A while back, I wrote the article How to be a Productive Neighbour. The response and queries from the readers prompted me to do another one so I could share more tips on how to become a productive neighbour as well as how to deal with issues that hamper our zeal to become one.
As I made my intention to write, I realised that last Ramadan, I was surrounded in the mercy and comfort of Allah in the form of neighbours. I would like to share the lessons I have learnt from some incredible human beings, with whom I am so happy and proud to be neighbours.
Many of us live in a neighbourhood for a long period of time, making friends with our neighbours over cups of tea and conversations over the garden fence. Then in search of our rizq, we may leave behind our home and neighbourhood, only to visit during the holidays. Jet-lagged and tired, we open the doors of a dirty house and sigh at the mess that we have to clean before we can live comfortably in the house.
This is a great opportunity to be a good neighbour and help out those poor souls like me, who come with kids and baggage to take care of. How we can help?
- Cleaning: We generally leave an extra set of keys with a trusted neighbour in case of emergencies. Since my move out, my incredible neighbour gets the house cleaned for me before I arrive with my small children. Once she even hung the curtains! I cannot express how relived and happy I was to enter a house that smelled fresh after my long flight.
- Stocking up the kitchen: The last Ramadan, due to traffic, I was very late reaching my house. An empty refrigerator, the late hour and suhoor were worrying me more than the long drive. Alhamdulillah, for my great neighbour, who not only got milk, butter, eggs and bread for breakfast for my children, but also kept a hot dinner ready for us. We arrived so late that she had fallen asleep while she waited. Nevertheless, it made for a great suhoor! It was narrated from Abu Dharr that the Prophet said: “When you make broth, add more water and give some to your neighbour.” [Ibn Majah]
- Babysitting the children of jet-lagged parents: This is a very simple and guaranteed way to earn a lot of appreciation and prayers. Nothing beats taking over children of a jet-lagged parent. With the fatigue of a long journey and the time difference in some cases, children tend to become unsettled and unhappy. Take care of the children by entertaining them with popcorn and a movie at home or provide them with toys, so the tired parents can get some sleep.
Appreciate a Good Deed
- Appreciate your neighbour by exchanging gifts: When you visit, prepare gifts for your neighbour — these small tokens show how much you care for them. Narrated by Abu Huraira, The Prophet said: “O Muslim women, never belittle any gift you give your neighbour even if it is a hoof of a sheep.” [Bukhari]
- Acknowledge good deeds: The other day as I was bounding up the stairs of my apartment, I was stopped by the soft and melodious voice of my neighbour’s son reciting the Qur’an. As I had been absent for so long, I had no clue he had advanced so much in reading. Masha Allah! He was doing such a good job that tears came to my eyes. Such deeds should be appreciated. I made it a point the next day to acknowledge his feat with a small gift to encourage him further in his Qur’an recitation.
Take Care of a Loved One
- Take care of the loved one left behind: When we left India, my father-in-law would visit our house, using it as a station between his travels. My diligent neighbour always prepared food for him whenever she came to know he was in the house.
- Keep an eye on the kids at home with their nannies: Some of us have to go out to run errands or work and leave our kids with our domestic helpers or nannies. Pop in for a visit to check that everything is all right. I cannot tell you how much such a deed warms a mother’s heart that has no choice, but to leave her precious one at home alone.
- Meet, greet and talk: If you are visiting, greet your neighbours and talk to them, ask about them and their loved ones.
Readers have also asked how they can help to promote good relations between neighbours of different religions, culture and age. I will address them in the following section.
1. Multicultural Neighbourhood
A multicultural neighbourhood provides a great opportunity to do dawah and educate others about Islam. Courtesy, thoughtfulness and good manners go a long way in establishing a fruitful relationship.
- Use gentleness in approach: Allah told Musa to be “gentle” with Fir’oun, while delivering the message of Allah in Surah Ta ha. Gentleness, coupled with wisdom, works really well. If they show any interest in any Islamic teachings, share correct information in a very humble and pleasing manner, being very careful not to offend by tone or words.
- Be considerate: If their faith prohibits meat of any kind, be mindful of how you dispose of your waste. Do not let them see your eaten bones of KFC or chicken tikka etc. During Eid ul-Adha bring slaughtered meat into your house in bags that do not give out any stench. When cooking for them, use separate spoons and utensils; tell them and show them, never breaking their trust.
2. Difficult Neighbours
“I try my best to be kind, helpful but the same neighbours talk about my personal matters behind my back. So what should we do? They take advantage of our kindness”.
Many of us might be able to relate to what is being said above. What should we do in this scenario?
- Think: Who am I doing it for? For Allah , to make Him happy with me. Then whatever happens, you will get your reward from Him. Do not let their idle talk hurt you and stop you from doing good and earning His pleasure. Continue your good work, sit back and enjoy the rewards that He bestows upon you in all areas of your life.
- For any misuse of your facilities: Maybe you could tell them nicely that it gets very difficult for you. Make dua to Allah and ask His help to solve this matter. In sha Allah, He will guide you in the best manner and let you continue your good work.
3. Young Neighbours
Some of us might be parents of youngsters and or youngsters ourselves. What can we do to be good to the neighbours?
- Help carry their groceries into the house or anything that can ease someone’s burden. Sometimes a sister can be struggling with her children and shopping bags. Rain or snow may also make routine tasks more complicated.
- If visiting the home of a neighbour, help carry the dishes to the kitchen.
- Volunteer to teach children the Qur’an, math or reading.
- Take time out to accompany an elderly neighbour to the local library.
- Visit an elderly neighbour and spend time with him/her.
There are many ways in which we can be good neighbours. Courtesy and kindness go a long way, In sha Allah!
I have listed some tips from my own experience and some from what I have seen others do. What do you think you will do for your neighbour today?