The Muslim and His Neighbours

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He likes for his neighbour what he likes for himself

The Muslim who is truly guided by his religion is soft-hearted and alert, and knows how to communicate well. He is sensitive towards his neighbour, sharing his joy and commiserating him in his sorrow. He likes for him what he likes for himself, following the teaching of the Prophet (s):

´None of you truly believes until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In a report given by Muslim from Anas (r), the Prophet (s) said: ´By the One in Whose hand is my soul, no servant truly believes until he likes for his neighbour (or he said: his brother) what he likes for himself.'

The true Muslim does not forget to take care of his neighbours who may be affected by the smell of cooking or barbecues coming from his house, which may provoke feelings of hunger, especially if they are poor and cannot afford much food. There may be small children, orphans, widows or elderly among them.

The true Muslim is always alert to the spirit of social responsibility which the Prophet (s) instilled in the Muslims in the words he spoke to Abu Dharr (r):

´O Abu Dharr (r), if you cook some broth, add extra water to it, and take care of your neighbour.' (Muslim) According to another report he said, ´If you cook some broth, add extra water to it, then think of the families in your neighbourhood and send some of it to them.' (Muslim)

The Muslim's conscience will not let him ignore his neighbour's poverty and difficulty while he is living a life of ease and plenty. How can he bear to see the difference between himself and his neighbour, when the words of the Prophet (s) are ringing in his ears?

´He does not believe in me, who eats his fill while his neighbour beside him is hungry, and he knows about it'2

Note: 2. Reported by al-Tabarani and al-Bazzar, with a hasan isnad.

´He is not a believer, who eats his fill while his neighbour is hungry.'3

Note: 3. Reported by al-Tabarani and Abu Ya'l ; the men in its isnad are trustworthy (thiqat).

The misery that befalls humanity because of the lack of true Islamic morals and manners

Hence we realize that the misery that has befallen humanity throughout the world has occurred because of the lack of true Muslims in positions of influence and authority, and because of the swamping of true Islamic principles by backward, manmade systems, which have brought nothing but misery, poverty, exploitation, hunger and nakedness to so many, at the same time when mankind has conquered space, launched rockets and satellites, and put men on the moon. The international food and agriculture organization attached to the United Nations announced in 19754 that between 20-100 million people in Africa and Asia faced the possibility of death from starvation in the next few years, and that if the situation were allowed to continued, 3 million would be likely to die every week, while between 460- 1,000 million people were suffering from malnutrition. In the same year, news agencies reported the story of a young European woman who had volunteered to work as a nurse in some region of Africa where the people were suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Note: 4. The Arabic edition of this book was first published in 1981. Needless to say, matters have hardly improved in the two decades since these statistics were produced. [Translator]

She had a severe mental breakdown that verged on insanity, after witnessing a bloody fight between some African children whose hunger drove them to compete savagely for a piece of mango. The fight did not stop until one child had plucked out the eye of another. None of the children concerned was any older than 8 years. This hunger has also caused many cases of total blindness, because of the constant lack of vitamins; children are so severely underweight that they look like skeletons. They have little or no resistance to illness, and are truly between the jaws of death.

At a time when hunger is stalking Africa and Asia, we see the West, the rich nations who constitute only 20 % of the world's population but own 80 % of the world's wealth, going to insane lengths to hold on to this wealth. In 1975 Brazil burnt thousands of tonnes of coffee; the EEC (now known as the EU) spent $50 million to destroy surplus food and agricultural produce; and America pays its farmers $3,000 million annually for not growing anything - all to keep prices in the world's markets high! American farmers killed tens of thousands of calves, and buried them, to keep the price of meat high, when in the same year tens of thousands of people died of starvation in Africa, Asia and Latin America!

How great a difference there is between the humane culture of Islam, which does not let a poor man suffer because of the scent of cooking from a rich neighbour's house which may aggravate his hunger, and the materialistic culture of the West which is threatening millions of people with death from starvation. How miserable are those who are striving to adopt materialistic systems, whether Western or Eastern, stumbling blindly in the black night of jahiliyyah. How great is the responsibility of the Muslims to be the bearers of the torch lit from a blessed tree, neither of the East nor of the West, which alone can dispel the darkness of jahiliyyah, illuminate hearts and minds, and restore mankind to guidance, security and prosperity.

The Muslim treats his neighbour in the best way he can

The Muslim who understands the teachings of his religion hastens to treat his neighbour in the best way he can. Nothing is too insignificant when it comes to respecting his neighbour, as some ignorant people think - they may think something is too small to be worth giving as a gift to a neighbour, so they refrain from giving it, thus depriving themselves and their neighbours of much goodness. This is something the Prophet (s) pointed out to women in particular, as many of them may feel too shy to offer a small gift to a neighbour:

´O Muslim women, do not think that any gift is too insignificant to give to a neighbour, even if it is only a sheep's foot. (Bukhari and Muslim)

A sheep's foot is a thing of little value, but it is better than nothing, and no woman should feel that any gift is not worth giving to a neighbour. Allah says:

( Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it ) (Qur'an 99:7)

And the Prophet (s) said:

´Save yourself from the Fire even by giving half a date in charity. (Bukhari)

But this hadith, which is general in application, may also be taken to mean that the recipient should not look down on the gift. The meaning then is: No (female) neighbour should scorn the gift given to her by another [female] neighbour, even if it is it is just a sheep's foot. Rather, she should thank her for it, because gratitude engenders friendship among neighbours and encourages mutual support and help. This is in addition to the fact that thanking people for favours is a basic Islamic trait which the Prophet (s) strongly encouraged:

´The one who does not give thanks to people does not give thanks to Allah.'5

Note: 5. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

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