Humans are such that we are forgetful and unmindful of the favours of our Lord. However, there are times when certain blessings, which we have become blind and immune to, are rekindled into our consciousness through tragic circumstances of life.
One such recent personal ‘tragedy’, has been the death of my former neighbour, John. John was not rich or famous, he had no special standing in the community, in fact, it would be fair to say that his ‘lot’ was meagre and unfortunate. He lived on his own, his family had effectively disowned him, he suffered numerous health difficulties including mental illness. His character and demeanour was such that many of the local residents regarded him as a ‘weirdo’ and as such he was shunned by other neighbours and, worse still, he was victimised and bullied by a few.
However, despite all this, John was our neighbour, and we quickly learned that he was a true gentleman with a heart of gold. For 17 years we shared a neighbourly bond which meant that we looked out for each other, we gave him food and gifts, my kids grew up to like and respect him, and most importantly he was able to experience some degree of love and kindness which, in the main, his life was devoid of. It was an unconditional neighbourly friendship which did not require any reciprocal favours or good turns. He was a Christian and due to our sadness that he never had family to share Christmas with, we would always cook him dinner during that period to give him some small comfort.
About 4 years ago, we decided to move house. It would be fair to say that our biggest wrench in moving was leaving our neighbour John. He was, despite all his difficulties, the best neighbour one could ever wish for. We made special requests for him to keep in touch, however, due to his health difficulties we knew that it would be virtually impossible for him to visit, or even telephone. Hence, we would visit him and drop off some food every now and then. Every holiday season he would give gifts and a card – the real test of our bond was that he never forgot any member of the family in his card. He mentioned everyone by name – even ensuring that he got the spelling correct.
It was with shock this week that we learnt that he had died in hospital.
During one of my usual visits to see John, I unusually got no reply after knocking on his door. After enquiries with one of the neighbours, I was informed of the very sad news. He had been admitted into hospital after becoming ill and had died after a week in hospital.
We were distraught, not only in his passing, but his passing ostensibly without īmān. Moreover, we had not had the opportunity to visit him to show him that there were people who cared. We were also upset at the fact that he died all alone – even though I have since learnt that a nurse held his hand in the last moments of his life.
My purpose for relating these events is not to boast, but rather to relay the moral of this tale. For, surely, even such moments of sadness have lessons which can be derived for those with wisdom.
First and foremost – it has to be the infinite mercy of He, in whose hands are the souls of all mankind, who has blessed us with īmān and the wonderful, flawless dīn of Islām. Such events make us realise that had our beautiful faith not stressed the rights and responsibilities towards the neighbour, we may never have developed the relationship that we did with John.
How fortunate are the followers of the dīn of Islām that Allāh enjoins Muslims to maintain the ties of kinship and to visit the sick. How merciful is our Lord, who has blessed us with such a religion, which safeguards us from a life and a death, such as the one which has befallen my neighbour.
But there is also a serious warning we must take heed of. Expressing gratitude for being guided to Islām goes hand in hand with wanting others to enjoy the same blessing. How many non-Muslim friends, colleagues and neighbours do we have that would excel and flourish in Islam, if they only knew about its truth? How many years have we lived next to our neighbours or worked with our colleagues; have we informed them about and invited them to Islām?
Of course, guidance is in the Hands of Allāh and depends on the soundness and openness of hearts and minds. Furthermore, the mercy and compassion we have in our hearts was created by Him in the first place, who is the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate, Most Just, so He will treat his creatures in a more merciful and more just manner than any of us. However, imagine a friend or neighbour finding us in the terror of the Day of Resurrection and complaining,
“I lived next door to you for so many years! Why didn’t you warn me about this day?”
A bleak prospect indeed. But we now have the opportunity to prevent that, God willing. Let us at least have an excuse before Allāh that we discharged the Trust He has given us, and given divine guidance its true right of being shared with others.
May Allāh forgive us our shortcomings. May Allāh raise us on that Day in which our neighbours testify that we have fulfilled their rights. May Allāh grant us and our neighbours a good life and death on the beautiful and perfect dīn of Islām.