Are you a good Neighbour?

If you are not giving your neighbours their due rights, then you are missing an important part of your duties as a Muslim.

A neighbour is someone who lives in the same neighbourhood as you; he could be a friend, but does not necessarily have to be one. The definition of a neighbour can have various meanings; for example, it can refer to someone who lives directly beside you, as the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “One must not prevent his neighbour from placing his wood against his wall.” [Al-Bukhari].

However, it can also refer to someone living further away, since the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “No obligatory Salaah (prayer) is accepted from a neighbour of the Masjid (mosque) except if it is offered in the Masjid.”

Present-day examples would include machines and equipment that emit disturbing noises. If people do anything on their property that is disturbing or harmful to their neighbours, then they must remove the cause of the disturbance.

It is permissible for people to build a house on their own property, even up against their neighbour’s wall -- but only if they have no other choice and only if their neighbour is not harmed by it in any way. Even in such cases, they should still ask their neighbor’s permission beforehand.

If they are denied permission, their neighbour may be legally compelled to grant them permission by the proper authorities. The proof for this is in a Hadith related by Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “You must not prevent your neighbour from putting his wood on your wall.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If the flow of water becomes blocked on a farm, perhaps due to wastefulness and subsequently bursts out, causing damage to neighbouring farms, the neighbours may come up with proposals to channel or dam the water and irrigate the farm. If the wasteful farmer refuses to comply with them, the ruling is the same as in the following case of a damaged wall.

If a wall between two properties is damaged, the owners of one property can ask the owners of the other to participate in rebuilding it. If they refuse, they can be compelled to do so. Likewise, they can be compelled to help demolish the wall if it is expected to collapse.

The owners of the highest buildings in an area must construct screens to prevent themselves from overlooking their neighbour’s properties. Likewise, whoever wishes to utilise their roof should make sure that they cannot see into their neighbour’s properties and erect a screen for this purpose if necessary.

Whoever owns some property, but cannot reach it without causing damage to a neighbour’s property is forbidden to cause the damage. Instead, the authorities should endeavour to arrange matters in a way that prevents harm to either party.

Thus, even though our neighbours may be Muslim or non-Muslims -- each are equally entitled to their rights according to our religion. Sometimes we may find it hard to reach out to our non-Muslim neighbours, but it is an obligation upon us, and it can also be one of the best forms of Da’wah (call to Islam) we can give.