Consideration for Neighbors

Understanding Islamic Ethics and Values:
By Aisha Stacey-

Neighbor House
Islam places great emphasis on the solidarity of families, neighborhoods and the wider community.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a man loved by all Muslims. He is well honored and respected by countless others and considered influential in both religious and secular circles. 

Mahatma Ghandi described him as scrupulous about pledges, intense in his devotion to his friends and followers, intrepid, fearless, and with absolute trust in God and in his own mission. Muslims all around the world consider him the example to follow in their worship and dealings with others.

Islam, as taught to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) urges kind and considerate treatment towards our neighbors. They deserve our respect and good treatment regardless of their religion, race or color.

In a saying narrated by Aisha , wife of Prophet Muhammad, it is reported that angel Gabriel insisted that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) understands the importance of the good treatment of neighbors.  Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that at one stage he thought angel Gabriel would bestow inheritance rights on neighbors; such was his insistence on their kind and fair treatment.

Prophet Muhammad’s mission was simply to convey the message of God, who clearly commanded the good treatment of neighbors in the Quran.

{Worship God 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 (you meet)...  Verily, God does not like such as are proud and boastful.} (4:36)

The men and women around Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were constantly reminded of their obligations to God and to one another. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was often heard to exhort them to do good needs and to remember their obligations.  He said:

“Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him not harm or annoy his neighbor…” (Al-Bukhari, 6018)

He also reminded, not only for his companions but for all of us to follow, that a believer in God does not allow his brother or sister to go hungry or live in unfortunate conditions. 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 (may Allah be pleased with him) 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 encourages friendship and mutual support.  When the Prophet’s wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) asked him about what neighbors to send her gifts, he replied:

“To the one whose door is closest to yours” (Al-Bukhari, 2259)

Although the closest neighbors are the ones we should be mindful of in the first instance, 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 is in strife. After family, neighbors are the people that we depend on the most in times of strife and calamity, and in times of need. 

A good neighbor is one who guarantees comfort, security and safety.

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 must feel secure that both their honor and wealth are safe. 

Prophet Muhammad (peace 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-Albani, 116)

A good neighbor is one who guarantees comfort, security and safety. For this reason it is important that one who believes in obeying God does not spare any effort in being considerate of and generous to the neighbors. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned his companions against harming or upsetting neighbors.

In a saying that is as true today as it was 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad 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 saying, 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. Islam places great emphasis on the solidarity of families, neighborhoods and the wider community.

Islam continuously advises the believers 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?  A Muslim is patient and tolerant and does not bare a grudge.  

A believer strives 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 God. A believer patiently bares the annoyances as much as he or she is able. If the situation becomes intolerable, to publicise the bad behavior may be a last resort.

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 neighbor. The “bad neighbor” immediately apologized and begged his neighbor to return. 

Nobody likes their bad behavior to be made public and this is especially true of a Muslim, whose religion requires that he have the highest moral standards. 

Islam places great emphasis on the qualities of respect, tolerance and forgiveness, and these qualities shown to neighbors is a demonstration of the moral values and virtues inbuilt into the worship of the One True God.

Source: http://www.islamreligion.com
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