“Shall I not inform you of the gates to goodness?”
Having advised Muaadh ibn Jabal, RadhiAllahu Anhu, about the acts that would lead him to Paradise and save him for from the Fire, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, then asked, “Shall I not inform you…?” This draws the listener’s attention to what is about to be revealed.
The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, 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, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, 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.
” … 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 the Hajj 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 obligatory zakat, 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.”
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”
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]. Then 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, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, 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, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, 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”
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]“
“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”
“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].”
“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.”
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.