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Who is the Neighbor?

‘Look for the good neighbor before acquiring the house’ is a common wise saying of the Arabs. It is commonly known that the neighbor plays a vital role in terms of the value of the house. The privilege of living close to a person makes you a neighbor to him. This is the only criterion made by Islam for becoming a neighbor. The rightly guided scholars then have different opinions regarding the boundaries to which one is considered a neighbor. And this is very important because a resident in one end of a big city cannot be considered a direct neighbor to the other in the other far remote end of same city. However, it is perhaps more relaxing to the mind to take to that opinion which makes the boundary determined according to the customs and practices of the people.

Nonetheless, neighborhood does not end at being close to one another in residence. It goes beyond that. Your class mates, office co-workers, co-travelers, and all other people you meet and spend some time together one way or the other all remain your neighbors at those particular points in time until you depart.

Categories of Neighbors

The holy prophet (peace be upon him) clearly stated three kinds of neighbors and the rights enjoyed by each. In one of his ahadith, he (peace be upon him) made mention of three categories of neighbors, namely:

  1. A neighbor who is a relative and a Muslim. Such a neighbor enjoys three rights, the right of neighborhood, that of kinship ties and that of religious bond.
  2. A neighbor who is a Muslim but not a relative. Such a neighbor enjoys two rights, the right of neighborhood and that of co-religion.
  3. A neighbor who is neither a relative nor a Muslim. In this case, he enjoys only the right of being a neighbor.
  4. The fourth category of neighbors can therefore be easily deduced from the above mentioned to be the neighbor who is a relative but not a Muslim. This is very common in places where non-Muslims embrace Islam and thus having non-Muslims as relatives. Such a neighbor enjoys two rights, the right of kinship and that of neighborhood.

Kindness to the Neighbor

Islam is a religion of peace, love, kindness and humility. It so much emphasized these characters that it did not spare even the domestic animals, let alone our human neighbors. Islam did not advice and plead for kindness towards neighbors. Instead, it made it as a right that one has to fulfill towards them. This puts it beyond mere advice to what could be sometimes obligatory on one. The prophet (peace be upon him) has said so much about the neighbor. The Qur'an also stated some others. Below are some of the statements of our noble prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding the kind treatment one is supposed to give to his or her neighbors:

Islam considers the rights of the neighbor to be extremely important. The angel Gabriel continued to urge the Prophet (peace be upon him) to treat his neighbors so kindly that he thought that a neighbor would be assigned a share of his neighbor's inheritance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Jibreel kept on recommending treating  neighbors with kindness that I thought Allah would make them (among) the heirs.”
Look how the Prophet (peace be upon him) exhorted Muslims to be good to their neighbors and to honor them when he said: “… and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should be generous to his neighbor.”
It got to the degree that loving goodness for one’s neighbor is considered a part of faith. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “By the One in whose Hands my soul is, no slave of Allah has true faith unless he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself.”
A person who is good to his neighbor is the best of people in the sight of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best companion in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his companion, and the best neighbor in the sight of Allah is the one who is the best to his neighbor.” (Tirmidhi)
 Dear brothers and sisters: ill treatment of neighbors is the habit of the ignorant. And the prophet (peace be upon him) was sent to change that. When Negus asked Ja‘far Ibn Abi Talib about the principles of the new religion, he said, ‘We were a people of ignorance before Islam. We used to worship idols, eat the dead animal, commit adultery; severe ties with kin, treat neighbors badly and the strong used to oppress the weak.’ [Ahmad]

Nice treatment towards neighbours leads to Allah's forgiveness. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘Whoever has three witnesses from his neighbors who testify for his goodness on the Day of Judgment, Allah will say: ‘I accept their witness for what they know and I forgive his sins that I know.’[Ahmad]

Good treatment to neighbours is a sign of belief. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer.'' It was asked, "Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?'' He said, ‘The one whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.’ [Bukhari and Muslim]

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘He will not enter Jannah whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful conduct.’

The Messenger of  Allah (peace be upon him) said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day lshould speak good or remain silent.’ [Bukhari and Muslim]

In a hadith a good neighbor is counted to be one of the four things that cause enjoyment and happiness in the worldly life. The Prophet said, ‘There are four things that cause happiness for the human being: A good wife, a good house, a good neighbor and good means of transport. And four things that create misery for the human being: A bad woman, a bad house, a bad neighbor, and bad means of transport cause his misery.’ [Ahmad]

Among the good acts towards neighbors is to be generous to them. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘O Abu Dharr! Whenever you prepare a broth, put plenty of water in it, and give some of it to your neighbors.’ [Muslim]

The Quran recommends treating neighbors kindly. Allah Says (what means): {Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him (in worship), and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer [you meet], and those [slaves] whom your right hands possess} (an-Nisa': 36).

These are but a few out of the rights and conduct that Islam enjoins neighbors to observe among themselves. It thus makes clear that Islam has enjoined kindness between neighbors and made them feel like one family within the neighborhood.



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