By Abu Amina Elias
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Islam teaches us to be good neighbors to everyone, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ
Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away.
Surah An-Nisa 4:36
Scholars interpreted the “neighbor father away” to mean not only proximity, but one who is further away in religion or beliefs.
Al-Qurtubi comments on this verse, saying:
قُلْتُ وَعَلَى هَذَا فَالْوَصَاةُ بِالْجَارِ مَأْمُورٌ بِهَا مَنْدُوبٌ إِلَيْهَا مُسْلِمًا كَانَ أَوْ كَافِرًا وَهُوَ الصَّحِيحُ وَالْإِحْسَانُ قَدْ يَكُونُ بِمَعْنَى الْمُوَاسَاةِ وَقَدْ يَكُونُ بِمَعْنَى حُسْنِ الْعِشْرَةِ وَكَفِّ الْأَذَى وَالْمُحَامَاةِ دُونَهُ
I say based upon this verse, kind treatment of neighbors is enjoined and is recommended, whether they are Muslim or an unbeliever, and this is the right thing to do. Kind treatment may be in the sense of helping or it may be in the sense of being kind, refraining from harm, and supporting them.
Source: Tafseer Al-Qurtubi 4:36
Muslims should love for their neighbor what they love for themselves, which means to treat their neighbors the way they would like to be treated by others.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَا يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِأَخِيهِ أَوْ قَالَ لِجَارِهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ
None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.
Source: Sahih Muslim 45, Grade: Sahih
Scholars interpreted this tradition to include all people. The non-Muslim neighbor may not be part of the religious brotherhood, yet all human beings are still related through their descent from Adam. This is the level of universal brotherhood that encompasses everyone.
An-Nawawi comments on this tradition, saying:
الأولى أن يحمل ذلك على عموم الأخوة حتى يشمل الكافر والمسلم
This is to be interpreted as brotherhood in general, such that it includes the Muslim and the unbeliever.
Source: Sharh Arba’een 13
Muslims should behave towards their neighbors as if they were an extended member of his family, even if the neighbor is not a Muslim.
Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
مَا زَالَ جِبْرِيلُ يُوصِينِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لَيُوَرِّثَنَّهُ
Gabriel continued to advise me to treat neighbors well until I thought he would make them my heirs.
Source: Sahih Muslim 2624, Grade: Sahih
Mujahid reported: I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his servant was skinning a sheep. Abdullah said, “O boy, when you finish up, then start with the Jewish neighbor.” A man there exclaimed, “Jewish? May Allah correct you!” Abdullah replied:
إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُوصِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى خَشِينَا أَوْ رُئِينَا أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ
I heard the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, enjoining us to treat our neighbors well so often that we thought he would make them our heirs.
Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 105, Grade: Sahih
Muslims should not harm or annoy their neighbors in any way, for whoever behaves badly does not have complete faith, nor will those who harm their neighbors enter Paradise.
Abu Shuraih reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said three times:
وَاللَّهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ وَاللَّهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ وَاللَّهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ
By Allah, he does not have faith!
It was said, “Who is it, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said:
الَّذِي لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَايِقَهُ
He whose neighbor is not safe from his evil.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 5670, Grade: Sahih
In another narration, the Prophet said:
لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ
He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his evil.
Source: Sahih Muslim 46, Grade: Sahih
This means good neighborliness is a necessary characteristic of true faith and an essential means of salvation. Ritual acts of worship like prayer and fasting will not protect anyone from the Hellfire if they are evil to their neighbors.
Abu Huraira reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, a woman prays, fasts, and gives charity often, but she harms her neighbor with her sharp tongue.” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
هِيَ فِي النَّارِ
She will be in the Hellfire.
The man said, “O Messenger of Allah, another woman prays, fasts, and gives in charity very little, but she does give some cheese and she does not harm her neighbor with her tongue.” The Prophet said:
هِيَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ
She will be in Paradise.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 9383, Grade: Sahih
Furthermore, Muslims must support their neighbors in the basic necessities of daily life. The Prophet denied the faith of those who allow their neighbors to go hungry while they are capable of helping them.
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَيْسَ الْمُؤْمِنُ الَّذِي يَشْبَعُ وَجَارُهُ جَائِعٌ إِلَى جَنْبِهِ
He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.
Source: Sunan Al-Kubra 18099, Grade: Sahih
All of the teachings of Islam regarding neighbors can be summarized in the Prophet’s principle that the best neighbor to Allah is the one who is best to his or her neighbors.
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
خَيْرُ الأَصْحَابِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرُهُمْ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَخَيْرُ الْجِيرَانِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرُهُمْ لِجَارِهِ
The best companion to Allah is the best to his companions, and the best neighbor to Allah is the best to his neighbors.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1944, Grade: Sahih
Hence, Muslims must honor all of their neighbors, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. We must fulfill their basic rights, ensure their well-being, refrain from causing harm or annoyance, and generally treat them with the same respect and kindness we would expect for ourselves.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.