Having a solid family structure which includes your relatives is very important, but many times in your most pressing time of need, who do you go to for assistance? At night you hear noises in your backyard, you don’t phone your first cousin who lives in another town, you phone your neighbour! Ran out of some eggs or flour while cooking, you don’t give a shout to your aunt hundreds of kilometres away, you don’t even just hurry to the shops, the easiest thing is just shout over the wall to your neighbour and she will gladly assist you.
The neighbour can be divided into three categories:
1. A neighbour who is also a relation.
2. A non-relative neighbour and
3. A casual or temporary neighbour with whom one had occasion to live or travel for some time.
All of them are deserving of fellow-feelings, affection, courtesy and fair treatment.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ has said that the rights of the neighbour were so overwhelmingly emphasised to him by Angel Jibraeel (AS) that he feared that neighbours might be made partakers of one’s inheritance.
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ “ مَا زَالَ جِبْرَائِيلُ يُوصِينِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ ”
[Sunan Ibn Majah 3674]
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said:
“ لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ لاَ يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ ”
He will not enter Paradise whose neighbour is not secure from his wrongful conduct. [Muslim 46]
Again, He ﷺ says that a person who enjoys a full meal while his neighbour is starving really has no faith in Islam.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ was once informed of a woman who used to offer prayers regularly and would often keep fasts and give alms frequently, but her neighbours were sick of her abusive tongue. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said that such a woman deserved only the fire of Hell. He was then told of another woman who did not possess these virtues but did not trouble her neighbours and the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that she might be rewarded with a place in Heaven.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ has laid so much emphasis on rights of neighbours that he has advised that whenever a Muslim brings fruits for his children he should either send some to his neighbours as a gift or at least not throw the peelings outside his house. This would prevent the neighbour from feeling deprived.
عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ، قَالَ إِنَّ خَلِيلِي صلى الله عليه وسلم أَوْصَانِي “ إِذَا طَبَخْتَ مَرَقًا فَأَكْثِرْ مَاءَهُ ثُمَّ انْظُرْ أَهْلَ بَيْتٍ مِنْ جِيرَانِكَ فَأَصِبْهُمْ مِنْهَا بِمَعْرُوفٍ ” .
Abu Dharr reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) commanded me thus: Whenever you prepare a broth, add water to it, and have in your mind the members of the household of your neighbours and then give them out of this with courtesy. [Sahih Muslim 2625]
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : “ يا نساء المسلمات لا تحقرن جارة لجارتها ولو فرسن شاة” ((متفق عليه)).
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “O Muslim women! No one of you should consider insignificant (a gift) to give to her neighbour even if it is (a gift of) the trotters of a sheep”.
In brief, Islam requires all neighbours to be loving and cooperative with one another and share their sorrows and happiness. It enjoins that they should establish social relations in which one can depend upon the other and regard his life, honour and property safe among his neighbours. A society in which two persons, separated only by a wall, remain unacquainted, even though they have lived there for years or even those who live in the same area of a town, but have no interest or confidence in one another can never be true Muslims.