Self Improvement

Dealing with “Toxic” Friends

Dr. Nafisa Sekandari and Sr. Hosai Mojaddidi

Do you have a “friend” whom you’re always trying to avoid? Do you send their calls to voice mail and hope they don’t call back? Does being around them for longer than a few minutes make you feel uncomfortable, anxious, or uneasy?  Do you feel they bring you down most of the time you’re with them?  If you’ve said yes to any of the above, then you most likely have a “toxic” friend.

Florence Isaacs, author of Toxic Friends/True Friends says, “A friendship is between two peers…there has to be balance in a friendship for it to be healthy — not one person whose needs get met and another whose needs are overlooked.” She further explains that a toxic friendship is unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and often unequal.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows (respectively). So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.”~Al-Bukhari & Al-Muslim

The toxic friend, like the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, does more harm than good.  The list below can help you better identify whether or not someone you know is a toxic friend:

  • They are self-centered and selfish
  • They enjoy gossip and don’t think twice when sharing private information about others
  • They disguise cruel comments about you as harmless jokes
  • They are constantly complaining
  • They always seem to be caught up in some sort of drama
  • They talk down to you when you are alone and act like your best friend in front of others
  • They never compliment you or your accomplishments
  • They are quick to shoot down your opinions or ideas
  • They criticize your clothes or personal style
  • They always have an opinion about your relationships and/or choices in life
  • They are unreliable and never there when you need them
  • They avoid talking about deep or spiritual issues and either try to change the subject or leave the discussion all together…

This is just a partial list of some of the attributes a toxic friend may possess.  If you know someone that has any of the qualities above it’s time to re-evaluate whether or not you want to continue the relationship.

According to Charles Figley, PhD, professor and director of the Psychological Stress Research Program at Florida State University, “One of the characteristics of a toxic friendship is that the good friend feels she/he can’t extricate herself/himself from the relationship…whether it’s on the phone, in person, or from the friendship entirely, you feel like you are trapped, you’re being taken advantage of and you can’t resolve the problem one way or another.”

If you’re ready to move out of a toxic relationship, consider the following points:

1) Face Your Fears: Realize that when it comes to stopping something that’s detrimental to your health, emotional well-being and spiritual state, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.  By putting your foot down and confronting your friend you are taking charge of your life and resuming the power to choose who you surround yourself with. You should feel empowered by that prospect, not afraid.

2) Stop Being an Enabler: You may think that your friend’s problems are his/her own and that you share no blame for them. The truth however is that you are enabling them by allowing their toxic behavior in the first place. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Help your brother whether he is a wrong-doer or is wronged. A man inquired: ‘O Messenger of God, I may help him when he is wronged, but how can I help him when he is a wrong-doer?

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “You can prevent him from wrong-doing. That will be your help to him”~Al-Bukhari & Al-Muslim

3) Re-Build or Reset:  If your friend acknowledges his/her mistakes and wants to start over then you should be the bigger person and allow for that to happen.  Everyone deserves a second chance and perhaps your confronting them was just what they needed to make a change.  About forgiveness the Qur’an says, “The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren and observe your duty to God that happily you may obtain mercy” (49:10). If, however, you receive opposition or argumentation, then it’s time to walk away and reset your list of friends. And certainly never allow for things to revert to how they were lest you become a toxic person yourself.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.”~Abu Dawud & Al-Tirmidhi

Dr. Nafisa Sekandari is the director and founder of Mental Health 4 Dr. Sekandari is currently licensed and practicing in California and Arizona.  Dr. Sekandari is also the current founder and director of MH4M Counseling and Education Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  Additionally, Dr. Sekandari is a published author and lecturer.


Hosai Mojaddidi is the co-founder and past editor of MH4M. She has been actively involved with the Muslim community in the San Francisco Bay Area and the southern California community for nearly 15 years.  Additionally, Sr. Hosai is a published author and lecturer.





  1. rafia 11 December, 2018 at 03:24 Reply

    so there’s this girl in my class, I don’t know if I would call this toxic or what, but she’s a horrible person, she uses people to her advantage and drops them whenever she feels like it. She does so many things that the Quran talks about not to do and hadiths tell us to not do and I don’t know how to stop this. Shes always lying, being mean and rude, stealing, gossiping, stealing my friends, making people hate me, stuff like that. She’s really putting an effect on my mental health, how do I deal with her? there are loads more stuff she does but those are the main ones. I don’t know what to do, I keep cutting myself because she keeps taking every good relationship I have away from me and my life is just falling apart.

    • Dr. Nafisa Sekandari 12 December, 2018 at 03:02 Reply

      Thank you for your comment Rafia. You need to stop hurting yourself because she is hurting you. That does nothing to solve the problem and she’s not impacted in any way. You need to set boundaries with her and limit your interaction. If friends are so easy to take away, they weren’t good friends to begin with. Start finding your own friends that actually care about you. Sometimes that starts with making friends with yourself. If you can’t love and care about you, it will be difficult for others to do so as well. Start by treating yourself well and having respect for yourself. Care enough not to hurt yourself and focus on values that are important to you in friendship. Also be a good friend to those closest to you. The suggestions in the article should help as well.

  2. Unknown 31 October, 2019 at 11:13 Reply

    Dear all, I am in a tough situation where I can assure you that a family member is toxic and at such a level that they don’t care about my wifes pregnancy and hurting her the most at her late stage knowing that she goes through panic attack etc.

    My wife keeps telling me to be calm and islam tells us to never let go of relations and be the one who keeps hold of it where I have been encouraging her to get rid of toxic people in her life.

    Could anyone please tell me what does islam says if someone is literally torturing my pregnant wife in her pregnancy. although I know a simple solution is to ignore them but shes a sensitive being who gets hurt when someone is mean to her. Thank you.

    • Meera 23 November, 2019 at 07:35 Reply

      You should do exactly what they say above. Islam doesn’t mean to suffer from toxic people. You should take care of your wife and distance yourself from that kind of relatives.

      But stay calm let them not think they’ll can control your feeling. I’m happy because of staying away from my toxic sisters, because they always want to talk behind me and my childeren who are already grown up.

      I used to say to my childeren , let them who they want to be. You just when you see them give your salam and walk away. Now the older ones knows how to behave , but it become more damages because they were ignoring my daughters greetings. So I was so mad 😠 and I decided to stay away from my sisters to protect my childeren. So if there will be any family party my daughters will stay away from them.

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