Al-Shāfiʿī on Hearing Something Bad Concerning a Friend

Shaykh ,

Yūnus ibn ʿAbd Al-Aʿlá said: “One day, Al-Shāfiʿī said to me:

O Yūnus, if you are told something concerning a friend of yours that you don’t like, be careful not to rush into hostility and breaking off the friendship, [or] you’ll end up being one of those who let a doubt of his remove something he was certain of.

[Instead,] meet with him and say, “I’ve been told such-and-such concerning you.” And the more correct thing [to do] is that you give the name of the one who told you.

If he then denies [it], tell him, “You’re more truthful and virtuous,” and don’t add anything to that at all.

If he admits [it], and you see some way [for there to be an excuse] in that for him, accept [that] from him.¹

And if he doesn’t reply, [ask] him, “What did you intend by that thing I was told concerning you?” If he then mentions something that has some angle of an excuse in it, accept it, and if he doesn’t mention anything for it [that has] some angle of an excuse in it, and you find little or no other recourse, at that point, confirm that he has done a bad thing.

After that, it’s your choice in the matter. If you want, pay him back with the same, without going further [than what he did], or if you want, forgive him, and forgiveness is a greater expression of piety, a greater expression of nobility and magnanimity, as in [the English meaning of] Allāh the All-High’s saying:

Retaliation for wrongdoing is wrongdoing just like it; whoever forgives [the wrongdoer, not punishing him] and mends [the relationship], then his reward is [set] with Allāh. [Al-Shūrá 40, extract]

If your soul then goes against you, [pushing you] to retaliate, remember what you had from him before, and don’t disregard all the other good things from him in the past because of this one bad thing–that, indeed, would be wrongdoing and injustice in itself.

A righteous man used to say, “May Allāh have mercy on those who pay me back for my wrongdoing without going further [than what I did] or cutting me short in my rights.”

O Yūnus, when you have a [true] friend, grab a hold of him tightly with both your hands because getting a hold of a [true] friend is truly hard, [while] separating from him is easy.²

A righteous man used to compare how easily a friend parts [from another] to a young boy who throws a huge rock down a well. It’s easy for him to throw it down, while taking it out is hard, [even] for men putting in persistent effort.

These, then, are the instructions I leave for you to follow.

¹Shaikh ʿAbdullāh Al-Bukhārī quoted up to this point in his tweet on 6 January 21,

²Shaikh ʿAbdullāh Al-Bukhārī said: “What’s intended [by that] is: Be vigilant about [having and keeping] friends who help you in obeying Allāh.” See:


Al-Ḥilyah, vol. 9, p. 121-22, with a Ṣaḥīḥ chain of narrators, as rated by Shaikh ʿAbdullāh Al-Bukhārī.