Giving is better than receiving. This adage has been around for a long time, and everyone, no matter what religion, race, or nationality they are, is familiar with it. Yet many people think that by giving, they should be receiving in equal measure. Muslims are admonished to give far more than they receive. “Giving” is not just about monetary donations or material objects. It includes so much more: cooking a meal, running errands, driving people to appointments, or anywhere needed, visiting a friend who is sick or alone, taking time to share or teach a skill, in short, any way in which one can serve and help one’s fellow man, especially neighbors. Islam places great emphasis on the solidarity and unity of families, neighbors, and all of mankind. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was singularly mindful of this even before receiving his first revelation; he was foremost in teaching others through his actions, words, and behavior towards his family, friends, and neighbors…near and far.
Allah, the Almighty stressed to the Holy Prophet (sa) the need and magnitude of having good relations with neighbors. The Angel Gabriel continued commanding this duty for all Muslims to such an extent that it is mentioned in the Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa)):
“Ibn Umar and Ayesha relate that the Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Gabriel kept exhorting me about the neighbor till I imagined he would include him in the category of heirs’’ (1).
Being a good neighbor and realizing the duty to our neighbors does not just mean being friendly to the homeowners next door. It means to help take care of the community, including, of course, the less fortunate.
Allah, the Exalted has stated this point in the Holy Qur’an:
“Serve God and join not any partners with Him; and do good, to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess” (2).
There are innumerable examples of how the Holy Prophet (sa) treated his neighbors. He was so devoted to his neighbors, that he spent every day in some manner being kind and helpful to them. His days were mostly split up into three parts. The first part was for worship. The second part was for his family. The third was for his own personal needs. Yet, most of his third part of the day was allocated for the service of neighbors, friends, strangers, and mankind (3).
He used to go often to his neighbors’ homes and milk the goats for them. If his companions were hungry, he would bring them to his home and feed them. He would then encourage them to do the same. People would always come to his home and bring him and his family water. He would instruct them to always bring water for his neighbors as well. In fact, he laid so much emphasis on the rights of neighbors, that he had advised that whenever a Muslim brings fruit for his children, they should either send some to his neighbors as gifts or at least not throw the peel outside his home. This would prevent the neighbor from feeling deprived (4). Anytime he and his family had extra food or water, he always gave the leftovers to his neighbors and to the poor. If he knew of anyone who was ill, he would visit them to inquire about their health. He would caress them in his arms and pray for them. It did not matter if they were Muslims or not (5).
After family, neighbors are the people one depends on the most in times of strife and calamity, and in times of need. A bad relationship with neighbors can make life miserable. It is important that people who share a neighborhood be able to trust and rely on each other, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, or color. When one truly understands the teachings of Islam, one begins to see that if one member of a community suffers, then the whole community is in discord. Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village”, which means that everyone is taken care of, the entire community and/or neighborhood comes together to help one another.
As stated before, the Holy Prophet (sa) explained that giving monetary or material objects is not the only way to serve one’s fellow man. Praying is the most essential and vital “need” for everyone in this world, whether someone is poor, living only with bare essentials of food and water, or someone who is rich and lives well. Yet, there are simple ways to make a difference. The Holy Prophet (sa) explained:
“Do not consider any act of kindness insignificant, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face” (6).
He also said, “Every good deed is charity. Verily, it is a good deed to meet your brother with a cheerful face and to pour what is left from your bucket into the vessel of your brother” (7).
When a member of one’s community is in need, in danger, dealing with illness, or any calamity has fallen on him, it is the duty of a Muslim to reach out and offer help. To fail to do this is to fail in one’s duty to neighbors, and it is to leave a gaping hole in all of mankind. This is a Muslim’s failure in listening to Almighty Allah and to the Holy Prophet (sa). Yet, thinking that this is the worst type of failure is incorrect; treating neighbors (near and far) and strangers badly or cruelly is an even greater abomination. The Holy Prophet (sa) made this clear:
“He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his evil” (8).
Islam considers the rights and good treatment of the neighbor as of the highest importance. And since the Prophet Muhammad (sa) was the one to bring forth this message from God, he showed people the way to respect and repel all bad feelings towards neighbors. The Prophet (sa) once said, “By the One in whose Hands is my soul, no slave of God has true faith unless he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself.” A person who is good to his neighbor is the best of people in the sight of God. He then continued to say, “The best companion in the sight of God is the one who is best to his companion, and the best neighbor in the sight of God is the one who is the best to his neighbors” (8).
Prophet Muhammad (sa) insisted that a believer in God would not allow his brother or sister to go hungry or live in unfortunate conditions. Sadly, in today’s world, there are still too many starving children and old people neglected and forgotten, people dying alone, human beings being treated like savages, or neighbors, both near and far, going hungry, while others have ample amounts of the essentials of food, shelter and clothing. If the world followed the neighborly and compassionate example of the Holy Prophet (sa), one can only imagine what a perfect world we all would be living in.
- Sahih Muslim, The Book of Miscellany, Chapter: Rights of Neighbors
- The Holy Qur’an (4:36)
- Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, Muhammad: The Perfect Man. Pages 8-33.
- “The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), Treatment of Neighbors,” Reviewofreligions.org, November 13, 2015 (https://www.reviewofreligions.org/12317/the-holy-prophet-muhammadsa-treatment-of-neighbours/) [Accessed: February 2, 2022]
- Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, Muhammad: The Perfect Man. Pages 8-33.
- Sahih Muslim, The Book of Virtue, Joining the Ties of Kinship
- Sahih Muslim, The Book of Faith, Clarifying the prohibition of annoying one’s neighbor
- Sahih Al-Bukhari, Chapter: Afflictions and the End of the World
Last modified: March 2022