Imam Ilyas Sidyot

Friends & Friendship

There was a youngster - like one of today's youngsters - who had become friendly with another youth. The youngster's elderly father noticed his coming home late at nights and enquired, "One night, two nights, three nights, and now every night you are coming home very late. What is your story?" The youngster replied, "I go to visit a friend of mine. Sitting and talking with him, it tends to get a bit late." The father said, "Really? Oho! There are still such friends today?" The father continued," When you are about to visit your friend tomorrow, let me know. I also wish to meet this dear friend of yours."

The following evening the youngster got ready and informed his father that he was about to leave to visit his friend. His father said, "Very well. I will be with you in a minute." The father kept himself busy with first one task and then another, causing some delay. The youngster became restless."Don't fret. I am coming now," the father said. Deliberately he busied himself some more until it became quite late. "At last I am free. Let us go," he said.

The streets were empty. It was close to midnight and most people had retired for the night. On reaching the friend's house the youngster knocked on the door and called out to his friend. His friend enquired from inside. "Who is it?" (Mind you, the friend still wants to know who it is!) The youngster gave his name. "Oh! It. is rather late...Never mind. Hang on." The friend came to the door and opened it. "Why have you come so late?" he asked. The father had coached his son along the way as to what to say. Accordingly the son replied, "Some problem has cropped up causing my delay. I have landed myself in some problem." The word "problem" had a noticeable affect on the friend. He yawned and said, "I was fast asleep; I am still feeling heavy-headed, and my mind is not quite clear. What you do is come back in the morning. Then we will see what is what." Saying this, the friend closed the door, fastened the door-chain and went back to bed.

After a few moments of deathly silence the father spoke. "I have seen your friend of these times. And so have you. Now you come with me. I also have a friend from the old days. He has gone quite old, and so have I. I have not seen him for ages, but never mind, let me show you what type of friend he is." Late as it was, father and son proceeded to the house of the father's friend. When they reached there the father knocked on the door and called out to his friend. The knocking woke up the friend and he called back from inside, "I will be with you in a minute." (You will note that he did not ask "Who is it?" Even after an absence of several years he had recognised the voice immediately, in contrast to the youngster's friend.) He did not come to the door "in a minute". There was some delay. And when he did open the door he presented a strange spectacle as he stood in the doorway: in his one arm he was clutching a bag; in his other arm he had a stick; and on his head was balanced a pot! After salaams were exchanged, the father asked his friend, "What is all this?" The friend replied, "Nothing really.

When I recognised your voice the thought struck me that, coming at this time of the night after an absence of several years, you must have some special problem. I have hurriedly made these few preparations, and this caused the delay in my coming to the door." The friend went on to explain: "This pot on my head has some food: if you have nothing to eat, this is to take home for your family. This bag in my hand contains money: if some creditor is making life difficult for you, this is to settle your debts. Thirdly, it may be that some enemy is after your blood: I may be old but I can still wield a stick quite deftly, and I'll contribute at least two or three shots with this stick."

The father reassured his friend, "No. There are no problems with food or money. There is also no fight, it is just that this son of mine used to come home late at night because of some friend of his. We went and saw this friend. I, in turn, offered to show him my old friend, which I have done. Shukria - thank you very much. Really, I am not in need of anything. Please forgive us for Inconveniencing you at this late hour." "You are welcome. It is your right," his friend said. Making salaam, father and son took their leave.

The lesson on the true friendship that existed in those years had been forcefully driven home to the youngster. This is not an age in which you will find such friendships. So-called friends have earned some fancy titles for themselves: