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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Perverted Priorities: Who is and who isn’t Muslim

By: Ustadh Suheil Laher

“If you don’t convert to (my sect) you might as well not convert to Islam!” exclaimed the ‘uncle’ to the young Christian lady. The lady’s husband, a Muslim, had requested his elder friend to come and help explain to her why Islam is so important to him, and why he’d like her, too, to share in its joy. The husband was startled by this narrow-minded bombshell. The shocking words of the ‘uncle’ highlight a lack of priorities plaguing some of those who profess themselves to be Muslim.

It is understandable for someone to feel passionately about a cause which (rightly or wrongly) they believe to be true. I remember a rabbi relating how he went home after his first year at rabbinical seminary and began self-righteously passing judgment on and correcting what seemed to be a plethora of misdeeds and mistakes of his family. But passionate belief (even when correct) becomes problematic if it results in a narrowed vision of reality and truth, and even more so when it leads to behavior that turns others away from the Path to God.

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The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was once leading prayers when he heard a man in the congregation saying, “O God! Bless me and Muhammad, and don’t bless anyone else with us!” After the congregational prayer was over, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) remarked, chastising him, “You have restricted a capacious [thing]!” (Sahih al-Bukhari and others)

The blessings of God, and especially the spiritual blessing of right guidance embodied in the Final Revelation (the Qur’an), should not be confused with human constructions of group identity and boundaries. More specifically, some Muslims are sometimes (and any frequency is too often for something this important) too quick to declare someone to be outside the fold of Islam due to (i) imperfect practice, or (ii) disagreement on a non-core belief.

Priority is Bearing Witness

It is essential to realize that the believer’s life is an ongoing journey of struggle to become a better person. None of us – including those born and raised as Muslims – are perfect. It is grossly unreasonable – nay, evil – to deny a neophyte entry to their newly-found faith, merely because s/he is not living a totally sinless life. The priority, for someone who has understood the basic message of Islam and voluntarily resolved to embrace Islam, is to help him/her to say the shahadatayn (the Declaration of Faith: “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”) without delay.

Anything else – be it taking a bath (ghusl) for ritual purification, or giving up a personal vice – can wait. Anything else on your own to-do list can wait too. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once even halted his Friday sermon to respond to a man who came to ask critical questions about belief. [Sahih Muslim and others] Imam Nawawi, the Shafi`i jurist, writes in his encyclopedic Majmu` that his school’s official position is that a Muslim is sinful for telling the ready convert to go and take a bath before having him/her say the shahada; indeed some Shafi`i jurists (Mutawalli and Baghawi) considered the one who gives such an order himself to have committed unbelief (by not realizing the importance and priority of the shahadah).

Similarly, the hopeful ready-to-submit-to-God should not be denied the shahadah merely on account of what we might consider as his/her sinful behavior, be it an attachment to alcohol or drugs, or involvement in an immoral or prohibited type of relationship. The priority is to help them aboard the ship of Divine Grace (by helping them say the shahadah); they can work on themselves in due course.

Even after the shahadah, the new convert should not be overburdened with duties and requirements. Give them time to grow, to learn, to discover, realize and make decisions and changes from their own conviction and at a fitting pace. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rebuked one of his companions for cursing a man who would repeatedly be found drinking alcohol, and declared that the drinker “loves God and His Messenger”. [Sahih al-Bukhari and others] And he would instruct emissaries and teachers, before sending them on their mission, with the advice, “Make things easy, and don’t make things difficult. Give people good news, and don’t drive them away.” [Sahih Muslim and others]

Belief in the Fundamentals

It is of course necessary for an intending convert to have a general understanding of the core beliefs and practices of Islam (often called ‘pillars’: belief in God, Prophets, Scripture and the Hereafter, and performance of the shahadah, the prayer, fasting Ramadan, prescribed charity and the pilgrimage.) They are not required to know all the details, as these take time to learn, and in some cases are non-essential, or are not clear-cut and hence open to different interpretations.

The kernel of Islam, acknowledging the oneness of God, that God alone should be worshiped, and that the Qur’an is the book for human guidance revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), is simple, despite its profundity and universality. Edward Montet described it as, “A creed so precise, so stripped of all theological complexities and consequently so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvelous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.” [Edward Montet, La Propagande Chretienne et ses Adversaries Musulmans, Paris 1890, p. 17-8, as quoted by T.W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, London 1913, p. 337.]

Someone with whom this profound truth has resonated should not be denied admittance to the House of Islam – nor expelled from it after entering – merely because of their not understanding, or having difficulty accepting, a more peripheral or secondary point of belief or practice. It pains me for an overt Muslim to be declared an unbeliever, or to be frightened away from Islam (and I have seen such cases personally) because of their not being convinced with the prevalent view about the place (or otherwise) of certain punishments and regulations in Islam (e.g. whether and when capital punishment is mandated for apostasy, or stoning for adultery, or the legal status of hijab).

I am not advocating complete relativism, nor denying the value and importance of Muslim scholarly endeavor and its opinions, nor am I saying that opposing views are always legitimate or correct. What I am pleading for is tolerance; of giving the benefit of doubt, whenever possible, to other professed Muslims who seem to be misinterpreting a sacred text. We are entitled to believe that a particular interpretation is wrong, even potentially sinful, but that does not justify excommunicating a person who holds to that interpretation, unless it involves something clear-cut and essential to Islam. Imam al-Shafi`i termed such core issues ‘public knowledge’ (`ilm al-`amma), and examples he gave to illustrate it are: the obligation and form of the five prayers and of fasting Ramadan, and the prohibitions of fornication, murder, theft and wine, and other such things, “in which error is not possible, nor [is it open to] interpretation or dispute.” [Shafi`i, al-Umm] Ibn Abi’l-`Izz, in his commentary on Tahawi’s Creed, has discussed how a person may not be excommunicated on the basis of a shubha: a genuine misunderstanding s/he has reached on the basis of a sacred text.

Renowned theologian Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash`ari, who studied, debated and refuted many heterodox Muslim sects, declared on his deathbed to one of his students, “Bear witness that I do not judge any of the People of the Qibla to be unbelievers.” Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi, after quoting this account, mentions that his own personal belief is along these lines, and that he heard similar words from his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah towards the end of his life, “I do not declare anyone of the ummah an unbeliever. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘None but a believer takes care of his ritual purity (wudu’).’ So, whoever adheres to the prescribed prayers in a state of purity (wudu’) is a believer.” [Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’]

Da’wah without Judgement

The problem, as one of our shaykhs remarked to us, is that today we want to be muftis and judges (declaring a person to be inside or outside Islam), whereas the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was an inviter to God’s way (da`iya). So, rather than worrying about the creedal judgment on a particular person, we should be more interested in asking ourselves, “How can I help him understand that he is mistaken?” Indeed, in some cases it might even be a case of, “How can I correct or fine-tune my own understanding of this issue?”

A believer is expected to be humble, and part of humility is acknowledging the limits of our individual knowledge: both of details of the religion, as well as of the inner workings of other people’s hearts. If you consider yourself a Caller to God, then you should be calling to those things that are unambiguously and centrally part of God’s revealed religion of Islam, and not to your own sect or interpretations of Islam. By all means, let us continue meaningful dialogue, and furthering the education of ourselves and others. But let’s realize the kernel and the priorities, so that we don’t hinder or expel others who are genuinely seeking or attempting to navigate the Path to God.

The author is the Muslim Chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a lecturer at Brandeis University.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    hajara

    August 30, 2012 at 5:39 AM

    Jazakallah, so true!

  2. Avatar

    عباس بن فرناس

    August 30, 2012 at 8:34 AM

  3. Avatar

    The Mad Monk

    August 30, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    The Prophet Muhammad
    was once leading prayers when he heard a man in the congregation
    saying, “O God! Bless me and Muhammad, and don’t bless anyone else with
    us!” After the congregational prayer was over, the Prophet remarked, chastising him, “You have restricted a capacious [thing]!” (Sahih al-Bukhari and others)
    ==========
    This is quoted wrong I believe. The hadeeth is about the bedouin who urinated in the Prophet’s Mosque. The Prophet did not “chastise” him but smiled at the man’s statement to bless only the Prophet and himself and no one else because the other Sahabah wanted to give him a beat down for doing what he did.

    • Avatar

      sabirah

      August 30, 2012 at 5:29 PM

      that is an entirely different hadith.

  4. Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    August 30, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    DeleteDelete

  5. Pingback: Perverted Priorities : Who Is and Isn’t a Muslim? : DewDropsWeb.com

  6. Avatar

    Muslima

    August 31, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    This article resonates well for Sunni Muslims, who claim that all non-Sunnis (Shias, etc) are outside of the fold of Islam. I’d be interested to hear the chaplain’s thoughts on that.

    – A Shia Muslim

    • Avatar

      suheil

      September 4, 2012 at 11:26 PM

      Whether someone identifies as Shia or Sunni Muslim (or Ibadi, for that matter), I certainly do not automatically consider them to be outside Islam.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      May 2, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      I certainly do not believe Shia are the outside the fold of Islam, but some of the particular beliefs of the Shia are quiet alien to mainstream Islamic aqueeda. Not to mention the deliberate harangues on the beloved companions.

      Yes I do believe we are all Muslims but there is a sunnah al-wa jammah.

  7. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    September 2, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    as salaam alaikum,

    the issue is not Muslims harassing converts. This real issue is non Muslims declaring what is acceptable Islam. I am sort of with them when the Salafi bashing starts. I don’t accept ignoring 1400 years of scholarship. It is un-academic and leads to excess and extremism. The Ahamdis (Ahmadiyyahs) reject the finality of Prophet Muhammad’s (sws) mission. This is the real debate. The Ahmadis spend all their energy convincing non Muslims they are the real Muslims and we who follow the Sunnah and love the messenger are extremists. This is the debate about who is really a Muslim. Ahmadis belong to Ghulam, not our messenger. The non Muslims like confusion amongst the Musilms. Islam is simple. You have to believe in the Shahada. Ahmadis do not, yet insist on calling themselves Muslims. This is the only argument and bad feelings. I like Bahais because at least they don’t call themselves Muslims even as they follow our book and our messenger. The only debate is about those who reject the Shahada as they call themselves Muslim. This also applies to people who brag and say “I don’t pray.” If you reject Islam, that is where the debate comes from. We need to be careful with converts, al hamdulillah. There’s no debate there. The debate is from those who reject Islam and at the same time want to call themselves Muslims, instead of what they really are. This comes from the Ahamadis and non Muslims who support them.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      May 2, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      As much I see the Wahhabi hypocrisy ennobled with the Saudis, I am in compete agreement with you regarding the Ahmadiyyahs: They are NOT Muslims. Yes in today’s age the Muslims need to to be united (“Divide and Conquer, the oldest trick in the book”), but let’s not pollute our beliefs so much that we end becoming a liberal church. I abhor the senseless violence against anybody, especially the Ahmadiyyahs in Pakistan and Indonesia, but that does not mean they should be labelled as Muslims, because they simply are not. That is challenge the Muslims will face very, very soon.
      “Let’s not be harbingers of opprobrium for the sake of Islam”

      • Avatar

        Sunny Salman Jamil

        April 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

        I await an article regarding the status of a believer, his or her rights, and the ‘ummah’s rights over him or her during life and after death. ‘In shaa’ Allaah.

