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.

  3. Anoosha 30 March, 2020 at 01:43 Reply

    Aoa.I have a friend who claims that she loves me more than herself and all but she didn’t put any effort to solve any argument we had.Also,she never apologises for her part.I always went back to her after the arguments(about me being more close to my other friends which hurts her and all).When I finally told her that all of this and she taunting me all the time and telling me that she is hurt by me over petty things,I opened up.But she said that I made fun of her love and all and clearly said that “I will not admit that I am wrong because I’m not I cried because of you all every night” and said so many other things like she won’t ever forgive me and I always hurt her(because according to her I love my other friends more🤦‍♀️).our mutual friends agree that my efforts were enough.I considered the judgement of a lot of people. and I sincerely apologised to her too even tho she said she won’t forgive me.And what hurt her was just the fact that I have other people in my life too.She never really made an effort but always said that she loves me.Later on she accepted that she said it by mistake but it really hurt(not forgiving me part).I really want to get out of this friendship from the past whole year but the reason I stayed was because I was her only friend and she was going through some family and academic pressure.Also she is a realllyy realllyyyy big overthinker and she overfeels which was acceptable to me previously but now when I realised all this,I really wanna let go.What should I do?I am having a lot of unrest although I pray for her a lot and ask help from Allah.Would Allah be angry with me for doing so?But she never understands me and hurt me but says that I hurt her instead.

  4. Khadijah 9 July, 2020 at 12:25 Reply

    I have a friend (who by the way claims we are BESTFRIENDs) that never appreciate all the effort I make towards making our friendship stronger. I am actually an introvert & don’t start friendship with ppl most of d times. Since when I started dating her brother, she insisted or shud I say pressurized me in becoming her bestie, even though I didn’t want to. But I had no choice but to accept. She then started to complain dat am not being romantic to her, I don’t say sweet things to her, I don’t show her love & care, I don’t tell her how much I love her & how special she is to me & stuff. So at that very moment, i put alot of effort in making her happy, but she never appreciated. In my life, I have never changed my true self bcoz of anyone, but she made me do so & even more. She always intentionally hurts me & she clearly tells me dat the reason y she said what she said is bcoz she wanted to hurt me & make me angry. She has only made my life unbearable. I often switch off my phone so as to not chat with her. She misinterprets everything I say. She sometimes think ill of me & my up bringing & clearly tells me about it. She sometimes tell me dat her brother has a very bad habit & few minutes after dat, she Denies ever saying so. She always wants to show me dat I can never be half as close as she is to her brother, but there are so many things he tells me & make me promise dat I will never tell her. He told me dat he never wanted our friendship. She disrespects him a lot & is only sweet to him when she needs him. He has also told me so many bad habits about her. Even though she forced me into this friendship & am fed up with it (I have never shown her), she tells me dat I shud be grateful dat she’s my best friend cos there are so many ppl who want my position but she regected them. she shows me dat she’s doing me a big favour by befriending me. She tells me dat she’s been tolerating me bcoz of d love she has 4 me. She shows me dat she’s better dan me in so many things. I have nothing in common with her. We always end up fighting whenever I try to correct her. Her mom & sister love me bcoz of dat. She loves & cares for me a lot & my family too. She has been there for me in times of hardship & times I needed her. She says good things about me to her family & frnds. She wants us to be very very close & d best of frnds. She wants me to share all my secrets & tots with her, but when I try to do so, we end up fighting. She prays 4 me & is always happy 4 my achievements although she doesn’t want me to be better dan her. My heart starts beating whenever I hear her name or I remember her. I want her out of my life, but it is impossible cos she will be my in-law insha Allah. I really don’t know what to do anymore cos am beginning to hate her slowly 😭…..

  5. Muntaha 27 November, 2020 at 05:23 Reply

    I have a friend whom I know for around eight years. Although from beginning she became really close to me as we both were funny and had a good chemistry. Moreover, I did not have a definite personality at that time, as I was just twelve years old. But with time, things started to change. I must say we were not best friends, in fact, I did not have any best friends. But she claimed herself to be my best friend which I did not take much seriously. But when I started getting close to another friend of mine, who was also my study mate, I started to realise that she(my study mate) was different than her(the toxic one). She was sincere about me. And she also tried not to hurt me or taunt me although she was a bit childish, did some funny things, but I could sense her warmth towards me. But on the other hand, I found the toxic one always criticising me. But when it came to any help that she needed from me, she would change and become so supportive. At first as I mentioned before, I did not have a strong personality, so I let her do whatever she wanted and kept quiet. She was also very possessive about me that I felt very suffocating. She used to taunt me for my way of dealing with things, my friends. She would often call me selfish.

    So she did some really hurtful as well as mean things against me behind my back which I had always known. But due to lack of confidence, and fear of being manipulated by her, I could not face her. She took advantage of it. She always took advantage of it. She used me. Every time she could. And I was an idiot to let that continue, hoping she would change. But it hurt me every time when I saw myself being used and not able to speak up. Whenever I told her about something about myself that I was happy about, she would bring herself into it and compare herself with me. I have a skin problem(keloid) in one of my ears which makes it look deformed. Although surgical solutions are available for this, but it keeps coming back. So this physical problem was already hurting me. But she always kept making the fact funny. She would always mock me for this. But I did not take that seriously as she had always been like this.

    As my personality started evolving, I came to realise that I was the one who had always been there for her. On the contrary, I found her pretending to be with me in my bad times. But actually she was making it worse. Recently I had had a get together with some friends I actually felt comfortable with. I don’t kmow why but I did not want her to be in it. I think I just wanted to have a “genuine get together”. That made her really angry, or offended to be honest. She posted it indirectly on social media quoting, ” I am asking Allah to justify it” . She was cursing me in other words. I know I did a kind of mean thing. But my intentions were not bad I promise. I did not want to hurt her or anyone. I just wanted to have a get together with the Friends that really care about me. With whom I did not have to pretend to be anything. I just wanted to feel the warmth.

    When I heard about it, I cried a lot. I did not know what to feel. I felt like I was trapped in mixed feelings. At first I thought I had done a really bad thing by hurting her. But then I thought although I may have hurt her, but how can a true and caring friend curse me for such a petty little thing? A curse is really a big thing for such a silly incident. Then I realized that she never wanted anything good for me in the first place.

    Today, I was feeling guilty suddenly. So I googled about what Islam says about a friend like her. Then I came across this article which really helped me identify her as a toxic friend. And for my utter surprise, every single trait that has been mentioned here, resembles her personality. I even remember insidents that carry the proofs. I feel thankful that she herself blocked me and stopped talking to me; as mentioned above, it is really difficult to extricate oneself from a toxic friend. But still I want to know from you about what I should do.

    P.S: Thanks to this comment section where I could write the whole thing down. It was suffocating me inside. I feel much lighter now.

    • Dr. Nafisa Sekandari 16 December, 2020 at 01:59 Reply

      Since you’ve identified her as a toxic friend, now you should set a clear boundary for yourself and move on to healthier and happier friendships.

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