, also corroborates the same concept:
“Man models himself after his companion; so let each one of you see who he chooses for companion” (At-Tirmidhi).