        • Avatar

          Sunny Salman Jamil

          April 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

          My apostrophes (’) denoting hamzahs (ء) were mistakenly auto-flipped (‘) into `ayns (ع).

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      November 13, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      Excellent job in completely missing the message of the blog. Not sure which world you currently live in but the real problem is Muslims passing judgements on other Muslims, not anything else. Similar to how you did with Ahmadis. They do profess and believe in the Shahada, if you ever bothered listening to what they had to say instead of 3rd parties, you would have understood this simple fact. If you actually think the real problem is non-Muslims deciding on Islam, I suggest you tune back into the current Muslim world and whats happening in many muslim countries today, i.e. persecution of Muslim and non-Muslim minorities.

  8. Avatar

    Deuce Prez

    September 3, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    This is why it’s more important to simply be a Muslim.

    Weren’t we directed to NOT divide into sects anyway….??!!

    I am a Muslim. Period.

  9. Avatar

    User unknown

    September 8, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    I find it funny to read this post when even its name, ‘Muslim Mattters” when I contacted Muslim Matters, I was continually ignored and my nature I am persistent I finally did get a reply and it was with hostility. Ironic of your name.. Muslim Matters is online to make money. That was loud an clear to me.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 8, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      Assalam alaykum,
      We are a non-profit site. Please tell us what you wanted to contact us about and inshaAllah we can address your concerns.
      with salam,
      EIC

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      September 9, 2012 at 12:45 AM

      Dear Anonymous

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that we make money. Please note that MM is a not-for-profit, which is run primarily thru donations and our staff is mainly volunteers who do this for the sake of Allah (SWT).
      We are sorry you had a bad experience in trying to get in touch with us. Whom had you contacted and for what reason?
      I would also like to remind you that leveling false accusations are frowned upon by Islam as a grave sin. So it is best not to make such accusations. JazakAllah Khair.
      -Aly

  10. Avatar

    Sally Wilton

    September 9, 2012 at 5:27 AM

    I live in Luxor Egypt, in the hub of the very area where cliterectomies are routinely carried out on girls of 13 years of age to make them marriageable, and I wish that doctors such as yourself would spend more time on educating Muslim people not to have their girls genitally mutilated. There are no excuses for doing this and it is no good saying it is the culture, which has come from Islam anyway, whilst imams go about telling people it is in the koran or hadiths. You really need to start doing something about this terrible atrocity that is affecting girls for the rest of their lives and causing pain and misery, Rather than think the modern world needs to know about Islam, these people need to be taught about the modern world and quickly.

    • Avatar

      suheil

      September 10, 2012 at 11:20 PM

      Thank you for your comments and concern, Sally. I agree that a lot of education is needed to increase awareness among Muslims…..not just of the modern world, but in fact about Islam itself. I would respectfully (yet strongly) differ with your estimation that the culture has ‘come from Islam.’ There are a plethora of cultural practices in Muslim-majority countries that do not have a basis in the religious texts, or are even contradictory to those texts. I do agree with you that abuse of women (as often occurs in FGM) should be stopped. While there are moves being made by Muslim leaders against FGM (see, for example, this BBC report:
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6176340.stm), I don’t doubt that there is still much ground to cover in terms of action.
      We can add this to the list of problems in our societies – Muslim and non-Muslim: domestic violence, corruption, crime, ……)
      Mainstream traditional Muslim scholarship (including the established schools of Muslim law) do not condone the mutilative practices of FGM. The fact that some ignorant would-be imams might claim otherwise does not change that fact. Religion is often manipulated to serve other agendas (hence the importance of clarifying the true teachings of Islam). Some Muslim scholars do claim a religious basis for a form of circumcision that is not mutilative; the following article might be of interest:
      http://seekersguidance.org/blog/2012/04/mutilating-facts-setting-the-record-straight-about-female-circumcision-genital-mutilation/

      Thank you again for your concern. May God bless you.

  11. Avatar

    Schvach

    September 9, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    I’m a bit confused about one point. If, according to Islam, we are all created Muslim (‘fitrah’), then how is it possible for one to be excommunicated from Islam?

    • Avatar

      suheil

      September 10, 2012 at 11:29 PM

      Yes, we were all born in the natural state of goodness (fitrah), but we also have the capability to suppress, fight and deform that natural goodness.
      While every act of evil is wrong, and contrary to the teachings of goodness, evil has levels. *Some* evil acts (or beliefs) are antithetical to the foundations of Islam, and thus it is possible for someone to depart from Islam. It is worthwhile to note, however, that Islam does not have a central ecclesiastical authority for making or enforcing such judgments.

  12. Avatar

    Abu Milk Sheikh

    September 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    As bad as it is to do takfeer of a Muslim, it is equally as bad to deny the kufr of a kaafir. There are certain fundamentals in our religion which, if denied, can eject a person from the fold of Islam. Still others were never Muslim in the first place, since the basis of their belief is in contradiction with these fundamentals.

    We have a normative framework for declaring takfeer and there is no harm whatsoever in qualified people making use of it. We also have matters that are ma’loom min ad’Deen bi’dh’dharoorah (known to be of the religion by necessity) which are not up for debate and not up for disagreement. Anyone rejecting or contradicting one of these matters is automatically an apostate (or never Muslim in the first place,) and there is no need for a qualified person here; any Muslim can identify the kufr and do takfeer.

