The Best Friend of Humanity
by Channan Shah, B.A., B.T.
The Light (Pakistan), 15th June 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 13, pp. 2–3)
Who is the best friend of humanity, and what is the object of friendship? In order to answer these questions, one should carefully study how life in the world begins.
When any one of us leaves the shelter of the paternal roof and goes forth in the world, acquaintances do naturally throng round him and before long, he admits one or more of them to a closer intimacy. In due course the intimacy ripens into friendship. And so great is the influence exerted upon our character by the companionship we keep that our success in life is largely determined by the wisdom and propriety that govern us in the selection of a companion.
We enter society and begin to play our part upon the stage while the mind is still plastic, still open to every impression while the feelings are undisciplined, and before the habits are matured, we resemble the clay statue which waits the master’s touch to mould it into a hero or a slave, into something godlike or something debased.
Therefore, it is a matter of vital importance that before taking to ourselves a friend, we should first inquire into his antecedents or his characteristics. In other words, we should first fix a criterion for a friend and next judge our associates by that standard. Then he who comes up most to it should be finally selected.
Hence, the choice of a friend depends on his attributes. Those attributes will practically amount to his making our lives in this world noble and good, rescuing us from the slough of folly and vice, and often giving us words of counsel and advice in all our worldly dealings; nay, even helping us to fit ourselves as best as we can for that great Hereafter, which we know to be inevitable. He who would fulfil this duty must be strong in mind and true in heart and hence we are led to the conclusion that in seeking our friends we must seek loftier natures than our own. They must be honourable, pure, truthful and manly, so that we may be able to put a trust in them in the assurance that they will not betray us.
But in the choice of the living worldly acquaintances there can be certain drawbacks. They cannot be our guide in all phases of life — being expert in one and deficient in others. They cannot remain in our company wherever we go and therefore cannot give us advice whenever we need it. Besides, we cannot be sure about their sincerity and support at all times. And, above all, we learn from them nothing original about the life after death.
In these circumstances, we are compelled to turn the pages of our past history and study the lives of great men who have ever-guided the hearts of generations. Out of this category two names stand high and appeal to us most: one, of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and the other, that of Jesus Christ [AS].
Now, let us apply our test to them and see which of them comes up more to the mark. In Jesus [AS] we find a very poor counsellor. How can he guide us in our relations with our wives and children when he has never himself shared the blessings of a marriage? A merchant will not rely much on his (Jesus’ [AS]) instructions as he has none to give. A soldier, too, will not think much of him (Jesus [AS]) who has never been to the battlefield. An administrator also will seldom seek his advice, as Jesus [AS] had never any experience of guiding the destinies of the subjects. Moreover, an ordinary man of the world will not have a very high opinion of one whose influence on his disciples was so small that he was often betrayed by them, even in his lifetime.
On the other hand, we find in Prophet Muhammad (may peace be on his soul) a versatile genius who can be a real guide in all the spheres of life and a divine blessing for humanity. From the poor right up to the emperor can look up to him for counsel and guidance because the Prophet [pbuh] had in his own life experienced the different phases of the life: of an orphan, a trader, a soldier, a general, an emperor, and what not.
Surely, he is the best friend of humanity and a noble exemplar to be followed. And indeed it is a pity that while a man plays the most anxious vigilance in choosing a horse, demanding a warranty and closely criticising its points, he does not take the trouble of studying the lives of all the great men of the world and then decide for himself, by comparison, that the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] is the best of friends.