Being good neighbours

Being good neighbours

In a very important ayah of the Quran Allah Almighty gives us ten commands of which the first is to believe in One God, which is a message that recurs throughout the revelation and is the very basis of Islam. He has mentioned ten commands, of which I will focus on 6 and 7 only.

Allah Almighty commands believers to exhibit excellence (ihsan) in our dealings with nine categories of people- those with whom we interact all the time, starting with those who are a priority in our lives, such as our parents, and extending as far the traveller whom we may only ever encounter briefly once.

۞ وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًۭٔا ۖ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَـٰنًۭا وَبِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱلْجَارِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْجَارِ ٱلْجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلْجَنۢبِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًۭا فَخُورًا ٣٦

Worship God, and ascribe no partners to Him, and be good to the parents, and the relatives, and the orphans, and the poor, and the neighbour next door, and the distant neighbour, and the close associate, and the traveller, and your servants. God does not love the arrogant show-off. [4:36]

The analysis of this very comprehensive verse in Surat an Nisa, would fill a course but out of these categories my focus is neighbours, who are mentioned twice – close neighbours as well as distant ones.

Allah Almighty is commanding us to be good to neighbours, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Such is the value placed upon neighbours that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said he thought Allah might even command Muslims to allocate them a share from their inheritance.

Ibn ‘Umar and ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

وعن ابن عمر وعائشة رضي الله عنهما قالا‏:‏ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏:‏ ‏ “‏ ما زال جبريل يوصيني بالجار حتى ظننت أنه سيورثه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“Jibril kept recommending treating neighbours with kindness until I thought he would assign a share of inheritance”. [Bukhari and Muslim]

The nature of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was of course generous and kind, so this reminder from Jibril was meant for his community through him.

In another narration, we are reminded that part of being a believer is to be a good a neighbour. Abu Shuraih al-Khuzai’ (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may peace be upon him) said:

عَنْ أَبِي شُرَيْحٍ الْخُزَاعِيِّ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيُحْسِنْ إِلَى جَارِهِ وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيُكْرِمْ ضَيْفَهُ وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْرًا أَوْ لِيَسْكُتْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏مسلم.

He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should do good to his neighbour and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to the guest and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either speak good or better remain silent. [Muslim]

We see from this that you can boost your account in the akhirah by being good to your neighbour. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was teaching us the social code – how to treat all the different people that mix with us – whether they are your parents and relatives, employees or even the people we sit next to on the bus or train. People judge our religion through our actions. They do not understand the difference between cultural practices and Islamic practices. If an individual is bad to their neighbours and is Muslim, people will not think the individual is bad, but the fact they are Muslim. Do not let shaytan to publicise a bad image of Islam.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said emphatically:

وعن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:

‏ ‏”‏ والله لا يؤمن، والله لايؤمن، والله لا يؤمن‏!‏‏”‏ قيل‏:‏ من يا رسول الله‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ ‏”‏ الذي لا يأمن جاره بوائقه ‏!‏ ‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“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, “One whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil”. [Bukhari and Muslim]

In another narration the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

وفي رواية لمسلم‏:‏ ‏”‏ لايدخل الجنة من لا يأمن جاره بوائقه‏”‏‏.‏

“He will not enter Jannah whose neighbour is not secure from his wrongful conduct”. [Muslim]

This means that if you are not good to your neighbour, it does not mean that you do not have imaan, but that your imaan is hollow. Your actions are the reflection of your identity. If someone is bad, people do not say he is a bad apple. People do not disconnect his actions from being Muslim – they conflate the two.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew the bad apples, the hypocrites in the community. He was given a list of them and they kept scheming. Yet when asked why he did not have them eliminated, he said it was because it would reflect badly on the religion of Islam as people would say he was killing his companions. He could see the bigger picture and how the media would portray this and give him bad press. So though he had the power to kill them, he tolerated their harm, knowing that it would be wiser to suffer, than court such bad publicity. This is the mentality of the wise leader.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged believers to genuinely care for their neighbours. This care should be out of sincerity, not superficial or faked, as Islam teaches the importance of showing kindness and behaving well towards all of Allah’s creation, as Islam fundamentally promotes compassion and virtue. That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a role model and created with the best character – khuluqin adheem. His wife, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) described him as the embodiment of the Quran:

عن قتادة قُلْتُ لعائشة يَا أُمَّ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنْبِئِينِي عَنْ خُلُقِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَتْ أَلَسْتَ تَقْرَأُ الْقُرْآنَ قُلْتُ بَلَى قَالَتْ فَإِنَّ خُلُقَ نَبِيِّ فَإِنَّ خُلُقَ نَبِيِّ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ الْقُرْآنَ

Qatadah reported: I said to Aisha, “O mother of the believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).” Aisha said, “Have you not read the Quran?” I said, “O course.” Aisha said, “Verily, the character of the Prophet of Allah was the Quran.” [Muslim]

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us to have good manners and if that is the case, we will always make a good impression and show people the beauty of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

The most beloved among you to me are those with the best manners, who are gentle and kind, and who are friendly and easily approachable.” [Tabarani in “Al-Awsat”]

‘The most beloved among you to me are those with the best manners’ means that their character is excellent, ‘gentle’ refers to their soft and kind nature, and ‘friendly and easily approachable’ means they are affectionate and others find comfort in their company. They rejoice in goodness, overlook shortcomings, forgive, and reconcile.

Though many of us are familiar of the story of the Jewish neighbour who used to throw rubbish at the Prophet (peace be upon him) and at his door, but this story is not recorded in the Sunnah. It is not authentic.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:

قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” المؤمن يألف ويُؤلف، ولا خير فيمن لا يألف ولا يُؤلف ” . رواه أحمد ، والبزار ، ورجال أحمد رجال الصحيح.

The believer is one who is friendly and is befriended, and there is no goodness in one who neither befriends nor is befriended. [Ahmad, Al-Bazzar]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was good to his neighbours, so we should be good to our neighbours. We should be gentle and merciful with our neighbours and be true followers of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and embody the Quran in our practices.

Every 23rd and 24th September is the Visit my Mosque Campaign organised by the Muslim Council of Britain, so it is an opportunity to invite our neighbours or any faith or no faith to come and visit our mosques, so they can see the reality of our religion, rather than the toxic propaganda and Islamophobic diet they are fed by the media. May Allah Almighty enable us to be the good conveyors of the message. Ameen

A national initiative by the Muslim Council of Britain MCB encouraging mosques across the UK to hold open days #welcomein their neighbours across all faiths and none.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Khutbah 22nd Sept 2023

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.