    And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      suheil

      September 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM

      Thank you for your comments. I agree, and did mention, in the article, that there are essential beliefs (what you refer to above as معلوم من الدين بالضرورة , and which Imam al-Shafi`i referred to in Ar-Risaalah as علم العامة ) that cannot be compromized. But there are a few notes of caution in order, which my article was addressing:
      (1) People have a tendency to over-extend the boundaries of this core category, and thereby consider to be essential and central what is actually not so. Fuqaha across the schools (and independent mujtahids too) have statements cautioning about pronouncing kufr, e.g.
      – stressing the requirement of clear-cut kufr for takfeer to be valid, e.g. Imam al-Shawkani’s statement that one requires a proof clearer than the sun in daylight.
      – giving benefit of the doubt wherever possible , even if a statement made by someone has 99 possible interpretations that are kufr, and only 1 that is not kufr.
      – taking into consideration even a weak juristic view to avoid takfeer.
      – saying it is preferable to err on the side of caution, and to consider an apostate as a Muslim (Imam Ghazali actually said: to leave 1,000 apostates in islam) — where doubt exists as to the apostasy — than to mistakenly exclude a Muslim from Islam.
      (2) Even in cases of denial of such a core belief, we are not necessarily obliged to tell the person that they have committed kufr. Yes, the individual Muslim is required to believe the truth in his heart, and when seeing blatant kufr to remind him/herself that it is kufr. But to declare kufr on an individual is the concern of a qadi when the need arises (or a mufti, but the mufti’s decision need not necessarily be conveyed to the offender). And the existence of kufr should not impede da`wah, nor put an end to it. Rather, there should be increased concern to get the person to see and return to the truth. Telling someone ‘You are kafir’ to their face is usually not going to help achieve that goal, and might even have the opposite effect.
      (3) Recognizing kufr is a matter of `aqidah, and to some extent at least, it is, as you allude to, the concern of every Muslim to recognize and dislike kufr within himself. But declaring kufr on an individual (takfeer) is a juristic (fiqhi) and worldly ruling. A judgment of takfeer on a person in this world, even if it came from a qualified Islamic judge, does not necessarily mean the person is a kafir before Allah, because there may be extenuating circumstances, reduced responsibility, ignorance or other factors that we, as human beings, are not privy too. Often, scholars will declare a particular belief as kufr, but not do takfeer on a specific individual who holds it. Thus, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is reported to have prayed behind the Jahmis, despite having declared some of their beliefs to be kufr. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah used to say to some of his contemporaries, “I do not pronounce kufr on you, for you are ignorant. But if I were to say what you are saying, I would have committed kufr.”
      And indeed, Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        Abu Milk Sheikh

        September 19, 2012 at 5:56 AM

        Jazakallahu khairan. You should have included these points in the article, hehe.

  13. Avatar

    brothers

    December 12, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Can this scholar talk about Brother having beard, if it is sunnah or not and what length etc.

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#Islam

Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting | Hadiths 9-12

 وعن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: “كان رسول الله ﷺ إذا دخل العشرُ أحيَى الليل، وأيقظ أهلهُ، وشدَّ المئزر” متفقٌ عليه().

 

ʿAʾishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:

When the ten nights would begin, the Messenger of Allāh r would keep the night alive; he would also awaken his family and tighten his wrapper.

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Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“When the ten nights would begin”

What is meant is the last ten nights

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ would keep the night alive”

He would keep stay up at night and engage in various forms of worship such as ṣalāt, dhikr, and meditation/reflection. Or he kept himself alive by remaining awake, since sleep is death’s sibling. The metaphor refers to the night because when someone who is sleeping is woken-up and brought back to life, their night can be said to have been given life through them.

“He would also awaken his family”

He did so to draw their attention towards the time of goodness, so they may expose themselves to the gusts of goodness. A narration in Tirmidhī states, “When the last ten days of Ramaḍān would enter, the Messenger of Allāh r would not fail to wake up anyone who was capable of staying up in his household”. He would lead them towards the avenues of goodness, and help them attain it.

“And tighten his wrapper”

Al-Khaṭṭābī explains: “The meaning is likely to be earnestness in acts of worship. Just as one would say ‘I have tightened my wrapper for this matter’ i.e I have buckled down to it/rolled up my sleeves for it. It is also said that it may be a metaphor for buckling down and withdrawing from women. It is also said that it may have a literal meaning and a figurative meaning at the same time, i.e that he literally tighten his waist wrapper (izār) and also withdrew from women and buckled down for worship. However, the first explanation is more plausible because in another narration the following wording is found “He would tighten his wrapper and withdraw from women”. This leads us to conclude that the expression tightening his wrapper relates to earnestness in worship only.

– باب فضل السحور وتأخيره ما لم يخشَ طلوع الفجر

Chapter on the virtues of saḥūr, and of delaying it as long as one does fear the rising of dawn

 

 عن أنسٍ، رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله : “تسحروا؛ فإن في السحور بركةً” متفقٌ عليه .

Anas (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh said, “Eat suḥūr [or practice saḥūr] (predawn meal) because surely, there is baraka in suḥūr.”

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Saḥūr is the meal which is taken prior to the rise of dawn. Suḥūr on the other hand, is the act of partaking food at that time. This will have relevance in the ensuing commentary of the ḥadīth.

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, ‘Eat suḥūr [or practice saḥūr] (predawn meal)’ ”

This is considered mandūb i.e praiseworthy. The Sunna itself is fulfilled by having a little food even if it is only a sip of water. It is mentioned in a ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh bin-Surāqa, traced back to the Nabī r: ‘Practice suḥūr, even if only with a sip of water’. It is narrated by Ibn-ʿAsākir[2]. The Sunna is likewise fulfilled by having a considerable quantity of food.

“Because surely, there is baraka in suḥūr [or saḥūr].”

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar explains: ‘The use of both spellings is found in authentic narrations. If suḥūr is meant i.e the act of eating at that time, then by baraka is meant the reward and merit. If saḥūr is meant i.e the food which is eaten at that time, then by baraka is meant the fact that it strengthens one for fasting and makes one energetic for it. It also reduces the difficult involved in it’.

