Eternal happiness is an emotion that everyone seeks yet the only place that this exists is in Jannah. From the many ahadīth we learn about the pleasures of paradise, it is no surprise that the decisions made by Muslims in this life are with the hope and intention of achieving goodness in the hereafter. But how exactly do we attain Jannah? With the countless pursuits that lead to this destination and the multitude of acts of worship a person can do, it can halt a person to maintain mediocracy in their character as they don’t know where to start in their endeavour.
Alhamdulillah the Qur’ān has a plethora of guidelines and āyāt and characteristics of the people of Jannah but there is one verse that perhaps encapsulates them all:
إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allāh often and the women who do so—for them Allāh has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” 
Umm Salama, an influential woman and wife of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), was known to stand up for the women among the companions and would go directly to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) with questions or complaints on their behalf. On one occasion she asked him what may today be seen as a political question: “Why is it that women are not mentioned in the Qur’ān as men are?” In response to this Allāh then revealed this āyah found in Surah al-Ahzāb addressing women in particular—even though the “masculine” plural includes women as well. What is the ‘great reward’ mentioned in this āyah? Jannah. And what comes before it gives rise to the characteristics of the people of Jannah of which we will now dissect.
Muslim Men and Muslim Women
It is not a surprise that the inhabitants of this blissful and opulent destination will be Muslim, which comes from the root verb ‘Aslama’ meaning total submission. In essence, a Muslim is someone who must have total submission to the authority of Allāh (subhānahu wa taʿālā). The most fundamental thing that we can do is to become of those who submit to God, by doing whatever Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) tells us to do. Our life is recognising who the authority is, and our insignificance in relation to that authority. So when one finds oneself at war with what Allāh says (for example, rejecting something clearly mandated which may be unpopular or unfashionable in a particular time or place, or against ones desire), this means one hasn’t totally submitted and if this criteria is not met then it does not allow one to possess all the other qualities mentioned in this āyah. Allāh mentions ‘Muslimīn’ first because total submission is required first to get on to that path towards Jannah. Once this is there, all the other things come after.
Believing Men and Believing Women
“Belief” is an insufficient translation for “īmān” which comprises both belief and action, and it is usually synonymous with “Islām”, unless mentioned together with it, when it takes the meaning of a higher level of Muslim with regards to their īmān; those who avoid all major sins and fulfil all their obligations. As for the belief part of īmān then it is something that is connected to the heart. It is hidden but over time, it manifests from the inward to the outward. The scholars of ʿaqidah say that the belief element of īmān can be summarised around three core concepts: belief in Allāh, belief in in the messengers and belief in the hereafter. As Muslims, our īmān should be so strong, that when we pray it should be as if we see God. How do you get to the stage of high īmān and true faith? By learning who Allāh is; His names and His attributes. Our subservience to God can only be fulfilled this way. But instead we often put emphasis on the wrong things. Why is it that we see some Muslims who have memorised even the entire Qur’ān turning to major sins? They have the words of Allāh in their hearts but they didn’t learn who Allāh was so that fear of their Lord did not exist.
Our īmān is inherently down to Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) and who He is and our life is about learning who Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) is. Wire yourself to love Allāh because when you love someone, naturally you will want to know about them. Love is predicated upon knowledge. Everyone will say ‘I believe in and love Allāh’ so back that up by increasing in knowledge.
Obedient Men and Obedient Women
Being a person who is compliant with Allāh’s orders can only be achieved when one has submitted to His authority. Those people worship Allāh secretly and quietly. Many times, people will show an outward reality of them praying and garbing certain clothing and portraying certain mannerisms but inwardly it is something else such that their prayer outside is different to their prayer inside. Ask yourself what is your state privately compared to your state publicly? And if it’s a big difference then know that this is a sign that you are not truly obedient and treat it as a cause for change.
Truthful Men and Truthful Women
The opposite of being truthful is lying and the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) made it clear in a hadīth that lying is the cause of a great many other evils.
‘You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allāh as a siddīq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allāh as a liar.”
Lying is the root of stealing and backbiting among many other evils. Abu Bakr (radiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was coined as the Truthful one. Nowadays most people lie just to get ahead in things like interviews and on CVs just to get that extra advantage. Little do they remember that Allāh knows our true state.
Humble Men and Humble Women
‘Khushūʿ’ translates to something well-beyond the word ‘fear’; a feeling that can only be imagined as if all your limbs are in total state of awe after overwhelming pressure, something we need to inculcate into our prayer. Sheikh Sālih al-Fawzān (hafidhahullāh) said: “The meaning of ‘Khushūʿ’ linguistically is to humble oneself as well as to have submission to Allāh, the Glorified and Most High. The origin of Khushūʿ is in the heart and so it manifests upon the limbs; such that they are tranquil, and upon the tongue; such that it is subdued.” Isn’t it amazing how the purest act of worship involves both the movement of our tongues and our limbs? When ʿAli (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was shot by an arrow he famously requested it be taken out while he was engaged in his prayer, in total submission.
Again, this boils down to learning about who Allāh is. Because the more you recognise the majesty and power of God, the more you realise your inability. We have the opportunity to stand before Allāh five times a day, the One who controls everything; consider this reality. You have a chance to stand in front of the One who created the entire cosmos! One can only find themselves in a state of extreme awe.
