Sunshine and Smiles Build Neighborly Bonds |

Sunshine and Smiles Build Neighborly Bonds

School may be out for the summer, but for our families, education continues year-round. One meaningful way to make summer educational is by building strong relationships, not only with family and friends but also with our neighbors. Many of our Muslim Home newsletter articles have focused on neighborly deeds, and for good reason. 

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, emphasized the importance of being excellent neighbors. Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Gabriel kept advising me to be good to neighbors until I thought he would make them my heirs.”

(Sunan Ibn Majah, 3674)

This hadith compares the status of a neighbor to that of a person’s next of kin, emphasizing their high status in a Muslim’s life. The summer months offer a perfect opportunity for good deeds and fostering solid relationships with neighbors.

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This village includes our neighbors, who can play a positive role in the lives of our children if we build strong relationships with them. Neighbors can become friends and helpers, providing support, guidance, and a sense of community for our families. If we have yet to establish these crucial connections, the summer is a wonderful time to get to know our neighbors. The warmer days mean that people are spending more time outdoors and the neighborhood is busy. Children are playing outside, fathers are barbecuing, mothers are gardening, and grandparents are getting much-needed sun. 

Here are ten ways that you and your family can share some summer sunshine and smiles with your neighbors:

1. Share some yummy food.

Have you ever stepped outside your door during the summer months to check your mail and smelled your neighbors grilling? More than likely, you started salivating and got a sudden craving for steak, burgers, or halal hot dogs! Your neighbors go through the same experience every time you fire up your grill for a family cookout. I think it is safe to say that everyone loves a great barbecue or delicious dessert. Even side dishes can be the star on a hot summer day. Think of grilled corn, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad. It would be a great act of service to share some of this mouthwatering food with your neighbors. 

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said:

“He is not a believer whose stomach is full while the neighbor to his side is starving.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

Do not be shy about sharing your own cultural dishes. Many people appreciate the opportunity to try something new. Run over a plate to at least one neighbor. Include a note with the ingredients in case of allergies and perhaps a bit of history or significance behind the dish if you are offering some of your own traditional food. 

2. Set up a lemonade stand.

A lemonade stand is a classic summer activity that children love. It provides a great opportunity for kids to learn about responsibility and entrepreneurship while interacting with neighbors. Be creative and offer other items like ice pops and cold water bottles. Use the proceeds for a good cause, such as donating them to the masjid or saving for next Ramadan. 

3. Celebrate Eid-Al-Adha and Muharram together.

Eid-Al-Adha fell in the summer months, so that means celebrations and gift-giving. Do not forget your neighbors during this festive time! Even if they do not celebrate, they will most likely be grateful if you share a thoughtful gift with them. During Eid-Al-Adha or even for the first of Muharram, share the joy by giving thoughtful gifts to your neighbors. Involve your children in making goodie bags with sweets and include a small note explaining the significance of the holiday or the new year in the Islamic calendar. Choose three houses to the right, left, in front of, and behind your home to distribute these bags. Remember the saying of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

“Give each other gifts and you will love each other.” 

(Al-Adab al-Mufrad)

4. Offer to mow their lawn or help with gardening.

Acts of service like mowing the lawn, helping with gardening, or picking up a neighbor’s trash bins after pick-up can be incredibly appreciated, especially by elderly or busy neighbors. Make it a family activity where everyone pitches in, teaching children the value of helping others. You never know when you may also need help in the future. 

5. Share your garden’s harvest.

If you have a garden with fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs, share the bounty with your neighbors. Create small baskets or set up a stand with free produce for your neighbors. Label the items from your garden so your neighbors know what kind of herbs or vegetables they can take. If you have extra seeds or sprouts, offer them in case they would also like to plant some goodies. This small, good deed can offer multiple rewards. 

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: 

“Any Muslim who plants a tree or vegetation will be rewarded for every bird, human or animal that eats from it.” 

(Bukhari, Muslim)

6. Leave thoughtful notes or cards.

A simple note or card in the mailbox can brighten someone’s day. Compliment their beautiful garden, appreciate their friendliness, or just wish them a happy summer. These small gestures can foster a sense of community and belonging. In an authentic hadith, a man asked the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:

“‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me something that will guarantee Paradise for me.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: ‘Speak kind words, offer peace, and feed the hungry.’” (Sahih Ibn Ḥibban)

7. Prompt a conversation.

Now that we mention speaking, sometimes just stopping to chat can make a significant difference in neighborly relationships. Encourage your children to be polite and friendly to your neighbors and remember to smile and be approachable yourself. Ask about their day, show interest in their stories, and share your own experiences. Showing, not telling, about Islamic manners can be a powerful way to dispel misconceptions about Muslims and create allies within our communities.

8. Invite them for coffee or tea.

Extend an invitation to your home for a casual coffee or tea. If they have children, arrange a playdate. This informal setting can lead to deeper conversations and strengthen your bond with your neighbors. On a side note, do not shy away from inviting non-Muslims into your home out of fear of being misunderstood. Gently explain any rules you have about removing footwear or provide alternatives like sitting outside on a front porch. Ask them about dietary restrictions and be mindful of their own concerns. 

9. Have a kid’s or free yard sale.

Your children will love cleaning out their toy bins and gathering clothing items that no longer fit to offer at their very own yard sale. Let them set up on the lawn or driveway and advertise around the neighborhood with handmade signs. 

Alternatively, you may organize a free “yard sale” where you offer items, new or used, that you may not need. Your neighbors will appreciate picking up these gifts and you may inspire them to do the same. You can also consider joining an existing local “Buy Nothing” group on social media, where neighbors exchange unused items in an effort to avoid overspending. These groups are great for building good community relations, sustainability, and helping people in need. Yard sales are a fantastic way to meet everyone in a relaxed, fun environment. Include your children in the activity to encourage interaction with neighbors. 

10. Invite them to visit the mosque.

Once you have established a comfortable relationship, consider inviting your neighbors to an open house event or social gathering at your local mosque. Be courteous and welcoming, emphasizing that the Islamic center is open to everyone. Offer a tour and explain some of the customs and practices in a friendly, non-preachy manner. 

By implementing these activities, you can help create a warm, welcoming neighborhood environment where everyone feels connected and appreciated. Building good relationships with our neighbors is especially important for us as Muslims because we not only follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, but also create a supportive and empathetic village for our children. Positive interactions with neighbors from diverse backgrounds can help our children grow into well-rounded individuals who appreciate and respect different cultures and perspectives. These relationships teach our children the values of empathy, kindness, and community, laying the foundation for a harmonious society. 

The summer offers the optimal time to build these networks if we have not done so already. With warmer weather and longer days, families spend more time outdoors, providing numerous opportunities for spontaneous conversations and shared activities. So, make sure to include lots of sun and plenty of smiles as you make your plans for this summer! 

Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish ( She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.

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