How bad do you want Jannah? This is the question that will ultimately define your day, your week and even your life.
“This life of ours is a sleep…and when we die, we wake up from the sleep.” –Ali (ra)
One day, perhaps sooner than we think, our souls will awaken from this dream we call life. We will no longer be bound by the reverie. All the distractions and limitations, the “mutual boasting” and the “dazzling glitter” will fade away. At last, the soul will be free to achieve complete and enduring clarity. What will it discover?
O ye who believe! Fear Allah and let every soul look to what (provision) he has sent forth for the morrow. Yea fear Allah: for Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do. (Al-Quran 59:18).
Question yourself as if you have already passed away. Because your life may not be what you intend to do “one day.” Your life is what you are doing, right now.
What will your soul reveal?
Will it reveal a person who turned consistently to God, deeply and sincerely, in good times and in bad? Who actively practiced reflection, gratitude and forbearance? Who looked for signs of God’s Mastery in each iota of creation; searched for His Will in each turn of events? Or will it show someone who reserved God solely for special occasions, to be remembered only in times of need or for the sake of ritual–or perhaps, not at all?
Will it reveal one who passionately sought to follow the beloved Messenger of God (sas), deeply cognizant that his life represented “the most beautiful pattern of conduct” ever known to man? (33:21). Someone who carefully studied the Prophet (sas)’ biography, continually finding ways to incorporate his Sunnah into their own life? Or will it uncover a person who pledged their allegiance for the sake of identity or conformity as opposed to sincere emulation; someone who followed theSunnah with carelessness and selectivity?
Will it reveal someone who made time for ritual prayer, comprehending its importance and appreciating its centrality? Someone who returned often in repentance and renewed their commitment after each misstep? Or will it uncover a mountain of excuses and missed opportunities?
Will it expose a life dedicated to charity, always seeking to help others through time, money and small acts of kindness? Will it reveal a heart perpetually restless with thoughts of improving the human condition? Or will it find a person so obsessed with comfort, recreation and self-absorption that they were oblivious to the needs and suffering of others?
Will your soul reveal a person who understood the importance of relationships? Who made time for their parents, offering them the very best of their company? Who approached their spouse with softness, protectiveness and humility? Who viewed their children as a trust from God, a responsibility deserving the utmost attention and care? Who carefully upheld the ties of kinship, nurtured their friendships and reached out to their neighbours? Who treated their colleagues with respect and their acquaintances with compassion? Or will it reveal a person bereft of manners and devoid of empathy, someone who used their loved ones as a means to an end, or constantly judged others and criticized their faults? Who talked much and listened very little, or who habitually made things difficult for others?
Will it reveal a person who spent their free time looking for ways to improve, whether spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically? Or will it uncover hour after hour of trivial pursuits, lost time and wasted potential?
“Take account of yourselves before you are taken to account.” –Umar (ra).
For most of us, Jannah is a distant dream. Despite the wondrous descriptions in the Qur’an, it is really hard to imagine an idyllic ever-lasting garden that is free of pain, free of worry, free of toil, free of distance and free of time. We often wonder what it will really be like, knowing full-well it can never be grasped. “I have prepared for My slaves what no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no human heart can imagine.” (Hadith Qudsi-Bukhari). How do we motivate ourselves to consistently strive for a dream that is so intangible?
Ultimately, we must trust the One who most intimately knows our deepest hopes and desires and recognizes our most profound disappointments and struggles. The One who Created each one of us and Loves us infinitely more than even our own mothers. Jannah is going to be undoubtedly and absolutely incredible. It is the place and time that we will finally attain the ever-lasting peace that is so central–yet so simultaneously unattainable– to the human spirit. Every moment of every day we need to remind ourselves of this and strive to attain it—no matter the cost, no matter the pain, no matter the obstacles.
So ask yourself: how bad do YOU want Jannah? You need look no further than your own choices to gage the intensity of your longing.
“Whoever wants to know what Allah has prepared for him should look to what he has prepared for Allah.” –Prophet Muhammad (sas).
1. Have faith and do good works.
“But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are the Companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide forever.” (2:82) There are numerous verses in the Qur’an that pair “having faith” and “working righteousness” as the essential pillars of admission to Paradise. Here is Islam boiled down to its most essential components: internalize the Shahadah and be a decent person, a person who actively seeks out opportunities to do good deeds. Notice that faith alone is not sufficient. We must accompany our belief with action. As expounded by the Prophet (sas): “The majority of the people who enter Jannah enter it based on two essential elements: God-Consciousness and good morals.” (Tirmidhi).
2. Seek Knowledge.
“He whosoever takes a path that leads to knowledge, Allah, the Almighty will pave his way to Jannah.” (Muslim). Some may argue that what is meant here is ‘Islamic’ knowledge in particular, but I think all knowledge is ultimately Islamic knowledge if we correct our intentions and connect what we learn to the bigger picture. Even if you don’t get the chance to study with a Sheikh or to complete the degree of your choice, (and even if you do) look for ways to constantly study, reflect, question and grow. Attend lectures, read books, watch documentaries, visit museums, travel, whatever it takes. With the right intention, every ounce of knowledge we gain propels us forward on the True Path, Insha’Allah.
3. Go the Mosque.
What simpler way could there be to earn points for Jannah than to attend prayer at the Masjid, especially here in Singapore where Alhamdulillah many of us live within walking distance of one? “Whosoever goes to the Masjid and returns back from it, purely for the sake of Allah, Allah the Almighty will prepare an abode in Jannah for every time he goes and comes back.” (Muslim).
