Imam Zijad’s Corner: MUSLIMS AND THEIR NEIGHBOURS (Part 1)

In the good old days, not too-long-ago, we could leave our front door open and trust that the neighbor will take care of our house. Our neighbors were like members of our family. How often do we hear that sentiment from the elderly in our community? The “good old days” is now only mentioned in the past tense. It is a “long-gone era”.

The days when neighbors knew each other on a first name basis, when people looked out for each other, socialized together and shared common interests and concerns, seem long gone. The pace of life in 21st century has become too fast and furious, beating to the drum of globalization. Traditional communities are crumbling and relations with our neighbors are all-too-often reduced to a curt nod.

Even here in the beautiful capital of Canada, many of us are living side-by-side but rarely interacting. Do we really know much about each other’s’ lives, our shared hopes – or even why it is important to have a joint stake in the well-being of our local community/society?

We may pass each other on the staircase or in front of the houses or in the neighborhood yet we do not talk to one another: not really. We even do not greet one another not to mention talk to one another. Neighbors who live in the same building often find themselves in an awkward situation when suddenly stuck in an elevator together, standing in silence, suddenly discovering patterns on the floor or fiddling with a mobile phone, blackberry or iPod to avoid a conversation.

The close communal ties that were once emblematic, allowed neighbors to build strong and healthy neighboring environment. Today, social, cultural and political strains are leading to an aggressive ‘individualism’, eating away at our traditional society and the shared values that underpin it. It is to the detriment of us all. Some have said it has led to an explosion in anti-social behavior and is driving support for some extremist groups, dividing us even further.

Today, Canadian Muslims should inherently identify with a strong ‘neighborly’ culture in every city or town and practically live out the teachings of Islam, which call on us to be exemplary good neighbors. As a national community, Canadian Muslims are in Canada to stay and thus they must do their part in helping make the streets around them better places to live.

The emphasis placed on Muslims towards their neighbors is emphatic: “Worship God, and associate no partners with Him; and do good to parents, relatives, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near of kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer you meet.” (An Nisa 4: 36)

The Prophet Muhammad himself said: “The best of neighbors to God are the ones who are the best of them to their neighbors.”

(…to be continued in the Part 2)