The maxim “love they neighbor” is usually associated with Christian virtues. The second commandment instructs believers to love their neighbors as they love themselves. It might surprise some to know that this is very much in line with what Muslims have been instructed to do as well.
The Quran states:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Chapter 49, Verse 13).
Here, Allah is telling people that they originate from the same parents, Adam and Eve (peace be upon them). The differences among people come from their different identities, cultures and races. Humans have not been created as a homogenous mass; instead Allah has created them differently so that we “know one another” or become familiar with people who are different, understand their viewpoints and accept the differences that make us who we are, and make them who they are. Differences between and among people are to be expected. In no place has Allah instructed anyone to annihilate or hate people based on difference. In fact, we are not even given the right to speak ill of each other. Doing so is sure to invoke the wrath of our Creator who has created every one according to His supreme will and power:
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name [i.e. mention] of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent- then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (Chapter 49, Verse 11).
It is clear from the verse above that even ridiculing people who are different from us is not allowed because we, limited by our human understanding and prejudices, cannot rate ourselves superior to others. Only Allah can judge who is best among us. We are also not to insult one another or call each other offensive names- doing so means that we are disobeying Allah and also insulting his creation.
The concept of neighborly love extends into the sunnah, the actions and teachings of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). There are several instances where he has told Muslims to love his or her neighbor irrespective of their religion, to be generous and kind, and to foster cordial relationships strengthened by helping one another and being aware of neighbors’ needs even if they do not actively ask for help.
An example of neighborly love irrespective of their religion and treatment towards us is found in the Hadith : There was an old lady who used to throw rubbish on our beloved prophet Mohammed(Peace be upon him) everyday and one day she did not throw rubbish on him, so he went to her house to inquire about her and on noticing prophet Mohammed(peace be upon him) she got angry and asked why he was there. To this his reply was that he wanted to check that she was well and if she needed any help.
Intolerance, ridicule, negativity and ultimately hatred- all stem from the root cause of ignorance. When we are ignorant about other people, we tend to “fill in the gaps” of our knowledge through presumption. Presumptions lead us to start believing things about people that may or may not be true. For example, I might have a neighbor whom I have not interacted with a lot. Every time I step out of the house, I see her getting into her car and driving away. As she has never stopped to talk, I might assume she does not like Muslims and she does not want to be friends with a neighbor who sports a hijab; but one day when we actually do talk, she might say to me she always intended to talk to me but because of her work timings, she is in a rush at the time she sees me. By talking and understanding the other’s point of view, we begin to see the world from a different perspective, which might be completely opposed to our preconceived ideas.
Living in close proximity to one another is the ideal situation for Muslims to demonstrate the teachings of Islam, that the best humans are those that care for each other and look out for each other and are not afraid to explore a view different from their own, and who are happy to celebrate the diversity and difference which makes our world interesting, exciting and full of possibility.
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