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)
Muaadh ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, was an Ansari of the Khazraj tribe. He was known for his gentleness, generosity and modesty. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, stated that Muaadh was the most knowledgeable of the Nation concerning what is permissible and what is forbidden. He memorised the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and was sent as a teacher and guide to the people of Yemen. He narrated 157 hadith.
“O Messenger of Allah, inform me of an act which will place me into Paradise and keep me away from the Fire.”
SubhaanAllah, what a beautiful request.
We read a question like this and feel thankful for those Companions who asked such questions, so that we, generations and generations later could be blessed with the wisdom of the answer of the last Prophet of Allah, Muhammad, may Allah’s infinite peace and blessings be upon him. What are the acts that will take us to Paradise, and which will lead us to the Fire?
This was not the only time that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, was asked a question such as this. In fact, he, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked this many times and each time his answer was basically the same.
These ahadith are evidence for us that it is one’s deeds that enter a person into Paradise, and not just their beliefs. As Allah, praised and glorified be He says in the Qur’an,
“This is the Paradise which you have been made to inherit because of you deeds which you used to do” (Surah al-Zukhruf:72)
We should never forget though, that while our deeds and striving in this world are essential, it is ultimately only by the Mercy of Allah that we will actually be allowed into Paradise. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
“No one’s deeds enter him into Paradise.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me unless Allah envelopes me in His Mercy.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Let’s make dua to Allah to assist us in performing the acts of the people of Paradise, and keep us away from the acts of the people of the Hellfire, and that He showers His infinite Mercy upon us and enters us into His Jennah. Ameen.
“[You should] worship Allah and not ascribe any partner to Him…”
In this hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, told Muaadh ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, that the key to entering Paradise and escaping the Hellfire is to practice the five pillars of Islam.
The first of the pillars of Islam is to worship Allah, without ascribing any partners to Him. Belief in Allah (swt) and the need to worship Him, is the cornerstone of the Islamic faith, and all of the other Islamic beliefs revolve around this. If our understanding of Allah (swt) and His attributes is incorrect, then the basis of our own faith may be jepordised. This is a matter of such fundamental importance that many Muslim scholars have described the correct belief in Allah, called Tauheed, in great detail.
Tauheed means ‘making something one’. It is not a term found in the Qur’an or the sunnah, but it became the main term used to cover the aspects of belief in Allah from the time of ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him. Although there are some variations, the scholars have traditionally divided Tauheed into three distinct categories:
Tauheed al-Ruboobiyah – The belief in the Oneness of Allah concerning His Lordship. He alone is the Lord (al-Rabb), He is One, without partner, and He is the sole Creator and the only One who nourishes and Sustains the creation.
Tauheed al-Uloohiyah – This is the Oneness of Allah with respect to Him being the only One worthy of worship. All acts of worship must be directed toward Allah alone. We should not offer prayers or make supplications to anyone else such as saints, pirrs or sheikhs. By doing this, people show that they are putting their trust in a person to help deliver what they want, they are not putting their trust in Allah alone.
Tauheed al-Asmaa wa al-Sifaat – This is believing in all the names and attributes of Allah as mentioned in the Qur’an and authentic hadith. We must believe that they are unique to Him, without negating them, stripping them of any meaning, or distorting their meaning by interpreting them figuritavely. The more we know about Allah the more we love Him and turn to Him, understanding that He alone had power over all things.
The completion of this belief in Allah and worship of Him, all praises and glory be to Him, is to ensure that we do not ascribe any partners to Him in worship. What comes to mind when we think of ascribing ‘partners’ to Allah, is perhaps the physical worshipping of an idol or such like. But ascribing partners to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, is actually more subtle than this.
Attributing any of the powers of Allah, to part of His creation, is in fact making a partner with Allah. Many Muslims do not realize that to ask a saint, pir, or holy man etc for help in something which is not normally within the capability of a human being – such as to put faith in one’s heart, or knowledge of the unseen on influence in future events – is strictly forbidden. It is in fact shirk, associating partners with Allah, because it assumes that a human has the power to do what only Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, can do. This is in effect the equivalent of asking an idol to assist you in bringing the rain.