4. Recite Ayatul-Qursi (Qur’an 2:255) after every prayer.
We all know the importance of ritual prayer. Indeed, in the words of the Prophet (sas), “the key to Paradise is Salah.” (Mishkat). So I’m not going to dwell on that here. But since you’re praying anyway, there is one extra, very simple yet powerful thing you can do to guarantee a reservation for yourself in Paradise. And it only takes 30 seconds. Recite Ayatul-Qursi. “He whosoever recites the verse (2:255) after every obligatory prayer will not be forbidden to enter Jannah…” (Nasa’i).
5. Be good awesome towards your parents.
Last week’s article called for paying special attention to honouring and cultivating your close relationships for the sake of Allah. There are few relationships in life that come anywhere near the importance that Islam accords to one’s parents. We have all heard the relevant hadith on this topic: “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother” (Nasa’i) or “A father’s pleasure is Allah’s pleasure, a father’s displeasure is Allah’s displeasure (Tirmidhi). Yet how many of us can honestly say we act upon this knowledge? How many of us truly “serve them with tenderness and humility” (17:24) as the Qur’an instructs? How many of us really give them the best of ourselves emotionally? Even if they are non-believers, openly calling you to commit shirk, you’re still supposed to treat them with kindness. Alhamdulillah most of us do not have parents who actively obstruct our practice of Islam, so what’s our excuse? And don’t settle for just being good to your parents—be AWESOME towards them, and no one will benefit more than you.
Maybe your relationship with your parents is strained. Maybe it has fallen into neglect or disrepair. It’s ok. They’re still your parents. And the good news is it’s never too late to turn it all around. As adults, we should go into our relationship with our parents expecting nothing; they have already done more than enough for us. It is up to us now to foster that connection and if we do it for the sake of God, it’s a win-win for everyone.
6. Sponsor an Orphan.
This one is a no-brainer. There are millions upon millions of orphaned and abandoned children in this world. Many of them are the same children who suffer from inadequate access to food, shelter, safe drinking water and basic health and educational amenities. Though the global poverty problem often seems insurmountable, there is something very basic we can all do to help. Find an orphanage with good credentials and set aside a portion of your income to assist their operations. And do this consistently, thinking of it as a bare minimum. If you want to take it a step further, sponsor a specific child and form a long-distance relationship with him or her. Not only will this make a world of a difference to the child you are helping, you will also secure your admission to Paradise. As the Prophet (sas) said: “Myself, and the person who sponsors an orphan will be in Jannah like this (and he pointed to his index and middle fingers).” (Bukhari).
7. Visit someone.
Islam is not a private religion. It is at its very core designed to spur us into concern for our neighbours and compassion for our community. One of the things the Prophet (sas) repeatedly emphasized is the importance of visiting one another, accepting invitations, giving invitations, looking for ways to socially engage, serve and assist others and even giving gifts. These things have obvious benefits for our lives here in the Dunya but they will also assist us in building the happy ending we all want for our Akhirah. “Whosoever visits an ill person (for the cause of Allah) or pays a visit to a fellow brother in faith (for the cause of Allah), Allah the Almighty will call an angel, saying: ‘Blessed be you and blessed is your act. Get you a place in Jannah.’” (Ibn Majah). Visiting a sick person is especially esteemed: “A Muslim who visits an ill person will remain amidst Jannah until he returns from his visit.” (Muslim). So go ahead, make a list of people you want to visit, not just close family and friends but also acquaintances; and every weekend, try to knock one name off that list Insha’Allah. And while we’re on the topic, please remember your adab on such visits: call before you arrive, knock (and wait for an answer) before you enter, either compliment what is prepared for you or stay silent, don’t wander off into rooms where you have not been invited, and do not overstay your welcome.
8. Be easy-going with others.
According to the Prophet (sas): “Allah, the Almighty let a man enter Jannah because that man was easy when buying, easy when selling to others, easy when he passed a judgement and easy when he sought a judgement.” (Bukhari). Ask yourself: are you easy with others, whether family members, colleagues or strangers? Do you forgive and let go? Do you show kindness, even when you’re wronged? Do you seek excuses for their behaviour and show patience with their short-comings? Remember, “Allah is not merciful to him who is not merciful to people.” (Bukhari and Muslim). It is not always easy to be easy-going, but it is definitely worth it.
9. Be patient in times of tragedy.
According to a Hadith Qudsi narrated by the Prophet (sas), Allah (swt) revealed: “A believing slave servant of Mine will get his reward from Me upon the death of his beloved one, but such a person must show patience and perseverance for the fate of Allah, the Almighty, and if he does so, his reward will be Jannah.” (Ahmed). The death of a loved one is perhaps one of the most difficult tragedies of life. But it is also one of life’s surest realities. We will all be visited with deep personal adversities from time to time and the overwhelming inclination at such times is to go into depression, withdraw from life and even question our Deen. The person of Jannah, however, is the one who resists these impulses, accepts God’s Decree, and moves on smiling, “seeking help in firmness and prayer” (2:153) and being patient “with the finest patience” (70:5).
10. Have integrity, no matter what.
“Guarantee me six things and I shall assure you of Paradise: (a) When you speak, speak the truth, (b) keep your promise (c) discharge your trust (d) guard your chastity (e) lower your gaze and (f) withhold your hands from highhandedness.” (Baihaqi). At first glance the various conditions outlined here may seem quite unrelated. But they are all indicative of a personality that values integrity. Integrity simply means being rigorous with yourself and setting a high ethical standard for your behaviour. No one else can possibly know or monitor whether you speak the truth all the time or lower your gaze when the situation arises. But you know and that’s all that matters. So start by being honest with yourself, “Surely truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise.” (Bukhari). And then work hard; and when you slip, repent and try again. May Allah (swt) Enable all of us to be the kind of person the Prophet (sas) describes in this hadith and may He (azza wa jal) admit us all, as well as our loved ones, into Paradise. Ameen.
by Saadia Khan