Rights of neighbours in Islam

Beyond the limited circle of family, the next social sphere that is sufficiently wide is that of kinship and blood relationships.

By Khwaja Mohammed Zubair

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Published: Fri 20 Aug 2010, 9:22 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 3:39 PM

Islam wants those who are one’s kith and kin through relationships, with common parents or common brothers and sisters or relations through in-laws, to be mutually affectionate, cooperative and helpful.

In many places in the Holy Quran, good treatment of the zawil qurba (near relations) is enjoined. In the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), good treatment of one’s relations (Silah Rehmi) has been emphasised and counted amongst the highest virtues. A person who cold-shoulders his relations or treats them in an indifferent manner is looked down upon by Islam with great disfavour. But this does not mean that it is an Islamic virtue to be partial or unduly lenient towards one’s relations. Such support or partiality towards one’s relations as may result in injustice, is repugnant to Islam, which condemns it as an act of Jahiliyah (ignorance).

Similarly, it is utterly un-Islamic for a government official or a public trustee to support his relations at public expenses or to be partial to his kith and kin in his official decisions; this is actually be a sinful act. Fair treatment of one’s relations as enjoined by Islam, should be at one’s own expense and within the limits of justice and fairplay. Next to relations come the neighbours. The Holy Quran has divided them into three categories: 1. A neighbour who is also a relation. 2. An alien neighbour and 3. A casual or temporary neighbour with whom one had occasion to live or travel for some time. All of them are deserving of fellow-feelings, affection, courtesy and fair treatment.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that the rights of the neighbour were so overwhelmingly emphasised to him by Angel Jibraeel that he feared that neighbours might be made partakers of one’s inheritance. In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that a man whose neighbour is not safe from his misdeeds, is not a believer in Islam.

Again, he says that a person who enjoys a full meal while his neighbour is starving really has no faith in Islam. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was once informed of a woman who used to offer prayers regularly and would often keep fasts and give alms frequently, but her neighbours were sick of her abusive tongue. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that such a woman deserved only the fire of Hell. He was then told of another woman who did not possess these virtues but did not trouble her neighbours and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that she might be rewarded with a place in Heaven.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has laid so much emphasis on rights of neighbours that he has advised that whenever a Muslim brings fruits for his children he should either send some to his neighbours as a gift or at least not throw the peelings outside his house. This would prevent the neighbour from feeling deprived. On one occasion, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that a man is really good if his neighbours regard him as such and he is bad if they consider him so.

In brief, Islam requires all neighbours to be loving and cooperative with one another and share their sorrows and happiness. It enjoins that they should establish social relations in which one can depend upon the other and regard his life, honour and property safe among his neighbours. A society in which two persons, separated only by a wall, remain unaccquainted, even though they have lived there for years or even those who live in the same area of a town, but have no interest or confidence in one another can never be true Muslims.

Next to these relations, is the wider circle of relationships that cover the entire society. The broad principles on which Islam seeks to regulate the general gamut of our social life are the following:

· To cooperate in acts of virtue and piety and not to cooperate in acts of sin and injustice (Holy Quran).

· One’s friendship and enmity should be for the pleasure of Almighty God only; whatever you (Muslims) give should be given because Almighty God likes it to be given and whatever you (Muslims) withhold should be withheld because Almighty god does not like such a gift (Hadith).

  • · You (the Muslims) are the best community ever raised unto mankind, your duty is to command people to do good and prevent them from committing evil (Holy Quran).
  • · Do not think evil of each other, nor probe into each other’s affairs, nor excite one against the other. Keep yourself away from mutual hatred and jealousy. Do not unnecessarily oppose each other. Always remain the slaves and subjects of Almighty Allah and live like brothers among yourself (Hadith).
  • · To support the community when it is in the wrong is like falling into a well while catching the tail of your camel, which was about to fall into it (Hadith).
  • · Choose for others what you choose for yourself (Hadith).

These are some of the social values which Islam affirms and establishes and which it wants to see enshrined in the human society 
— From Islamic way of life by Syed Abul Ala Maududi

Khwaja Mohammed Zubair is former Khaleej Times staffer

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