You can still find Muslims in many parts of the world who perform acts of worship at graves, or carry out worship of ‘saints’ (auliya). Remember that making dua is an act of worship, so if you make dua to a saint or teacher to help you then you are making partners with Allah in worship, which is shirk, the only unforgivable sin. We are not in need of any intercessors when calling on Allah. The doors of Allah, the Merciful are wide open to all of us to ask Him for our needs directly. It is recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari that Allah descends during the last part of every night, asking:
“Is there anyone asking of Me so that I can give to him? Is there anyone supplicating to Me so that I may respond to him?”
In the Qur’an Allah (swt) says:
“And when my slaves ask you [O Muhammad] concerning Me, then : I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me.” (Surah al-Baqarah:186)
So let’s ensure that we put our trust in Allah alone, and direct all our acts of worship towards Him, for there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and to put our trust in other than Him, will lead to a terrible end.
“…establish the prayer…”
After advising Muaadh, may Allah be pleased with him, to worship Allah and not ascribe any partners with Him, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, advised him to ‘establish the prayer’. If we are seeking actions that will secure us a place in Paradise, we must strive to establish the prayer in our lives.
Notice that Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said ‘establish’ the prayer, not merely ‘perform’ it. What is the difference between establishing the prayer and performing it? Interestingly, the only time that the ‘performer of prayer’ is mentioned in the Qur’an is as follows:
“So woe unto those performers of prayers who delay their prayer from its stated fixed time.” (Surah al-Maa’oon: 4-5)
These ‘performers of prayers’ obviously stand up to pray, but Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says, ‘Woe unto them’. What are they doing wrong, and more importantly what can we learn from that?
This example shows us firstly that prayers must be established at their fixed times. Those who delay their prayer are merely performers of prayers and not establishers. There is a distinction to be made between the one who performs the prayer in form only, and the one who prays with their heart and soul present and committed to the actions. Those who pray as if they see Allah or knowing that Allah sees them are different from those who perform the actions of the body, but not the actions of the heart. The established prayer therefore, incorporates both inner and outer aspects.
How can we ‘establish the prayer’?
1) We must be in a state of purity for the prayer.
Learn how the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, made wudhu and follow his example. Learn what breaks wudhu and what doesn’t. If you don’t feel certain of this already, I recommend reading Fiqh us-Sunnah by Al Sayyid Sabiq, for a detailed description of the Prophet’s wudhu with accompanying hadith evidences.
2) We must perform the prayer in the proper manner as described in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said in a hadith recorded in al-Bukhari, “Pray as you have seen me praying”. Do we know how the Prophet, peace be upon him, performed his salah? Have we read in detail, with evidence, about each of the actions he performed and do we feel certain that we are performing them correctly? If not, I recommend reading The Prophet’s Prayer Describedby Shaikh Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani for a detailed account of the Prophet’s, peace be upon him, prayer with accompanying hadith evidences.
3) We must pay attention to both the inward and the outward aspects of the prayer.
Once you have established the correctness of the physical actions, work on the inward actions. Remind yourself that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, is watching you every time you stand to pray.
4) Perform the prayer at it’s earliest time.
Stick the prayer timetable on the fridge. Set the alarm clock. Get an adhan clock. When the alarm goes, the most important and rewardable thing you can do is get ready to pray. Arrange your life around the prayer, not your prayer around your life.
5) For men, the best place to pray is in congregation in the mosque, for women the best place to pray is in the home.
6) Develop kushoo‘ in the prayer.
This means to have an attentive heart that is focussed only on Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. This feeling in the heart should be reflected in the body and you should be still and calm with the gaze lowered. Even the voice can become affected by this feeling in the heart.
Finally, we should remind ourselves of what the Prophet, peace be upon him said concerning the prayer:
“The first matter that the slave [of Allah] will be called to account about on the Day of Judgement is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” (Recorded in al-Tabaraani)
No matter what deeds we perform in our life, the most important thing is our relationship to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. This relationship with Allah is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. If we perform the prayer properly, with an attentive heart, it will have a lasting effect on our lives in this world and in the Hereafter.
“… give the Zakat …”
After mentioning the first two pillars of Islam, the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, went onto advise Muaadh, may Allah be pleased with him, that he should give zakat, or obligatory charity to the poor.
