02 May, 2007

Of Neighbors and Neighborliness

‘A’ishah, the Mother of the Believers, (may Allah be pleased with her) stated that she once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah! I have two neighbors. To whom shall I send my gifts?” He said, “To the one whose gate is nearer to you.” '

Islam repeatedly teaches and encourages good-neighborliness. And yet, it's sad and shocking to see how some neighbors of Iraq have treated it. I can not think of any other people, today, who are suffering as much, and living under such extreme fear and misery as the people of Iraq. And yet, some of its neighbors have not been that giving and receptive as Islam teaches us to be. What is even saddest, is that Iraq's wealthiest neighbors are the ones who have utterly closed their 'gates' to Iraqis.

Praise to Syria for easily allowing in and accommodating, over a million and a half Iraqis; even Egypt, which is not next door to Iraq, has taken in, over one hundred thousand Iraqis. Yemen, as far as it is from Iraq - keeps its 'gates' open to Iraqis. What about Iraq's next door, wealthy neighbors? Neighbors who have abundant resources and means to assist Iraqis ; neighbors, who by opening their gates - are more in a position to help Iraqis than most of Iraq's other neighboring countries? Isn't the extreme suffering of millions of Iraqis - children, women and the elderly, most of all - enough, to make these countries change their minds and let their 'gates' open?

Not being neighbourly, receptive, helpful, considerate, kind and compassionate to Iraqis, does not serve the interests of the region or of Arabs or of Muslims as a whole. It is too, a lack of vision and foresight. Worse, it is against what Islam stresses to us and teaches us; and against what Islam stands for: neighbourliness and care for our neighbors continually, especially at times of need and distress .