Every now and then, the believer looks forward to something that raises his enthusiasm, motivates him to do righteous deeds, and strengthens the steadfastness in his heart. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention), said that Allah The Almighty Says: “I have prepared for My righteous slaves what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and the mind of no man has conceived.” (Then Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said) If you wish, recite: {And no soul knows what has been hidden for them of comfort for eyes as reward for what they used to do. } [Qur’an 32:17] [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Allah The Almighty informed us of Paradise to make us long for it. He manifested some of its bliss and concealed some of it as a sort of encouragement and stimulation. Therefore, the bliss of Paradise, no matter how it is described, cannot be grasped by the human mind, because it contains goodness that never comes to man’s mind or is known to anybody.
But before we begin, we must stop and ask ourselves some questions: Do we long to enter Paradise? Is the presence of Houris, food, and drink the only things we know about Paradise? Or do we know more details?
Dear reader, if you want to change and make Paradise your premier goal, join us on this blessed journey, but first make sure to fasten your concentration belt, dispose of your heedlessness, and take good companions along with you. These are the conditions of the takeoff on our journey. Let us go!
Dear reader, come and knock on the gates of Paradise, to fly with our mind in the Kingdom of Allah The Almighty and the secrets He deposited in it. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {When they reach it while its gates have been opened.} [Qur’an 39:73]
Dear reader, think why Allah The Almighty Says in this verse (what means): {and its gates have been opened.} [Qur’an 39:73] and when He talked about Hell He Says (what means): {its gates are opened.} [Qur’an 39:70]
Actually, it is a wonderful note taken by the great Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him. Read, what this pious scholar said,  
Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {But those who feared their Lord will be driven to Paradise in groups until, when they reach it and its gates have been opened...} [Qur’an 39:73] and while speaking of Hell, Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {When they reach it, its gates are opened.} [Qur’an 39:70] without using a conjunction. This is linguistically more eloquent in both cases.
That is because the angels are driving its denizens to Hell while its gates are closed. When they arrive at Hell, its gates will open up in their faces and punishment will suddenly surprise them. As they enter Hell, the gates will open without them noticing. This usually happens with the penalty which is made contingent on something that takes place immediately after that condition. Hell is the abode of humiliation and disgrace, so permission is not sought for its denizens, nor are its keepers asked to allow them to enter.
Paradise, however, is the abode prepared by Allah The Almighty; the abode of dignity where His favourites and allies dwell. As people reach Paradise, they will find its gates closed, so they earnestly implore its Owner to open them. Also, they will intercede to Him by His most resolute messengers, but all of them will withdraw until they are guided to go to the final and master of them. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, will say: “I am entitled to that,” and thus, will prostrate under the Throne to his Lord, supplicating Him as much as He wills.
Then, permission will be given for him to raise his head and express his request. He will ask Allah The Almighty to open the gates of Paradise, and his request will be accepted. Allah The Almighty will order that the gates of Paradise be opened to show its greatness and the high status and honour of His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, in His Sight. This is more effective and greater in showing the perfection of the blessing and the occurrence of joy and happiness than otherwise. This prevents the ignorant man from thinking that it is like an inn for whoever wants to enter. The Paradise of Allah is precious and there are obstacles, wilderness and dangers that must be faced first in order to attain it.
See what excitement the believers will encounter on the Day of Resurrection! Imagine how they will feel – may Allah make you and us among the inhabitants of Paradise. After the horrors and hardships the believers saw befalling the sinners on the Day of Judgment and, before that, the trials and desires they patiently resisted in this life, their longing to see the bliss that Allah The Almighty has prepared for them becomes enormously great.
The greater their longing, the greater the enjoyment of the meeting will be. Thus, Allah The Almighty wanted to increase the longing of the believers at the highest level by letting them stand in front of the gates of Paradise for a period of time while thoughts conflict in their minds and they feel that they are at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer from seeing what Allah The Almighty promised them in this life. After the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, intercedes with his Lord, Allah The Almighty will give him permission to open the gates of Paradise. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “The distance between two shutters in Paradise equals the distance of  a 40-year walk. People throng there like camels that throng to drink water after five days of thirst.” [As-Silsilah As-Saheehah by Al-Albaani]
Can you imagine the width of the gate? It is like a distance of a 40-year walk, i.e. it is impossible to see the end of it, where people crowd as if one has brought camels to water after five days of thirst. Imagine how they will run. Similarly, this will be the state of the people of Paradise in their longing for it. After entering Paradise, its gate will not be shut behind you. Do you know why? Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, will tell you that. He said,  
Reflect on the Saying of Allah The Almighty (which means): {Gardens of perpetual residence, whose doors will be opened to them. Reclining within them, they will call therein for abundant fruit and drink.} [Qur’an 38:50-51] and see the verses carrying an elegant meaning. That is when they enter Paradise, its gates will not be closed behind them, but they will remain open. Also, keeping the gates open implies that they go and return freely, and dwell in Paradise and that the angels enter upon them every time with gifts and graciousness from their Lord and what brings them happiness at all times. It is also an indication that Paradise is an abode of security where its inhabitants do not need to close the gates as they needed to do so in this life.
Now, we will leave you to choose which gate you would like to enter Paradise through. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said:  
Whoever performs a couple of acts of voluntary worship of the same type or spends two things for the Sake of Allah, will be called from the gates of Paradise: O slave of Allah, here is prosperity. He will enter Paradise from the Gate of Prayer if he observed voluntary prayer as his favoured act of worship; from the Gate of Jihad if he was a Mujahid and Jihad was his favoured act of worship; and from the Gate of Charity if he gave voluntary charity as his favoured act of worship; from the Gate of Ar-Rayyaan if he observed voluntary fasting as his favoured act of worship.”
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “O Messenger of Allah! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. Will anybody be called from all of those gates?’’ The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, replied: “Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Now, choose the gate you wish to access Paradise from, and how excellent if you will be a companion of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, on the Day of Judgment!
Dear reader do you see the extent to which Allah The Almighty prepared Paradise for His righteous slaves and how He made them long for it before they enter? Has your heart not been softened, dear brother? Do you not long to enter Paradise and experience this bliss?

