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Question of the Week: Friendships 23 March 2008

Posted by SA'ILA in Relationships, SA'ILA.
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Do men approach their close friendships (with men) differently than women approach theirs’ (with women)? Does each gender generally offer something different in a deep friendship?

If this hypothesis holds, is it this difference that allows for a man and a woman, when in a relationship with each other, to be able to offer something different and unique to each other that, in a way, makes their relationship more whole (i.e. irrespective of their personality, but rather, based on gender)?

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1. VARANGALI - 23 March 2008

Salam Sa’ila,

Interesting question. From the male side of things, I like Aristotle’s breakdown of friendships into 3 categories:

1. Utility-based: “Now those who love each other for their utility do not love each other for themselves but in virtue of some good which they get from each other.”
2. Pleasure-based: “It is not for their character that men love ready-witted people, but because they find them pleasant.”

(on 1 & 2): “…these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.”

3. Virtue-based: “Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good – and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other… But it is natural that such friendships should be infrequent; for such men are rare.”

In my opinion, most (not all) male friendships fall in the first two categories, and Islam, in my view, pushes us towards the third type of friendship. I find irony in that we tend to be more willing to apply our Islamic principles of friendship on our non-Muslim friends.


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