Neighbors in Islam

Islam teaches Muslims to treat their neighbors kindly and protect their rights

In Saudi Arabia, people often live in extended family groups, with several villas attached to one another behind a single "compound" wall. Within one set of villas there may live grandparents, unmarried children, married children with their families, and others. Huda, About.com Guide to Islam

In Islam, neighbors are to be treated with kindness and respect, and it is considering sinful to annoy those living around you. In fact, neighbors in Islam have mutual rights and responsibilities.

Neighbors' Rights in the Quran

"Serve Allah, and do not join 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 (that you meet)... For Allah does not love the arrogant, the boastful" (Quran 4:36).

Treatment of Neighbors in Islamic Tradition

During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, he repeatedly emphasized the importance of treating neighbors well.  He told his followers, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not harm or annoy his neighbor."  Another time, he told the people that a person is not part of his community if he "sleeps contentedly while his neighbor sleeps hungry."  The Prophet specifically told one of his followers to add plenty of water when preparing his broth, so that he may have more to share with his neighbors.

In a more firm statement, the Prophet repeated several times, "By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer!" The people asked what he meant, and he answered: "The person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his wrongful behavior."

The Prophet Muhammad once said that if the Angel Gabriel had advised him to be generous with neighbors, to the point that he almost thought that Allah would give neighbors inheritance rights as well.

The Prophet Muhammad summarized good treatment of neighbors:

"He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be kind to his neighbor; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him either speak good or remain silent."

Our generous spirit should not be limited to only Muslim neighbors. We must reach out and offer kindness and help no matter our neighbors' faith or background.

Rights of Neighbors

It can be summarized from Islamic sources that neighbors have the following rights upon us:

  • Show them respect
  • Look after their property when they are away
  • Help them if they are harmed, ill, or in trouble
  • Share food and other materials as we are able
  • Protect their privacy
  • Refrain from annoying them

There is an Arabic proverb that says, "Choose your neighbor before choosing your home." A good neighbor can be a source of security and comfort, especially nowadays when people often live far away from their own families. Our neighbors often become our extended family, the people that we turn to first in an emergency. Building strong relationships with our neighbors, upon a foundation of mutual respect, is the duty of a Muslim.