On the authority of Muaadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, inform me of an act which will place me into Paradise and keep me away from the Fire.” He said, “You have asked about a great matter but it is easy for whomever Allah, Exalted be He, makes it easy. [You should] worship Allah and not ascribe any partner to Him, establish the prayer, give the Zakat, fast Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House.” He then said, “Shall I not inform you of the gates to goodness? [They are] fasting [which] is a shield, charity [which] extinguishes the sins like water extinguishes a fire and the prayer of a man in the depths of the night [which also extinguished sins].” The he recited [the verses], “Who forsakes their beds” until he reached, “they used to do”. Then he said, “Shall I inform you of the head of the matter, its pillar and its apex?” I said, “Certainly, O Prophet of Allah.” He said, “The head of the matter is submission [to Allah]. Its pillar is the prayer. And its apex is jihad.” Then he said, “Shall I not inform you of what controls all of this?” I said, “Certainly, O Prophet of Allah.” He took hold of his tongue and said, “Restrain this.” I said, “O Prophet of Allah, will we be held accountable for what we say?” He said, “May your mother be bereaved of you, O Muaadh. Is there anything that has thrown people on their faces – or he said on their noses – into the Fire except that which their tongues reap?” (Recorded in al-Tirmidhi)
“… charity [which] extinguishes the sins like water extinguishes a fire …”
As noted in the previous post, these further references to fasting and charity in this hadith, refer to the voluntary acts performed in addition to the obligatory ones. This part of the hadith can be understood to mean that the sadaqah or voluntary charity that you give in addition to your obligatoryzakat, will purify you of your sins. It should be noted that the sins referred to here are the minor sins that are between a human and Allah. The major sins and acts that wrong another human being are not included in this category. If we commit a wrong against another person, ammends must be made in this world, or on Judgement Day, it cannot be recompensed through our voluntary deeds. Likewise major sins cannot be extinguished by charity, they need sincere repentance to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an, that charity can wipe away our sins:
“If you disclose your charity, it is well; but if you conceal it and give it to the poor, that is better for you. [Allah] will expiate some of your sins. And Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (Surah al-Baqarah:271)
Charity is perhaps specifically mentioned and enjoined in this hadith because of the benefit it brings to others, and Allah knows best. We can see that as a general principle, good deeds can wipe away evil ones. Allah says:
“Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds” (Surah Hood:114)
In fact, the removal of sins is mentioned in a number of different manners – removal, erasing, expiating, wiping away, and extinguishing. The term extinguishing is used in this hadith, and the comparison is made to how water extinguishes fire. From this it would seem that the impression being given is that voluntary acts of charity will take one away from the Hell-fire. Sins can take a person to the Hell-fire, but a person can also save themselves from being consumed by the Fire by being generous in giving in charity. And all mercy is from Allah alone.
Let’s try to increase our voluntary acts of charity, seeking Allah’s pleasure, so that He may use it as a cause to shower His mercy on us, Ameen.