It is also said that the baraka lies in the fact of being awake at that time and engaging in duʿāʾ.
It is however more appropriate to say that the Baraka is attained through various avenues, namely: adherence to the Sunna, acting differently than the ahlul-kitāb (Christians and Jews), strengthening oneself for worship through it, its being a cause for one to engage in dhikr and duʿāʾ at a time when acceptance is highly likely, and it also allows for one who has forgotten to make the intention for fasting before sleeping to do so[3].

This ḥadīth was also narrated by Aḥmad, Al-Tirmidhī, Al-Nasāʾī, and Ibn-Māja all through Anas. Al-Nasāʾī has already narrated it through Abū-Hurayra and Ibn-Masʿūd. Aḥmad has also narrated it through Ibn-Masʿūd. This has all been mentioned in Al-Jāmiʿul-Ṣaghīr.

 وعن زيد بن ثابتٍ، رضي الله عنه، قال: تسحرنا مع رسول الله ثم قمنا إلى الصلاة. قيل: كم كان بينهما؟ قال: قدر خمسين آية. متفقٌ عليه

Zaid bin Thābit (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

We took suḥūr (predawn meal) with the Messenger of Allāh r and then we stood up for ṣalāt (prayer). It was asked: ‘How long was the gap between the two?’ He replied: ‘The time required for the recitation of fifty verses.’

[Al-Bukhārī and Muslim].

Zaid bin-Thābit was from the Anṣār of Madīna, and he was 11 years old when the Nabī r emigrated from Makka to Madīna. His father passed away when he was 6 years old, and the Nabī r considered him too young to participate in the battle of Badr (~13 years old). He however allowed him to participate in Uḥud. It is also said that he in fact did not participate in Uḥud but rather in Khandaq and the following expeditions with Rasūlullāh r. He used to write revelation for the Nabī r and he was one of the three people who compiled the Qurʾān by gathering its various verses and chapters and verifying their authenticity. The effort to compile the Qurʾān after the demise of the Nabī r was ordered by Abū-Bakr and ʿUmar.
ʿUmar and ʿUthmān would both designate him as imām in Madīna when they traveled for Ḥajj. Ibn Abī-Dāwūd explains: ‘Zaid bin-Thābit was the most knowledgeable of the rules of inheritance among the Ṣaḥābah, and he was among those firmly grounded in knowledge.
A total of 92 ḥadīth from Rasūlullāh r have been narrated by him, 10 of which are found in the collections of Bukhārī or Muslim. He passed away in Madīna in the year 54 A.H.

“We took suḥūr (predawn meal) with the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ”

One can notice a subtle indication of etiquette in the choice of words, rather than saying ‘Us and Rasūlullāh took suḥūr’ he used wording which emphasizes the fact that they followed his example r.

“And then we stood up for ṣalāt (prayer)”

The morning ṣalāt i.e ṣubḥ.

“It was asked: ‘How long was the gap between the two?’ He replied: ‘The time required for the recitation of fifty verses.’ ”

Anas is the one who asked the question. Imām Aḥmad also narrated a ḥadīth where Qatāda asks Anas the same question.
The verses referred to are of moderate length. They were neither long nor short, and were read neither fast nor slow. The ʿArab had the habit of estimating time through physical actions, such as saying ‘As long as it takes to milk a goat’. Zaid however chose to estimate the time through the action of reading the Qurʾān to indicate that it was a time fit for worship through recitation of the Qurʾān. Ibn Abī-Jamra explains: ‘The ḥadīth is an indication of the fact that the vast majority of their time was immersed in ʿibāda (worship)’.

The ḥadīth also indicates that suḥūr was done as late as possible, as it is more befitting for the intent behind it. Also because it was the Nabī r’s habit to look for that which was most gentle for his Umma and apply it. If he did not take suḥūr that would prove difficult for some of them, just as taking suḥūr in the middle of the night would be difficult for those overtaken by sleep. That could lead to leaving suḥūr altogether or in it being a tiresome process.

 وعن عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله r قال: “فَصْلُ ما بين صيامنا وصيام أهل الكتاب أكلةُ السحر” رواه مسلم .

ʿAmr bin Al-ʿĀṣ (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, ‘The difference between our observance of fasting and that of the people of the scriptures (ahlul-kitāb) is suḥūr (predawn meal)’

[Narrated by Muslim].

ʿAmr bin Al-ʿĀṣ accepted Islām in the year of Khaybar, i.e the beginning of the 7th year A.H. Him, Khālid Ibnul-Walīd and ʿUthmān bin-Ṭalḥa came to the Nabī and accepted Islām together. He was made the commander of the 17th expedition, called sariyatu dhātil-salāsil and which had 300 men. It was then reinforced through another regiment in which were Abū-Bakr and ʿUmar, and whose commander was Abū-ʿUbayda bin-Jarrāh. The Nabī r told the latter ‘Do not be at odds with eachother’. ʿAmr used to lead the ṣalāt of the combined regiments until they returned to Madīna (notwithstanding the illustrious personalities who joined them). He was designated as an ambassador to Omān where he remained until the death of the Nabī r. Abū-Bakr t then sent him as governor to Shām and he was present in the various conquests of its territory. He then governed Palestine for ʿUmar t for some time after which he was sent with a regiment to Egypt, which he conquered. He remained its governor until the death of ʿUmar. ʿUthmān left him in his position for another 4 years, and he then removed him. ʿAmr then settled away in Palestine from which he would occasionally visit Madīna. Muʿāwiya t eventually designated him governor of Egypt, where he remained as governor until his death and was buried there. He passed away on the eve of ʿIdul-Fiṭr the year 43 A.H at the age of 70 years. His son ʿAbdullāh led his funeral prayer. He was among the heroes and intellectuals of the ʿArab, and was known to be a leader with a great vision.
When the time of his death dawned upon him he said: ‘O Allāh you have ordered me and I was not compliant, you prohibited me and I did not refrain, I am not strong so I seek assistance, neither am I free of blame so I apologize, and I am not arrogant but rather I am repentant; there is no deity except You’. He kept repeating these words until he passed away.

