Reflection No. 175 on Q 4:36 – Do Good to your Neighbors
وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ
Wabil-walidayni iHsana wabidhil-qurba walyatama walmasakīnī waljari dhilqurba wajaril-junub
And do good to parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the near neighbour and the distant neighbor
(Sūratun Nisa, No. 4, Ayat 36)
An important part of Islam after worship of Allah and fulfilling His rights is fulfilling the rights of others. Consideration for others and understanding one’s obligations to others is a prerequisite for attaining the pleasure of the Almighty.
The verse above identifies certain groups of people who have rights over the believer. Among them is the neighbor. Allah specifies two types of neighbors; the near one and the distant one. According to Tafsīr Namūneh, the closeness and distance could be physical distance, with some homes being close by and others being a little further away. This is meant to remind people that even people whose homes are a little distant are still considered neighbours. Islam considers forty homes around a home, in all four directions, as being neighbors.
The distance could also mean distance in faith, beliefs or blood relation. Neighbors who are close are those from the same faith, while the distant ones are those belonging to other faiths. It could also mean those not related but are neighbors. They also have rights and a believer must be careful of the duties towards them.
Imam Ali (a) says in Nahjul Balagha; Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of your neighbors, because they were the subject of the Prophet’s advice. He went on advising in their favour till we thought he would allow them a share in inheritance. (Document 47)
Neighbors have many rights. Imam Zaynul ‘Abidīn (a) specifies them in Rislatul Huqūq. He says: The right of your neighbour (jar) is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged. You do not pursue anything of his that is shameful; if you know of any evil from him, you conceal it. If you know that he will accept your counsel, you counsel him in that which is between him and you. You do not forsake him in difficulty, you release him from his stumble, you forgive his sin, and you associate with him generously. And there is no strength except in God.
Neighbors can play an important role in life. They can make it more pleasant or unpleasant. When neighbors fulfill the rights of each other, society is strengthened and goodness and virtue spreads. It is possible for neighbors to have a big influence on the quality of one’s life. Recite this verse to remind you of the rights of neighbors; no matter what faith they belong to. It is part of fulfilling the rights towards God.
Aytaullah Nasir Makarim Shirazī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Amīrul Mu’minīn, Nahjul Balagha;
Imam Zaynul ‘Abidīn (a), Risalatul Huqūq