Charitable Men and Charitable Women
One of the seven categories of people shaded on the Day of Judgement is someone who gives for the sake of Allāh such that his left hand doesn’t know what his right hand gave. Imagine putting your hand into a pocket full of cash and donating it for the cause of Allāh not even knowing how much you gave. We try hard by putting in effort day and night, by going out to work and earning a livelihood, though Allāh is saying that rizq (sustenance) is not ours; it is a gift from Allāh which He is ordering you to give from to others. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said “Sadaqah extinguishes sins like water extinguishes fire.” The reality is Sadaqah hurts our desires but every time you find an opportunity to give then give, however big or small you can.
Fasting Men and Fasting Women
‘Sāma’ means to restrain oneself; to curb your desires, and the interesting thing about fasting is that it hits at a person’s basic, biological desires—food, drink and sexual reproduction. When you have to stop your carnal desires, you’re only going to do that for the sake of Allāh. Allāh said that “Every act a person does, he does for himself, except fasting which is for Me, and I will (specially) reward it.” Among the interpretations of this is that this reward is not bound by a number. Look how amazing fasting is that by doing it, you’re going to get continuous reward. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “The breath of the fasting person is more pleasant with Allāh than the smell of musk.” Do we need more reasons to take to fasting? The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would fast Mondays and Thursdays, and the Prophet Dāwūd (ʿalayhi al-Salām) would fast every other day. There are people struggling with porn addiction and lowering the gaze but little do they know this can be controlled by fasting because it limits the control your animalistic ego has over you and prevents you from committing sin.
Men and women who guard their private parts
The interesting thing from this verse is that Allāh puts fasting and guarding the privates together, and it is well known they are inextricably linked. Unfortunately, we now see this over-sexualised society whereby the dignity of man and woman has totally been compromised leaving behind the world as a playground for Shaytān. A person engages in so much sin which charges his desires with so much lust that they have given governance of their bodies to their most primitive of impulses.
“Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?”
Those who remember Allāh – MUCH
The opposite of the remembrance (dhikr) of Allāh is heedlessness (ghafla) of Allāh. Every single moment of life can either be a moment for dhikr or a moment for ghafla. Reflect over your day and count how many moments you have remembered Allāh. We need to return back to that reality of remembrance of Allāh, without which; all our prayer and fasting are futile. All of this is encapsulated within his ‘dhākirīn’. Dhikr is not just what you recite on a string of beads; but rather any moment where you remember Allāh is dhikr. Think of your engagements on a daily basis and ask yourself: are they dhikr of God or not?
It is also pertinent to note that it is not just ‘those who remember Allāh’ who have been mentioned here, but those who remember Allāh a lot. This is the key, as everyone remembers Allāh sometimes, even the hypocrites:
“Indeed, the hypocrites [think to] deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. And when they stand for prayer, they stand lazily, showing [themselves to] the people and not remembering Allah except a little…”
One then may ask where do we learn about all the realities mentioned in this verse? From the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), because he is the living manifestation of this. Study him and learn about his life because it is through him we can learn about Allāh and how the greatest of creation worshipped God.
Every Muslim must have the first five qualities mentioned in this verse. A person may not be able to fast or give charity due to health or financial reasons, but they need to have those first five characteristics by default. The rest are perhaps subject to your personal circumstances.
Abu Hurairah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Everyone of my Ummah will enter Jannah except those who refuse.” He was asked: “Who will refuse?” He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever obeys me, shall enter Jannah, and whosoever disobeys me, has refused.” And you will notice from the verse that those who don’t submit, those who don’t believe, those who lie, those who don’t give for sake of Allāh, those who don’t protect their private parts or have that attachment with Allāh in their private affairs; what does Allāh prepare for them? Jahannam. To ensure this end is not the end of our stories, we need to become people who implement all that has been mentioned above. Allāh teaches us to be positive. We should all hope to be in Jannah but we still need to do our part. To become people of Jannah, we need to prepare ourselves for Jannah. Let this reminder be a long-term aspiration in that the greatest moment in our existence is when we receive peace from Allāh.
Part of it requires us to go on a journey of knowledge but part of it requires us to get up and get on with it. Life is like a conveyor belt going backwards. If you stand still, you’re going to fall behind. If you start walking slowly, then you might get to your goal. And if you run and make an effort, then you will get to your goal. We have to struggle and make the effort; traits that Allāh loves. Where everyone else looks at your end result, your outcome, Allāh is the only one who sees your effort.
The reality of the affair is that this life is going to come to an end and we will be accountable for what we did; yet we always forget that Allāh has only put us here for a certain period of time. The real life is the hereafter, of which our goal, Jannah, is not cheap. Use this verse as a methodology in your quest to seek it. It also shows the blessings that can be unlocked from the verses of the Qur’ān. This one āyah gives a roadmap of qualities to embody to ensure Jannah is a realistic goal in the heart of every believer. So be people of belief and obedience, be people of truth and humility, and if it is within your capabilities be people of charity and fasting so that you can become from among the people of Paradise.
May Allāh make us of those who enter Jannah. Amīn.
 Al-Qur’ān 33:35
 Bukhari, Muslim
 Bukhari, Muslim
 Bukhari, Muslim
 Al-Qur’ān 25:43
 Al-Qur’ān 4:142