Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are arrogant and boastful. (Qur’an, 4:36)
Do you know your neighbors? Are you friendly and speak together regularly? Have you helped them in their yard, pulling weeds or shoveling snow? Did you know that our neighbors have rights over us? Some include looking after their property, helping them when they are in need or ill, protecting their privacy, sharing food and resources, and even not being a nuisance. Of course respect is essential and should be extended to everyone we encounter.
I’ve lived in this home for two years, yet I’ve never introduced myself to the neighbors. I smile and wave hello, but never approached their doorstep to speak to them. This campaign stems from my own lack of taking initiative to meet my neighbors. How can I expect them to have good thoughts of us if they don’t actually know our family. They’ve seen me playing in the street with my daughters, but do they know that I make awesome chocolate chip cookies? We’ve passed each other coming to and from the community mailbox, but do they know my husband can offer them a great deal on a car from his lot? We both take daily walks, but do they know that my daughters are Girl Scouts and contribute regularly to the community?
On Wednesday, February 10, Deah Barakat (23), his wife Yusor Abu-Salha (21), and her sister Razan Abu-Salha (19), were shot and killed by their neighbor in their own home. The news has left the Muslim community devastated and frustrated. How can such wonderful individuals, that had so much to offer the world, be targeted for such a heinous crime?
I did not know them, though I can’t help but wish that I did. Yet even though they were strangers to me, they were still my brother and sisters in Islam. I wanted to honor their legacy and do something positive with their memories.
I urge us all to take initiative, if you have not already done so, to meet our neighbors. Take them a treat, a basket of fruit, or a sampling of our delicious dinner. Tell them a little bit about ourselves, where we work, about our kids, our hobbies. Let them know we noticed their grass is a little long and we’d like to cut it for them. Offer to take in their garbage cans or pick up their newspaper from the driveway.
Our neighbors are not only the people we live next to, but it extends to our coworkers in the next cubicle, the other shops next to our own businesses. It’s reaching out the the parents in the next classroom. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is said to have defined the “neighbor” in these words: “Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right.”
Together, we can begin to change the perception of Muslims starting in our own communities. We must stand up to be productive Muslim neighbors. It should be so that if anyone we deal with in our daily lives sees the negative image of Islam and Muslims portrayed in the media, that they do not believe it. “That’s not true, my neighbor is Muslim and they are none of those things.”
My mother has always reached out to our neighbors. I’ve grown up watching her take care of them and share her amazing homemade bread, amongst other things, with those in our neighborhood. Yet, as an adult I found myself too shy to follow her beautiful and gracious character. I start with myself. This is directly because of my own lack of connection. I will be the change I wish to see in the world. I will lead by example for my daughters. I will be a source of peace, kindness, and help for my entire community. My name is Amnah Ibrahim, I am your Muslim neighbor.
Amnah Ibrahim is a Muslim mom blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area. She blogs at Little Life of Mine.