or the assertive Muslim, familiarizing himself within
a new neighborhood is generally not a difficult task. Due to the
emphasis that Islam places on being polite and interpersonal, a
Muslim is most likely well received by others, even if it is primarily
on the surface. There are some residents in practically every neighborhood
that tend to “stay in the shell” and avoid interaction with anyone
outside of their homes. Within Islamic guidelines, there is much
that can be done by Muslims to reach out to an introverted neighborhood
resident. It would be quite a task for a Muslim to approach such
a neighbor, but the reason for the introversion could determine
the success of the attempt.
Islamic teachings stress that a Muslim should make conscious efforts to coexist
peacefully with neighboring individuals. A general respect for others’
property, comfort and well being is characteristic with Muslims,
and such traits often pave the way for harmonious relationships
with neighbors. In America, residents may initially be cautious
of Muslims dwelling close by due to negative media images, but after
meeting these individuals personally, Muslims have an opportunity
to make a difference.
There are certain types of neighbors that tend to avoid any contact at all with
others in their area. They may be seen peeking from windows or be
“sighted” at the local grocery store very briefly. Quite possibly,
such an individual only seems introverted and disassociated
because no one has ever approached that person. All that
needs to be done is for someone to take the initiative and break
the ice, which may even be what the neighbor in “voluntary solitude”
actually wants. American society is characteristically not
interpersonal, perhaps due to the great number of differences present
within the social structure. This caters to the further distancing
of neighbors and does not promote conscious efforts for them to
become familiar with one another.
There are subtle means that the Muslim neighbor can utilize for making contact
with “shy” neighbors. An effective and universal method is the offering
of food. The Prophet Muhammad spoke against a Muslim enjoying
his fill as neighbors go hungry, thus validating the bond inducing
properties of nourishment. Having a cookout and inviting a particularly
evasive neighbor could be all that is required to “bring him out.”
A less personal but equally effective approach would be to mail
an invitation to that neighbor. Just as the invitation can be mailed,
so can a general written introduction that requests a personal meeting
at a later time. If this neighbor is very close by, “surprise
maintenance” can be used. For example, as a Muslim shovels the
snow or rakes the leaves on his property, the chore can be extended
to the shy neighbor’s property. It is true that some may not greet
others being on their property for any reason with gratitude
or kindness, but at least the effort has been made and the evasiveness
is then entirely on the shoulders of the targeted neighbor.
Finding out the exact reason for a neighbor’s evasiveness can also be
a key means of breaking ice. Some people may be elderly and quite
afraid of society as it is now. Meeting someone that can be trusted
and is genuinely kind could open many doors to strong neighborly
relations for the elderly. There may have been a bad experience
with another neighbor in the past, and the shy neighbor just needs
to be reassured that all of his neighbors are not the same.
Sadly, some may avoid others based upon racial, religious, economic
or otherwise personal reasons that would need extensive work for
correcting. Should this be the issue at hand, a genuine, sincere
effort may still make a difference and at the least, satisfy the
mind of the initiator.
As the Islamic presence and Muslims become more visible in American society,
more individuals will commonly be the neighbors of these Muslims.
Among these neighbors will be a number that do not make an effort
to know the new residents in the area and may require the other
parties to approach them. As Muslims find themselves in this scenario,
they can rely on Islamic teachings and values to initiate and maintain
strong relationships with even the most anti-social of neighbors.
Some reasons for their avoiding of others may stem from personal
differences and can not be corrected easily, but the effort
made by a Muslim is surely what Allah will count as a credit at
the appointed time. Regardless of the final outcome, the Muslim's
assertiveness and kind gestures will still have made a difference.
Food for thought
... and action
"All creatures are God's family; and God loves them most who treat His family well and kindly." Hadith