The Prophet’s (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam ) Treatment of Neighbors
When Prophet Muḥammad (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) was divinely sent, he found that it was a common practice for people to be bad neighbors. Everybody used to wrong their neighbor and treat him badly. Moreover, people did not see that this behavior was a fault or a blemish to one's character. Ja’far ibn abu Talib (Radiyallahu 'Anhu) - the cousin of Prophet Muḥammad (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) – described briefly the then common practice while talking to Negus, King of Ethiopia, as saying: ‘We were a nation of ignorance and evil. We used to break our family ties and treat neighbors badly”.
Therefore, a neighbor did not feel safe from his neighbor’s evil, but rather expected evil from his neighbor at anytime. So, the Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) came and raised the value of being a good neighbor, giving the neighbor more rights that helped secure the community and establish the rules of love, security, safety, and co-operation among people.
Accordingly, he declared that his message was not only a devotional message to reform the religion; but it was also a call to rectify life, the larger community, and all types of treatment as well. Hence, it is a message to reform all aspects of life. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) was the first one to enforce these rights and duties in order to lead by example.
The rights of neighbors in the message of Muhammad (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam):
The Qur’an came to confirm the rights of neighbors and recommend Muslims to treat them justly. Allah the Almighty says, “Serve Allah, and join not 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 (you meet), (Al-Nisaa’, 4: 36)
Due to their enforceable rights, there are many Prophetic traditions that command kind treatment to neighbors. Because of the repeated recommendations by Angel Jibraeel (Alaiyhis Salaam) on neighbors, the Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) thought that the neighbor would be given a share of inheritance and be considered family member. On the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar Radiyallahu 'Anhu said, Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) said, “Jibraeel (Alaiyhis Salaam) kept reminding of neighbors' rights that I thought he would order me to take them for heirs”.
The phrase (kept reminding me) means that every time he met the Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) and wanted to leave, he reminded him of neighbors' rights. Furthermore, he stressed on this point and reminded him to treat neighbors justly. Due to the repeated enjoinments, the Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) thought that Allah the Almighty would give him a rightful share in his neighbor’s money.
Islam told mankind that the best Muslim is the one who is best to his neighbors. On the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As Radiyallahu 'Anhu who said that Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) said, “The best of companions with Allah is the one who is best to his companion, and the best of neighbors with Him is the one who is best to his neighbor”.
The Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) told us that the ugliest and worst type of sin is to deal with neighbors badly and to betray the right of neighborhood. This is because it is the duty of the neighbor to be honest concerning his neighbor’s money, honor, and dignity.
In another occasion his wife ‘Aisha Radiyallahu 'Anha asked him saying, “O Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam)! I have two neighbors and would like to know to which of them I should give presents." He replied, "To the one whose door is nearer to you."Also, he referred to the importance of a neighbor smiling to his neighbor, and sharing his food by saying, “Don't consider anything insignificant out of good things even if it is that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance”. The Prophet also said, “O Abu Dharr Radiyallahu 'Anhu, if you cook soup, make a lot of it and give your neighbors”.
Muhammad (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) taught that a neighbor has a right that his close neighbor should fulfill, i.e. sharing with him in good and bad times, and feeding him from what he eats even if it was soup. This is to make him feel his position and importance without wounding his pride or causing him injustice. In addition, being a good neighbor is to keep one's neighbor's family and children safe when absent, offering services to them, taking care of their needs, protecting them and ensuring that the elder ones do not violate the rights of the younger.
So, He (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) enjoins a Muslim to love his neighbor, respect him, treat him fairly, show him kindness whenever and however possible, visit him if ill, console him, serve him, help him if necessary, love goodness for him and lower his gaze if he sees anything that is illegal to look at.
Thus, the greatest meanings of loyalty, co-operation, and taking care of others living with us are shown here. The Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) implanted these meanings in his Companions, and he (Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam) was the best and the greatest to his neighbors.