Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying, “People are like gold and silver; those who were best in Jahiliyyah (Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance) are best in Islam, if they have religious understanding; and the souls are like recruited soldiers, they get mixed up with those similar with them in qualities and oppose and drift away from those who do not share their qualities.” [Muslim]
1. Metals differ from each other. Some of them are precious and others worthless. Similar is the case of the people’s conduct and actions. There are people of both kinds in the world. If good persons of the pre-Islamic period (who were distinguished for their noble character) embraced Islam, and understood and acted upon the injunctions of Islam, they were entitled to the same distinction which they were holding previously (in the pre-Islamic period). There would be no reduction in their prestige and status with their conversion.
2. The words “souls are like recruited soldiers” signify the natural difference of nature and temperament in people. Those who are noble, would be introduced to the pious ones; and others who are fascinated by evil, will be introduced to the mischievous ones. People of each kind will maintain contact with their own fellows, as is indicated by a proverb:
‘Birds of a feather flock together, pigeons go with pigeons, hawks with hawks.’
Some scholars have pointed out that a person who hates the righteous people must find out its cause because it is a dangerous symptom of one’s bad end. After discovering its cause he must try to change it.
[Riyad as-Saliheen, Book of Miscellany, Chapter 45, Hadith 371]