On the Specific Rights and Categories of Neighbours
(1) M’uawiya bin Haidah related to us, saying the Apostle of God said: “The rights of the neighbour upon you are that if he falls ill, you visit him, and if he dies, you attend his funeral (and take part in the arrangements of burial), and if he asks for a loan (in his need), you lend it to him (provided that you can afford it), and if he commits an evil deed, you prevent it from being known, i.e., do not give publicity to it and if he is favoured by luck, you felicitate him, and if a calamity befalls him, you grieve in sympathy with him, and, (further), that you desist from erecting your building higher than his in a way that fresh air cannot have a free passage to his house, and (when a delicious food is prepared in your house), (you take care that) the aroma of you r pot does not cause sorrow to him (and his children) (i.e., it does not travel to his house) except that you sent some of it to him (as a gift).” ~ Tabrani
Among the rights of neighbours indicated above, the last two deserve a special attention. These require us, firstly, to be careful while building a house etc., that its walls are not so high as to cause discomfort to the neighbours by obstructing the free passage of air into their house, and, secondly, to make sure that the flavour of the pot does not reach the neighbour’s household when we cook a tasty meal because it will excite in them the desire to eat it and make them sad that they cannot afford. Hence, we should either make it a point to send some of the food to the neighbour or do not allow its appetising smell to travel to his house which, of course, is not easy. These exhortations denote how sensitive the holy Prophet was concerning the rights of neighbours.
An identical report has been quoted by Ibn-i-‘Adi in Kamil, and Khara’iti in Makkarim ul-Ikhlaq, on the authority of Hazrat Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin el-‘Aas, with the addition that “if you buy fruit, send some of it to your neighbour (as a gift), and if it may not be possible, bring it in secretly (so that the neighbour does not know about. it), (and, also, be careful that) none of your children takes the fruit out of the house (and eats it there) lest the neighbour’s children feel envious on seeing it.” (Kanzul ‘Ummal)
(2) Jabir relates that the Apostle of God said: “When curry is cooked in the house of anyone of you, he should increase the broth (by adding water to it), and, then, send some it to his neighbour.” ~ Tabrani
Three categories of neighbours: non-Muslim neighbours, too, have their rights
(3) It is related by Jabir that the Apostle of God said: “Neighbours are of three kinds and three grades. One, the neighbour who enjoys only one right (and so far as the rights are concerned), he is the neighbour of the lowest grade; two, the neighbour who enjoys two rights; and three, the neighbour who enjoys three rights. The neighbour with only one right is the Polytheist. i.e., non-Muslim neighbour with whom there are, also, no family ties, (and as such, he is entitled only to the right of a neighbour), and the neighbour with two rights is the neighbour who is, also, a Muslim (and, as such, he has a claim as a neighbour and another as a co-religionist), and the neighbour with three rights is the (neighbour who, in addition to being a neighbour), is, also, a Muslim and a relative, (and, as such), he will have one claim as a neighbour, another as a co-religionist, and yet another as a relative.” ~ Musnad-i-Bazzar and Hilya-i-Abu No’aim
It, candidly, tells, that the obligation to live in peace and goodwill with the neighbours, as demanded by the Quran and the Traditions, also, includes the non-Muslim neighbours, and they, too, have a claim to our kindness and sympathy. The holy Companions have drawn the same inference from the teachings of the sacred Prophet and arrived at the same conclusion.
It is stated, in Tirmizi etc., about Hazrat Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin el-‘Aas that once a goat was slaughtered in his house, and when he came home, he said to his family: “Did you send the meat to our Jewish neighbour? Did you send the meat to our Jewish neighbour? I have heard the Apostle of God say that ‘Gabriel used to bring commands (from the Lord) concerning the showing of kindness to the neighbour and treating him well with such positiveness and frequency that I began to feel he, too, was going to be declared an heir,’”
Caring for the instruction of the neigbbours
The foregoing Traditions dealt, mainly, with the material welfare of the neighbours and paying regard to their needs and feelings. We shall now take up a saying which tells that if such a people may be living in one’s neighbourhood who are backward in religious knowledge and whose social and moral behaviour leaves much to be desired, it is the duty of those living around them to arrange for their moral and religious education and uplift.
(4) Alqamah bin Abdul Rahman related to us, saying that his father, Abdul Rahman, had told him, on the authority of his father, Abza Khuza’ee, that one day, the Apostle of God said ,in a special sermon): “What has happened to those (whom God has favoured with an exceptional knowledge and understanding of Faith and the Shariat and, in their neighbourhood, there live people who are sadly wanting in it), and they do nothing by way of teaching Faith to their neighbours and promoting an awareness of it in them? They neither give good counsel to them nor discharge the duty of sanctioning what is lawful and forbidding what is prohibited. And what has happened to the (uninformed and backward people) that they make no effort to learn about the Faith from their neighbours? By God! It is the duty of those (possessing the knowledge and understanding of Faith) to try to teach the Faith to their (ignorant and backward neighbours) and produce an awareness of it in them and (to reform them), through preaching and good counsel, and exhort them to do what is good and legitimate and abstain from what is wrong and forbidden. In the same way, the ignorant and backward people should acquire the knowledge and understanding of Faith from their neighbours, like seekers of knowledge, and take advice from them. Otherwise, (if none of the two classes of men will do their duty), I will have a severe punishment sent down upon them in this very existence.” ~ Musnad-i-ishaq bin Raahwaih, Kitab-ul- Wuhdaan-lil-Bukhari, Musannifi-lbn-us-Sakain, and Musnad-i-lbn-i-Mandah
This narrative is mentioned, as it is here, in the Fifth Volume of Kanzul`Ummal, under the title of the Rights of Neighbours, but at another place, in the same book, it has been reproduced with the addition that the Apostle of God had addressed these words to the people of Abu Moosa Ash`ari and Abu Maalik Ash`ari, known popularly as Ash`arieen. These were, generally, well-versed in Faith and the Shariat, but close to them lived a community which was very backward. The members of this community had neither been given religious education nor were they interested in acquiring it. Both the groups were to this extent at fault and the holy Prophet had reprimanded them for negligence without taking their names, as was his custom. It is further stated that when Ash`arieen came to know that it were they for whom the reproach was meant they sent a delegation to the Prophet assuring him that they would teach the necessary tenets and principles of the Faith and the Shariat to their neighbours within a year.
We, thus, learn from the above that the sacred Prophet has enjoined upon the people of all localities and regions who possess the knowledge of Faith to impart it to those living near them and to work for their moral and spiritual instruction and improvement through preaching and gentle persuasion. Similarly, he has charged those who are ignorant to maintain a regular contact with men of Faith and learning of their neighbourhood so that they can profit from their company. If this guidance was followed by the Ummat, no section of it would be wanting in religious knowledge and earnest attachment of God and the Apostle, as the case, unfortunately, was with a vast majority of Muslims today.