Duty Towards Kin and Neighbors
AFTER the limited circle of the family, the next social sphere is that of kinship and blood relationship. Islam wants all those who are related through common parents, common brothers and sisters or marriage to be affectionate, cooperative and helpful to each other. In many places in the Qur ‘an good treatment of the near relations (Dhawi-al-qurba) is enjoined. In the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) proper treatment of one’s blood relations has been strongly emphasized and counted among the highest virtues. Islam looks with great disfavor a person who cold-shoulders his relations or treats them indifferently.
But this does not mean that it is an Islamic virtue to favor one’s relations. If such support or bias towards one’s relations results in injustice, it is repugnant to Islam, and is condemned as an act of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic times). Similarly, it is utterly against the principles of Islam for a government official or public servant to support his relations at public expense or to favor his kith and kin in his official decisions: this would actually be a sinful act. Fair treatment of one ‘s relations, as enjoined by Islam, should be at one’s own expense and within the limits of justice and fairplay.
After relations come one’s neighbors. The Qur’an has divided them into three categories:
1. a neighbor who is also a relation
2. a neighbor who is a stranger
3. a casual or temporary neighbor with whom one happens to live or travel for a certain time.
All of them are deserving of sympathy, affection, kindness and fair treatment. The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said that the rights of the neighbor were so strongly emphasized by Angel Gabriel that he thought neighbors might even share one ‘s inheritance. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be on him) said: Anyone whose neighbor is not safe from his misdeeds is not a true Believer. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Again, he said: A person who enjoys a meal while his neighbor is starving is not a true Believer. (Ahmad, Baihaqi)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked about the fate of a woman who performed regular prayers and fasted extensively and who was a frequent almsgiver, but whose neighbors complained of her abusive tongue. He said: Such a woman shall be in the Hellfire. He was, then, asked about another woman who did not possess these virtues but did not trouble her neighbors either, whereupon he said: She would be in Paradise. (Ahmad, Baihaqi)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has laid so much emphasis on being considerate to neighbors that he has advised that whenever a Muslim brings home fruit for his children he should either send some to his neighbors as a gift, or at least take care not to offend them by throwing the peelings away outside their door. On another occasion he said: A man is really good if his neighbors regard him as such, and bad if they consider him so. (Ibn Majah)
Islam, therefore, requires all neighbors to be loving and helpful and to share each other’s sorrows and happiness. It enjoins upon them to establish social relations in which one can depend upon the other and regard his life, honor and property safe among his neighbors. A society in which two people, separated only by a wall, remain unacquainted with one another for years, and in which those living in the same area of a town have no interest or trust in one another, can never be called Islamic.
Next to these come the wider relationships covering the whole of society. The broad principles on which Islam wants people to structure their social lives are:
Help you one another in Al-Birr and Al-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. (Qur’an 5: 2)
You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Maruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden. (Qur’ an 3:110)
Do not think evil of each other, nor probe into each other’s affairs, nor incite one against the other. Avoid hatred and jealousy. Do not unnecessarily oppose each other. Always remain the slaves of Allah, and live as brothers to each other. (Muslim)
Do not help a tyrant, knowing him to be such. (Abu Daud)
To support the community when it is in the wrong is like falling into a well while catching the tail of your camel which was about to fall into it. (Abu Daud; Mishkat)
No one among you shall be a true believer unless he likes for others what he likes for himself. (Bukhari and Muslim)