Our Neighbours

I wrote this sometime within the last year. I figured I'd post it here in case someone bumps into this insignificant part of the world wide web and benefits from it, insha'Allah.

Bismi Allahir Rahmanir Raheem

In 2001, I attended a humble event wherein there were a few inspiring speakers including Brother Dawud Wharnsby Ali who somehow managed to get the entire audience to promise that they would give something, however small, to at least one of their neighbours. Each person was to repeat after him and make this promise. The promise that I made was knowingly lip service, the words did not leave my mouth but my lips moved with the rest of the gathering. I don't make promises that I'm not prepared to keep. "Ah, but my lips moving may have been a promise..." I thought, and so the promise stayed in my mind.

How true it is that we, as Muslims, have a duty to our neighbours and communities. How true is it that if we all were to care for our neighbours then the community as a whole would reap the benefits. How true it is that we are guilty, myself especially, for not knowing our neighbours. It was such thoughts that entered my mind as I reflected on the knowledge that our beloved teachers convey to us. This was in the spring of 2004. The promise entered my heart but not because it was possibly a promise but because I felt it is my duty as a Muslim to try to initiate a relationship with my neighbours.

My idea was perhaps to give a potted plant to each of our neighbours and put a little card with it or stencil something about being neighbourly on it. I wasn't sure how I would do that, but I figured that once I shared the idea with my family we could come up with something half decent. I was afraid that perhaps this idea was a bit over the top, but I liked the idea and hoped that with Allah's help it would be affordable and turn out to be better than just sufficient. If we're going to do something, we should try to do it well.

Lo and behold, a few hours later on the very same day, I found myself shopping in Michael's (a huge arts/crafts supplies store) with my mother. There I went to price the terracotta pots to see if it would be affordable. Three pots for 99 cents! They were on sale! So after consulting my mother and deciding on a good size pot, I took a cart and filled it with 60 small, but not tiny, terracotta pots.

Those pots sat in a box in the garage for a few months. I didn't know what to plant in them. Soon enough, Ramadhaan rolled by and I read Imam Zaid Shakir's article wherein he appealed to the Muslims to essentially come closer to their neighbours as is the spirit of Islam. I felt guilty. The pots were still sitting in the garage. I contemplated filling them with candies instead of a plant and then distributing them in Ramadhaan, but my mother advised me to wait for spring when we would decide on something nice to plant.

A few more months passed by and it was spring again. "Mom, what can we plant in the pots? We need something nice... maybe a small tomato plant? That way they could get some good tomatoes too..." We didn't decide on anything. A couple more months passed before my mother told me that she had taken some stems of a spider plant and put them in water to root. The plan was in motion, alhamdu li Allah.

Another six weeks passed before my mom and I planted them in the pots. Unfortunately, some of the roots rotted and the plants weren't doing that great, so my mom replanted them with fresh stems. They were watered, fed, and a couple of months later they were ready.

Now the issue remained on how to present them and what writing should accompany them. I thought about this for a few nights while trying to sleep and finally came up with this short poem:
Here's a little something just because we're neighbours
A little gift, one of nature's favours
Please consider this a token
Of words rarely spoken
"Hello" -- "How are you?" -- "Good day"
Sending you greetings from just a few doors away
[Our House Address]
My older sister, a graphic designer, nicely designed this poem to fit the size of a business card. She managed to fit 12 on a page, and we had the pages printed in colour at Business Depot. My sister also suggested that instead of using ribbon to decorate the pot, we could tie a bow using straw. So we bought some of that crafter's straw and finally put it all together.

Alhamdu li Allah, on September 1, 2005 we put them all in the trunk of the car. My father drove the car and parked at the curb as I walked to each house. We delivered a potted plant to each family on our street making it a total of 44 pots. The response was good all around, alhamdu li Allah. A couple of neighbours came to the house to say thank you. I met some of the neighbours who were home when I delivered the pots. Some were middle aged and some were just teenagers, but all of them seemed appreciative and pleasantly surprised. One of the neighbours that came to the door told my father that it's always nice to receive gifts, but especially so when it is unexpected and that he appreciated it. He also mentioned a bit about himself and his family. A couple of neighbours also sent thank you cards.

