It was a cold Texan winter. The trees looked so pale as did my next door neighbor at the sight of me! A white conservative older lady, she did not seem so keen on having a Muslim for a new neighbor.
Let me tell you this, it is not an easy task to look like a Muslim in Texas. A lot of Texans have never even talked to a Muslim in the first place!
As the days passed, I decided I want to break the ice. I am sure she will ease up once she gets to know me, I thought. Sometimes, I would get a sneak peek of her while parking my car or going out for a walk, but I would never manage to get more from her, other than a nervous smile.
Ramadan came, my husband took a beautiful initiative to invite our three next door neighbors for an iftar. Of course, this included my next door neighbor.
“Did you manage to convince her to come?” I was eager to know.
“She can’t make it.” This did not really come to me as a shock.
“How about the others?” He smiled.
“The other two families are coming:)”
“Wow, good job.”
Still, I felt it wasn’t enough. I need her to ease up to us as well. And I want her to know Muslims are good people and Islam is a peaceful religion. I am sure she is getting negative stereotypes about Muslims from mass media.
I Knocked at My Neighbor’s Door. You won’t Believe What Happened!
One day I decided to knock at my neighbor’s door, against the better of my judgment I thought. I stood there at her doorstep hesitant to knock. I looked at the Egyptian dessert I had made her and wondered if she would accept it. Next to the dessert was a note I had written her introducing myself and my family and a quick summary on Islam. I made dua:
“Oh Allah open up her heart.” “Knock, knock.”
The door opened and there she stood.
“Hi, I made you this dessert, hope you like it.”
I gave her the envelope and dessert and was just about to leave when she said: “Come in” in a sweet manner. I was aghast. And I thought maybe I hadn’t heard her right. Indeed she did gesture for me to come in and by the grace of Allah her heart had opened up to me. We sat in the living and she chatted in a relaxed manner subhan Allah.
The Quran on Kindness to Neighbors
Allah Almighty shows us the importance of treating our neighbors kindly. Not only the kin one but moreover the one who is a stranger. Quranic Interpretation:
Worship God alone and do not associate with Him any partners. Be kind to your parents and near of kin, to orphans, the needy, the neighbor who is related to you and the neighbor who is a stranger, the friend by your side, the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. God does not love those who are arrogant and boastful. (Quran 4: 36)
Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah of Caring for Neighbors
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had such a caring nature that encompassed all humankind: Muslim and Non-Muslim. There are many stories from the Seerah that highlight his caring nature for his neighbors as well as encouraging his Ummah to follow in his footsteps.
One day, Jabir ibn-Abdullah invited the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to eat with him at his house. Although the Prophet (peace be upon him) was starving, he did not want to go alone. He took some of the Muhajirin (immigrants from Makkah) and the Ansar along with him, and miraculously, the little amount of food available at Jabir’s house became enough to satisfy all those who attended. (Al-Bukhari)
On inviting neighbors over, The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companion Abu Dharr:
Abu-Dharr, when you prepare the broth, add water to it and invite your neighbor over. (Muslim)
In a call to Muslim women to share with their neighbors, we hear:
O Muslim women, none of you should consider even a sheep’s trotter too insignificant to give to her neighbor. (Al-Bukhari)
Kindness to Non Muslim Neighbors
The Prophet used to show kind treatment to non Muslim neighbors as well.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As:
Mujahid said that Abdullah ibn Amr slaughtered a sheep and said:
“Have you presented a gift from it to my neighbor, the Jew, for I heard the Messenger of Allah say:
Gabriel kept on commending the neighbor to me so that I thought he would make an heir. (Abu Dawud)
An American Muslim non-profit organization has invited people of different backgrounds to share a meal that symbolizes unity and peace in their Sunset Park community in Brooklyn.
“It is an honor to have such amazing allies and friends who are not afraid to break down walls to get to know their neighbors.” Said Mohamed Bahe, founder and director of Muslims Giving Back, a non-profit organization that tries to fight hunger by providing food to less fortunate, Brooklyn Reporter reported.
“It’s extremely empowering toward our community to see such beautiful people willing to reach out and help towards our well-being. It shows us that love does indeed trump all forms of hate.” (Brooklyn Muslims Host Meal for Unity)
Oklahoma Muslims are sharing glimpses into their lives in a new awareness campaign seeking to raise awareness of American Muslims and their stories.
“That’s what #TheMuslimNextDoor is really all about,” Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Oklahoma Gazette.
“Hopefully it’s something other states can adopt and use to challenge the growing sentiment of Islamophobia by telling their own stories.”
CAIR-OK recently started a LaunchGood to crowdfund the project titled #TheMuslimNextDoor. (Awareness Campaign Introduces Oklahoma Muslims to Neighbors)
Get to Know your Neighbors
I highly encourage everyone out there to go out and get to know their neighbors. You can’t imagine the impact you have on opening up hearts to the true perception of Islam. If everyone simply practiced the Sunnah of kindness to their neighbors, endless bridges of mutual understanding and harmony would cross the world.