Helping Neighbours Through the Spirit of Unity in Facing the Effects of COVID-19

BY: Dr Abdul Salam Muhamad Shukri

The position of neighbours is very close to the spirit of Islam after the family and near relatives. According to the Prophet (peace be upon him), the angel of Gabriel always advised him to treat his neighbours well to some extent that he felt the neighbours might even share one’s inheritance. Neighbours are people who live next door or near to you. Others say neighbours are people who live near homes or live locally. They are also referred to as neighbourhood or local people.

The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak now requires us to foster a sense of unity and togetherness in the face of this pandemic. Staying close to neighbours during difficulty is crucial in alleviating the effects of COVID-19 on individuals and society. In addition to the government and non-governmental organizations, each individual has to work with his or her own neighbours.

Being arrogant and selfish should not happen in a crisis or a critical situation. In the Qur’an Allah warns that every individual should not be negative, including arrogance and boastfulness as God says: “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. ” (Surah al-Nisa ’ (4): 36, trans. Salahi 2019).

The above Qur’anic verse indicates that Islam places very significant importance on relationships man and Allah; and between man and fellow human beings. It starts with man’s devotion to God without associating Him with anything. Humans also need to be kind to both parents. On this basis, the Qur’an extends good relations and love to immediate families and relatives, orphans, the poor and neighbours, and travelers. The relationship is so broad that it involves the value of our fellow man, and not just for the Muslim community.

Human values need to be restored as the norms of society. Of course it may be difficult since there are barriers such as the impacts of negative values of pride and arrogance in humankind. Some may be proud of their skin color, race and country. If the bad values are not corrected, the society is trapped in anarchy, racism and so on. Some may be so arrogant with their money until they become stingy to contribute to humankind. In addition they may incite others to be miser with their money, keeping the treasure for their own only, pushing others to become money pinching and hiding the favors from the neighbours and the surrounding community.

The effects of COVID-19 transcend the health crisis by threatening human life. It also threatens the sustainability and well-being of the world community. Unemployment rates are rising, and many workers are being laid off. The public will feel the pain, as retrenchments and unemployment will go up. Indeed when the neighbour is involved everyone should help to ease as little as possible. Likewise, the Movement Control Order (MCO) formally restricts the movement of the public in order to break the virus chain from endangering life and society. Some neighbours experience emotional and psychological effects during the period of staying home. It causes emotional instability. Naturally our neighbors need us in this situation. These include during such periods of social distancing and temporary prohibition of social gatherings such as in mosques, weddings, recreational parks and more. All of which put pressure on the community and neighbours.

Let’s learn from the Prophet’s sayings on neighbourhood. The Prophet (pbuh) in several hadiths had ordered that every Muslim should act and be kind to his neighbours, honor the guests and only speak good or just keep quiet rather than utter nonsense or malicious words. This is part of the attitudes of those who believe in God and the Day of Resurrection. In other sayings the Prophet also stated that the best of a friend and a neighbour is for him or her to do the best for  friends or neighbours.

Another advice is coming from one of modern Muslim thinkers, Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi (1903-1979). He writes in “Social System of Islam” as follows:

“Islam, therefore, requires all neighbors to be loving and helpful and to share each other’s sorrows and happiness. It enjoins them to establish social relations in which one can depend upon the other and regard his life, honor and property safe among his neighbors. A society in which two people, separated only by a wall, remain unacquainted with one another for years, and in which those living in the same area of a town have no interest or trust in one another, can never be called Islamic.” (http://www.cssforum.com.pk/css-compulsory-subjects/islamiat/islamiat-notes/38994-social-system-islam-abul-ala-maududi.html).

Dr. Abdul Salam Muhamad Shukri is an associate professor in the Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM

References

Nawawi, Imam. (2014). Syarah & Terjemah Riyadhus Shalihin (Nuzhat al-muttaqin). Vol. 1. Jakarta: Al-I’tishom

Salahi, Adil. (2019). The Qur’an: A Translation for the 21st Century. Leicestershire: The Islamic Foundation

Al-‘Uthaymin, Muhammad b. Salih. (2005). Sharh Riyad al-Salihin li l-Imam al-Nawawi. Vol. 2 (3 vols.). Al-Mansurah: Dar al-Ghadd al-Jadid

“Social System of Islam by Maududi.” http://www.cssforum.com.pk/css-compulsory-subjects/islamiat/islamiat-notes/38994-social-system-islam-abul-ala-maududi.html (retrieved 9/6/2020) 

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