If you want to stand out, stand among those who let you.
By Neda Shams
Dammam, Saudi Arabia
The first thing we look for when we enter any school or college or an organisation is a group of people who are acceptable to our liking and ideas. Even children can be found grouping together in such a fashion. We are afraid to be left alone in a crowd without any recognition and a peer group provides us with a social identity. This is one of the reasons why a person can be evaluated significantly from the company he keeps.
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:
A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.
(Sunan Abi Dawud 4833) Grade: Hasan (Al-Albani)
Any time a teen feels a conflict between the expectations of parents and friends, peer pressure is the cause.
“Recent survey suggests that people who are into substance abuse (drugs, alcohol and nicotine) got into the trouble they are in due to peer pressure. As a matter of fact, almost 60% of teen respondents in a survey say that their “friends through peer pressure” are their biggest influence.”
It is common for us to look towards our group of friends for support and comfort, but this can also be a cause of concern in some cases. While friends can be very helpful in solving problems and coming up with solutions, they can also be a factor in making one take the wrong turns. The most important thing thus, is choosing the right friends. We all know that friends are made either by coincidence or by effort. In both the case, our own role is essential. Friendship is based on mutual trust between two people and cannot be formed without the consent of either. So, when choosing friends, we have to be careful and sure of exactly what kind of friends we are making.
Nu’man bin Bashir (رضي الله عنه) reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever”.
(Al-Bukhari and Muslim Book 1, Hadith 224)
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ ۗ وَلَوْ آمَنَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُم ۚ مِّنْهُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“You are the best of people ever raised up for mankind: you enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.”
The Prophet ﷺ reminds us of the importance of good company in this hadith:
“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”
Prophet ﷺ and the companions exhibited excellent examples of friendship and mercy towards each other, and what allowed them to be so genuine in their kindness was their love for the sake of Allah.
Peer pressure is both negative and positive. Peer group exerts a negative pressure when it influences our behavior in such a way that it reduces our potential, leads to the lowering of self-confidence and self-esteem and causes a feeling of alienation, which is ironic, as the sole aim of tolerating peer pressure is to fit in. Where there is negative influence of a peer group, there is also a positive and beneficial effect.
You are not much of a reader and don’t like to read, but a friends enthuses you to read a particular book and explains its interesting points to you. You read it reluctantly and instantly develop a liking for reading. This is an example of positive peer pressure. Being in a group that is productive and uplifting can bring out the qualities and caliber of a person he/she wasn’t aware of possessing.
The Qur’an talks about friendship extensively:
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَيُطِيعُونَ اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ سَيَرْحَمُهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۗإِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.
Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى also says:
الْأَخِلَّاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ
“Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah).”
And one of the most beautiful verses in the Qur’an that shines through and melts the heart:
إِلَّا تَنصُرُوهُ فَقَدْ نَصَرَهُ اللَّـهُ إِذْ أَخْرَجَهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ثَانِيَ اثْنَيْنِ إِذْ هُمَا فِي الْغَارِ إِذْ يَقُولُ لِصَاحِبِهِ لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَنَا ۖ فَأَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَيَّدَهُ بِجُنُودٍ لَّمْ تَرَوْهَا وَجَعَلَ كَلِمَةَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا السُّفْلَىٰ ۗ وَكَلِمَةُ اللَّـهِ هِيَ الْعُلْيَا ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
“Allah did indeed help him (Muhammad) when the disbelievers drove him out. The second of the two, when they (Muhammad and Abu Bakr) were in the cave, and he (ﷺ) said to his companion, ‘Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allah is with us’.”
Allah says in Surah Az-Zariyat, ayat 56:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“And I have not created jinn and man but that they worship Me.”
This one ayah is the beginning and the end of the topic in itself.
It talks about the primary and most logical purpose of our existence. With a mental background of the Qur’an and sunnah, a Muslim can never fall into a state where he feels the need to gain someone’s approval or acceptance other than Allah. However, Allah has also made it a responsibility to keep a good social circle as these are the systems Allah has created.
Whenever we enter a new society or social circle, there are instantly expectations for us to change and adapt. Whether it is the dressing or eating or whether it is related to our hobbies. If a person who likes to read and is silent by nature gets entangled with a peer group that is loud and brash and bold, there is instantly a pull and tension for him/ her to change. Even though the group might not be better than the person, numbers always take over and the need to feel a part of the crowd finally bends the person.
One big mistake that we make when we are under such pressure is that we humour them. When we humour them or tolerate the bullying and go along with the pestering, the idea we give across is that we are too weak to fight off and stand our ground. Unless we prove otherwise, and unless we try, our own mind believes the same.
There are many ways to overcome peer pressure and they are easily applicable:
One of the most important defenses against such kind of influence is to communicate. Communication with parents, though very difficult in the teenage years, is all the more crucial to solve such issues.
Having strong faith in Allah (S.W):
It helps in attaining a sense of inner peace and contentment, and acts as a shield towards any kind of negativism.
Knowledge of the deen:
Once we know the commands and values imbibed by our pure deen, it creates a self-confident and sure personality, and differentiating between the right and the wrong becomes easy.
Choosing the right friends:
Keep few good friends instead of having a big bunch of friends who do not match your identity. If you’re constantly questioning yourself and feel unappreciated in a group, you need to take a minute and think carefully. Maintain some distance and make it clear that you have to be respected and acknowledged.
Accepting constructive criticism from elders:
It leads to a productive outcome if we listen to the advice of our elders instead of frowning at them. They never say anything but for our own good.
Exploring your potential:
Try to find what’s good in you that distinguishes you from others. Make it your strong point and spend time on it. Include those who help you grow and feel confident about yourself while being a positive support system.
Having an objective:
When you see a goal or destination and are focused towards it, everything else becomes irrelevant. Needless to say, the goal of a Muslim is “Jannah” and what a worthy goal it is.
If the problem still persists, you have to take the step and say no. Step away from such a group if you must.
May Allah give us the wisdom to choose the company of those who increase us in iman and prove to be companions in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen