عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْأَنْصَارِيِّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا: “أَنَّ رَجُلًا سَأَلَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم فَقَالَ: أَرَأَيْت إذَا صَلَّيْت الْمَكْتُوبَاتِ، وَصُمْت رَمَضَانَ، وَأَحْلَلْت الْحَلَالَ، وَحَرَّمْت الْحَرَامَ، وَلَمْ أَزِدْ عَلَى ذَلِكَ شَيْئًا؛ أَأَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ”
On the authority of Abu Abdullah Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him):
A man questioned the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and said: “Do you think that if I perform the obligatory prayers, fast in Ramadan, treat as lawful that which is halal, and treat as forbidden that which is haram, and do not increase upon that [in voluntary good deeds], then I shall enter Paradise?” He (peace be upon him) replied, “Yes.”
In this hadith, the Prophet (sas) did not mention any of the voluntary acts, indicating that it is permissible to leave them.1 Scholars also state that the Prophet did not mention the voluntary acts to make the religion easy for the man. Especially since he had recently accepted Islam and over time, if he was sincere about his commitment, Allah (SWT) would open his heart to perform these voluntary acts.2 Other scholars say the voluntary acts were not mentioned to prevent the man from wrongly assuming these actions were obligatory.3
A similar hadith states:
A man approached the Prophet and asked: “Tell me about an action that if I do, I will enter paradise?”
The Prophet said, “Worship Allah, do not associate partners, establish prayers, give zakat, and fast during Ramadan”.
The man said, “By Allah, I will not increase anything from this and I will not decrease anything from this”.
When the man left, the Prophet said if anyone is pleased to see a person from paradise then look to that man. Other hadiths include maintaining family ties and staying away from major sins.
The meaning of these hadiths are clear, the minimum requirements for entering paradise are the Five Pillars of Islam, abiding by that which Allah has made permissible, and refraining from that which He has forbidden. An important lesson we can derive is not to overwhelm ourselves or new Muslims with too much information or actions. First gain the Islamic foundation, As we draw closer to Allah, we will then have the desire and ability to perform the voluntary acts alongside the obligatory ones. Also, the purpose of the voluntary acts are to help us become closer to Allah, and to compensate for any shortcomings in performing the obligatory ones.
Personal Struggles and Opinions
Allah says in the Quran:
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَاتَيْنَٰهُمُ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ يَتْلُونَهُۥ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِۦٓ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِۦ ۗ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِهِۦ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْخَٰسِرُونَ ١٢١
Those to whom We have given the Book, and who recite it as it ought to be read, truly believe in it; those who disbelieve it shall be the losers.
“Those to whom We have given the Scripture, who follow it as it deserves, are the ones who truly believe in it.…” (Al Baqarah 2:121)
Another verse states:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تُحَرِّمُوا۟ طَيِّبَٰتِ مَآ أَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوٓا۟ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُعْتَدِينَ ٨٧
Believers, do not forbid the good things that Allah has made lawful to you. Do not transgress; Allah does not love the transgressors.
وَكُلُوا۟ مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ ٱللَّهُ حَلَٰلًۭا طَيِّبًۭا ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنتُم بِهِۦ مُؤْمِنُونَ ٨٨
Eat of the lawful and good things with which Allah has provided you. Have fear of Allah in whom you believe.
“You who believe, do not forbid the good things God has made lawful to you—do not exceed the limits: God does not love those who exceed the limits—but eat the lawful and good things that God provides for you.” (Al Ma’idah 5:87-88)
Both, the hadith and the above Quranic verses, are referencing those who permit that which Allah has made lawful and forbid that which Allah has made unlawful; In addition, these individuals do not change the meaning or context of a hadith or Quranic verse for any personal reasons. They accept what has been stated by Allah wholeheartedly, and it is they who will enter paradise.
However, sometimes we feel the need to appease the beliefs of others by compromising our own to fit in or to make ourselves feel better about something we do. This usually leads us to give our personal opinion instead of following the laws stated by Allah (SWT). For example, some people will quote a hadith or verse and say it is okay to dress inappropriately, listen to explicit music, watch inappropriate shows, not maintain the correct boundaries with the opposite gender, take drugs, drink alcohol, etc. To be of those who will enter paradise, we cannot change the meaning or make our own opinions and decisions, Allah has clearly declared what is permissible and what is forbidden.
It is important, however, to acknowledge that we all have personal desires or inclination towards a certain action, as long as we struggle against ourselves from changing the meaning of the Quran and sunnah to justify our problems, then it is a personal struggle or jihad. In the Quran, Allah SWT says:
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَٰهَدُوا۟ فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمَعَ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ ٦٩
Those who struggle in Our cause, We will surely guide them to Our ways; and Allah is with those who do good.
“[Allah is] sure to guide to Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause: God is with those who do good.” (Al Ankabut 29:69)
A common misunderstanding with this hadith is what the man means, and more importantly, what the man does not mean. The man is saying he will pray but only the obligatory prayers, give the mandatory charity (zakat), only fast during Ramadan, and make Hajj once; and it is in these actions that he will neither increase nor decrease. The man does not mean he will backbite, oppress people, abandon those who need help, and keep sinning while performing the minimum actions. He is still obligated to behave properly, fulfill his responsibilities and keep away from sinning.
إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا۟ كَبَآئِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّـَٔاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًۭا كَرِيمًۭا ٣١
If you avoid the major sins that are forbidden to you, We shall pardon your evil deeds and admit you by an entrance of honor.
“If you avoid the great sins you have been forbidden, We shall wipe out your minor misdeeds and let you through the entrance of honor [Paradise].” (An’Nisa 4:31)
This verse indicates that major sins can prevent us from entering paradise, regardless of the actions we do. However, avoiding these sins and performing good deeds can erase the minor sins and enter us into Paradise.
Major Sins preventing one from entering Paradise
Allah (SWT) has informed us of the major sins that will prevent us from entering Paradise, these are:
- Committing shirk, associating partners with Allah
- A highway robber
- Harboring any amount of arrogance
- Until one’s debt is forgiven or paid
- A person whose neighbor is not safe from his mischief
- One who has oppressed or wronged someone. He will need to make amends to the person in this life, or the person wronged will get his right on the Day of Judgment.
The early generation, at the Prophet’s time, also used to say that the believers will be held at the doors of paradise for 100 years for a sin they committed.
This hadith indicates if a person fulfills the minimum requirements and avoids the forbidden acts, he has earned paradise. However, we are still obligated to fulfill our responsibilities, act properly, and keep away from sins. Also, voluntary actions are encouraged to help us get closer to Allah, make up for any shortcomings, and to wipe out minor sins.