Consideration for Neighbours
The religion of Islam, as taught to us by Prophet Muhammad, urges kind and considerate treatment towards our neighbors. They deserve our respect and good treatment regardless of their religion, race, or colour. In a hadith narrated by `A’ishah, Prophet Muhammad said, “Gabriel continued to advise me to treat neighbors well until I thought he would make them my heirs” (Muslim). This clearly indicates that neighbors’s rights are indeed great.
Commanding the good treatment of neighbors in the Qur’an, Almighty Allah says: Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. (An-Nisa’ 4:36)
The men and women around the Prophet were constantly reminded of their obligations to their Lord and to one another, including kindness to neighbors. In a hadith, he reportedly said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not harm or annoy his neighbor.” He also reminded — not only his Companions, but all of us who follow him — that a true believer in Allah does not allow his brother or sister to go hungry or live in unfortunate conditions, while he or she is able to help. Today, in a time when old people die alone and forgotten, and when our neighbors both near and far go hungry whilst we have food, we would do well to remember the examples set by our righteous predecessors.
Abu Dhar, one of the close Companions, was told by Prophet Muhammad to add extra water to his broth in order to be able to offer some to his neighbors. Another Companion, `Abdullah ibn `Amr, once asked his servant after slaughtering a sheep, “Did you give some to our Jewish neighbor?”
A believer is encouraged to give gifts even if they are of little monetary value. The true value of the gift is the generous spirit with which it is given. The giving of gifts fosters friendship and mutual support. When the Prophet’s wife `A’ishah asked him about which neighbors she could send gifts to, he replied, “To the one whose door is closest to yours.” Although the closest neighbors are more entitled to our care and interest, Islam urges us to take care of all our neighbors. It is a system that takes into consideration the needs and feelings of others in the greater community.
When one truly understands the teachings of Islam, he or she begins to see that if one member of a community suffers, the whole community feels the pain. After family, neighbors are the people that we depend on the most in times of need and trouble. A bad relationship with neighbors can make life miserable. It is important that people who share a neighborhood be able to trust and rely on each other, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Neighbors need to feel secure that both their honor and wealth are safe. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) described a good neighbor as one of the joys in a Muslim’s life; he said, “Among the things that bring happiness to a believer in this life are a righteous neighbor, a spacious house, and a good steed” (Al-Hakim). A good neighbor is one who guarantees comfort, security, and safety. For this reason, it is important that one who believes in and obeys Allah does not spare any effort in being considerate of and generous to the neighbors.
Prophet Muhammad warned his Companions against harming or upsetting neighbors. In a hadith reported by Imam Ahmad that is as true today as it was 1400 years ago, the Prophet was asked about a certain woman who prayed and fasted more than was obligatory upon her, and gave generously in charity, but unfortunately, she did not refrain from speaking harshly to her neighbors. He described her as being one of the people of Hell, who would be punished for this. In the same hadith, he was asked about another woman who fulfilled only her obligatory duties and gave very little in charity; however, her neighbors were safe from her harsh tongue and she offended no one. Prophet Muhammad described her as among the people of Paradise. The religion of Islam places great emphasis on the solidarity of families, neighborhoods, and the wider community,
Dealing with a Bad Neighbor
Islam advises its followers to be kind and considerate of neighbors. What happens, however, if one has a neighbor who behaves badly and does not show the respect inherent in the teachings of Islam? Believers are patient and tolerant and do not hold grudges. They strive to mend the broken relationship through good morals and manners and a forgiving attitude in the hope that this will bring about great reward from Almighty Allah. Hence, they patiently bear the annoyances as much as they can. If the situation becomes intolerable, to take a different stance can be a last resort. Publicizing the bad behavior may be an option.
Prophet Muhammad once advised a man to gather his belongings in the middle of the road as an indication that he could no longer live beside his bad neighbor. His neighbor immediately apologised and begged him to return. Nobody likes their bad behavior to be made public, and this is especially true of a Muslim, whose religion requires him or her to have the highest moral standards. Islam places great emphasis on the qualities of respect, tolerance, and forgiveness, and these qualities shown to neighbors are a demonstration of the moral values and virtues inbuilt into the worship of the One God—Allah.