Linguistically, ‘zakat’ implies purification, blessing and growth. The payment of zakatshould purify us by cleansing us of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness, and it should purify our wealth by removing any evil effects from it. It is also one of the keys to establishing the Muslim community and the Muslim State. Zakat plays an important role in the wider society by helping the poor and strengthening the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood. It also shows the believers that all that they have comes from Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and they will not suffer if they give wealth for His sake. In fact, Allah promises to increase them in reward:
“The likeness of those who spend in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain], which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains, and Allah multiples [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is All Encompassing, All Knowing.” (Surah al-Baqarah:261)
Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, also makes it clear in the Qur’an that withholding wealth is displeasing to Him:
“And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Aquainted with all that you do.” (Surah ali-Imraan:180)
“[There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – announce to them a painful torment. On the Day when that wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads, flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.’” (Surah al-Taubah:34-35)
There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, the giving of zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are mentioned together in the Qur’an on more than eighty occasions, like in the following example:
“But if they repent, offer prayer and give zakat, then they are your bretheren in religion. And We expound the signs for a people who know.” (Surah al-Taubah:11)
We can see here that zakat is ranked with prayer as distinguishing a believer from the disbelievers. The payment of zakat is a sign that a person has submitted themselves to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and He tells us that paying zakat is one of the keys to receiving His Mercy in the Hereafter:
“The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, they give the zakat and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Surah al-Taubah:71)
What can we learn from this? That we are just as obligated to pay zakat as we are to pray, and that giving in charity will not only benefit the poor, but also ourselves. We should ensure that we understand how to calculate how much zakat we need to pay, and that we pay it once every lunar year. Many people use Ramadan as the reminder and pay it in this time in the hope of seeking extra reward, but it can be paid at any time of the year. It is important to give it with the intention of pleasing Allah and to seek to use it as a means to purify ourselves of the ills of greed and miserliness. And with Allah lies the highest reward.
“… fast Ramadan…”
The next of the acts mentioned by the Prophet, peace be upon him, that would take the believer to Paradise, was fasting in the month of Ramadan.
We often think of fasting as abstaining from food, but fasting in the Islamic sense has a much wider application and includes abstaining from speaking bad words, as well as marital relations, and food and drink. Fasting was prescribed by Allah for the Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and its goal is to develop self-restraint, piety and God-consciousness, known in Arabic as taqwa. Allah, all praises and glory be to him, says in the Qur’an:
“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa.” (Surah al-Baqarah:183)
It is also, by the grace of Allah, all praises and glory be to him, a source for the forgiveness of sins, and a protection from the Fire. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and hoping for its reward shall have all of his previous sins forgiven for him.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
“Fasting is a shield from the Hell-fire like one of your shields shielding you while fighting.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
Further, our fasting will intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“The fast and the Qur’an shall come as intercessors on the Day of Resurrection. The fast shall say, ’O Lord, I prevented him from his food and drink during the day, so let me intercede for him’. The Qur’an will say, ‘I kept him from sleep during the night, so let me intercede for him.’ Then they will be allowed to intercede.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
Fasting serves to demonstrate our sincerity to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and draws us closer to Him. Only He knows if a person has truly fasted or not, and He has a special reward for those who are sincere enough to do it. He, all praises and glory be to Him, says in a hadith qudsi (the words of Allah narrated by the Prophet but not included in the Qur’an):
“He leaves his food, drink and desires because of Me. Fasting is for My sake and I shall reward it. And every good deed shall be rewarded ten-fold.” (Recorded in Bukhari)
SubhanAllah the rewards for fasting are so great. Many times we have a sense of fear when Ramadan comes in the summer months because we think ‘The days are so long!’, but Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, in His infinite mercy, always bestows His blessings and makes it easy.
What you will note from the ahadith and Qur’anic ayat that have been quoted, is that the blessings of the fast are not limited only to Ramadan. Fasting Ramadan is an obligation upon us and we must ensure that we fast sincerely with the intention of pleasing Allah, and that we make up any missed fasts. But any extra fasting that we choose to do on top of that, promises an even greater reward. The Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to love the short days of winter because they could get the reward of fasting during the day and pray longer in the night.
May Allah make it easy for us to fast for His sake, and develop self-restraint, piety andtaqwa, Ameen.
“… and make the pilgrimage to the House.”
The last of the things that the Prophet, peace be upon him, mentioned in this portion of the hadith, is the last of the five pillars of Islam, the pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Makkah, the Hajj. The performance of Hajj is an obligation on every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This has been clearly established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and as we can see from this hadith, it is one of the acts that the Prophet, peace be upon him, listed as placing a person in Paradise and saving them the Fire.