Article source: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/

Practical steps towards sincere repentance

Most people are aware of the conditions people must fulfil before their repentance is accepted, namely giving up the sin, regretting the sin, and being determined never to commit it again.
However, in this article we will highlight some practical steps people should follow in order to help achieve sincere repentance.
Let us go through these practical steps together with the permission of Allah, The Almighty:
First: Counting all the sins that you have committed since adulthood until the present time in writing.
This is an introduction to repenting for all these sins, because when a person considers all its sins, it will be humble and tend to repent as soon as possible. Here is a list of the categories of sins to help you remember your past sins:
lSins of the body such as the tongue (backbiting, tale-bearing, lying, and ridiculing others); the eyes (looking at what is prohibited), ears, hands, feet and private parts.
l Sins of the hearts, such as arrogance, envy, aggression, self-conceit, and so on.
l Negligence in performing your duties towards one’s parents, relatives and negligence regarding the other duties such as enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, as well as Da’wah (calling to Islam).
l Negligence in the acts of worship like delaying the prayer after its due time.
Secondly: Try to count the blessings of Allah, The Almighty, upon you in writing.
You should keep counting these blessings until you realise how negligent you are towards the rights of Allah, The Almighty, and continue counting until you despair of counting. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favour of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, humankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.} [Qur’an 14:34]
Then, you should make a comparison between the blessings that Allah, The Almighty, sends down to you, and your misdeeds that are being sent to Him in return. In this case, you will not be able to resist your tears, your heart will be soft and you will say: “I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins. Pardon me, for none but You has the power to pardon.” [Al-Bukhari]
When you shed tears and feel remorse, you should then move to the third step.
Thirdly: Repentance Prayer
After deserting the sin, you should immediately implement the advice of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention), who said: “Whenever one commits a sin, and then performs ablution perfectly, and prays two Rak’ahs (units of prayer) after which he seeks the forgiveness of Allah, He will forgive him.” [Al-Albaani: Saheeh]
Then, you should determine that you would never return to sins. In this way, you will live the best day of your life since your birth.
Fourthly: Keep away from bad friends and evil companions.
Sever your relationship with them, because they will prevent you from returning to your Lord. If you succeed in getting rid of them, then this is a great sign that Allah, The Almighty, has accepted your repentance.
Fifthly: You should have a daily programme of acts of worship to perform.
This programme aims at helping you make up for what you missed and compensate your negligence towards the rights of Allah, The Almighty. This programme should include reading parts of the Qur’an, Thikr (words of remembrance) reported from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, night prayer and fasting. However, the most important thing is that this programme should be gradual and realistic.
Sixthly: You should attend a religious lecture in a mosque once a week on a regular basis.
This step aims at strengthening your relationship with your Lord and the righteous people who are your companions on the road to faith. Accompany those righteous people and never keep away from them.
Finally remember that you are in need of the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and that without Him, you are impoverished in every way.
Remember that you have wronged yourself, so be humble in front of your Lord. Listen to the teacher, Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, who was an excellent example of humble servitude in front of Allah, The Almighty. While referring to some signs of sincere repentance, he said:
“The prerequisites of sound repentance include a special kind of humility in one’s heart that does not resemble any other feeling, because it only occurs to the sinful slave. Such a feeling cannot be obtained through hunger, or mere love; rather, it is a feeling beyond all of this. It breaks the heart completely, grabs it and throws it humbly in front of the Lord. There is nothing dearer to Allah, The Almighty, than this feeling, humility and submission on the part of His slave.”
How sweet the words of the slave in this state are when he says:
I ask You by Your Grandeur and my humility to have mercy upon me….
I entreat You by Your strength and my weakness, by Your richness and my poverty to pardon me….
Here I am, the wrongful and sinful slave, before You… You have many slaves other than me, but I have no Lord but You…
I have no shelter other than with You, as there is no escape from You, except to You….
I ask and entreat You, as I am humble, poor, frightened and blind…
I ask You while I am surrendering completely to You, and weeping out of fear of You…. to pardon me...
Such a feeling is a sign of accepted repentance, so, if you lack this feeling, accuse your sincerity and correct your repentance.

Article source: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/
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