“The difference between our observance of fasting and that of the people of the scriptures (ahlul-kitāb)”

The ahlul-kitāb are the Jews and Christians. They were given revealed scriptures, hence the name ahlul-kitāb.

“Is suḥūr (predawn meal)”

This is an unequivocal statement to the fact that taking suḥūr is a special trait for us, and that Allāh has made it a favor and distinction for this Umma. This favor and distinction were not granted to the previous nations.

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Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting. Hadiths 7-8

– وعنه، رضي الله عنه، أن رسول الله ﷺ، قال: “إذا جاء رمضانُ، فُتحتْ أبواب الجنة، وغُلقت أبواب النار، وصُفدت() الشياطين” متفقٌ عليه().

Abū-Hurayra (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh said, “When Ramaḍān begins, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of the fire of hell are closed, and the devils are chained.”

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

The Messenger of Allāh said, “When Ramaḍān begins, the gates of paradise are opened”

The most apparent meaning is that this is a literal opening of the doors of paradise for a person who passes away during Ramaḍān, or for a person who performs good actions which are accepted. It is also said that the meaning is figurative, meaning that performing good actions in Ramaḍān will lead to the gates of paradise being opened in the hereafter. Another figurative meaning may also be the abundance of mercy and forgiveness, as can be inferred by a narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim “The doors of mercy are opened”.

“The gates of the fire of hell are closed”

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The same observation can be made about this statement as has just been said regarding the gates of paradise.

It is also said that this is a metaphor to express the fact that the egos of the fasting persons are pure from the impurities of shameful actions, and they are liberated from the things which lead to sinful acts by means of their tamed based desires.
Al-Ṭībī explains: ‘The benefit of this is two-fold: the angels are clearly made aware that the action of those fasting is highly revered in front of Allāh. The fact that the truthful Nabī is the one informing about this matter also serves to increase the eagerness of the Muslim individual’.

“And the devils are chained”

This statement can also be considered to be in a literal sense. It may also figuratively mean that they are prevented from causing excessive nuisance to the believers and from provoking them. That makes them seem as they are chained. It may also mean that the Muslims refrain from involving themselves in the acts of disobedience which the devils annoy them with.

– باب الجود وفعل المعروف والإكثار من الخير في شهر رمضان

والزيادة من ذلك في العشر الأواخر منه

Chapter on generosity, performing good actions, increasing in goodness during Ramaḍān and augmenting in that during its last 10 days

1/1222- وعن ابن عباس، رضي الله عنهما، قال: كان رسول الله ﷺ، أجود الناس، وكان أجود() ما يكونُ في رمضان حين يلقاهُ جبريلُ، وكان جبريلُ يلقاهُ في كل ليلةٍ من رمضان فيدارسهُ القرآن، فلرسولُ الله ﷺ، حين يلقاهُ جبريلُ أجودُ بالخير من الريح المرسلة” متفقٌ عليه().

Ibn ʿAbbās (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was the most generous of men; and he would be the most generous during the month of Ramaḍān when Jibrīl visited him. Jibrīl would meet him every night of Ramaḍān and he would review the Qurʾān with him. As a result, at the time Jibrīl met him the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was more generous with goodness than the free wind.

What is meant by good actions in the title are obligatory and recommended actions alike. Increasing such actions in Ramaḍān is mandūb (i.e commendable) as the reward will be multiplied on virtue of the distinction of this time. This particularity in Ramaḍān is because it is the best of the months, so it is commendable to keep it alive with such actions and see their reward multiplied as a result.

The last ten days start on the eve of the 21st day of fasting, and they end on the last day whether the month ends in 29 days or 30 days.

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) was the most generous of men”

He was the man endowed with the most generosity. Indeed it is a fact that that which has been narrated of his generosity has not been narrated regarding anyone else.

“And he would be the most generous during the month of Ramaḍān when Jibrīl visited him.”

His state of generosity in Ramaḍān was superior to that outside of Ramaḍān, but he was nevertheless the most generous man in an absolute sense.

“Jibrīl would meet him every night of Ramaḍān and he would review the Qurʾān with him”

It is said that the wisdom in reviewing the Qurʾān is that it renews the pledge of having a content ego. Contentment in turns breeds generosity. Ramaḍān is also the season of goodness because Allāh’s bounties on his servants are increased therein. It was the habit of Nabī to give preference to follow the example of the sunna of Allāh (i.e his customary practice) in dealing with His servants. The combination of what has been mentioned i.e the time, the one who came down (Jibrīl), what he descended with (the Qurʾān) and the learning were all obtained through the hand of generosity. And Allāh knows best.

“As a result, at the time Jibrīl met him the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) was more generous with goodness than the free wind”

He was, in the speed of his generosity faster than the wind. The free wind indicates the wind which continuously blows with mercy. His generosity was all-encompassing in its benefit just as the free wind fully encompasses anything it blows on.

A narration of Imām-Aḥmad includes the following wording at the end of this ḥadīth: “He was never asked anything except that he gave it”[1].