The ritual of pilgrimage to Makkah stretches back thousands of years to the time of the Prophet Abraham or, in Arabic, Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar, and his infant son Ismail alone in the desert, in the valley where Makkah now stands. While Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was gone, the baby became thirsty, and Hajar ran back and forth between two hills, now known as Safa and Marwah, seven times searching for water for her son. The baby cried and hit the ground with his foot (some narrations say that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is called the Well of Zamzam and is now located next to the Kabbah. The Kabbah, or House of Allah, was built later by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, may Allah’s peace be on them both, as a place for the worship of Allah alone.
Muslims today emulate this journey in the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. When the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, led his followers from Medina to Makkah to make this pilgrimage, it was the first Hajj to be performed by Muslims alone, and the only Hajj ever performed by the last Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him. He cleansed the Kabbah, destroyed all the idols that had been worshipped there, and re-ordained the building as the house of Allah.
The Hajj pilgrimage, sees millions people from all over the world come together to worship Allah. The rich and the poor have their differences removed as they dress in the same manner and perform the same rituals. People must undertake a long journey and suffer hardship in the search of their ultimate goal. It is a physical as well as spiritual pilgrimage and believers must practice sincerity, and patience and love for their fellow Muslims. They must forget their material comforts and the lure of the material world and concentrate on only Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and His worship and their relationship with Him. Spiritually, the Hajj can provide an individual with a complete cleansing of the soul, as the Prophet, peace be upon him, said,
“Whoever performs the Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not commit any lewdness or sins returns like the day in which his mother gave birth to him [without any sins].”(Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
Successfully completed with the right intention, the Hajj can also provide the ultimate reward, as the Prophet stated,
“And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
We can see the reward, so why aren’t more of us rushing to perform the Hajj? A culture has grown in which people delay the performance of Hajj until their old age, hoping to be purified of their sins close to the time of their death. Yet, we don’t know when the angel of death will come. We can see that Hajj is obligatory upon us if we ’have the means’, so what does this entail? And if we ‘have the means’ but we delay performing Hajj, does this make us sinful?
In general ‘the means’ are considered to include physical health, financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the journey. In addition, women should have amahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow for the lone woman to travel in a ‘trustworthy’ group made up of men and women. If one does not meet these conditions, one is not obliged to perform Hajj.
If we have the means, is there any excuse not to be making immediate plans to perform the Hajj? Can it be delayed?
Some scholars including Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad and some Shafi’ees state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity. As soon as you have the means and ability you should make arrangements to go and you are sinful if you do not. The evidence for this position includes the hadith:
“If anyone breaks [a bone] or becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform Hajj the following year.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
The deduction here being that the Prophet, peace be upon him, didn’t say they could perform Hajj at any time in the future, but rather the next time they were able.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to indicate that it is permissible to delay theHajj is that Hajj was made obligatory on the 6th year after Hijrah to Madinah, but the Prophet, peace be upon him, didn’t perform his Hajj until the 10th year, four years later. Some scholars have stated that the reason for his delay could have been because the Kabbah was still filled with idols and frequented by polytheists who would worship while naked, so the Prophet, peace be upon him, waited until Allah (swt) purified the House of these people before performing Hajj. Therefore the delay was due to an acceptable excuse and may not provide evidence for those who have no acceptable excuse.
I have laid out these evidences in detail because I imagine that there are many of us who actually have ‘the means’ both physically and financially, but are choosing not to perform this obligatory act at this time in our lives. We should look into the state of our own affairs and ask ourselves whether we should be striving to make an arrangement to perform the Hajj if we have not already done so. And Allah knows best.
“Shall I not inform you of the gates to goodness?”
Having advised Muaadh ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, about the acts that would lead him to Paradise and save him for from the Fire, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, then asked, “Shall I not inform you…?” This draws the listener’s attention to what is about to be revealed.
The Prophet then informs him about the “gates to goodness”. The entry into Paradise could be secured through the actions already mentioned, namely the obligatory five pillars of Islam. Beyond this, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was advising that there was a great deal of further good that one could received inside of Paradise. This good could be obtained through voluntary actions such as those that he goes on to mention.
