The Muslim and His Neighbours

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His generosity is directed towards both Muslim and non Muslim neighbours

The true Muslim does not restrict his good treatment only to neighbours who are related to him or who are Muslims, but he extends it to non-Muslim neighbours too, so that the tolerance of Islam may spread to all people, regardless of their race or religion. The eminent Sahabi 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr had a sheep slaughtered and asked his slave, "Did you give some meat to our Jewish neighbour? For I heard the Prophet (s) say, 'Jibril kept on enjoining the good treatment of neighbours to the extent that I thought he would include neighbours as heirs.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

The People of the Book have lived among Muslims for centuries, knowing that they, their honour, their wealth and their beliefs are secure, and enjoying good neighbourly relations, good treatment and freedom of worship. Evidence of this is seen in the continued existence of their ancient churches, clinging to mountaintops, surrounded by thousands of Muslims who uphold the well-being of their Jewish and Christian neighbours in accordance with Qur'anic teachings:

( Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for [your] Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and Mustly with them: for Allah loves those who are Must.) (Qur'an 60:8)

He starts with the neighbour whose home is closest to his own

The true Muslim does not forget the precise system that Islam set out when it enjoined the good treatment of neighbours. Islam has told him to give priority to the one whose house is closest, then the one who is next closest, and so on. This takes into account the closeness of the neighbours whose homes are beside one another, the issues which may frequently arise between them and the importance of maintaining friendship and harmony.

'A'ishah said: ´O Messenger of Allah, I have two neighbours, so to which one should I send a gift?' He said, ´To the one whose door is closer to yours. (Bukhari)

The Sahabah were well-aware of this Islamic teaching regarding the treatment of one's neighbours, so they would not attend to the good treatment of neighbours whose home was further away until they had taken care of the one whose home was nearer. Concerning this, Abu Hurayrah (r) said: "He does not start with the neighbour whose home is further away before he takes care of the one whose home is nearer. He pays attention to the one whose home is nearer before he turns his attention to the one whose home is further away."6

Note: 6. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

This system of priority in the good treatment of neighbours does not mean that a Muslim should ignore the neighbours who are further away from his home. Everyone around his home is considered to be a neighbour and thus enjoys the rights of a neighbour. This system is merely a matter of organization, by means of which the Prophet (s) encouraged taking care of the closest neighbour because he is the one with whom there is usually ongoing contact and interaction.

The true Muslim is the best neighbour

The attitude of treating neighbours well is deeply engrained in the Muslim's conscience and is one of the features that most distinguishes him in the sight of Allah and of other people, because the true Muslim who has grown up in or been nurtured by Islam and has internalized its teachings, cannot but be the best of companions and the best of neighbours. He is the one described by the Prophet (s):

´The best of companions in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his companion and the best of neighbours in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his neighbour.'7

Note: 7. Reported by al-Tirmidhi with sahih isnad.

So Islam counts a good neighbour, one whose presence is a source of comfort, security and safety, as one of the joys of a Muslim's life. The Prophet (s) honoured the good neighbour by describing him as one of the pillars of happiness in a Muslim's life:

´Among the things that bring happiness to a Muslim in this life are a righteous neighbour, a spacious house and a good steed.'8

Note: 8. Reported by Ahmad and al-Hakim with a sahih isnad.

The salaf appreciated the value of good neighbours so much that they considered having a good neighbour to be a priceless blessing. One story which reflects this tells that the neighbour of Sa'id ibn al- 'As wanted to sell his home for 100,000 dirhams, and told the would-be purchaser, "This is the price of the house, but what would you give for having Sa'id as a neighbour?" When Sa'id heard about this, he sent his neighbour the price of the house and told him to stay there.

This is the status of neighbours in Islam, and the attitude and behaviour of a good Muslim neighbour. But what about bad neighbours?

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