I come from a family lifestyle where I find myself moving to another country or state in the U.S. every three years or so – including India, Saudi Arabia, Seattle, Virginia, Dubai, and New Jersey. Although it has been a wonderful experience in itself, it has also been quite depressing. I frankly did not know any of my neighbors.
In those old idealistic movies and classic TV shows, you often would see the cool neighbor, Katie, offer a freshly baked batch of cookies to the family next door. Their kids would have ice creams together on cool summer days and their families would know pretty much everything about one another, from family issues to what each of them had for dinner last night. But in this day and age, can you even tell me the name of your next door neighbor? The only time you may catch a glimpse of him or her is when you get into your car and awkwardly look up from your phone in the back seat. It’s not that we are avoiding our neighbors. Between kids’ hectic schedules and parents who are busy with work, suburban neighborhoods have undergone a dramatic shift. According to the Pew Research Center, a little more than four in ten American adults know most or all of their neighbors. That’s pretty sad.
What’s more important to note here, though, is the status of a neighbor in Islam and the rights they have over you. That’s right, folks. You may have to answer to that neighbor of yours you don’t even know on the Day of Judgment.
A story that illustrates this point is a famous hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Mubarak (may Allah be pleased him):
“There lived a cobbler who was very poor. He was a pious man had a great desire to go for the Haj pilgrimage. He reduced his household expenses and began to save from his daily income in order to fulfill his desire. As days passed, his daily savings became a sizeable amount of 300 dirhams sufficient for his pilgrimage. He started preparing for the journey.
At this time, his wife was pregnant and thus wished to have some tasty food. She felt the smell of food that was under preparation in her neighbor’s house. She requested her husband to get a little food for her from the neighbor.
The cobbler went to the neighbor and was shocked to find that the neighbor was cooking the flesh of a dead donkey (not lawful in Islam(. The neighbor explained that his family was without food for some days and that his children could not bear the pang of hunger. He had no money either to buy or to prepare food for his family. He could find no other way to satisfy their hunger. He had therefore, taken this extreme step. On hearing this, the cobbler was very much moved and took pity on his house: He then picked the money that he had saved for his pilgrimage and gave it to the neighbor.
The cobbler told his neighbor to make use of the money to feed all the members of his family and to free themselves from starvation in future. The neighbor was very much pleased: so was the cobbler.
The cobbler thus could not fulfill his long desire of performing Haj. He had given away his entire savings to the neighbor. Allah, the Almighty knew the real intention of the cobbler to perform Haj: the efforts he had taken to save money for the purpose and the great sacrifice he had done to free his neighbor from hunger.
The Merciful Allah, was very much pleased with the conduct of this poor cobbler and granted him the reward of accepted Hai, though the cobbler could not actually undertake journey to Makkah.”
You can see why neighbors have such a high position in Islam – treating them to the best of your ability is equivalent here to fulfilling one of the five pillars of Islam! Reported by Abdullah bin`Umar, the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said,
“The best of companions with Allah is the one who is best to his companions, and the best of neighbors to Allah is the one who is the best of them to his neighbor.”
The Prophet’s companions at the time were thus constantly reminded that Allah and his Messenger placed great importance on the kind treatment of neighbors. Prophet Muhammad once had a neighbor that harmed and insulted him at every opportunity. As a few days had gone where the Prophet had not encountered the man, he visited him because he was concerned that his neighbor might have been ill or be in need of help. That is how Prophet Muhammad treated his neighbors — even those who were not his brothers and sisters in Islam. A good neighbor is one who guarantees comfort, security and safety. A sense of community is important and has the power to transcend the man made lines of race, religion, or political affiliation.
So this Eid, why don’t you take some of that wonderful biryani, hanafa, kanafa, or mansaf you’re sharing with your loved ones over to that next door neighbor of yours and perhaps introduce yourself? Who knows – you may just change their perception of Muslims and Islam for the better!
We should not only learn our religion, but we should also live by it. Eid Mubarak to all!
Image from EricksonStock