IN THE FAMOUS ḥadîth narrated by the illustrious Companion, Abû Hurairah, the Prophet ﷺ said:
When Allah first created Paradise and Hellfire, He sent angel Gabriel to Paradise saying, ‘Look at it and at what I have prepared therein for its inhabitants.’ So Gabriel came to it and looked at it and at what Allah had prepared therein for its inhabitants. Gabriel returned to Allah and said, ‘By your glory, no one hears of it without entering it.’ So Allah ordered that it be encompassed by forms of hardship, and He said, ‘Return to it and look at what I have prepared therein for its inhabitants.’ So Gabriel returned to it and found that it was encompassed by forms of hardship. Then he returned to Allah and said, ‘By Your glory, I fear that no one will enter it.’ Allah said, ‘Go to Hellfire and look at it and what I have prepared therein for its inhabitants.’ Gabriel found that it was in layers, one above the other. Then he returned to Allah and said, ‘By Your glory, no one who hears of it will enter it.’ So Allah ordered that it be encompassed by lusts. Then He said, ‘Return to it,’ and Gabriel returned to it and he said, ‘By Your glory, I fear that no one will escape it.’ (Tirmidhi)
Allah has created Paradise filled with endless joys for the doers of good. In many places in the Quran, Allah describes some of the amazing features of Paradise to the believers promising them that they will receive whatever they desire,
Indeed the companions of Paradise, that Day, will be amused in joyful occupation. They and their spouses – in shade, reclining on adorned couches. For them therein is fruit, and for them is whatever they wish. [Sûrat Yâ Sîn 36:55-58]
The ḥadîth about the creation of Paradise and Hellfire shows us clearly that our path to Paradise is not easy and, on the other hand, neither is our salvation from the Hellfire easy. The Paradise of Allah is costly! Just simply uttering the Kalimah and claiming to be Muslims does not give us an easy access to this immense reward. Allah says in the very first few verses of Sûrat Al-ʿAnkabût:
Alif, Lâm, Mîm. Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tested? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. [Sûrat Al-ʿAnkabût 29:1-3]
As Muslims, Allah tests us as individuals and as an Ummah to distinguish between those who really believe and those who ‘merely claim to believe.’ How many times has Allah mentioned in the Quran, ‘Those who believe and do good deeds’? Allah denotes that claiming to possess îmân must be coupled with action.
As we journey through life, Allah places many trials and tribulations in our path, many of which we find difficult. One of the biggest tests many Muslims face is observing the five daily Salah on a regular basis. With our busy schedules at work or at home, Salah is seen as an impediment and we fail to realize the vast blessing of pausing to pray to Allah, the most high. The first question a person will be asked by Allah, on the day of Judgement is regarding our preservation of prayer as the Prophet ﷺ said:
The first thing for which a person will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayer. If it is sound, he will be successful, and if it is lacking in any way, he will be doomed. (Abû Dâwûd)
Allah’s blessings upon us are incalculable! Just look within your own self and you will be amazed! The faculties of hearing and seeing are just two of the many blessing that Allah has granted us. Without these faculties functioning properly, life would be very difficult and all Allah asks for in return (in terms of prayer) is to spend a few minutes daily worshipping Him in Salah.
It is very unfortunate that we find people who claim to be Muslims yet do not pray. The Prophet ﷺ delivered a stern warning against those who don’t pray when he said:
Between a man and shirk and kufr, there stands his giving up prayer. (Muslim)
If we take the Fajr prayer for example, it is very difficult for the majority of Muslims due to its being so early in the morning. A person’s natural desire inclines him to remain in the comfort and warmth of his/her bed rather than getting up groggy, disrupting a relaxing sleep, making wuḍu under a cold tap and then offering four rakʿahs of prayer. Allah knows it is difficult yet, this is what Allah wants from us and this is what will get us to paradise, Inshâ’Allah. Praying Fajr distinguishes between the true muslim who embodies the Kalimah and the muslim who ‘merely claims the Kalimah’ and remains heedless.
In the ḥadîth of Jâbir ibn ʿAbdullâh, the Prophet ﷺ made an explicit connection with offering Salah and entering Jannah when he said:
The key to Paradise is Salah. (Tirmidhi)
The second way that Allah tests us is as an Ummah. Being from the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ is not enough; we claim to love him, but again, this must be accompanied with actions, i.e. following and defending his Sunnah. Allah will put us, as an Ummah, through trials of difficulty, where the destruction, corruption and suffering will shake us all and not just individually. Allah says, addressing our Ummah:
Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such trial has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty, hardship and were shaken until even their messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:214]
Allah in this verse speaks about the previous nations who were tested with difficulty to such severe degrees that even the best from amongst them, their prophets and the believers, questioned as to when the help of Allah would arrive. In the beginning of Islam, when the Muslims were few in number and were tortured for their belief, they came to the Prophet ﷺ seeking relief. A man from among them asked the Prophet ﷺ: ’Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you supplicate to Allah for us?’ The Prophet ﷺ replied:
Among those before you, a believer would be seized and a ditch would be dug for him and he would be thrown into it. Then, they would bring a saw which would be put on his head so that he is split into two halves. His flesh would be torn away from the bone with iron combs. Yet, all of this did not cause him to abandon his religion. (Bukhâri)
Our Ummah today is going through major trials of suffering and pain but that should not make us lose hope. Rather, we need to stick together firmly upon the Quran and Sunnah and stay optimistic in the promise of Allah–since in the end there will be ease, as Allah promises in the verse above (Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near).
I would like to conclude with an amazing, comforting ḥadîth in which the Prophet ﷺ gives glad tidings to this Ummah:
By the one in whose hand is my soul, I hope you will be half of the people of Paradise. (Bukhâri)
Indeed, Allah is ‘selling’ something priceless. Indeed, Allah is offering us Jannah!