In the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
"Worship Allaah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allaah does not like such as are proud and boastful;" Qur'an 4:36
On the strength of Abu Hurayrah ( Abdurahman bin Sakhr Ad-Dausi) (RA) who said that The Messenger of Allaah (sallahllaahu 'alayhi wasallam) said, "Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or else remain silent. And whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him honor his neighbor. And whoever believes in Allaah and the last day, let him honor his guest." Bukhari and Muslim have it.
Man is a social being and pretty much impossible for him to live in isolation, so in an inherent move to live as a community man surrounds himself with neighbors wittingly or unwittingly.
We have reiterated times without number that Islam is more than an ideology, it is the cultural civilization of the Islamic world. It is responsible for our mental, spiritual and social disposition.
It is against this daunting responsibility that Allaah revealed the revelation upon the best of creations Muhammad bin Abdullah (pbuh) to serve as a guide for humanity and for him to equally serve as a model worthy of emulation. In discharging his responsibilities as a prophet his words, deeds and silent approvals have form the cardinal point upon which the lives of muslims revolve.
The Prophet (Pbuh) that told us about the rights of Allaah equally told us the rights of others upon us and this brings us to the topic we have at hand.
As Muslims, the legitimacy of our Iman in the above quoted hadith is tied down to certain deeds of which honoring the neighbor is a part of complete Iman.
Relating with our neighbors in a noble way with generosity, magnanimity and friendliness whether they are Muslims or Non-Muslims is not a privilege we accord them but a responsibility on our shoulders to be discharged.
In other narration aside the above quoted, the Prophet (Pbuh) warned us against causing harm and discomfort to our neighbors though it is haram to do that to anyone but more severe in the Sight of Allaah if meted out against a neighbor.
To substantiate this claim the hadith on the strength of Ibn Mas'ud (RA) recorded in the two Sahihs (Bukhari and Muslim) that the Prophet (Pbuh) was asked: which is the greatest sin?' He said: "To associate partners with Allaah" he was asked, 'then what?' he said: "to kill your child for the fear lest he eats with you (poverty)" he was asked, 'then what?' he said: "To commit Zina with your neighnor's wife."
Yet in another narration graded as Hasan (sound) in the musnad of Imam Ahmad on the strength of Al-Miqdaad bin Aswad (RA) who said that the Messenger of Allaah (Pbuh) asked his companions: "what do you say about Zina?" they said: 'it is haram (prohibited) for Allaah and His Messenger (Pbuh) have prohibited it and it will remain haram till the Day of Judgement' the Messenger of Allaah (Pbuh) said: "for a man to commit Zina with the wife of his neighbor is worse than to commit it with 10 women"
Some scholars of Tafseer such as ibn Abbas (RA) said that (the neighbor who is near of kin) means, "the neighbor who is also a relative", while, (The neighbor who is a stranger) means, "Who is not a relative."
Yet scholars such as Mujahid opined that (the neighbor who is a stranger) means "The companion during travel."
Also, from among the scholars of Qura'nic exegesis some said: Allaah's statement (the neighbor who is near of kin) is a Muslim neighbor and (the neighbor who is a stranger) is the kaafir (unbelievers).
In the Musnad of Abubakar al-Bazzar from the hadith on the strength of Jaabir bin Abdullah that there are three types of neighbors:
1- A neighbor that has only one right and this is the mushirk (polytheist, a kaafir) with no family ties. And this right is the right of neighbor only.
2- A neighbor that has two rights and this is the Muslim neighbor. He has the right of Islam and the right of neighbor.
3- A neighbor that has three rights and this the Muslim neighbor who is also a relative. And for him is the right of Islam and the right of neighbor and the right of relatives.
Scholars from the salaf (pious predecessors) have debated on what constitutes neighborhood, while some argue that it consists of forty (40) houses, others such as Imam Zuhri opined that forty houses to behind, forty houses in front, forty houses to right and forty houses to the left.
Furthermore, we need to be kind to our neighbors, to shower them with our love and gifts for the Prophet (Pbuh) said in a hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Amr that Jibril kept reminding him of the neighbor's right, until he thought a neighbor would inherit a neighbor.
And finally, the hadith of Aisha (RA) in Bukhari Shareef made us understand that the neighbor closest to us is more deserving of our our love and kindness.
She said: "I have two neighbors, so whom among them should I give my gift." The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "The neighbor whose door is closest to you."
Brothers and sisters in Islam, how many people live in urban centres today that are oblivious of who their neighbors are not to talk of being kind and dutiful to them?
How many people today are guilty of committing Zina with the neighbors wife and daughters?
How many people channel the waste from their houses to their neighbor's land?
How many encroach on their neighbor's land?
How many people celebrate the downfall of their neighbors?
How many people keep malice with their neighbors?
How many people disturb their neighbors with loud sound (music, TV etc) without any recourse to their comfort?
Know that our Iman will be counterfeit if we are guilty of causing discomfort to our neighbors.
May Allaah save us from evil neighbors and make us good neighbors.