By Abu Maigoro
In a season of reflection like Christmas, one has to go further to look back and reckon the days of peaceful coexistence, tolerance and harmony. In the late 80s, precisely during primary school days on Christmas day like this, my grand father would have received many requests from our Christians neighbors to come and slaughter their cows, goats and chickens. They entrusted him with this mandate without minding he was an Islamic scholar. We grew up seeing ourselves as one people worshiping same God but in different faiths – in different convictions but at the same fidelity.
We reflected the basic teachings of religion on neighborhood and brotherhood. We explored the best moral practice of mutual respect and understanding. We won’t talk about peace because there was no absence of it.
Going back to the memory lane has helped me to understand kindness to neighbors is a common point that all religions share. Becca Ehrlich AKA The Christian Minimalist is a Pastor at Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia USA. In her excellent sermon she elaborated the most important item that drew my attention. She talked deeply about neighbors and how Jesus Christ (AS) treated His neighbors and how He taught His disciples love for neighbors. She quoted the book of Mathew 22:37-40
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The love of God and the love for neighbors are two undetarchable bond in Islam. It’s the fundamentals posture that hold together. And the situation we found ourselves today was as a result of dishonoring our neighbors. In Islam, being a good neighbor and realizing the duty to our neighbors doesn’t just mean being friendly to the homeowners next door. It means to help take care of the community irrespective of faith or tribe of the inhabitants.
Prophet Muhammad (AS) also taught His disciples and the entire Ummah the best of kindness to the neighbors. He would say, Archangel Gabriel continued to urge me to be kind to neighbors until I started to think that he would tell me that they have a share of my inheritance.”.
As Muslims our immediate neighbors in faith are the Christians and the holy Qur’an made us to grasp the quality of Christians in our faith apart from being our neighbors.
You will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, “We are Christians.” That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant. Qur’an 5:82
However, the right of our neighbors must be given to them in accordance of religion guidance. The teaching of Jesus Christ (AS) was apparently being practised by our Christians neighbors in those days. And the teaching of Islam was also obvious. It’s indubitable facts that today we let the basic principles go. We become more religious in mouth than in practice
And in Islam it’s a duty to help your neighbor if he asks for your help. Give him relief if he seeks your relief, lend him if he needs a loan. Do not block his air by raising your building high without his permission,
Do not harass him. Give him a share when you buy fruits; if you do not, bring what you buy quietly and let not your children take them out to excite the jealousy of his children. You must visit (and take care of) him when he is ill. You must attend his funeral when he dies (and take part in burial arrangements) If he commits a sin, prevent it from being known, Congratulate him if he is met with good fortune, Grieve in sympathy if a calamity befalls him, When a member of your community is in need, danger or illness or calamity has fallen on him, it is your duty as a Muslim to reach out and offer them help (regardless of the neighbor’s faith or background). To fail to do this is to fail in our duty to our neighbors, and is to leave a gaping hole in the society.
This gaping hole costs us a lot in the area of peace, trust, unity and tranquility. We are no longer brothers, we see ourselves as enemies. We can no longer interact like our ancestors. The gaping hole has disconnects the mutuality in our society.
While Prophet Muhammad warned (SAW) us to be careful and mindful with our neighbors, He said in one of the Hadith. “He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful conduct. (Muslim)”
Pastor Becca Ehrlich expounds the true meaning of simple life as derived from Jesus Christ (AS). He led a simple life, He was able to truly focus on what mattered most. He made relationship with others a priority, sharing good news and serving others. And Jesus encourages us to be generous with our resources for both our spiritual well being and for others Like 22:1-4
The peaceful coexistence lies on our ability to adopt generosity. And it must start with our immediate neighbors if we really want to attain spiritual well being. In tune with this, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said
Whoever believes in God and in the Day of Judgment must not offend his neighbor. (Al-Bukhari) and in another narration He would say “He is not a true believer who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry.”
The blessing of God will usher in people who adhere to the doctrines of kindness to neighbors. As Muslims we must reflect on showing absolute love to our neighbors. I am convinced that until we give our neighbors their rights that is God will give us peace and harmony.
Compliment of the season.
Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.
Mr. Maigoro, a commentator on national issues writes from Jos, Plateau State.