Allah SWT says in the glorious Quran in Sura An-Nisa, ayat 36:
Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.
Dear brothers and sisters, the neighbour holds a special status in Islam. From this ayat we can deduce that a Muslim should maintain good relations with his neighbours.
Looking towards the hadith of our beloved Prophet SAWS, we find that the status of neighbours has been held in high regard here also. The Prophet SAWS taught us that the neighbour is not just someone next door to us, but up to 40 houses away! SubhanAllah.
When one reflects on this, it becomes clear that there ought to be a sense of belonging in the community and a sense of responsibility too. It’s not just about the next door neighbour, or the street in which you live. We owe it to the neighbourhood in which we live.
But does this apply to Muslim lands only? Answering this question comes from another Hadith of the Prophet SAWS in which he is reported to have said:
The neighbour is 3 types: one who has one right over you, one that has two rights over you and one who has three rights over you.
Dear brothers and sisters, the scholars conclude that this hadith talks of the following group of people.
Those neighbours who have three rights over you is the one who is also a relative and a Muslim. Those neighbours who have two rights over you may be Muslim but not related or a relation but not Muslim.
Which leaves that neighbour with one right over you and he is neither a relation nor a Muslim.
That means no Muslim is exempt from the rights of the neighbour.
Dear brothers and sisters, a lot of us have come from either parents who migrated here or those who have migrated themselves. Our parents have many stories to tell of difficulties that they endured when moving to this land.
However, we live in a different time now. And our tests are different. We have tolerance within our communities and although problems will never totally disappear, the neighbourhood is a different place to past times.
The neighbour is now only too acutely aware of a Muslim, thanks to our media. And as a result our test is different because we no longer have to deal with ignorance but with misinformation on Muslims.
And it is our duty as Muslims to make our community feel safe with us as part of it. We need to be able to integrate into the community and be responsible for it. It is our responsibility to show them that the news does not represent us.
The Prophet SAWS said:
He is not a true Muslim who’s neighbour does not feel safe with him
Dear brothers and sisters, we already have the news telling our neighbours bad things in the name of Islam, it is therefore our personal responsibility to counteract that so that they do feel safe in our presence.
So to conclude, here are 5 tips that we can all practice in order to be better Muslims in our communities:
- Introduce yourself and your family to your neighbours when you move into a new place or when they move to a neighbouring home.
- Care for them. If you know of a neighbour that is elderly or unwell then take some time out of your schedule to visit them.
- When socialising with them, present your religion in the best way. Don’t be ashamed to say if you don’t know the answer to a question they may have. Instead, go find the answer so that you can both be educated on the answer.
- Don’t be arrogant with them. Be considerate in parking your car for example. If the choice is there, park further away so as not to inconvenience them.
- When socialising with them, be conscious of your boundaries. For example, a trip to the local pub is out but they will respect you for your principles as a result.
Dear brothers and sisters, how Muslims interact with their neighbours is key to resetting the mind-set of a society that is being fed distorted perceptions of Islam. The responsibility is ours by being that front-line in changing their mind-set with our behaviour towards them.
May Allah SWT help us be better neighbours. May Allah SWT enable us to be examples within our communities and may Allah SWT reward us in our efforts to be better neighbours. Ameen wal hamdullilahi rabilalameen.