A consistent theme of Islam is detachment from the material world (dunia). Accumulation of dunia hardens the heart and reduces the ability to be humble. One cannot be the walking example of Islam if his heart is immersed with dunia. Rasulullah SAW used to disengage himself from dunia affairs and never pursued worldly possessions. Instead, he used to remember Allah constantly and was always thankful for Allah's bounties.
To earn closeness to Allah, we have to abandon what does not concern us. For most of us, this represents the majority of our routine activities, where we are driven by the achievement of dunia success.
We should be alert of how we spend time with others. People who are engrossed with materialistic pursuits will make our hearts hard, for they have no remembrance of Allah, are slaves to their desires and are only motivated by fleeting and temporary pleasures. Their time is exhausted on activities which neither benefit their personal growth nor of the journey to the hereafter.
Unless a gathering is for the sake of remembering Allah, the time that we spend with others will be held against us. Spending time on senseless activities or in the company of those who are deeply embroiled in dunia makes us vulnerable to their spiritual diseases. Once the self-defence is weakened, it is very easy for dunia to flood our hearts, making us forget Allah and taking us away from His remembrance.
Do we keep tab of how we behave when interacting with others? Are we conscious of who we talk to and the topics of our conversations? It is extremely easy to lose track of time on conversations. Scandals, politics, sports, entertainment, careers, hobbies, children and jobs are subjects often the centre of our conversations, but the majority of such conversation often is absent of any remembrance of Allah, the purpose of existence or even anything of practical value in the material world.
The Companions followed the example shown by their teacher, Rasulullah SAW, fastidiously. They avoided unnecessary social interactions. They disassociated themselves from dunia and notably, did not waste time talking about people or things that did not concern them. They shielded themselves and guarded their iman by the constant remembrance of Allah and the performance of good deeds.
'Umar ibn Khattab RA advised that in order to gain taqwa (consciousness and fear) of Allah, one must possess taqwa to the people. Ibn Abbas RA pondered on whether a person has ever seen anyone destroy another the way that human beings destroy each other.
We were placed on earth as trials and enemies of each other, unless our time is spent in remembrance of Allah and our relationships are established solely for Allah. How does that compare to our reality? In the vast majority of our interactions, the more our social network increases, the more enemies we make, the more corrupted we become, the more injustice, oppression and destruction we initiate and witness and the more diseases of the heart infect us. We become lost in the jungle of humanity, and it is difficult to retrace our steps towards Allah once we are lost.
Rasulullah SAW constantly reminded us to leave what does not concern us but the majority of us do the opposite. It is easy to turn anything into a topic of gossip, or going round in circles on the same issue, for days.
Mankind is naturally in constant need of human company and conversation. However, if you need company, choose those who can help you and guide you to the right iman. If we are committed about our journey in Islam, we should only seek the people who live by values extolled by Allah.
Allah's Messenger (SAW) said, "The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof." (Bukhari)
What if we cannot find good people? Then, it is better to live in seclusion rather than to remain in toxic company. Spend time in a quiet and tranquil environment. This can even be created from within your own home. Enjoy the peace, try to avoid influences of others and dunia, and spend time busying the heart and tongue with the remembrance of Allah. You will be surprised at how refreshed you will feel after a bit of alone time.
The early Muslims suggested a useful book as a companion, for it will never lie to you, will always benefit you and will always keep you company.