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                                                         RIGHTS OF NEIGHBOURS

Apart from a man's parents, children and near relatives, there also exists a permanent association and contact between him and his neighbours. The state of his association - be it good or otherwise has a great influence on his life and morals. The Prophet (S.A.W.) had attached great importance to this and has constantly urged the Ummah to pay due regard to the rights of neighbours to the extent that he had declared good neighbourliness to be part of Iman (Faith) and an essential requisite for salvation.

Three Categories of Neighbours

In a hadith, related by Jabir(R.A.), the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said " Neighbours are of three kinds. Firstly, the neighbour who enjoys only one right (and as far as rights are concerned) he is of the lowest grade. Secondly, the one who enjoys two rights and thirdly the neighbour who enjoys three rights. The neighbour with only one right is the Polytheist (i.e. a non-Muslim neighbour with whom there are no family ties). The neighbour with two rights is the neighbour who is also a Muslim (as such he has a claim as a neighbour as well as a fellow Muslim) and the one with three rights is the neighbour who is a Muslim and a relative - he has a claim as a neighbour, as a fellow Muslim and as a relative".

This hadith clearly explains that the obligation to live in peace and harmony with neighbours, as demanded in the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions, also includes the non-Muslim neighbours. They too have a claim to our kindness and sympathy. We treat the animals with kindness and we have been warned against ill treating them, then what of our fellow humans - more so our neighbours. It will be significant to note that in all Ahadith Traditions) mentioned, with regards to the basic rights of neighbours, no distinction had been made between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Emphasis on the Rights of Neighbours

It is reported, on the authority of Ayesha (R.A.) and Ibn Umar (R.A.) that the messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said "The Angel Jibra'il (A.S.) counselled me so frequently regarding the rights of the neighbour that I feared, he too would be declared an heir.

This hadith shows that Angel Jibra'il (A.S.) brought commandments from Allah, 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 (S.A.W.) thought that the neighbour also will be made an heir i.e. just as parents, children and near relatives inherit the property left by the deceased, he thought that the neighbour, too, will be given a share in it.

Note:- The purpose of this hadith is not merely to state a fact, but rather it is most effective way of highlighting the importance of the neighbour to the Muslims.

Importance of good treatment to neighbours (It is an essential condition of Iman-faith)

It is narrated by Abu Shurayh (R.A.) that the Prophet (S.A.W.) said "Whoever believes in Allah and the final day (Day of Judgement) it is essential that he does not harm his neighbours and whoever believes in Allah and the final Day it is essential for him to entertain his guest with kindness and generosity and whoever believes in Allah and the Final Day it is essential that he speak what is good or otherwise remain silent."

Amongst other points this hadith explains that it is essential for the true believer to be mindful of his neighbours at all times so that he does not harm him in any way. It also gives us an idea of the value placed on the rights of neighbours by the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.).

In another hadith related by Abu Hurairah (R.A.) the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "By Allah, he is not a true believer, By Allah, he is not a true believer, By Allah, he is not a true believer (three times). He was asked 'Who?" Upon which he replied, "The one whose neighbours do not feel secure from his mischief and evil.

The construction and manner of the hadith shows how agitated the Prophet (S.A.W.) must have been when he said this. The essence contained in this hadith is that the Muslim whose character is such that his neigbhours expect nothing but evil from him and they live in fear of being hurt or harmed by him, cannot be regarded as a true and faithful believer- he doesn't deserve the title of Muslim or Mu'min. On another occasion the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said that such a person (whose neighbours do not feel safe on his account) shall not go to Heaven.

Note:- In the language of Prophethood, when special emphasis is laid on a deed, the customary way of putting it is to say that whoever neglects it etc. is not a true believer, and he shall not go to Heaven. It should be understood that this does not imply that he has actually been thrown out of the fold of Islam and now the laws of Infidelity(Kufr) will apply to him, and that in the hereafter he will be treated as an infidel, but rather this is an emphatic way of explaining that such a person does not possess the true spirit of Iman which is the glory of a Muslim and is pleasing to Allah. The particular phrasing is used to lend greater force to the matter.

