Will you give information about neighborhood and neighbors in Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Neighbor: The name given to the people living in the same neighborhood.

The people living near to one another physically or in next door buildings are called neighbors. Workplaces, fields or cities along with houses can be neighbors. Workplace neighbor, field neighbor, neighboring village, neighboring town and neighboring city express this kind of neighborhood.  

In Arabic, neighbor is called "jar". "Jar" means a person whose house is next to another house, or people who protect each other and who help each other.[1]

One of the conditions necessary for the people and especially Muslims who are neighbors in villages, cities, countryside, etc.  to live in peace is to have good social relationships. Therefore, our religion gives great importance to rights of neighbors.[2]

Neighborliness is a social institution whose place and importance in social life cannot be denied and it is an indispensable outcome of people’s living in the form of a society. Since man is a social being and hence cannot live alone, the presence of neighbors around him is indispensable.[3]

Allah orders us to treat all our neighbors well and to do good to them whether they are our relatives or not:

"Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious."[4]

Those whose rights we must observe the most after our families are neighbors, with whom we live side by side. Rights of neighbors have an important place in our religion. It is necessary to get on well with neighbors and to help them just like our families. 

The people we see and talk during the day and night are regarded our neighbors.  

Imam Qurtubi, the great tafsir scholar, states the following when he interprets the verse above:

"Do you not see? Allah mentions neighbors after doing good to parents and relatives, and orders us to observe their rights." Thus, he attracts attention to the importance of the issue.[5]

Two phrases as neighbors who are near and neighbors who are strangers are mentioned in verse 36 of the chapter of an-Nisa. Neighbors are classified based on various criteria. Those whose houses or entrance doors are next to each other are called "next-door neighbors".

Neighbors who are near: Those who are relatives or whose houses are near are called "neighbors who are near"Neighbors who are strangers: Those whose houses are not very near or who are not relatives or those who are non-Muslims (Jews, Christians) are called "neighbors who are strangers".

The issue of being near or distant mentioned in the verse is not clear. Are those who are not next-door neighbors or who are not relatives to be regarded as near or distant? What is the criterion for being near and distant? According to a narration, Hz. Aisha said it was a distance of forty houses from every direction; Hz. Ali said those who are near enough to hear the voice of a person are regarded as neighbors.[6]

NEIGHBORS ARE DIVIDED INTO THREE:

According to a classification made by the Prophet (pbuh), neighbors are divided into three in terms of their rights:  

1. Neighbors that have three rights: They are both relatives and Muslims. They have three kinds of rights originating from being neighbors, relatives and Muslims.

2. Neighbors that have two rights: They are the Muslim neighbors who are not relatives. They have two kinds of rights originating from being neighbors and Muslims.

3. Neighbors that have one right: They are those who are not relatives and Muslims. They are the neighbors of the People of the Book (Jews, Christians) and polytheists. They have one kind of right originating from being neighbors.[7]

To sum up, all neighbors are included in the definition of neighbors whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, worshippers or sinners, friends or enemies, residents or travelers, harmful or harmless, near or distant.

As it is clearly understood from the Arabic definition of the word, there are some social duties and a system of relationships caused by "being close to each other, being next-door neighbors". They are called "neighborhood" in general.

Neighborhood relationships and duties are very important in terms of social solidarity and integration in small residential areas like villages; people try to maintain it with care. The saying "do not buy a house, buy a neighbor" is an expression of that sensitivity.  

Neighbors visit, help and protect one another in places that are like closed congregations and places where urbanization has not occurred very much.  

The common statement "They made this house their next-door" used for the people who visit a house very often though they are not neighbors shows the intense relationship between neighbors; the sayings like "We will have our share from what is cooked in the neighbor’s house" and "You should give something in return when your neighbor gives you some bread" show the nature of the structure of the same relationship.[8]

NEIGHBORHOOD IN HADITHS

"HE FROM WHOSE WRONGFUL CONDUCT HIS NEIGHBOR IS NOT SECURE CANNOT ENTER PARADISE." WILL YOU EXPLAIN THIS HADITH?

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following from a hadith narrated from Abu Hurayra:

"By Allah, he is not a believer, he is not a believer, he is not a believer." They asked,
- O Messenger of Allah! Who is not a believer? The Prophet (pbuh) said,
- He from whose wrongful conduct his neighbor is not secure is not a believer."[9]

The phrase "is not a believer" mentioned in the hadith means a perfect believer. For, it is not a deed of unbelief that will make a person remain in Hell forever. In other words, this deed is necessary to be a perfect believer but it is not a requirement for belief.  

