Panel 5: Neighborliness and Religion: The Neighbor as a Theological Challenge

Chair: Thomas Maissen (German Historical Institute Paris)

Chafika Ouail (Orient-Institut Beirut):
Revisiting Jiwār in Islam: Towards an Ontology of Co-Existence

The paper examines the concept of jiwār (neighborliness/neighborhood) in Islam by highlighting it ontologically and as norm and practice in the three spheres of Islam: jurisprudence (Fiqh), theology (Kalām), and spirituality (Sufism). Jiwār as a normative concept is crucial in jurisprudence; it contributed to a rich and fruitful legal discussion. It is also a very important ethical concept in Sufism; in fact, it considers it as a spiritual code of conduct to fulfill the highest aim of the religion which is being the perfect reflection of the Divine ethics. Yet, jiwār is rarely debated in the schools of Kalām, and is not elaborated on as a principle of faith, though it appears in the exegesis of Quran and in the interpretation of the Prophetic sayings as a representation of faith.


Hans-Peter Mathys (Universität Basel):
Love thy Neighbor as Thyself (LEV 19, 18) and the Concept of Neighborliness

Geographically speaking, Palestine is divided into many small units separated by transverse and longitudinal valleys; it is mainly a mountainous country and has only a few larger plains. As a result, the population consists mainly of smaller groups of people who live close to each other and whose members are highly dependent on each other in everyday life, first, but not exclusively, in the family. They must help each other, and when conflicts break out, they must be resolved as quickly and effectively as possible, so that the life of the village community is not poisoned and becomes unbearable.
These geographical and sociological conditions are also reflected in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. It upholds and praises a good neighborhood,for example in Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! The term “brethren” here does not only mean biological brethren, but the people with whom one lives together in everyday life. The Old Testament also contains three legal provisions in which “love of the enemy” is commanded. Originally, the Old Testament only required that the cattle of an enemy should not be abandoned when it has lost its way, but that it should be returned to its owner. Later, the commandment of love requires that a conflict with the neighbor should be settled quickly and, above all, non-violently; this commandment even requires people to love their neighbors as themselves. The commandment to love one’s neighbor is already found in the Old Testament and not only in the New Testament, contrary to a widespread misunderstanding.
Palestine was a distinct transit country, crossed by countless armies. The two states on its territory, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, were only rarely politically independent; they were mostly under the sovereignty of a foreign power (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexander…); many foreigners  lived in Palestine. The Old Testament gives different answers on how to deal with them: While some texts are highly xenophobic, others invite you to integrate them and make them part of the neighborhood.