This Ramadan, let’s resolve to improve our relationship with our neighbours, writes Rym Aoudia

“Neighbours? I don’t even know who my neighbours are!”

I mull over my friend’s reply, whilst I remember how often homemade food and moments of happiness and sadness are shared in my neighbourhood.

My friend probably represents those, who are too engrossed with their daily routines to remember their neighbours. Assuming their neighbours are in the same situation as they are, they say: “I do not want to disturb them.” Another group of people are in a better situation and have a ‘hi-bye’ relationship. But only a minority is able to establish strong and lasting bonds with their neighbours.

There was once a pious man named Ibn Mubarak, who was loved dearly by his Jewish neighbour. So much so that when a time came for the Jew to sell his house, he overpriced it by two thousand Dinars. When the buyer asked why, he replied: “The extra two thousand Dinars are for having Ibn Mubarak as your neighbour.” Ibn Mubarak was a true Muslim, who followed the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “The best of companions to Allah (swt) is the best to his companions, and the best of neighbours to Allah (swt) is the best of them to his neighbour.” (At-Tirmidhi) In another Hadeeth, he said: “Angel Gabriel continuously recommended kindness towards one’s neighbour, that I thought he would assign them a share of one’s inheritance.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Islam also teaches us that neighbours are not simply those living next door, but also those living up to seven doors away.

We all agree that there are diverse neighbourly relationships. But no matter how diverse one’s attitude towards one’s neighbour is, or who one’s neighbour is for that matter (Muslim or non-Muslim, friendly or unfriendly), the Islamic principle is to express kindness towards them with no exception. Islam teaches us to think ‘out of the box’ and treat others, as we would like to be treated. In return, this kindness nurtures a comfortable, supportive and safe community for all.

Some of us might have grumpy neighbours, and establishing good relationships may prove challenging. But know that a smile from you could one day kindle the beginning of a good relationship. If that is not the case, know that you are still setting a good example for others.

In his “Treatise on Rights”, Zayn Al-Abidin says: “It’s your neighbour’s right that you guard him when he is absent, honour him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged. Do not pursue his shame or reveal any evil you know of him. If you know he will accept your counsel, counsel him in that, which is between you and him. Do not forsake him during trying times; instead, offer support. Forgive his sin and be generous in your exchanges with him.”

Remember that apart from improving society and people’s relationship with one another, Allah (swt) will greatly reward you for showing kindness to your neighbours.

Take a quiz to find out, what kind of a neighbour you are:

  • Do you litter in your neighbourhood?
  • Do you eavesdrop or spy on your neighbour?
  • Do you share homemade food with your neighbour?
  • Do you stay in contact with them and exchange visits now and then?
  • Do you believe that you deserve whatever good they have?
  • Do you participate in gossip against them?