The hadith is as follows in the version that Muslim reports:

"He from whose wrongful conduct his neighbor is not secure cannot enter Paradise."[10]

The statement "cannot enter Paradise" mentioned in the hadiths should be understood as "cannot enter Paradise with those who attain salvation first". That is, he serves a sentence due to this deed and enters Paradise after that. If he holds the view that it is not a sin to oppress the neighbor, his state makes it necessary for him to go to Hell.

The hadith advises us to avoid oppressing the neighbor and states that those who avoid maltreating them will attain perfect belief, that oppressing the neighbor means disobedience to Allah and that it will lead him to penalty in Hell.[11]

Being Together with Good Neighbors

The good servants of Allah are addressed as follows at the time of death:  

"O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! "Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! "Enter thou, then, among My devotees! "Yea, enter thou My Heaven!."[12]

The following is reported from Hz. Ali:

"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) ordered us to bury our dead people among righteous people and said, ‘The dead are offended by bad neighbors just like the living are."[13]

It becomes a means of happiness and peace for man to be together with good people both in this world and in the hereafter. To be together with good people in the world means to be together with good neighbors. It is definitely a great grace of God Almighty for a man to be together with good neighbors. Therefore, those who have good neighbors should thank Allah for it too because there are several things that give us peace and happiness. One of them is good neighbors. A person who is together with good neighbors becomes happy and peaceful. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"Search your neighbor before buying a house and search your friend before starting a journey."[14]

This hadith is expressed as follows in a saying: "Do not buy a house, buy a neighbor" because a neighbor is more important than a house. If one’s neighbors are bad, he cannot feel relaxed even if he has the best house; he will feel restless. Therefore, the Prophet orders us to take refuge in Allah from a bad neighbor:

"Take refuge in Allah from a bad neighbor in the place you live permanently because a bad neighbor in a place you live temporarily is also temporary."[15]

The Prophet mentions three things that make man happy and peaceful as follows in another hadith:

"A good neighbor, an obedient mount and a large house are things that make man happy."[16]

Who is the good neighbor that is praised in hadiths and that is stated to be the source of our peace and happiness? Such a question comes to mind inevitably. It can be answered as follows:

"Neighbors have rights of neighborhood over one another. A good neighbor is one who observes those rights and fulfils his duties toward his neighbors in the best way. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith mentioning this issue:

"The best friend in the eye of Allah is the one that is the most beneficent to his friend. The best neighbor in the eye of Allah is the one that is the most beneficent to his neighbor." [17]

Rights of Neighbors

According to our sublime religion, Islam, neighbors have rights over neighbors. It is called rights of neighbors. Our religion mentions rights of neighbors a lot. The Prophet states the following in a hadith narrated by Hz. Aisha:

"Jibril advised me about rights of neighbors so much that I almost thought he would render a neighbor inheritor to another neighbor."[18]

Thus, rights of neighbors are so great that Jibril came to the Prophet (pbuh) and told him about the importance of rights of neighbors.

The statement "I thought he would render a neighbor inheritor to another neighbor" aims to explain the rights of neighbors because in the first years of Islam, those who were made brothers with a contract became inheritors to each other. Afterwards, it was abolished and the reasons for inheritance remained valid for relatives through birth, relatives through marriage and slavery contract.

The hadith indicates the loftiness of the rights of neighbors, mutual assistance between neighbors, treating to them, not harming neighbors, visiting them when they become ill and being with them when they are happy and sorrowful.[19]

Mutual Assistance Between Neighbors

There is no other religion and system like Islam that gives so much importance to helping one another. Our religion orders helping one another in all phases of life; it states that the poor have rights over the wealth of the rich.[20] Mutual assistance between neighbors is more important. When a person needs something urgently, the first person he asks for it is his neighbor. Nobody can say, “I have everything; I do not need my neighbor.” A person definitely needs material and spiritual help from his neighbor.  

"A neighbor might need even a very unimportant thing of his neighbor."

