The benefits of good neighbourliness
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
Growth of urban population and technology progresses in the past few decades have created fundamental changes in the manner of people\'s life. The speedy rise of urbanization has led to growth of life in small apartments and residential complexes. Although walls of apartments separate people from each other, social life makes people members of a family who are always in communication with each other. Therefore everyone should feel safe with his/her neighbour. This is something which has been stressed by customs and Islamic teachings.
Islam which has a perfect and comprehensive programme for human prosperity in this world and the hereafter has taken into consideration his physical and psychological needs. Islam has expressed useful guidelines regarding neighbors and neighborhood which are very effective in the present world in which relationship among people and their neighbors has reduced. In ayah 36 of Surah Nisa, God has expressed rights of Muslims towards each other and advised His servants to be good to several groups including their neighbours, and says: \"And be good to parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the near neighbor and the distant neighbor.\"
In this ayah, kindness to neighbours has been recommended. This advice is higher than justice and lawfulness. Munificence and kindness cannot be inserted within the framework of law and justice, since if so, like all other laws, this will be trampled upon, and there will be no munificence. Munificence is obtained once a person does good to others, as part of his humanitarian duties and belief in God and the Day of Resurrection. In his will, Imam Ali (AS), the First Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) says: Fear Allah in your relations with your neighbours. Your Prophet often recommended them to you, so much so that we thought he would give them a share in inheritance.
In view of this famous saying from the Commander of the Faithful, the status of neighbours is so high that an exclusive right has been attached for them, without regard for their religion.
The Prophet says: neighbours are of three categories. First: The neighbor who has three rights, that is, the right of neighbourhood, the right of Islam, and the right of kinship. Second: the neighbour who has two rights, that is, the right of Islam and the right of neighbourhood. Third: The neighbour who has just one right is the unbeliever who, despite not being a Muslim, has the right of neighbourhood. Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) elaborating on the rights of the neighbour, said: \"It is to help him if he asks your help, to lend him if he asks to borrow from you, to satisfy his needs if he becomes poor, to console him if he is visited by an affliction, to congratulate him if is met with good fortune, to visit him if he becomes ill, to attend his funeral if he dies, not to make your house higher than his without his consent lest you deny him the breeze, to offer him fruit when you buy some or to take it to your home secretly if you do not do that, nor to send out your children with it so as not to upset his children, nor to bother him by the tempting smell of your food unless you send him some.\"
The rights which have been expressed and outlined for neighbour by Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) contain many ethical and spiritual points and if they are practiced it will have a great impact on the flourishing of the human community.
Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) considered the faithful neighbours to be effective factors in guaranteeing comfort and prosperity of the neighbourhood, and he always advised his companions to live where there are good neighbours. Once a companion asks the Prophet: I want to buy a house; which locality should I choose? The Messenger of God, without mentioning any particular place, said: First see the neighbour and then buy a house.
Once a person asks Imam Jafar Sadeq (AS) the 6th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) on the extent of rights of neighbourhood? The Imam said 40 neighbours on each direction of your house. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) also says that respect for the neighbour, like the respect for the mother, is obligatory. Inattention to neighbours has been reproached by Islam. Although Islam has recommended being good to neighbours and looking into their affairs, it bans any interference in their privacy or exposure of their shortcomings.
Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) the 4th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) introduces privacy as one of the rights of neighbours upon each other and says: if you became aware of your neighbour\'s defect, you should keep it secret. One of the evil habits which the Divine Leaders have forbidden is to refrain from annoying neighbours. The Prophet in this regard says: \"He is not a believer whose neighbour is unsafe from his mischief.\"
Meanwhile when a group live together, some might become indifferent and receive inattention from others. In this case, the one who received the inattention should tolerate this and refrain from hostility towards the neighbour.
Imam Musa Kazem (AS) the 7th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) says: good neighbourliness is not to refrain from harassing but to be patient even if harassed by the neighbour.
The kind behaviour of neighbours towards each other is the source of many blessings. According to Islam, neighbourhood has good impacts if based on the humanitarian principles of Islam. Besides its positive effects in worldly life, it will be of benefit in afterlife as well. The blessings of good neighbourliness lead to the development of localities, and the whole city as well, because good neighbours provide good conditions for improving the welfare and amenities of the community.
Welfare in turn leads to peace of mind and tranquility of heart, and in turn contributes to physical health. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) on good behaviour especially towards neighbours says: Makes your behaviour good and be kind to your neighbours and love your women so that you enter Paradise without reckoning. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) also says: whoever dies while having three content neighbours he will be forgiven. So close relationship among neighbours increases solidarity in the community and that is why the Islamic teachings emphasize munificence to them.