All in all, I think perhaps a new door has been opened. I just pray that the light of civility shines through that door and that dialogue can occur so that the walls of ignorance that we are responsible for building can fade away. Quite simply, I pray that from this all we receive the pleasure of our Majestic Lord, the Most Kind, the One deserving of all praises and servitude. Thank you Allah for blessing us with Islam, for without it we would be at a loss... a grave and severe loss.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If you are kind to your neighbour, you will be a believer. If you like others to have what you like for yourself, you will be a Muslim."

7 comments:

Amaturrahmaan said...

Assalaam 'alaikum,

Masha Allah, such a lovely story :)! When I first read about the 60 pots you got though, I thought, "hmmm, the guy said neighbor, not neighborhood!" lol

But masha Allah, seems like it turned out to be a really nice project, and I really liked the poem :)! Always good to get out there and prove that Muslims aren't about a lot of the things that are attributed to us, and that we really are about a lot of small but beautiful things, subhana Allah.

Bel tawfeeq my sista!
Wassalaam 'alaikum,
Amaturrahmaan :)

Farzeen said...

Wa 'alaykum assalaam wa rahmatu Allah 7abeebti

He, the Prophet, salAllahu 'alayhi wa salam, said: "Every forty houses are your neighbors: The ones in front of you, the ones from the back, the ones on the right and the ones on the left." [Tahhawi]

Insha'Allah we will see the benefit of our efforts in this world too with the people we interact with..

So any ideas on what to give our neighbours this Ramadhan? :D

Oh..here's one more hadith on the topic.

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet said "Gabriel continued to recommend me about treating the neighbors kindly and politely so much so that I thought he would order me to make them as my heirs."

Anonymous said...

Hehe, I also thought that 60 pots was alot for the neighbors...

I remember a few years ago talking with Dawud Ali-Wharnsby and one thing that impressed me about him was his happiness - he reflected peace in who he was which further made his message even stronger...

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum

I guess I should have counted the houses before I went shopping :)..lol.

Masha'Allah, you're right about Brother Dawud. May Allah bless him and his family, ameen. My sister and I were just talking about his nasheeds the other day and how reflective all of his songs are...and the talent that goes along with putting some rhythm to those lovely lyrics. I hope, for the sake of the community, that he continues to share his optimism about life with us all. A boost of inspirational optimism and peace could take us far... insha'Allah.

Anonymous said...

You're right, it can. I'm not too big on nasheeds (I prefer my heavy metal or hip-hop instead) but after meeting Dawud Ali-Wharnsby, I'm interested in maybe listening to his stuff. Then again, I met him almost 4 years ago now... I teased him about a joke he tried to make which didn't go over too well with the crowd. Regardless, he's a nice guy and he just beams with happiness which can be contagious. :)

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum

Ahh..interested in some nasheeds by Brother Dawud, eh? Well, allow me to send a few links your way... [although for some reason a lot of my bookmarks are outdated and my nasheeds links don't work :( ]

1) This is a lecture by Brother Dawud, but in the beginning of it he sings one song. It's a variation of a song that he has on a CD concerning hijab. Notice, no background music in this version :). The lecture is good too :D. http://www.lightuponlight.com/islam/modules.php?name=Stream2&file=index&lid=382

2) There are three of his songs here, including "The Veil" again:

http://www.aswatalislam.net/DisplayFilesP.aspx?TitleID=50013&TitleName=Misc_Nasheeds

All of his CDs are nice, masha'Allah. But I think the ones that adults appreciate are "Sunshine, Dust, and the Messenger" and also "The Prophet's Hands."

You're into hip hop and heavy metal eh? Interesting combination. Outlandish has one good song called "Look Into My Eyes." I think they're trying to get their songs a little bit more ..uhm.. religiously sound. Two of the three guys in the group are Muslim, but it's main stream music. If you're interested, here's their website:
http://www.outlandmoro.com/
(Go to Media, and then Videos)

Anonymous said...

The Dawud Wharnsby-Ali stuff didn't load up properly so I'll have to figure that one out later...

The stuff by Outlandish was interesting. I didn't like a couple of their songs and liked a couple of others (Any Given Time was good)...

I usually prefer more harder stuff when it comes to both hip-hop and metal... I have several of my favourite bands listed in my profile so that'll likely give you a better idea of the bands that I like. :)

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]

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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]