Imām Al-Nawawī explains:

“This ḥadīth contains many fine lessons: encouragement towards generosity at all times, and increasing it during Ramaḍān as well as when meeting righteous people (analogy with the meeting of Jibrīl). It also indicates the virtue of visiting the pious and noble folk, and to do so repeatedly as long as the person being visited does not mind. It also points to the laudable nature of abundantly reading Qurʾān during Ramaḍān and the fact that it is superior to all forms of remembrance of Allāh [dhikr/adhkār]. Indeed, if dhikr was superior or equivalent to it then they would have done it (the Nabī and Jibrīl). Some commentators have said that these were tajwīd sessions. This is however objectionable as memorization of the Nabī was a given, and anything beyond memorization could be achieved through a few sessions. It is therefore clear that the intent in Jibrīl’s coming was an increase in the amount of recitation.

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Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting | Hadiths 3-6

– وعنه أن رسول الله ﷺ قال: “من أنفق زوجين في سبيل الله نُودي من أبواب الجنة: يا عبدالله هذا خيرٌ، فمن كان من أهل الصلاة دُعيَ من باب الصلاة، ومن كان من أهل الجهاد دُعيَ من باب الجهاد، ومن كان من أهل الصيام دُعيَ من باب الريان، ومن كان من أهل الصدقة [480] دُعيَ من باب الصدقة” قال أبو بكر رضي الله عنه، بأبي أنت وأُمي يا رسول الله! ما على من دُعيَ من تلك الأبواب من ضرورةٍ، فهل يدعى أحدٌ من تلك الأبواب كلها؟ قال: “نعم وأرجو أن تكون منهم” متفقٌ عليه().

Abū-Hurayra (May Allāh be pleased with him) also reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “He who spends a pair in the way of Allāh will be called from the gates of paradise: ‘O slave of Allāh! This is goodness’ and one who is among the people of ṣalāt (prayer), will be called from the gate of ṣalāt; and whoever is eager in fighting in the cause of Allāh, will be called from the gate of jihād; and one who is regular in fasting will be called from the gate Ar-Rayyān. The one who is a charitable person will be called from the gate of charity.” Abū-Bakr (May Allāh be pleased with him) said: “O Messenger of Allāh ﷺ ! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. However, will anybody be called from all of those gates?” He replied, “Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.” ”.

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“ The Messenger of Allāh said, “He who spends a pair in the way of Allāh will be called from the gates of paradise: ‘O slave of Allāh! This is goodness’ ”

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In some narrations of this ḥadīth it is added: “It was said: what is a pair? He ﷺ said: two horses, two cows, or two mules”.

It is possible that his ḥadīth applies to all virtuous actions, be it two ṣalāt, fasting two days, or two acts of charity. That is substantiated by the wording of the rest of the ḥadīth, which enumerates those different actions.

In the way of Allāh applies to all acts of goodness [i.e for Allāh’s sake]. It is also said that it is specific to jihād, but the first interpretation is more correct and apparent. That is Imām Al-Nawawī’s position.

Goodness here is said to mean reward and delight. It is also said that it means this is better i.e we think that this is better for you than the rest of the doors, due to the abundance of its reward and bounties. Come and enter through it.

Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar however contends in Fatḥul-Bārī: “The meaning of goodness is virtue, not superiority, although the wording may lead to think so. The intent of the statement is to provide additional encouragement to the individual for entering through that door”.

“And one who is among the people of ṣalāt (prayer), will be called from the gate of ṣalāt; and whoever is eager in fighting in the cause of Allāh, will be called from the gate of jihād; and one who is regular in fasting will be called from the gate Al-Rayyān.”

Al Qurṭubī explains: to be among the people of ṣalāt means that one performs abundant optional prayers to the point that it represents the most common of his optional actions. The obligatory ṣalāt is not meant, because all people are equal in that respect.

The same reasoning applies to fasting and ṣadaqa.

The door is called Al-Rayyān i.e the one who is satiated/quenched, as opposed to the one who is thirsty i.e the person fasting. This is to signify that he is rewarded for his thirst through a permanent satiation in paradise.

“The one who is a charitable person will be called from the gate of charity.”

After the mention of this door, four of the five pillars of Islām have been included, leaving the pillar of Ḥajj. There is no doubt that there is a door for [those who performed] Ḥajj [abundantly]. That leaves a remainder of three doors to complete the number of eight doors.

One of those doors is the door for ﴾ الْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ﴿ “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind” (s. Āl-ʿImrān, v. 134). Imām Aḥmad bin-Ḥanbal narrates from Al-Ḥasan [in a ḥadīth mursal] “Certainly Allāh has a door in paradise which none except those who forgive injustice will enter through”.

Another one of those doors is “the door of the right side.” That is the door of the mutawakkilīn i.e those who used to put their entire trust in Allāh, through which will enter those who will not go through any reckoning nor will they be subject to any punishment.

As for the third door, it may be the door of the remembrance of Allāh, as a ḥadīth in Tirmidhī alludes to it. It is also possible that it is the door of knowledge.

Considering the fact that the types of virtuous actions number much more than eight in total, it is then possible that the doors through which people will be called are in fact internal doors which are located beyond the eight main doors of paradise.

Al-Suyūṭī explains in Al-Dībāj: “Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ explains: the remaining doors are mentioned in other aḥādīth: the door of repentance, the door of “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind”, the door of those who are content, the door of the right side from which will enter those who will not undergo any reckoning”.

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn-Ḥajar explains in Fatḥul-Bārī: for one to spend in the way of Allāh in ṣadaqa, jihād, knowledge and ḥajj is obvious. It is however not so obvious for other actions.
Spending in ṣalāt may refer to acquiring its tools such as the water to purify oneself, and one’s suitable garments or the like thereof.
As for spending while fasting it would be on those things which strengthen one to do such as suḥūr [pre-dawn meal] and fuṭūr [meal after sunset].
Spending to forgive others would mean that one forsakes those rights which he is entitled to from them.
Spending in tawakkul would be that which one spends during a sickness which prevents them for earning a living, while exerting patience in one’s affliction. It can also be that which one spends on someone else who is afflicted by the same, seeking thereby reward.
Spending for dhikr would be along the same lines.

