Being a Neighbor to the Hungry
"Whoever goes to bed while his neighbor is hungry is not a true believer." (Heysemi, Mecmeu'z-zevaid, VIII, 167)
Selfishness is a trait found in man, but it is looked down upon in our religion. It is one of the most basic characteristics of the ego - the desire to feel pleasure and possess something. Saying, "I want it all, or let someone else have less or worse than me, and I don't even want to see that," the voice of the ego is constantly fighting with our other inner voice (conscience).
The feeling of altruism command by Allah and giving to others which was so strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) mean sharing the blessings of Allah with others and spending on the path of goodness. Actually it is a bottom line. It cannot be compared to generosity. However, man's hand still trembles when paying the poor tax which is mandatory. It seems as if a person's possessions will melt away and become exhausted and that the person's existence, which is tied to these possessions, will be consumed with them. This is a groundless fear, an anxiety created by Satan... "The Evil One threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promises you His forgiveness and bounties" (2:268). "Nothing do ye spend in th least (In His Cause) but He replaces it" (34:39). Our Prophet stated, "Giving charity does not decrease possessions" (Muslim, Birr 69).
It is a fact admitted today by economic experts that no one will die from hunger when the resources of this earth are shared correctly and fairly. The general picture that will emerge when we look after those closest to us will lead us step by step closer to the social model foreseen and desired by Islam. The material difficulties experienced by our next-door neighbors or friends across the hall can be due to their own deceit or inexperience. The empathy that will result from the idea, "we all make mistakes; we could be in their shoes now," instead of the idea, "if they hadn't acted like that; it's their own fault," will be a vehicle for us to knock on their door to help.
When one first reads the title hadith, he might panic because it mentions not a deficiency of faith, but the non-existence of it. But when it is thought about and when we put ourselves in the neighbor's place, not even our ego will be able to find an "excuse."
If the breath of people close to us is smelling from hunger while we and our family members are at the limits of obesity due to eating too much, and we hesitate to help even though we could easily do so by giving up one kind of weekly fruit and by cutting down the size of our portions, or, even worse, if we have absolutely no idea about the financial situation of our neighbor, then it is just the time to question our faith.
One of the ego's traps is made from the bricks, "I don't have anything either; if I did, wouldn't I give it?" We do not even want to think about the person that looks at the companions who fearlessly shared a handful of dates or half their possessions or all of them in order for Islam to grow, and then hesitates to give to others saying, "of course they would give but I don't have anything to give." Thank goodness, the model generation is not like this.
Every Muslim definitely has something to share. It is our prayer that no person (Muslim or non-Muslim) go to bed hungry if he has a Muslim neighbor.