What are the qualities of those who enter the garden of Firdaws ? (The Highest Gardens of the Paradise)

Details of the Question
What are the qualities of those who enter the garden of Firdaws ? (The Highest Gardens of the Paradise)
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In the Quran, although Paradise (jannah) is mentioned 170 times in the singular or plural form, the garden of Firdaws is mentioned twice and the garden of Adn is mentioned eleven times. It shows that what is described as the place of reward in the Quran is “eight gardens”. All of them are very nice.

“Allah hath promised to Believers men and women Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of everlasting stay. but the greatest bliss in the Good Pleasure of Allah: that is the Supreme Felicity.”(at-Tawbah, 9/72)

The fact that the gardens of Adn are regarded in the same category as the general gardens and that they are stated without mentioning the distinctive qualities of those who go to Paradise proves what we say.   

The qualities of those who to the garden of Adn are stated in detail in the chapter ar-Rad verses 19-24. The keyword regarding the issue is “ulu’l-albab” (people of understanding). People with the following qualities are mentioned as people of understanding: “Those who fulfill the Covenant of Allah and fail not in their plighted word; those who join together those things which Allah hath commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning; Those seek the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend for the sake of Allah secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good...”

As it is seen, they are not the qualities of only those who enter the garden of ADN but the main qualities of all those who enter Paradise.

The qualities of those who enter the garden of Firdaws are generally the same qualities.

That issue is indicated in the following verse: “As to those who believe and work righteous deeds, they have, for their entertainment, the Gardens of Firdaws.”(al-Kahf, 18/107)

In the second place where the garden of Firdaws is mentioned (al-Muminun), the keyword is belief. And the qualities of the believers are about the same as those of the people to enter the garden of ADN.

The keywords and qualities mentioned for the residents of those two different gardens are remarkable. The fact that “ulul albab” (people of understanding) is mentioned for the garden of AND and “iman” (belief) for the garden of Firdaws indicates the relationship between the mind and belief. That is, people who really have common sense will definitely have belief because in general, all causes and judgments are approved by the mind in Islam. Therefore, it is said that, “A person with no mind has no religion”. The other common qualities are mentioned as “good deeds”, which means to obey the orders of Allah and to avoid committing His prohibitions.

The Messenger of Allah stated the following in a hadith reported by Abu Hurayra:

“Allah will put a person who believes in Allah and His messenger, perform prayers, pays alms, fasts in Ramadan in Paradise whether he immigrates for the sake of Allah or stays in his home.”

When Abu Hurayra asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Shall I give this good news to people?”, he said,

"In Paradise, there are one hundred levels; Allah prepared them for those who fight for the sake of Him. There is a distance equal to the distance between the sky and the earth between two levels. When you pray Allah, ask for Firdaws. It is in the middle of Paradise and it is the highest place. Beyond Firdaws is the arsh (throne) of Allah; the rivers of Paradise originate from there.”(Bukhari, Tawhid, 22; Muslim, Imara, 46).

The expression “When you pray Allah, ask for Firdaws...” is valid for each believer. Everyone can ask Allah for it and enter there by the grace of Allah.

The fact that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) advises his ummah to ask for Firdaws is an example of his loyalty to his ummah. Besides, our Prophet (pbuh) taught us that nobody, including himself, could enter Paradise based on good deeds. He taught us that any part of Paradise would be a grace of Allah.

The primary issue in the chapter al-Muminun is the high qualities of believers. Then, the following issues are explained in the chapter: The process of the formation of the child in the uterus; exemplary information about Noah (pbuh), a prophet whose name is not given, Moses (pbuh) and Aaron (pbuh); the common points of their prophethood and conveying the message; the main qualities of the ummahs that follow their prophets and those who disobey them; the fact that Makkan polytheists accepted the creative power of Allah but associated partners to Him and did not believe in the hereafter; their tragic situation in the hereafter, their regret and unanswered wishes. The chapter ends with the following prayer: “O my Lord! Grant Thou forgiveness and mercy! For Thou art the Best of those who show mercy!".
 
The meaning of the first ten verses:

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”

1.  The Believers must (eventually) win through

2.  Those who humble themselves in their prayers;

3.  Who avoid vain talk;

4.  Who are active in deeds of charity;

5.  Who abstain from sex,

6.  Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess― for (in their case) they are free from blame,

7.  But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors―

8.  Those who faithfully observe their Trusts and their covenants;

9.  And who (strictly) guard their prayers

10.  Those will be the heirs

The Interpretation of the Verses
1. In the verses in this chapter, the content of the concept ‘believer’ is summarized along with the indispensable principles of Islam in the fields of worshipping and ethics; the model life expected from a man or woman who says, “I am a believer; I am a Muslim” is explained so that the sentence they utter is realized. If it is taken into consideration that in the verses that follow the claims of those who deny the hereafter are explained and criticized, it will be understood that the “winning through” (falah: salvation) mentioned here is the salvation and well being in the hereafter. As a matter of fact, the expression: "... A person who fulfills what is mentioned in those verses will enter Paradise" in the hadith we quoted above due to the virtues of the chapter indicates it. Besides, since the experiences of the humankind show that proper belief and lifestyle are necessary not only for the hereafter but also for the happiness and well being in this world, it is certain that those verses give the prescription for the salvation in this world, too. 

Falah (salvation) means to reach what is wanted. It is also defined as eternity in good deeds. As for iflah, it means to reach salvation and to obtain well being and peace; which is the usual meaning implied in the Quran. Here, Allah gives the good news that those who have the seven qualities, the first one of which is belief, will definitely reach salvation.

2. The second one: those who humble themselves in their prayers. "to humble oneself in the prayers" is described as the first condition after belief. When the verse is examined more closely, it will be seen that two of the conditions of the salvation are indicated here: Prayer and humbling oneself. However, it is seen that the main emphasis is on khushu’, which can be translated as “deep respect”. Tabari explains the word khushu’ in the verse as follows: "the slave’s displaying of his obedience and respect to Allah, and fulfilling the command of Allah by performing prayers" (see. Tabari, the interpretation of the relevant verse). The main descriptive element in the verse is the concept “respect” (khushu’, according to Tabari’s interpretation, being modest and humble). There is no doubt that salah (prayer) is one of the fundamental worships in Islam; it expresses the turning of the slave toward Allah and his being together with Him. However, the movements of the body and the utterance of the verses and supplication by the tongue are not sufficient for the prayer, which also has a symbolic aspect, to reach that spiritual depth; it is necessary to combine those formal acts with the intention and consciousness of servitude in the heart and to make them more significant through the consciousness of respect to Allah. That unworldly and spiritual dimension of the worshipping and especially the prayer is expressed by the terms like khushu’ and taqwa in the Quran.

Here, the concept khushu’ has a meaning related to creed and ethics too because a person who does not believe in Allah is not likely to turn toward Allah with khushu’; if someone like that seems to be praying and worshipping Him although he does not believe in and therefore does not show respect to, it is called hypocrisy in religion. Hypocrisy related to religious issues means to be something but to appear to be something else and to think of something but to say something else, which is immorality and unvirtuousness. Consequently, the importance of both the form and the content of the worshipping are indicated in the verse for the worshipping to take someone to salvation.
 
3.
The word laghw, which is translated as “vain” in the verse, lexically means “absurd and meaningless word or act”. As Tabari states, here the word expresses all kinds of absurd and wrong acts and attitudes that Allah does not want to see his slaves commit. Hasan al-Basri is reported to have explained the word more comprehensively as containing all kinds of sins. (Qurtubi, Ahkam, the interpretation of the relevant verses)

4. It is known that zakah, one of the five fundamentals of Islam, was made fard (obligatory) in Madinah, after this chapter, which is a chapter sent down in Makkah, was sent down. Therefore, the word zakah here must have been used in a broader sense meaning sadaqah. It is observed that sometimes the words zakah and sadaqah are used interchangeably in the Quran. As a matter of fact, in the verse that explains to whom zakah, which is fard, is to be given, the word sadaqah is used instead of zakah. (at-Tawbah 9/60). Zakah was made fard in Madinah but in the verses that were sent down in Makkah, Muslims were encouraged to help one another financially with the words like sadaqah, zakah, infaq, ihsan, it'am, and it was emphasized.

