Generosity Towards Non-Muslim Neighbours

Generosity Towards Non-Muslim Neighbours

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


The Muslim who understands the teachings of his religion hastens to treat his neighbour in the best way he can. Nothing is too insignificant when it comes to respecting his neighbour, as some ignorant people think – they may think something is too small to be worth giving as a gift to a neighbour,

so they refrain from giving it, thus depriving themselves and their neighbours of much goodness. This is something the Prophet (p) pointed out to women in particular, as many of them may feel too shy to offer a small gift to a neighbour:

‘O Muslim women, do not think that any gift is too insignificant to give to a neighbour, even if it is only a sheep’s foot.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)

A sheep’s foot is a thing of little value, but it is better than nothing, and no women should feel that any gift is not worth giving to a neighbour. Allah says:

‘Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it!’ – Qur’an 99:7

And the Prophet (p) said:

‘Save yourself from the Fire even by giving half a date in charity.’ (Bukhari)

But this hadith, which is general in application, may also be taken to mean that the recipient should not look down on the gift. The meaning then is: No (female) neighbour should scorn the gift  given to her by another (female) neighbour, even if it is it is just a sheep’s foot. Rather, she should thank her for it, because gratitude engenders friendship among neighbours and encourages mutual support and help. This is in addition to the fact that thanking people for favours is a basic Islamic trait which the Prophet (p) strongly encouraged:

‘The one who does not give thanks to people does not give thanks to Allah.’(Bukhari – In Adab al-Mufrad)


The true Muslim does not restrict his good treatment only to neighbours who are related to him or who are Muslims, but he extends it to non-Muslim neighbours too, so that the tolerance of Islam may spread to all people, regardless of their race or religion. The eminent Sahabi (Companion) Abdullah ibn Amr had a sheep slaughtered and asked his servant, ‘

‘Did you give some meat to our Jewish neighbour? For I heard the Prophet (p) say, “‘Jibril kept on enjoining the good treatment of neighbours to the extent that I thought he would include neighbours as heirs.’” (Bukhari And Muslim)

The people of the Book (Christians and Jews) have lived among Muslims for centuries, knowing that they, their honour, their wealth and their beliefs are secure, and enjoying good neighbourly relations, good treatment and freedom of worship. Evidence of this is seen in the continued existence of their ancient churches, clinging to mountaintops, surrounded by thousands of Muslims who uphold the well-being of their Jewish and Christian neighbours in accordance with Qur’anic teachings:

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for [your] Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. – Quran 60:8


The true Muslim does not forget the precise system that Islam set out when it enjoined the good treatment of neighbours. Islam has told him to give priority to the one whose house is closest, then the one who is next closest, and so on. This takes into account the closeness of the neighbours whose homes are beside one another, the issues which may frequently arise between them and the importance of maintaining friendship and harmony. A’ishah said:

‘O Messenger of Allah, I have two neighbours, so to which one should I send a gift?’ He said, ‘To the one whose door is closer to yours.’ (Bukhari)

The Sahabah (Companions) were well-aware of this Islamic teaching regarding the treatement of one’s neighbours, so they would not attend to the good treatment of neighbours whose home was further away until they had taken care of the one whose home was nearer. Concerning this, Abu Hurayrah (ra) said:

‘He does not start with the neighbour whose home is further away before he takes care of the one whose home is nearer. He pays attention to the one whose home is nearer before he turns  his attention to the one whose home is further away.’ (Bukhari – Adab al-Mufrad)

Everyone around his home is considered to be a neighbour and thus enjoys the rights of a neighbour. This system is merely a matter of organization, by means of which the Prophet (p) encouraged taking care of the closest neighbour because he is the one with whom there is usually ongoing contact and interaction.


The attitude of treating neighbours well is deeply engrained in the Muslim’s conscience and is one of the features that most distinguishes him in the sight of Allah and of other people, because the true Muslim who has grown  up in or been nurtured by Islam and has internalized its teachings, cannot but be the best of companions and the best of neighbours. He is the one described by the Prophet (p):

‘the best of companions in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his companion and the best of neighbours in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his neighbour.’ (Al-Tirmidhi with Sahih Isnad)

So Islam counts a good neighbour, one whose presence is a source of comfort, security and safety, as one of the joys of a Muslim’s life. The Prophet (p) honoured the good neighbour by describing him as one of the pillars of happiness in a Muslim’s life:

‘Among the things that bring happiness to a Muslim in this life are a righteous neighbour, a spacious house and a good steed.’ (Ahmad and al-Hakim with sahih Isnad)

The Salaf appreciated the value of good neighbours so much that they considered having a good neighbour to be a priceless blessing. One story which reflects this tells that the neighbour of Sa’id ibn al-As wanted to sell his home for 100.000 dirhams,  and told the would-be purchaser,

‘This is the price of the house, but what would you give for having Sa’id  as a neighbour?’

When Sa’id heard about this, he sent his neighbour the price of the house and told him to stay there. This is the status of neighbours in Islam, and the attitude and behaviour of a good Muslim neighbour. [1]


Source Discover the Truth

[1] The Ideal Muslim: The True Islamic Personality Of the Muslim Man as Defined In The Quran and Sunnah By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi, Page 118 – 122

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