It is also possible that what is meant by spending on ṣalāt and fasting is for one to exert their person in those acts. In the language of the ʿArab, exertion of one’s person is called expenditure [nafaqa]. They will for instance say, “I have expended my life on it” when referring to a trade which one has learnt. Exerting one’s body in fasting and ṣalāt would therefore be considered expenditure.

“Abū-Bakr  (May Allāh be pleased with him) said: “O Messenger of Allāh ﷺ ! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. However, will anybody be called from all of those gates?” ”

He means that one being called by anyone of these doors would certainly not suffer any diminution or loss. This statement brings alertness to the fact that very few people will be called from all those gates.

The one who has all those actions to his account is called from all the doors is an expression of merit, but entrance will nevertheless occur from only one door . That door is likely to be the one corresponding to the action which was most dominant for that person.

In this same context, one should not be confused by the ḥadīth of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim which says “Whoever performs ablution and does so most adequately, and then says I bear witness that there is no deity but Allāh…” and then it mentions “then the eight doors of paradise will open and he may enter from whichever one he choses”. The takeaway from this ḥadīth is that the doors are opened in this instance as a sign of esteem. One will nonetheless only enter through the door corresponding to their most abundant action.

Al-Zarkashī explains: “It is possible that the paradise is a fortress with embedded walls, and each wall would have its own door. Some will be called from the first door only, while others will be made to skip to the first door and taken to the interior door. So on and so forth…”.

“He replied, “Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.” ”

The ʿulamāʾ explain: “Hope from Allāh and His Nabī ﷺ unequivocally comes to realization”.

The author-Imām Nawawī-explains: among the things which are inferred from this ḥadīth is the virtue of Abū-Bakar , and the permissibility of praising a person in their presence as long as a tribulation is not feared for them such as them becoming fond of themselves.

 وعن سهل بن سعدٍ رضي الله عنه عن النبي ﷺ، قال: “إن في الجنة باباً يُقالُ له: الريانُ، يدخلُ منه الصائمون يوم القيامة، لا يدخلُ منه أحدٌ غيرهم، يقالُ: أين الصائمون؟ فيقومون لا يدخل منه أحدٌ غيرهم، فإذا دخلوا أُغلق فلم يدخل منه أحدٌ” متفقٌ عليه().

Sahl bin-Saʿd  (May Allāh be pleased with him) narrates:

The Prophet ﷺ said, “In paradise there is a gate which is called Al-Rayyān through which only those who observe fasting will enter on the Day of Resurrection. No one else will enter through it. It will be called out, “Where are those who observe fasting?” so they will stand up and no one else will enter through it. When the last of them will have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate.”

Narrated by Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Prophet ﷺ said, “In paradise there is a gate which is called Al-Rayyān”

The significance of the name Rayyān i.e the one who is satiated/quenched has been explained earlier. One may add here that being satiated has been used to also signify that one’s hunger is satisfied, because they clearly go hand-in-hand.

“Through which only those who observe fasting will enter on the Day of Resurrection”

The mention of the day of resurrection is because that is when this will occur. It can also be said that it’s to differentiate from the souls of the martyrs and those of the believers which enter paradise during the duration of this lowly world, without it being contingent upon the action of fasting.

“No one else will enter through it. It will be called out, “Where are those who observe fasting?” so they will stand up and no one else will enter through it. When they have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate. ”

The narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim mentions “when the last one of them will have entered”.

The repetition of the fact that no one else will enter through it is done for emphasis. The wording of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim is also narrated by Ibn Abī-Shayba in his Musnad, Abū-Nuʿaym in his Mustakhraj, Ibn-Khuzayma, and Al-Nasāʾī. Al-Nasāʾī added: “Whoever enters will never ever experience thirst again”.

Both Bukhārī and Muslim narrated this ḥadīth in the chapter of fasting.

وعن أبي سعيد الخدري، رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله ﷺ: “ما من عبدٍ يصومُ يوماً في سبيل الله إلا باعد الله بذلك اليوم وجههُ عن النار سبعين خريفاً()” متفقٌ عليه().

Abu Saʿīd Al-Khudrī  (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “There is no slave of Allāh who observes fasting for one day in the way of Allāh, except that Allah will detach his face from hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years. ”

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, “There is no slave of Allāh”

Meaning no legally responsible individual, and what will be mentioned next is true for both men and women. This is substantiated by the fact that a narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim does not specify a gender “Whoever fasts a day in the way of Allāh, He detaches their face from the hell-fire for a distance of seventy years”.

“Who observes fasting for one day in the way of Allāh”

Meaning in the obedience of Allāh.

“Except that Allāh will detach his face from hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years.”

Meaning for the duration of a journey lasting seventy years.

وعن أبي هريرة، رضي الله عنه، عن النبي ﷺ، قال: “من صام رمضان إيماناً واحتساباً، غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه” متفقٌ عليه().

Abū-Hurayra (May Allāh be pleased with him) reported:

The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who observes the fast of the month of Ramaḍān with faith and reflecting upon its reward, will have his past sins forgiven.”

Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.

“The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who observes the fast of the month of Ramaḍan with faith”

Meaning in a mental state where one affirms the truth of the reward related regarding it.

“And reflecting upon its reward”

Reflecting upon it and seeking thereby Allāh’s countenance [i.e His pleasure].

“Will have his past sins forgiven.”

Al-Nasāʾī and Aḥmad both add in a fine [ḥadīth ḥasan] narration, “and future sins”.
The sins which are forgiven on account of acts of obedience are those minor sins which relate to Allāh’s rights.

Ibn-ʿAllan’s Commentary Dalilul-Falihin: The Book of Fasting. Hadiths 1-2

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