The most beloved servant of Allah, as will be discussed in a later hadith inshaAllah, is the one who performs voluntary acts of worship after completing what is obligatory upon them. The fasting, charity and prayer that the Blessed Prophet goes on to refer to here, are therefore the voluntary type, that are performed after one has completed the obligatory fast of Ramadan,payment of zakat and performance of the five daily prayers. These will be discussed in detail in the following posts inshaAllah.
” … fasting [which] is a shield … “
The act of fasting is a shield, like the shield that one uses on the battlefield. Like a shield protects a person from the enemy, the act of fasting protects a person from committing sins, and from entering the Hellfire.
As the obligatory fasting in Ramadan has already been mentioned in this hadith, this phrase is an encouragement to increase one’s voluntary fasting. Allah, praised and glorified be He, mentions in Surah al-Baqarah, that fasting is prescribed for us to increase our taqwa. The word taqwa comes from wiqaayah, which implies protection and protecting oneself from the Hellfire.
In this way we can see that fasting is not just abstaining from food and drink, but it also incorporates abstaining from sins and improper speech and actions. The shield is therefore against sins, and if we do not abstain from these whilst fasting, it will not protects us from the Hellfire.
There are specific days on which a Muslim is encouraged but not obligated to fast, these include: the Day of Ashoorah (the 10th of Muharram) along with the 9th or 11th in addition, the Day of Arafah (the 9th of Dhul Hujjah) for those who are not making theHajj pilgrimage, Monday and Thursday of every week, three days of every month, the three days of the full moon in the middle of the Islamic lunar month, any days of the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, and six days in the month of Shawaal.
Let’s make dua to Allah to assist us in increasing our voluntary fasts, as a way of drawing closer to Him and shielding us from the Fire.
“… 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.
“… 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.”
We can understand from this statement of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that prayer in the depths of the night has the same properties as giving voluntary charity, it can extinguishe some of our minor sins.
The Importance of the Late-Night Prayer
In this hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, refers to the following Qur’anic verse:
“Their sides forsake their beds to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend [in charity] out of what We have bestowed on them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do” (Surah al-Sajdah:16-17)
Although there is a difference of opinion about the precise meaning of the phrase, “their sides forsake their beds” and what prayer it is referring to, the fact that the Prophet linked in to his statement about prayer in the depths of the night to this Qur’anic ayah, appears to indicate that it is the late night prayer that is being referred to, and Allah know best.
Ibn al-Qayyim points out that one of the merits of the late-night prayer is that in general, it is hidden from the eyes of others. No one else sees what you are doing. Therefore, in this verse, Allah specifically states that the reward for what the believers are doing in a hidden fashion, is a great reward that is kept hidden for them. No one can know it or imagine it.
Many other verses in the Qur’an emphasize the importance of the late-night prayer:
“They used to sleep but little at night [spending time in prayer] and in the hours before dawn, they were found asking for forgiveness [from Allah]“ (Surah al-Dhaariyat:17-18)
“And in some late parts of the night offer the late-night prayer with it [the Qur’an], as an additional prayer for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a position of praise” (Surah al-Israa:79)
“Is the one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing [in prayer] during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord [equal to one of the disbelievers]? Say: Are those who know equal to those who know not? It is only people of understanding who will remember [and take lesson from this].” (Surah al-Zumar:9)
“O you [Muhammad] wrapped in garments, stand and pray all night, except a little of it or less than that, or a little more. And recite the Qur’an in a slow style. Verily, We shall send down to you a weighty word. Verily, the rising by night is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself and most suitable for [understanding] the [words of Allah]. Verily, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties. And remember the Name of you Lord and devote yourself to Him with a complete devotion.”(Surah al-Muzzammil:1-8)
Many ahadith also state the virtues of the late-night prayer:
“You should perform the late-night prayer for verily it was the custom of the pious people before you. Certainly, the late night prayer is an act that takes one closer to Allah, keeps one away from sins, expiates for evil deeds and repels disease from the body.” (Recorded in al-Tirmidhi)
“The best prayer after the obligatory prayer is that during the depths of the night.”(Recorded in Muslim)
The scholars have said that the reason for the late-night prayer being more virtuous than the voluntary prayers done during the day is because of the lack of ostentation and show in the prayer performed when others are sleeping. The intention behind the late-night prayer is therefore more pure – to please Allah alone. Further it is easier for one to concentrate on the object of one’s worship. This is perhaps one of the greatest virtues of the late-night prayer, it increases our sincerity towards Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. It reminds us that our goal is not the pleasures of this world, but the worship of Allah alone.
