RIGHTS OF NEIGHBOURS
Apart from a man’s parents, children and near relatives, there also exists a permanent association between him and his neighbours. The state of this association – whether it is good or otherwise – exercises a deep influence on his life and morals. The Prophet, on whom is peace, has attached great importance to it and exhorted his followers to pay due regard to the rights of neighbours to the extent that he has declared good neighbourliness to be a part of Faith, an essential requisite to salvation, and a measure of one’s love for God and His Apostle.
(1) It is related, on the authority of Ayesha and Ibn Umar, that the Apostle of God said: “(The special courier of God), Gabriel counselled me so persistently about the rights of the neighbour that I felt he was going to declare him an heir.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
It shows that Gabriel brought commandments from God concerning the rights of the neighbour so frequently, and stressed the need to be kind and courteous to him with such force and regularity that the holy Prophet, on whom is peace, thought that the neighbour, also will be made an heir, i.e., it will be enjoined that just as parents, children and other near relatives of a person inherit the property left b.>: him on death, the neighbour, too, will be given a share in it. The purpose of this Tradition, obviously, is not merely to state a fact, but it also is a most effective way to bring home the importance of the neighbours to the Muslims.
(2) Abu Shuraih `Adwi relates: “I heard the Apostle of God say with my own ears and my eyes were seeing him when he spoke these words that ‘whoever believes in God and in the Day of Final Judgement it is essential for him to be kind and gentle to his neighbours, and whoever believes in God and in the Day of Final Judgement it is essential for him to entertain his guest with kindness and generosity, and whoever believes in God and in the Day of Final Judgement it is essential for him to speak what is good or keep quiet’.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
(An almost similar narrative has, also, been quoted in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah).
(3) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “By God, he is not a true Believer; by God, there is no Faith in him; by God, he is not a believing man.” “Who?” he was asked. “From whose mischief his neighbours do not feel secure,” the Prophet replied.
– Bukhari and Muslim
From its construction, it is evident how agitated the holy Prophet must have been when he spoke these words. Anyhow, the substance of it is that a Muslim should be so kind and friendly to his neighbours that they have nothing to fear from him. If the neighbour of a Muslim does not feel safe on his account, he, according to this Tradition, will not deserve to be called a faithful Believer.
(4) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “He shall not go to Heaven from whose mischief his neighbours do not feel secure.”
It shows that a man whose character is such that his neighbours expect nothing but evil from him and live in the fear of being hurt or harmed by him will not be allowed to enter Heaven without undergoing the punishment for it. From both of these Traditions we can obtain an idea of the value placed on the rights of neighbours by the sacred Prophet. In the language of Apostleship, when a special emphasis is laid on a deed, the customary way of putting it is to say that whoever neglects it is not a true Believer and shall not be admitted to Heaven.
(5) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “He has not affirmed faith in me, i.e., he is not my follower who eats to his satisfaction and sleeps comfortably in the night while his neighbour goes hungry, and he is aware of it.”
(A report conveying the same subject-idea, and in almost the same words, has been quoted by Imam Bukhari in El-Adab-el-Mufrad, and Baihaqi in Sha‘b-el-Iman, on the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas, and by Haakim, in Mustadrak, on the authority of Ayesha, in addition to that of Abdullah bin Abbas).
Note:-Alas! Such a wide gap has occurred between the actual conduct of the Muslims, as a whole, and these sayings of the Divine Apostle that it is hard for an unknowing person to believe that such, really, were the teachings of the holy Prophet, on whom is peace. Through these Traditions the Prophet, nevertheless, has made it clear that whoever remains indifferent to the needs and difficulties of his neighbours and cares nothing for them is not a follower of his, and he will have nothing to do with him. It is significant that no distinction has been made, in these Traditions, between a Muslim and a non-Muslim neighbour.
(6) 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 can not 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 cooking 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).”
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 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
(7) 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.”
(8) 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 Qur’an 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 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.’”