Rights of Neighbours
In order for the world to function smoothly and harmoniously, it is imperative for each person to fulfil the rights he owes to others. If people’s rights are not upheld and fulfilled, then chaos and anarchy will prevail in the world. Stealing and usurping of wealth will be rampant and oppression and transgression will be the order of the day. People will trample the rights of the weak and old, women and children, and take advantage of them on account of them not being able to fend for themselves and stand up for their rights. Hence, Shariah has outlined the rights of people as well as shown the manner in which their rights should be fulfilled.
In the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta’ala says: “Show kindness to parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, the close neighbour, the distant neighbour and the companion at your side.” (Surah Nisaa v. 36)
In the above verse, among the rights of people which Allah Ta’ala discusses are the rights of neighbours. In the Mubaarak Ahaadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has placed great emphasis on upholding the rights of neighbours. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “A true believer is not one who eats to his full while knowing that his neighbour remains in the state of hunger.” (Shu’abul Imaan #3117)
Hazrat Mu’aawiya bin Haydah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that he once asked Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) , “O Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) , what are the rights of my neighbour?”
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) replied, “You should visit him (and show concern for him) when he falls ill, attend his funeral when he passes away, assist him with a loan if he seeks it from you, and if he falls into difficulty through poverty, then you should conceal his poverty (i.e. through helping him in such a way that no one else comes to know). If some good comes his way, then you should congratulate him, and if a calamity befalls him, then you should sympathise with him. Furthermore, you should not raise your building higher than his, thus becoming the means for obstructing the ventilation of his house. Do not cause inconvenience to him through the aroma which emanates from your utensils (while cooking i.e. on account of him not being able to afford this type of meal, do not cause him pain over his poverty through allowing the smell to reach him e.g. having a braai) unless you intend dishing out some of the food for him and sharing it with him.” (Majma’uz Zawaaid #13545)
The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) and the pious of the past were extremely considerate towards their neighbours on account of them being aware of the high position the neighbour enjoys in deen. Hazrat Abdullah bin Amr (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) had a neighbour who was a Jew. On one occasion, a goat was slaughtered in the home of Hazrat Abdullah bin Amr (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and its meat was prepared. Upon arriving home, he enquired from his respected household, “Did you send any portion of the meat for our Jewish neighbour? I heard Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) say, ‘Hazrat Jibra’eel (‘alaihis salaam) continued to emphasize the rights of the neighbour to me to such an extent that I thought (that on account of the great rights he holds in deen), perhaps Allah Ta’ala will even include him among a person’s heirs.’” (Tirmizi #1943)
It is reported regarding Hazrat Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) that he had a neighbour who was a Christian. Hazrat Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) lived in the lower storey of the building, while his Christian neighbour lived above him in the upper level. The sewerage of his Christian neighbour from the upper level used to leak into his home. However, Hazrat Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) never complained to his neighbour nor informed him of this.
Hazrat Hasan (rahimahullah) instructed that a container be placed beneath the leak so that the sewerage would fall into it and would not mess his home. At night, when there was no one to observe what was happening, he would take the container out of his home and dispose of the sewerage.
One day, when Hazrat Hasan (rahimahullah) was ill, his Christian neighbour came to visit him. When he entered the home of Hazrat Hasan (rahimahullah) and saw the container filled with sewerage, he realized that it was coming from his home. In embarrassment he asked, “How long has this sewerage been leaking for?” Hazrat Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) replied, “For the last twenty years.” Upon hearing this, the neighbour was so overcome by the conduct of Hazrat Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) that he immediately removed his traditional Christian garment and accepted Islam. (Al-Imtaa’ wal-Mu’aanasah 2/129)
Just as there is great emphasis in the Mubaarak Ahaadith for fulfilling the rights of the neighbour, similarly there are severe warnings and admonitions reported regarding causing inconvenience to the neighbour. Hazrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The one who believes in Allah Ta’ala and the day of Qiyaamah, he should not cause inconvenience to his neighbour.” (Bukhaari #6018)
In another Hadith, it is reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) repeated the following statement thrice, “I take an oath in the name of Allah Ta’ala, such a person can never be a perfect believer.” A Sahaabi enquired: “O Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) , which person are you referring to?” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The one whose neighbour is not spared from his harm and evil.”
On one occasion, a person came to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and said, “O Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), there is a certain woman who is well-known for engaging in abundant nafl salaah, giving charity and keeping nafl fasts. However, she causes harm to her neighbours.” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “She will be in the fire (i.e. she will be punished by Allah Ta’ala for ill-treating her neighbours).” The man then said, “O Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), I know of another woman who does not engage in abundant nafl salaah, nor does she keep abundant nafl fasts, nor does she give abundant charity, but she distributes pieces of cheese in sadaqah and does not cause harm to her neighbours (i.e. she fulfils the rights of her neighbours).” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “She will be in Jannah (i.e. on account of her good treatment to her neighbours, she will be rewarded with Jannah).” (Majma’uz Zawaa’id #13562)
From the above Ahaadith, we understand that Islam has afforded utmost importance to the rights of neighbours. Hence, we should try, at all times, to fulfill the rights of our neighbours and should ensure that we do not cause them inconvenience or harm at any time.
May Allah Ta’ala bless us with the tawfeeq of fulfilling the rights of our neighbours as well as the rights we owe to the other servants of Allah Ta’ala.