Our ancestors thought about and searched the neighbors before they bought a house because ties of neighborhood were very important for them. They were very good friends. They shared their food and drink. They chatted and shared their sad and happy times. Their sorrow and grief disappeared in that sincere atmosphere. However, time eliminated so many nice traits of the past. When detached houses were replaced by tall apartment buildings, when life was transformed into a lifestyle in which many people "have to put up with each other", and when things like school, work and market started to keep people very busy, neighbors and neighborliness were forgotten. We live in the same apartment building but we do not usually know who lives on the floor above or below us or even on the same floor. The only relationship among neighbors is only saying "hello" when they happen to see one another. Everybody is busy with their own affairs; they are alone when they are sad and when they are happy. However, it is not in compliance with our faith or traditions.[21]

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"He who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry is not a (perfect) believer."[22]

The message of the hadith above, which mentions the issue of social sensitivity remarkably, is naturally not limited to next-door neighbors only.  

On the other hand, since "neighbor who is hungry" is mentioned in general in the hadith and there is no limitation or specification like "Muslim neighbor", it expands the area of sensitivity of a perfect believer to beyond faith. No matter what the religion of a neighbor is, it is necessary to take care of “the neighbor who is hungry” and to meet his needs.[23]

AN INCIDENT

Hz. Umar sent Muhammad b. Maslama to Kufa without giving him any provisions to inspect Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas, the governor of Kufa, who wanted to build a pavilion for himself in order to keep himself away from the noise of the market. Muhammad b. Maslama, who returned to Madinah after a nineteen-day journey, asked Hz. Umar why he had sent him without giving him provisions. He said:

The Muslims in Madinah were about to starve; I did not want to give you provisions to enable you to enjoy the food and to make myself suffer from its sin. For, I heard the Prophet (pbuh) say,

"It does not fit a believer to have a full stomach when his neighbor is hungry."[24]

As it is understood from the incident above, it is the basic duty of a perfect believer who is rich enough to help the hungry people and to start it from the nearest neighbor in the world that is getting smaller day by day. It is a sign of perfect belief.  

Whenever social sensitivity and solidarity are mentioned, the hadith in question is remembered. It is stated in another version of the hadith that if a Muslim "knows that his neighbor is hungry "[25] and that if he does not help his neighbor, he is not a good Muslim. The hadith regards being indifferent and acting insensitively despite knowing the hunger of the neighbor as a sign of not being a perfect believer.  

To help is not a beginning but an outcome. The feeling and sensitivity of helping is the real motive and pioneer of helping. In that case, it is essential for “the feeling of helping” to settle in the heart before helping itself. Those who do not help the people around though they are rich enough are those who have not made that feeling settle in their hearts and those who have not experienced the pleasure of loving the people around them.[26]

Since helping is feeling in the first place, its relation with belief is clear and deep because the most effective power that direct man’s deeds is belief. In that case, being insensitive toward the people around and not helping them is naturally related to the level of perfection of belief. Therefore, the decree "is not a believer" in the hadith in question means "does not have a perfect belief at a degree that is enough to motivate him to do what he needs to do". That is the truth itself. The indifference of the Muslims "who need to be soft, merciful and compassionate toward one another"[27] toward their close neighbors is an indication that is connected with their belief. The hadith in question attracts our attention to this fact.[28]

It should not be forgotten that the Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"If someone goes hungry in a neighborhood, that neighborhood will not be protected by Allah any longer."[29]

Acting upon the same evidences, Ibn Hazm states the following: If a person starves to death in a neighborhood, all the people living in that neighborhood is regarded to be the murderer of that person and the blood money of that person are taken from them.[30]

Some outcomes:

It is possible to deduce the following outcomes from the hadith in question.

1. It is haram for the rich neighbor to allow his neighbors to go hungry.
2. It is wajib for him to feed them to satisfy their hunger and dress them if they lack clothes.
3. There are obligations other than zakah in the wealth.
4. Their annual zakah does not free them from other obligations. They have several other duties depending on the situation. Otherwise, they will be the addressees of the threat in the verse about the prohibition of kanz (accumulation of wealth).
5. Real and perfect believers do not fall into indifference and insensitivity toward the people around them. Meeting the needs of the needy is a sign of perfect belief.[31]

The Principles of Being a Good Neighbor

1. To want for the neighbors what we want for ourselves:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"By him in whose hand is my life you will not believe truly as long as you want for your neighbor or your believing brother what you want for yourself."[32]

