Friendship is space and time where and when we can be together with those who we like and whose company makes us feel happy. Often because they provide us with the chance to develop and validate ourselves. Good friends give encouragement and wisdom to make the right decisions and avoid pitfalls. They flatter and criticise our successes and failings. Hence friends are reassuring. Here I talk about what is going on in the brain and in our souls. Enjoy your friendship.
The brain science of friendship
“Humans are hardwired with others, and our brains have adapted a nifty way to make sure we do. We have specialised brain cells – mirror neurons – whose sole purpose is to keep track of what people are thinking, feeling and doing. These mirror neurons are sprinkled throughout the brain to help us understand the full range of other people’s experiences” Maximum willpower by Professor Kelly McGonigal.
This structure of the brain – 100 billion neurons and trillion connections – is responsible for our automatic mirroring of other people’s physical gestures and actions. We often mirror other people’s body language, when you see someone cross their arms, you will cross your arms, if they lean backwards you lean backwards and soon, its mimicry, unconscious mirroring that helps understand each other better and creates a sense of connection and rapport.
Theology of friendship
The rewards of obeying the Prophet: Companionship
“Then We would give them great reward, and guide them on the straight path. Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they will be with those Allah has favoured, the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. What wonderful companions! Such is Allah’s grace; and Allah is All-knowing” (An-Nisa: 67-70).
A lesson from the Messenger’s migration from Makkah: Camaraderie
“If you will not help him, then remember Allah has already helped him when the disbelievers expelled him from Makkah. He was one of only two in the cave when he said to his companion, “Do not worry. Allah is definitely with us.” So, Allah sent His stillness over him and helped him with armies that you did not see; and in this way, He foiled the disbeliever’s plan, for Allah’s plan is supreme. Allah is Almighty, Wise” (At-Tawbah: 40).
A description of friends of Allah: intimate friends
“Whatever affair you may be engaged in, Muhammad, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Quran; and likewise, the rest of you, whatever you are doing We are witnessing you, as you do it… Beware, no fear will overcome Allah’s friends, nor will they grieve? Those that believe and have been mindful of Allah, they will have glad tidings in this worldly life and in the Hereafter. There shall be no change to Allah’s decrees; that is itself a great victory. So do not be saddened by what they say. Honour belongs to Allah. He is the Hearer, the Knower” (Yunus: 61-65).
The passages of The Majestic Quran describe different aspects of our friendship, companionship, camaraderie, and close intimate friendship. The rewards and benefits of these kinds of relationships and human bonds are vividly described in the worldly sense and the spiritual rewards of the hereafter. I have purposefully left them as they are since they are raw, fresh and powerful.