“… Then he said, “Shall I inform you of the head of the matter…The head of the matter is submission [to Allah]…”
The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, began this hadith by explaining the minimum requirements for entering into Paradise. He stated that this required implementation of the five pillars of Islam. He then went on to explain the ways in which one can enter the gates of goodness, or earn a greater reward within Paradise, that is through late-night prayer, and extra fasting and giving in charity beyond the obligatory duties.
In this part of the hadith, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, goes onto to mention ‘the head of the matter’. ‘The matter’ being referred to here is, and Allah knows best, the issue of entering into Paradise and escaping the Hell-fire. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, stated that ‘the head’, meaning the most important and essential aspect, is Islam.
The scholars have said that the meaning of the term ‘Islam’ in the context of this hadith, is submission and obedience to Allah. Another narration of this hadith states that ‘the head of the matter’ is the testimony of faith. The two can be reconciled when we understand that the person who does not accept and apply the testimony of faith both internally and externally, has no portion of Islam whatsoever.
Submission to Allah, or adherence to the testimony of faith, plays a similar role to the head of the human body. Without a head, there is no life. Without submission to Allah and His commandments, there is no Islam, and there is no hope of entering Paradise or escaping the Hell-fire.
“Its pillar is the prayer.”
The final words of the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, were, “The prayer, the prayer…”
SubhanAllah, would more needs to be said than this?
The prayer is the foundation upon which the religion, submission to Allah and being entered into Paradise rests. Without the pillar of prayer, none of these other things will be firm and sound. The one who does not attend to their prayers is missing the foundation which can save them from the punishment of the Hell-fire.
The prayer is the first thing that believer will be called to account for on the Day of Judgement. We know the importance of the prayer, and yet, tragically we neglect it. The prayer is actually the most important part of our day. Many times we rush through the prayer in order to attend to our daily activities, and yet, when Judgement Day comes, how we performed our prayer is actually our most important action.
Ask yourself, how well you think you are praying? Do you know how the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, prayed? Do you know his actions and his words? Do you have full concentration on Allah when you pray? Are you aware of the meanings of the words you are reciting? Are you taking your time and giving the prayer its due? Are you praying to Allah with humility and sincerity?
It is one of the mercies of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, that when you recite Surah Al-Fatihah, He answers every ayah, saying that He will grant you what you have asked for. What greater motivator could there be to remember what you are asking for?Pause at the end of each ayah to remember the fact that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, is answering you. SubhanAllah, when we reflect on this it should bring a deeper significance to our prayer.
Finally, try to identify where you feel your prayer is lacking, make a list of what you want to improve, make dua to Allah to assist you, and then assess yourself each day. For what is assessed will improve. Take the time to reflect on this most important of your deeds and strive to improve and perfect it. It’s the most important skill you have, make it your best.
“Shall I not inform you of what controls all of this? … that which their tongues reap?”
We have discussed in previous hadith the importance of saying a good word and refraining from evil speech. However in this last portion of the hadith, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, goes further to indicate that restraining, controlling and holding one’s tongue is the foundation of all good, both in this life and the Hereafter.
Someone might wonder, why is it the case that the deeds of the tongue can have such significance as to take someone to the Hellfire? Can they really be that harmful?
Let’s contemplate the sins of speech. They include backbiting which is saying about others what they would not like to hear; spreading rumours; lying; giving false witness; and associating partners with Allah or shirk which is the greatest sin in the eyes of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. In fact, all sinful acts in general are usually accompanied by speech that assists those deeds.
Ibn Taymiyah, may Allah be pleased with him, pointed out that even though a person may in control of all their other actions, and they be considered to be very religious, they still may not be able to control their tongue. We may be able to avoid eating forbidden foods, or stealing or drinking alcohol, but we find it difficult to stop saying bad things about others.
In this day and age when the forms of communication are so many, so informal and so immediate, we have to be especially careful. We have to realise that our words form part of our deeds and we must guard them as carefully as our actions.
Let’s remember what Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
“Not a word does he utter but there is a watcher by him ready [to record it]“