Home and workplace neighbors, who live together and side by side, meet almost every day and even several times a day. The relationship among the neighbors living in apartment buildings and working in office blocks and similar places is different from the neighbors living in separate buildings. It is necessary for all kinds of neighbors to have mutual love, respect, trust, good feelings and thoughts, to show respect to the rights of one another, and to avoid the deeds and attitudes that will harass or disturb one another. Thus, they can be peaceful. Otherwise, it is not possible to maintain peace.[33]

Abu Dharr reports the following from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

"O Abu Dharr! When you make soup, put more water; give the extra soup to your neighbors."[34]

Abu Dharr states the following in a narration reported by Muslim:

"My friend the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to me,

'When you make soup, put more water. Then, check your neighbors. Send some soup to the needy ones to do good.'"[35]

The order "Fakthur maaha (put more water)" in the hadith expresses advice.

2. To try not to hurt our neighbors.

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt his neighbor. He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest. He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either utter good words or keep silent."[36]

According to what is reported from Abu Hurayra, one of the Companions said,  

- O Messenger of Allah! They say there is a woman who performs a lot of nafilah prayers and fasting, and who gives a lot of charity. However, she offends her neighbors with her tongue. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

- She is a person of Hell. The Companion said,

- O Messenger of Allah! They say there is a woman who performs very few nafilah prayers and very little fasting, and who gives very little charity. However, she does not offend her neighbors with her tongue. The Prophet said,

- She is a person of Paradise.[37]

Sometimes, a Companion would come to the Messenger of Allah and say,

- O Messenger of Allah! Teach me such a deed that will take me to Paradise when I do it.

The Prophet (pbuh) would look at the state of the person and order him something. According to what is reported from Abu Hurayra, a Companion came to the Prophet and asked the same thing. The Prophet said to him briefly,

- Be good. The Companion said,

- O Messenger of Allah! How do I know whether I am good or not? The Prophet said,

- Ask your neighbors. If they say you are a good person, you are good. If they say you are bad, it means you are a bad person.[38]

Thus, the criterion for being good and bad is the people around us and our neighbors. If our neighbors say that we are good, we are good in the eye of Allah. If our neighbors say that we are bad, we are bad in the eye of Allah.

GOOD NEIGHBORLINESS

How can a person be a good neighbor? We hear complains that neighborliness relationships disappear day by day. İbrahim Hakkı of Erzurum determines forty “conditions necessary to be fulfilled for good neighborliness” from Islamic ethics and lifestyle in his book called "Marifetnâme". We see that those conditions are not old at all. Let us hear what he says:

Know it that people with good manners say, "There are forty rules for neighbors to get well with each other."

1. Those who live next to one’s house, those who live in the houses facing one’s house and the houses whose gates can be seen up to forty houses are regarded one’s neighbors even if they are dhimmis (Christian citizens). To be good to your neighbors and to treat them well as if they are relatives.

2. Not to treat the household of the neighbor badly; to protect their honor.

3. No to stare at those who come to the neighbor’s house and not to disturb them.

4. Not to go to bed with a full stomach when your neighbor is hungry.

5. To avoid hurting the neighbor by the hand or tongue.

6. Not to look into the neighbor's house from the window and the wall without permission.

7. To give a gift to your neighbors – even if they are dhimmis – though a small one.

8. To send the next-door neighbor some of the dish you cook as a gift when you cook something that can be smelled by them.

9. To give some of the fruit you have bought to the neighbor if you meet the neighbor on the way.

10. To lend money to your neighbor if he asks.

11. To meet the needs of your neighbor if he is in need.

12. To visit your neighbor on eid days (religious holidays).

13. Not to throw stones at your neighbor's animals.

14. Not to allow your children to beat and swear at the neighbor's children.

15. Not to build your house higher than your neighbor’s and in a way to block their sight without their permission.

16. Not to prohibit your neighbor from nailing some wood on the wall at his own side.

17. Not to disturb your neighbors with the flow of your water, or the soil dug from the ground and snow shoveled from your path.

