Imaam al-Bukhaaree rahimahu-Allaahu reported in his Saheeh that 3Aa’ishah radi Allaahu 3Anha said: “I heard the Prophet sallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam saying: ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers; those whom they recognize, they get along with, and those whom they do not recognize, they will not get along with.” (1)
Ibn Hajar rahimahu-Allaahu said in his commentary on the hadeeth: “Concerning the phrase ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers…’ al-Khattaabi said: ‘This may refer to their similarity as regards good or evil, righteousness or corruption. Good people are inclined towards other good people, and evil people are similarly inclined towards other evil people. Souls feel affinity with others according to the nature in which they were created, good or evil. If souls’ natures are similar, they will get along, otherwise they will not be on good terms with one another. It could be that what is being referred to is the beginning of creation in the realm of the unseen when, it is reported, souls were created before bodies, and used to meet one another and express their pessimism about the future. When souls have entered bodies (come to the physical realm) they may recognize one another from the past, and may be on friendly terms or otherwise based on that past experience.”
The phrase “conscripted soldiers” refers to different types or classifications, or groups brought together. Ibn al-Jawzi said: “What we learn from this hadeeth is that when a person finds that he feels dislike towards someone who is known to be virtuous or righteous, he should try to find out the reason for that so that he can make the effort to rid himself of something undesirable. The opposite (if a person finds himself liking someone who is known to be evil) also applies.”
Al-Qurtubi said: “Although they are all souls, they differ in different ways, so a person will feel an affinity with souls of one kind, and will get along with them because of the special quality that they have in common. So we notice that people of all types will get along with those with whom they share an affinity, and will keep away from those who are of other types. [“Birds of a feather flock together” – Translator].
We may also note that within any given group or type, people may get along with some and dislike others, and this is in accordance with issues or qualities that form the basis of love or hate.”
The hadeeth was also narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh, 4773. Al-Nawawi said: “With regard to the words of the Prophet sallAllaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam, ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers; those whom they recognize, they get along with, and those whom they do not recognize, they will not get along with’, the scholars said that the meaning is groups gathered together, or different types. As for them getting along, this happens because of something in common between them that Allaah has created.
It was said that they are similar attributes that Allaah has created in them, or that they were created in a group and then dispersed in their bodies, so people who have similar characteristics will like one another, and those who do not have similar characteristics will not like one another.
Al-Khattaabi and others said: this getting along with one another has to do with what Allaah decreed from the outset about the ultimate destiny of souls, whether they will be among the blessed [in Paradise] or the doomed [in Hell]. Souls are of two opposing kinds, and when they meet in this physical world, they will either love or hate one another depending on the way they were created. Good souls will be inclined towards other good souls, and evil souls will be inclined towards other evil souls.
And Allaah knows best.
By shaykh Salih Munajjid
========================================================References: English: http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/3864 Arabic: http://www.islam-qa.com/ar/ref/3864 (1) Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab Ahaadeeth al-Anbiyaa’, Baab al-Arwaah junood mujannadah