5-7. Abstaining from illegitimate sex is one of the fundamental ethical orders of Islam; it contains both men and women as it is the case in all of the qualities mentioned in this group of verses. (Abu Bakr Ibnu'l-Arabi, III, 1310)

Many arrangements related to various fields of life in Islam is left to the decision of the Islamic community in accordance with time and conditions within the framework of  the general principles and targets imposed by the Quran and the Sunnah; however, the main legal arrangements related to marriage and family were imposed directly by the Quran, which shows the sensitivity of Islam regarding chastity. This sensitivity is reflected in the general ethics and chastity concepts of the Islamic communities, and it has laid the foundation for the formation of the concepts of family, honesty and chastity, which determine the character of the societies.

In the Quran and all of the other main Islamic sources, that a Muslim, whether a man or a woman, has to be content with his/her spouse in order to meet their sexual needs exists as a definite decree; all of the applications that contradict it are regarded as illegitimate, and heavy sanctions have been introduced. In addition, as a result of the application of slavery, which Islam took over from the past and which it took measures to abolish in time because slavery is not compatible with the concept of humanity presented in the whole Quran and the Sunnah and with the honor of humanity, it was made legitimate to have intercourse with female slaves based on certain conditions. The part of the verse translated as “whom their right hands possess" was regarded as female slaves, and it formed the basis for the legitimate arrangements regarding that limited state. However, since slavery has been out of date toady in accordance with the target of Islam, there is no need to apply the decrees regarding the issue.  

Some Sunni scholars base their views regarding the prohibition of the marriage of mut’a (temporary marriage) on the restrictive expressions of this verse. (see Abu Bakr Ibnu'l-Arabi, III, 1310; Qurtubi, Ahkam, the interpretation of the relevant verse)

8. Mufassirs (interpreters) state that the concepts of trust and covenant mentioned in the verse contain the things entrusted to somebody by others to be kept and preserved, material and spiritual trusts expected to be acted in accordance with like contracts and the divine judgments that Allah imposed and that the slaves vowed to obey through the utterance of their belief. Accordingly, worshipping like prayer, fasting, etc that Allah wants believers to perform are trusts just like something entrusted to someone to be kept. (see Razi, the interpretation of the relevant verse)

9. The concept muhafaza which is translated as "guarding strictly" lexically means "to continue, to obey, to observe". In the verse above (verse 2), the importance of performing prayers with khushu’ was emphasized; here, the importance of performing the prayers in accordance with their times and rules is emphasized. (Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat, item "hfz")

10.
They, the heirs, are those who have the qualities mentioned above.

They deserve the inheritance mentioned in the following verses:

“Such is the Garden which We give as an inheritance to those of Our Servants who guard against evil." (Maryam, 19/63),

"My servants, the Righteous shall inherit the earth" (al-Anbiya, 21/105)

Various views have been put forward for the origin and meaning of the word Firdaws mentioned in verse 11. It is stated that Arabs used that word before Islam, too. In the Islamic sources, the word Firdaws is used for the whole Paradise or a part of it. There are various narrations stating that it is the middle or the highest place of Paradise. (see M. Said Özervarlı, "Firdevs", DİA, XIII, 123-124)

According to a hadith that the interpreters quoted, Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) said,

"There are two places for each person in the hereafter; one in Paradise and one in Hell; since the deniers will be sent to Hell, believers will inherit the places prepared for them in Paradise along with their own places."

, and then recited those two verses. (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 39)

Reference:
1. Kur’an Yolu, Heyet
2. Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili

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