18. Not to search the secrets and faults of your neighbors.

19. Not to tell others about your neighbors’ deeds and affairs.

20. To greet your neighbors first as you come across your neighbors on the road.

21. Not to talk long while talking to neighbors; to talk as much as necessary.

22. To give to the neighbors essential materials such as water, salt and fire when they ask.

23. To accept the gift of the neighbor though it is small and to regard it as something big.

24. To hide the faults of your neighbors.

25. To be a shoulder to cry on for your neighbors.

26. Not to sell your house to a stranger without the permission of your neighbors.

27. To visit your neighbor when he comes back from a distant place.

28. To console your neighbors in his sorrowful days.

29. To accept the invitation of your neighbors when you are invited.

30. To invite your neighbors.

31. When your neighbor wants something, to give it gladly.

32. To forgive your neighbor when he makes a mistake.

33. To visit your neighbors when they are sick.

34. To join the funeral of your neighbors when they die.

35. To guard the orphans of your neighbors.

36. To smile and speak sweetly when you meet your neighbors.

37. To treat your neighbors in the way that you want them to treat you.

38. To tolerate the trouble that you cannot tolerate from others when it is caused by your neighbor.

39. To overlook your neighbors when they act rudely.

40. To treat leniently the neighbors who speak harshly.[39]

REFERENCES:

[1] İzzet ER, İslam'da İnanç İbadet ve Günlük Yaşayış Ansiklopedisi, M.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul, 1997, Vol. 3, p. 63-64.
[2] Haydar HATİPOĞLU, Diyanet Aylık Dergi, Ekim, 1993, p. 2.
[3] Dr. Durak PUSMAZ, "İslam'da Komşuluk İlişkileri", Diyanet Aylık Dergi, April 1995, Issue: 52, p. 23.
[4] an-Nisa: 4/356
[5] Dr. Durak PUSMAZ, ibid, p. 23.
[6] İzzet ER, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 64.
[7] İzzet ER, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 64.
[v8] İzzet ER, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 64.
[9] Bukhari, Adab, 29 (VIII.12).
[10] Muslim, Iman, 73.
[11] İhsan ÖZKES, R.Salihin Terceme ve Şerhi, Esra Yayınları, Konya, 1996, Vol. 2, p. 173-174.
[12] al-Fajr:89/27-30.
[13] Ajluni, Kashful-Khafa, 1/72.
[14] Ajluni, Kashful-Khafa, 1/178.
[15] Nasai, Istiadha, 44; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 2/344.
16] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 3/407-408.
[17] Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Hakim (from Ibn Umar) 250, H.No:151.
[18] Bukhari, Adab,28; Muslim, Birr wa Sila wal-Adab, 140 (2624,2625)
[19] İhsan ÖZKES, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 172.
[20] see adh-Dhariyat, 56.
[21] Havva ERGENE, İslami Hayat, "Komşuluk İlişkileri".
[22] Ibn Abi Shayba, Kitabul-Iman (nashr: al-Bani) p. 33 (Damascus. nd, ) For different narrations of the hadith, see al-Bani, Silsilatul-Ahadithis-Sahiha, I, 69-71; Hakim and Bayhaqi, 250, H.no:190.
[23] İ. Lütfi ÇAKAN, Hadislerle Gerçekler, Erkam Yayınları, Istanbul, 1990, Vol. 1, p. 114-115.
[24] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 1/55.
[25] Tabarani, al-Mu'jamul-Kabir, 1/232; Haysami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 8/167; al-Bani, Silsila, ibid, 1/70.
[26] İ. Lütfi ÇAKAN, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 112.
[27] al-Fath 48/29.
[28] İ. Lütfi ÇAKAN, ibid, Vol. 1, p. 112.
[29] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 2/33.
[30] see Sayyid Qutub, Islamiyyatil-Islam, p. 221.
[31] İ. Lüfti ÇAKAN, ibid, Vol. 3, p. 114-115.
[32] Muslim, Iman, 72.
[33] Haydar HATİPOĞLU, "Komşuluk Hakkı" (Hutbe), Diyanet Aylık Dergi, October 1993, p. 2
[34] Muslim, Birr wa Sila wal-Adab, 142 (2625).
[35] Muslim, Birr wa Sila wal-Adab, 143 (2625).
[36] Bukhari, Adab, 31; Muslim, Iman, 75.
[37] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 4/440.
[38] Ajluni, Kashful-Khafa, 1/72.
[39] M. Ertuğrul DÜZDAĞ, Müslüman Aile, İz Yayıncılık, 3. Baskı, İstanbul, 1995, p. 83-85.

(see Vehbi AKŞİT, İslam'da Komşuluk İlişkileri.)

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