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Prophet Muhammad's Advice to Muslims

How Can One Enter Paradise?

Apart from outlining the political foundations, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) laid down the social foundations of the new Muslim community in Madinah.

These were his first words which he uttered upon his arrival to Madinah. Imam al-Tirmidhi reported that the Prophet said:

“O people! Spread the greeting of peace, feed (the poor and needy), behave kindly to your relatives, offer prayer when others are asleep, and (thus) enter Paradise in peace.”

The Prophet started this hadith with drawing peoples’ attention to what he was going to tell them. This implies that what he told them about should be taken into consideration and followed as much as they could.

The hadith focused on four important issues which make one enter Paradise in peace. Muslims believe that after death there is another life (the Hereafter) in which they will receive God’s reward for doing good deeds and His punishment for doing bad deeds.

The timing of the Hereafter is known only to God. No one on the face of this earth knows about it even Prophet Muhammad himself.

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Entering Paradise in peace means that these things lead Muslims to enter Paradise without being punished in Hell.

Spreading the Greeting of Peace

This is the first step in a Muslim’s journey to Paradise. The official greeting in Islam is as-salamu `alaykum (peace be unto you). This is a call for peace that Muslims remind themselves of all day when they meet each other.

There are many Quranic verses that promote the idea of spreading the greeting of peace in different situations. For example:

{O you who believe, do not enter houses other than your houses until you have [first] asked permission and greeted their occupants.} (Al-Nur 24: 27)

{But when you enter houses, bid peace to yourselves with a salutation from God, blessed and good.} (Al-Nur 24: 61)

{And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet with better than it, or return it. Surely God keeps count of all things.} (Al-Nisa’ 4: 86).

Why all this emphasis on spreading the greeting of peace?

Because it generates mutual love and removes hatred from peoples’ hearts. It is the same as introducing yourself to others or starting a conversion with someone you do not know. In western cultures, it is improper to start talking to someone without greeting him by “Hi” or “Hello”. It is the same in the Muslim culture. This greeting is a sign of respect to one another.

`Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`As, one of the companions, reported: A man asked the Messenger of God: “Which act in Islam is the best?” The Prophet replied: “To give food and to greet everyone, whether you know or you do not.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

In Riyad al-Salihin, Imam al-Nawawi says commenting on this hadith:

“Feeding poor and destitute is an act of goodness, and so is fulfilling the needs of the indigent. Greeting everybody (saying “as-Salamu `alaikum”), whether an acquaintance or a stranger, is a good manner too. Both of these acts generate mutual love and remove hatred and ill will from hearts.”

In his al-Adab al-Mufrad, Imam al-Bukhari reports that the Prophet said: “Peace is one of the names of God which He has placed on the earth. Extend it among you. When a man greets people and they answer him, then he has a higher degree than them because he reminds them of peace. If no one answers him, he will be answered by one who is better and more excellent.'”

Based on this hadith and other hadiths and Quranic verses that recommend spreading the greeting of peace without restriction, the contemporary scholar Faysal Mawlawi views that:

“It is permissible for a Muslim to greet a non-Muslim using the word salam (Arabic for: peace). This view has been attributed to Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn Muhayriz, `Umar ibn `Abd Al-`Aziz, Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah, Al-Shu`abi, Al-Awza`i, and At-Tabari.

Moreover, this opinion was chosen by Rashid Rida in his Tafsir al-Manar and al-Shanqiti in his Adwa‘ Al-Bayan. As for the hadith which reads:

“Do not initiate (greeting) Jews and Christians with salam” (Muslim),

It was connected to an existing state of war at the time.

Feeding the Poor and the Needy

The second step in a Muslim’s journey to Paradise is feeding the poor and the needy. When you help others, you are fostering the social ties with them. You let them know that you are part of them. You are sharing their feelings.

Knock on the door of the people next door. Always ask about them to see if they need any help. Visit charitable associations that care about the poor and the needy.

The word “feed” should not be limited to the actual feeding by making meals for the poor and the needy. The scope of feeding is much wider.

Make it a daily habit to give something in charity. Spending on the poor gets you closer to God. Do not forget that spending on your family is more important than spending on others. The former is obligatory while the latter is supererogatory. Abu Hurairah narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“You spent one Dinar for the fight for the sake of God, one Dinar to liberate a slave, one Dinar to a poor person, and one Dinar to support your family. The most rewarded Dinar is the one that you spent on your family.” (Muslim)

Look for those who are unable to pay school fees and help them out.There are many orphans who want to get married or complete their studies. Go to them and support them with your money.

God enumerates the rewards awaiting those who feed the poor and the needy in about 16 verses (Al-Insan 76: 7-22).

The Prophet is reported to have said: “In Paradise there are rooms which can be seen from the inside and the outside”. The Prophet was asked:

‘O Messenger of God for whom?’ He said: “For people who utter good, feed the poor, spend the night in prayer while the people are asleep.” (Al-Tabarani)

Behaving Kindly to Relatives

This is the third stop in a Muslim’s journey to Paradise. The Prophet draws our attention to a very important social value which is that of strengthening our family relations. One cannot live in isolation. Everyone is in need of others and others are in need of him. A true Muslim cares for others as much as he cares for himself.

Being kind to one’s relatives is part of one’s belief. The Prophet said:

“Those of you who believe in God and the Hereafter should be kind to their relatives.” (Al-Bukhari)

About the reward of being kind to relatives, the Prophet said:

“Those of you who would like to have more providence and longer lives should be kind to their relatives.” (Muslim)

One’s parents come first in the relatives’ list. Do not forget your parents. Try to visit them every now and then. Always attend to their needs. After your parents come your relatives. They have the same right on you.

Islam’s care for relatives extends to those who even have a different religion. Islam made no distinction between a Muslim or a non-Muslim relative, a Muslim or a non-Muslim parent. This represents the universal aspect of Islam.

It is reported that Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, asked the Prophet’s permission to visit and help her non-Muslim mother and the Prophet told her: “Yes, keep a good relation with her.” (Muslim)

Offering Prayer When Others Are Asleep

This is the fourth and final stop in a Muslim’s journey to Paradise. The Prophet’s words ‘offering prayer while others are asleep’ signify uniqueness. You are doing something that not everybody is doing.

Very few people share you this unique value. When darkness prevails and everyone goes to bed, you are awake and worshiping God. You will feel it when you try it. It is all about closeness to God.

The Prophet said:

“The best prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer.” (Muslim)

The best time for offering the tahajjud or qiyam al-layl is the last third of the night. `Aisha reported that the Prophet used to sleep in the first part of the night and stand in prayer in the last part of it.” (Muslim)

Prayer at night is a sign of sincere devotion to God. It purifies your heart and gets you closer to God.

Having done these four things, one gets a ticket to Paradise where he enjoys the pleasure of seeing God for whose sake he did these things in this life hoping for His mercy in the life to come.

The hadith under discussion is one of the Prophet’s legacies which he left behind. It is all about generating love among people, being kind to people, helping people, and getting closer to God.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.