Who Are the People of Paradise?
We could go on and on, for the ahadeeth are vast in numbers, about the Prophet's descriptions of Paradise. But a place that has houses built with gold and silver bricks: where its dirt is made of rubies and sapphires and its inhabitants wear only the finest silk garments, sounds like a pretty exclusive neighborhood to me. Who are these people who will be allowed to live in this enchanting place? The Jews say the Jews. The Christians say the Christians. But Allah says, "And they say: 'None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.' Those are their (vain) desires. Say, 'Produce your proof if you are truthful.' [2:111]
He also says, "(Namely) those whose lives the angels take in a state of purity, saying (to them), 'Peace be on you, enter you the Garden, because of (the good) which you did (in the world)." [16:32]
Always in the Qur'an when Allah mentions those who will attain Paradise, He mentions the believers, not the Muslims. He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "Indeed the Muttaqoon will be amongst the Gardens and water-springs." [15:45]
He also says, "Verily, the Muttaqoon will be in a place of security, among Gardens and Springs, dressed in fine silk and (also) in thick silk, facing each other. This is how it shall be, and We shall marry them to Houris with wide, lovely eyes. They will request therein for every kind of fruit in peace and security." [44:51-55]
So who are the believers and how do we become one of them? Allah says, "They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and they strive with one another in hastening to good deeds, and those are among the good." [3:114]
He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, also says of the believers, "But the Apostle and those who believe with him strive hard with their property and their persons; and these it is who shall have the good things and these it is who shall be successful." [9:88]
He goes on to say, "Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the Garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain, which you have concluded: that is the achievement supreme." [9:111]
Of the believers, He also says, "But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide (forever)." [2:82]
O slaves of Allah! Know that being among this illustrious group of people who will live in this place of tranquillity and bliss is not something easily attained. Allah says, "Or do you think that you shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried, 'When (will come) the help of Allah?' Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!" [2:214]
What Allah and His Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, convey to us is that the people of Paradise are the God-conscious, and the God-fearing. Not everyone, who says, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, just as not everyone who professes the Shahadah, will enter Paradise.
Only those who fear Allah as He ought to be feared, and are motivated by that fear to do acts of righteousness will attain success. The one who is conscious of His Lord, in every aspect of his life, and turns to Him in true submission, will have purchased for himself safety and security on a day when there will be none, except with Allah. He does not cause a soul to suffer fear twice, the fear of Him in this world, and the fear on The Day of Judgment. About this, the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Allah says, 'I do not combine for my servants two states of fear, or two states of safety. So if he feels safe from Me in this world I will cause him to fear on The Day of Judgment, and if he fears Me in the world, I will cause him to be safe on The Day of Judgment.'" (Sahih al-Jami)
It is important, therefore, that Muslims know the characters of those who will be the inheritors of Paradise. But it is unfortunate that many of today's Muslims understand that it is enough for one to pronounce the Shahadah by his tongue for him to be entitled to enter Paradise regardless of whether he lived according to Islam or not! But the Shahadah means and requires more than the mere utterance of it. Actually this fact is one of the most mentioned aspects of Islam in the Qur'an and Sunnah. The essence of Eman is deed. Deeds of the heart and deeds of the tongue and other body parts. Deeds that are to be continued till one leaves this world. That was the reason why the Arabs of Makkah refused to pronounce it. They fully appreciated its implication. They knew it concerned authority and understood that they had to govern their deeds and lives with it. Yet many of those who repeat it today lead life styles that do not resemble those described in the Qur'an and practiced by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, and his companions. The Qur'an warns us that deeds are the basis on which we are to be judged, not only the utterance of the Shahadah, "It is not by your wishes nor the wishes of the People of the Book: whoever does wrong shall be punished for it, and he will find none other than Allah as a protector or helper." [4:123]
So entering Paradise requires that we live as believers and die as Muslims. That takes knowledge, dedication and determination to see it through to its completion. The fist step is belief in Allah and His Messenger, and the flip side to that is leaving all acts of shirk; this means directing all acts of ibadah to none but Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, whether it be wearing talismans, supplicating to others than Allah or simply showing off. The next step is obeying Allah and His Messenger, avoiding bid'ah and innovations, and carrying out all compulsory acts of worship that He has prescribed. Once we are steadfast and regular in what we must do, we can then proceed to the next level of eman and worship, by doing the things that we have been encouraged to do. By increasing out acts of worship, and remembrance of Allah we will leave off sin and help safeguard ourselves from a Fire, the fuel of which is men and stones.
We Should Also Strive to:
- Protect our minds from thoughts, which are evil, because evil actions begin with evil thoughts.
- Protect our eyes by lowering our gazes and not looking at forbidden things.
- Protect our ears from lewd or evil speech where there is sin. We should also avoid listening to lies, gossip, music, slander, or blasphemy.
- Protect our tongues by saying always what is correct and true, and keeping it moist with the remembrance of Allah, and keeping away from backbiting and other evil speech.
- Protect our stomachs by eating the halal and keeping away from the haram. We should beware of eating usury, carrion, and swine or drinking intoxicants or taking drugs.
- Protect our hands from taking what does not belong to us, or from doing harm to another Muslim.
- Protect our legs from taking us to evil and corruption and an ultimate doom.
- Protect our private parts from unlawful sexual intercourse.
- Protect our wealth by not squandering it or holding on to it too tightly.