In yet another hadith, related by Anas (R.A.), the Prophet (S.A.W.) said "He has not affirmed faith in me (i.e. he is not a true follower) who eats to his satisfaction and sleeps comfortably at night white his neighbour goes hungry - and he is aware of it."

How astonishing that such a wide gap has occurred between these teachings and traditions and the actual conduct of the Muslims as a whole! It is extremely difficult for an unknowing person to believe that such, really, were the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.).

Nevertheless, these traditions and teachings explain clearly the importance of good and kind treatment to neighbours and they are a clear admonition to those who remain indifferent to the needs and difficulties of their neighbours and care nothing for them.

Certain specific rights of the neighbours

Mu'awiya Ibn Haidah relates that the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) said "The rights of the neighbour upon you are that; If he falls ill you visit (and take care of) him; if he dies you attend his funeral (and take part in the burial arrangements); if he commits an evil deed, you prevent it from being known (i.e. do not give publicity to it); if he is favoured by good-fortune, you congratulate him; if a calamity befalls him, you grieve in sympathy with him; and that you restrain from erecting your building higher than his in such a way that the passage of fresh air is blocked from his house (unless you obtained his consent) and further, (you take care that) the aroma of your cooking pot does not cause sorrow to him (and his children) except that you send some of it (the food) to him."

The specific rights mentioned above are easily understood but the last two require special attention:- One should be careful, while building a house (or any building) that the walls are not so high as to cause discomfort to the neighbours by obstructing the free flow of air into their place (or in any other way) unless of course one has obtained prior consent of the neighbours.

Let us note that this was the teaching of The Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) more than fourteen hundred years ago, but we as Muslims tend to forget or rather ignore this, and we readily accept government, municipal or council laws on the same issue -(that the consent of neighbours should be obtained prior to any construction)! How unmindful and indifferent we seem to be!

The other point is that one' should try his level best not to let the aroma of one's cooking pot reach the neighbours' household - lest they are aroused by the delicious smells and desire to eat the same while they can not afford it - this will cause grief to them. To restrain the aroma from travelling is obviously not easy, hence one should make it a point of sending some of the food (when a delicious meal is cooked) to the neighbours. It is reported on the authority of Jabir (R.A.) that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said "Whenever gravy is cooked in anyone's house, he should increase the broth (by adding water) and then send some to his neighbours."

Caring for the moral and religious status of neighbours

The foregoing sections dealt with the material welfare of neighbours - paying regard to their needs and feelings etc., hereunder is an explanation of the caring for their moral and religious welfare, which is also a right of the neighbour.

On one occasion the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said "What has happened to those, whom Allah has favoured with the understanding of faith and religious knowledge, and they do nothing by way of teaching it to, their neighbours (who are in need of it) or creating an awareness in them? They neither give good counsel, nor discharge the duty of enjoining what is good and lawful, and forbidding what is bad and prohibiting. And what has happened to the uninformed ones that they make no effort to learn from their neighbours?

By Allah it is the duty of those who possess the knowledge to impart it to their neighbours (who are wanting in it)- through good counsel and by enjoining what is lawful and forbidding what is prohibited. In the same manner it is the duty of t he ignorant and uninformed to acquire the knowledge from their neighbours (who are learned) and to take advice from them - otherwise, (if neither party does its duty) a severe punishment will befall them in their very existence."

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) has thus enjoined upon the people of all localities and regions, who possess the understanding of faith and religious knowledge, to impart it to those living in the neighbourhood and to work for their moral and spiritual instruction and improvement. On the other hand he has charged those who are lacking in this field to maintain a regular contact with men of faith and knowledge so as to benefit from their company.

Unfortunately, due to the neglect of this hadith and its likes, a vast majority of Muslims lack (are wanting in) religious knowledge and attachment to Allah and His Messenger (S.A.W.).