“… Then he said, “Shall I inform you of the head of the matter…The head of the matter is submission [to Allah]…”
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, began this hadith by explaining the minimum requirements for entering into Paradise. He stated that this required implementation of the five pillars of Islam. He then went on to explain the ways in which one can enter the gates of goodness, or earn a greater reward within Paradise, that is through late-night prayer, and extra fasting and giving in charity beyond the obligatory duties.
In this part of the hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, goes onto to mention ‘the head of the matter’. ‘The matter’ being referred to here is, and Allah knows best, the issue of entering into Paradise and escaping the Hell-fire. The Prophet, peace be upon him, stated that ‘the head’, meaning the most important and essential aspect, is Islam.
The scholars have said that the meaning of the term ‘Islam’ in the context of this hadith, is submission and obedience to Allah. Another narration of this hadith states that ‘the head of the matter’ is the testimony of faith. The two can be reconciled when we understand that the person who does not accept and apply the testimony of faith both internally and externally, has no portion of Islam whatsoever.
Submission to Allah, or adherence to the testimony of faith, plays a similar role to the head of the human body. Without a head, there is no life. Without submission to Allah and His commandments, there is no Islam, and there is no hope of entering Paradise or escaping the Hell-fire.
“Its pillar is the prayer.”
The final words of the Prophet, peace be upon him, were, “The prayer, the prayer…”
SubhanAllah, would more needs to be said than this?
The prayer is the foundation upon which the religion, submission to Allah and being entered into Paradise rests. Without the pillar of prayer, none of these other things will be firm and sound. The one who does not attend to their prayers is missing the foundation which can save them from the punishment of the Hell-fire.
The prayer is the first thing that believer will be called to account for on the Day of Judgement. We know the importance of the prayer, and yet, tragically we neglect it. The prayer is actually the most important part of our day. Many times we rush through the prayer in order to attend to our daily activities, and yet, when Judgement Day comes, how we performed our prayer is actually our most important action.
Ask yourself, how well you think you are praying? Do you know how the Prophet, peace be upon him, prayed? Do you know his actions and his words? Do you have full concentration on Allah when you pray? Are you aware of the meanings of the words you are reciting? Are you taking your time and giving the prayer its due? Are you praying to Allah with humility and sincerity?
It is one of the mercies of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, that when you recite Surah Al-Fatihah, He answers every ayah, saying that He will grant you what you have asked for. What greater motivator could there be to remember what you are asking for?Pause at the end of each ayah to remember the fact that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, is answering you. SubhanAllah, when we reflect on this it should bring a deeper significance to our prayer.
Finally, try to identify where you feel your prayer is lacking, make a list of what you want to improve, make dua to Allah to assist you, and then assess yourself each day. For what is assessed will improve. Take the time to reflect on this most important of your deeds and strive to improve and perfect it. It’s the most important skill you have, make it your best.
“Shall I not inform you of what controls all of this? … that which their tongues reap?”
We have discussed in previous hadith the importance of saying a good word and refraining from evil speech. However in this last portion of the hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, goes further to indicate that restraining, controlling and holding one’s tongue is the foundation of all good, both in this life and the Hereafter.
Someone might wonder, why is it the case that the deeds of the tongue can have such significance as to take someone to the Hellfire? Can they really be that harmful?
Let’s contemplate the sins of speech. They include backbiting which is saying about others what they would not like to hear; spreading rumours; lying; giving false witness; and associating partners with Allah or shirk which is the greatest sin in the eyes of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. In fact, all sinful acts in general are usually accompanied by speech that assists those deeds.
Ibn Taymiyah, may Allah be pleased with him, pointed out that even though a person may in control of all their other actions, and they be considered to be very religious, they still may not be able to control their tongue. We may be able to avoid eating forbidden foods, or stealing or drinking alcohol, but we find it difficult to stop saying bad things about others.
In this day and age when the forms of communication are so many, so informal and so immediate, we have to be especially careful. We have to realise that our words form part of our deeds and we must guard them as carefully as our actions.
Let’s remember what Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
“Not a word does he utter but there is a watcher by him ready [to record it]“ (Surah al-Qaaf:16-18)