- Protect our oaths, witnesses and trusts by not breaching or breaking a contract or pledge knowingly. We should not exceed our agreements, testify to falsehood or break our trusts.
- Protect our families and children by keeping them away from the things that may be harmful and that may corrupt their minds and their souls.
Now, it is true that only Allah knows who the believers are, but that should not stop us from striving to be among their numbers. For the believers will have eternal bliss and complete success, because of the things that they did in this life. Allah says,
"So no soul knows the delight of the eyes which is hidden for them; a reward for what they did." [32:17]
We now stand at the start of the race, so let us run forward quickly to the finish line, where the gates of Paradise will be open for those who strive as they should. The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, who said, "Paradise is surrounded by hardship and the Hellfire is surround by wishes and desires," has described the road to eternal bliss. (Sahih al-Jami)
Despite this, Allah and His Messenger have left breadcrumbs along the path, for us to follow to make our journey easier. All roads may lead to Rome, but not all paths lead to Allah and His Paradise. We must plan our journey by using only the road map given to us by Allah and His Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam.
Ways That Lead To Paradise:
Belief and Righteous Deeds are two of the best routes to Jannah (Paradise). The door of righteous deeds is wide and the ways of obtaining rewards are vast, as Allah says, "And those who believe and do good deeds they are the inhabitants of Paradise, in it they shall abide." [2:82]
Taqwa is the fear of the Most Merciful, and acting in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. That is, hoping for the reward of Allah and avoiding disobedience of His Guidance and fearing His Punishment. For Allah says, "Surely those of taqwa shall be in the midst of Gardens and fountains." [15:45]
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, also said, "The most common thing which leads people to Paradise is taqwa of Allah and good conduct, and the most common thing which leads people to the Hell Fire is the mouth and the private parts." (Tirmidhi)
Obedience of Allah and His Messenger is a sure way to Paradise. Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will cause him to enter Gardens beneath which rivers flow, and whoever turns back, He will chastise him with a painful chastisement." [48:17]
Allah's Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, also said, "All of my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse." It was asked, "O Messenger of Allah, who would refuse?" He said, "He who obeys me enters Paradise and he who disobeys me has refused." (Bukhari)
Fighting in the Path of Allah with one's goods and soul. For Allah says, "O you who believe, shall I lead you to a merchandise which may deliver you from a painful chastisement? You shall believe in Allah and His Messenger, and struggle hard in Allah's Cause with your property and your lives; that is better for you, if you but knew! He will forgive you your sins and cause you to enter Gardens beneath which rivers flow, and goodly dwellings in Gardens of perpetuity; that is the mighty achievement." [61:10-12]
Repentance erases what came before it as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "The one who repents form sin is like the one who never sinned." (Sahih Al-Jami) And Allah says, "Except such as repent and believe and do good, these shall enter the Garden, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly in any way." [19:60]
There are countless other means, from building a mosque to seeking Islamic knowledge to obeying our husbands and raising righteous children. All it takes is our time and sincere efforts. With all that Allah has described, it may seem daunting to us at time,, that we will ever make it. Eman rises and falls, and with it our good deeds. But we should never lose hope in Allah, for the only one who loses hope in Allah is the one who disbelieves. So even though we may feel that we are at the bottom of the pile, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, gives us hope. He said, "Mousa, alayhes salam, asked his Lord, 'Who amongst the inhabitants of Paradise will be the lowest in rank?' He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, said, 'He is a man who will come after the people have entered Paradise and it will be said to him: Enter Paradise.' He will say, 'How my Lord? Indeed, the people have settled in their apartments and taken their shares.' It will be asked of him, 'Would you be pleased if there was a kingdom for you like the kingdoms of the earth?' He will say, 'I would be pleased, my Lord.' He will say, 'And for you is the like of that, and the like of it, and the like of it.' He will say at the fifth time, 'I am pleased, my Lord.' He will say, 'This is for you and ten times like it, and for you is what you desire for yourself and what is pleasurable to your eye.' He will say, "I am pleased my Lord." (Muslim)
This is what Allah has for the least among us. But despite all the glorious castles, the beautiful clothes and mates we will posses, inshaa'Allah, He still has in store for the believers the greatest honor awaiting them in Paradise. Suhaib ibn Sinan narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When the inmates of Paradise enter Paradise and the inmates of Hellfire will enter Hell, the announcer will say, 'O people of Paradise, verily you have a promise with Allah and He wishes to fulfill His promise to you.' They will ask, 'What is His promise? Has He not made our balances heavy (with good deed), whitened our faces, admitted us into Paradise, and delivered us from the Hellfire?' Then the screen will be removed and they will look towards Him. By Allah He will not give them a thing more beloved to them and more comforting to their eyes, than the gaze of Himself." (Sahih al-Jami)
We were created in Paradise, we came out of it and we will inshaa'Allah go back to it. It is our destination and we shall reach it. But we have to do what Allah has asked us to do, for Paradise is not cheap. The price is true eman that is shown in obedience to Allah according to the sunnah of his Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. The companions understood that. Their efforts were all for the life of the Hereafter and they gave only what was necessary to this worldly life. As Muslims, everything we do, can be, and should be worship of Allah. Whether we're working at the office to provide for our families; cooking a meal; raising our children, or simply resting, through remembrance of Allah and supplication, we can transform these earthly necessities into fruits that will bear for us in the life of the Hereafter.
So let us keep our eyes on the prize, and strive hard for it, for Allah says,
"And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them in Our ways; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good." [29:69]