The Muslim and His Neighbours

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Bad neighbours

Having a bad neighbour is something which is so appalling that the sensitive Muslim cannot think of it without shuddering and being filled with a sense of fear, loathing and hatred.

The bad neighbour is a person who is deprived of the blessing of faith

The bad neighbour is a person who is deprived of the blessing of faith, which is the greatest blessing that the Creator has bestowed upon His creation. The Prophet (s) confirmed the bad neighbour's loss of this great blessing in no uncertain terms when he said: "He is not a believer. He is not a believer. He is not a believer." The people asked, "Who, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, ´The one from whose evil (or troubles) his neighbour does not feel safe. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In a report given by Muslim he (s) said:

´The one from whose evil his neighbour does not feel safe will not enter Paradise.'

How great must be the crime of the bad neighbour, if his mistreatment of his neighbour is depriving him of the blessings of faith and denying him entrance to Paradise!

The true Muslim listens to these teachings with an open mind and accepts them. It never occurs to him that one day he may find himself in an argument or conflict with one of his neighbours, because that will destroy his faith and all hope of success in the Hereafter. This would be the greatest loss, and the mere thought of it makes the true Muslim tremble.

The bad neighbour is a person whose good deeds are not accepted

Not surprisingly, several hadith state that the bad neighbour is one whose good deeds are not accepted, and will be of no avail so long as he is mistreating his neighbour, because in Islam, good deeds are always centered on a foundation of faith, and as we have seen in the hadith quoted above, the bad neighbour has no faith. So obviously his good deeds are not accepted: Allah rejects them outright, no matter how many good deeds he does, even if he spends all day and all night doing them.

The Prophet (s) was asked: "O Messenger of Allah, such-and-such a woman spends her nights in prayer, fasts during the day, and so on, and she gives charity, but she offends her neighbours with her sharp tongue." The Prophet (s) said:

´Her good deeds will be of no avail: she is among the people of Hell.' They said, ´And so and so prays only the obligatory prayers, gives charity in the form of left over curds, but does not offend anyone.' The Prophet (s) said: ´She is among the people of Paradise.'9

Note: 9. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

The bad neighbour is one of the three worst types of people defined by the Prophet (s): ´There are three worst types of people: a ruler who, if you do well, does not appreciate it and if you do wrong, he does not forgive you for it; a bad neighbour who, if he sees something good, he conceals it, and if he sees something bad he broadcasts it; and a wife who, when you are present, she annoys you and if you go away, she betrays you.'10

Note: 10. Reported by al-Tabarani; the men of its isnad are thiqat.

Hence the smart Muslim will have a very clear picture of the bad neighbour, as described by the Prophet (s), and will keep a great distance from such a person.

The true Muslim is careful to avoid falling into sin where his neighbour is concerned

The true Muslim is especially careful to avoid committing sins against his neighbour, because a sin against a neighbour is worse than other crimes, according to the words of the Prophet (s). He quizzed his Companions about adultery and they said, "It is haram; Allah and His Messenger have prohibited it." He told them, "A man who commits adultery with ten women has committed a lesser sin than one who commits adultery with his neighbour's wife." Then he quizzed them about stealing, and they said, "It is haram; Allah and His Messenger have prohibited it." He told them, "A man who steals from ten households has committed a lesser sin than the one who steals from his neighbour's house."11

Note: 11. Reported by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad. Its men are thiqat.

The neighbour in Islam enjoys a unique sanctity which is unknown in other manmade laws and systems. Those manmade laws encourage the violation of a neighbour's honour because it is usually easier and there are more opportunities to do so than to violate the honour of others. These promiscuous songs about looking through the neighbour's window and such like did not become widespread in the Muslim world until we had forgotten the manners of chivalry and faith, and been overwhelmed by blind imitation and cultural and intellectual imperialism. Then cheap, dirty young men among us began to compose songs and poems about the female neighbour, when such a thing had never been known during our jahiliyyah, let alone after the advent of Islam. One of our noble and decent poets, if he happened to see a female neighbour, would say:

´I lower my gaze when my female neighbour appears before me,/ until she disappears into her own home.'12

Note: 12. 'Antarah, in his Diwan with footnotes by al-Mawlaw, p. 308.

Islam has encouraged this noble human attitude and behaviour in the many texts concerning the good treatment of one's neighbour, protecting his honour, concealing his faults, helping him when he is in need, lowering one's gaze from his womenfolk, and keeping away from everything that may harm him or make him suspicious. It is no surprise, then, that the true Muslim is the best neighbour that any human society has ever known.

The Muslim who is truly sensitive and aware of the teachings of his religion concerning the good treatment of neighbours, will be very cautious indeed concerning any dispute that may arise between himself and his neighbour for any reason, because of the warning of the Prophet (s) against arguing with neighbours:

´The first two antagonists on the Day of Judgement will be two neighbours.'13

Note: 13. Reported by Ahmad and al-Tabarani, with a hasan isnad.

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