The Last Man In
Ibn Mas‘ud (ra) reports the Prophet (saws) as having said, “The last to enter Paradise will be a man who will walk haltingly: falling down now and the fire touching his face then.1 When he would have crossed it, he would look back at it and say, ‘Glory to Allah who rescued me from you. Allah bestowed something on me that He did not on anyone of the earlier or the latter ones.’2
“A tree would spring up for him. He will say, `My Lord! Allow me to get closer to this tree so that I can enjoy its shade and drink its water.’3 Allah (swt) will say, ‘If I were to grant you this, you are sure to ask for more.’4 He will reply, ‘No, my Lord!’ And he will give his word that he will ask for no more. Allah will accept his word from His knowledge that the man won’t be able to bear without it.5 So He will take him closer to it. The man will begin to enjoy its shade and drink its water.
“Then another tree would be brought up, better than the previous one. The man will say, ‘My Lord! Allow me to get closer to this tree so that I can enjoy its shade and drink its water. And I will not ask for any more.’6 Allah (swt) will say; ‘Didn’t you promise Me that you’ll not ask for any more?’ He will reply, ‘If You allowed me closer to it, I’ll ask for no more.’7 And he will promise Him that he will ask for no more. Allah will accept his excuse from His knowledge that the man won’t be able to bear without it and will allow him closer to it.8 The man will begin to enjoy its shade and drink its water.
“Then another tree would be brought up right at the entrance to the Paradise, better than the two previous ones.9 The man will say, ‘My Lord! Allow me close proximity to this tree so that I can seek its shade and drink its water.’ And I will not ask for any more.’ Allah (swt) will say, ‘Adam’s son!10 Didn’t you promise Me that you’ll not ask for more?’11 He will say, ‘Surely (I did that)! But I’ll not ask for anything else.’ Allah will accept his excuse from His knowledge that the man won’t be able to bear without it and allow him closer to it. As the man would hear the voices of the inhabitants of Paradise, he will say, ‘My Lord! Let me into it.’12 Allah will say, ‘Adam’s son! What will severe you from Me? 13 Will it satisfy you that I give you the world and another equal to it?’14 He will say, ‘My Lord! Do You make fun of me while You are the Lord of the worlds?’15
Saying that, Ibn Mas`ud laughed and asked, ‘Won’t you ask me why I laughed?”16 They asked him, ‘What made you laugh?’ He said, ‘That is how the Prophet (saws) laughed.’ They asked, ‘Why did the Prophet (saws) laugh?’17 He replied, ‘Following the laugh of the Lord of the worlds18 when the man said, ‘Do you make fun of me while You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will reply, ‘I am not making fun of you.19 Rather, I have power over what I wish to do.’”20
(The hadith is from Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, hadith 473, Fat-h al-Mulhim and the notes by the translator).
1. That is because the man will be surrounded with Fire. When allowed to move out, he would probably cut himself across fiery obstacles at the border area, walking past them unhurt, but getting caught at some places, falling down on his face and getting burnt.
2. Having tasted the severity of the Fire, for how long we do not know, perhaps millions of years, and coming into the open where it doesn’t reach him any more would have made such a huge difference that the man would think that no one was ever treated better than him and no one ever granted such a grand blessing. Having not tasted any blessing whatsoever since he entered the Fire, he would ask himself as to what blessing could be greater than being rescued of it?
3. Perhaps, a small pond would be nearby; or the man might chew its leaves and get some water, or lick the dewdrops on its leaves? Many people, who have been stranded in forests without water, have survived by licking off dewdrops that settle on the leaves in the early hours of the morning.
4. A creator knows the nature of his creation. Man is never satisfied with anything. If he is given a valley of gold he hankers for another. Nothing fills his belly but the dirt of the grave. These are statements from in the Hadith literature. Those leaders of the world who think they can give happiness to their masses by providing them material benefits, more and more of them, will only receive complaints from their masses for not having been given enough. It is only in Paradise that man will be granted the satiation that will quench his hunger completely.Until then man has to endure this pain.
5. Why should Allah grant him his desire simply from his knowledge that man will not be able to bear without it? The answer is simple. He will because, it is He who created the dissatisfaction and hankering in man’s heart, and, being a Creator who loves his creations, He must answer the call.
6. Since the man had asked and was granted earlier, he would guess that he was asking for too much, not knowing that the Lord is not tired of responding to his prayers and entreaties. He is more Generous than the most generous of their kind can ever imagine.
7. The man would think that having been granted his wish earlier on promise that he will not ask for anymore, this would be the last time he would be asking for more. But, alas! Does man know himself? He thinks so, but he doesn’t: “Surely, he is the zaluman, the ignorant.” Isn’t it best for someone who doesn’t know himself to follow the advice of Him who knows him and about him.
8. He will take him closer although He knows that that wouldn’t be the end of the demands.
9. Another allurement to His greater Mercy. Even if man were to be satisfied with Allah’s bestowal, He is not satisfied with His bestowal’s until He has granted man the ultimate that his soul can wish and bear.
10. “Adam’s son!” A powerful reminder that the progeny inherits the characteristics of the progenitor. A mechanism that falsely guides the unguided to the theory of evolution.
11. It is only to remind man of his habit of breaking his promise so consistently.
12. The voices of children and veil-wearing women who guard their honour, chastity and womanhood – all those who have not been exposed to the cunningness of the cunning, have remained innocent, as they were created… such voices have their own charm and attract every ear. Such would be the characteristic of the voices of the inhabitants of Paradise. The man outside would perhaps like to talk to them just for its own sake: he has been missing the sweetness of the voice of the innocent, the sinless, the guileless.
13. Or, “what will cut you off Me?” A loving phrase: “I keep giving you, but you keep coming back to Me. What shall I give you to treat your hanker, O the untiring seeker?” Allah can keep granting, but, in that race of requests and grants, who will end up the tired one to give up? “So, what shall I grant you before you sit back defeated?”
14. This is only to test the man’s knowledge of the limits of Allah’s bounty. Let us see how far your imagination can go.
15. In the heart of hearts, was I ever worth more than an animal seeking the shade of a tree and licking off the dew on its leaves?
16. If Ibn Mas‘ud hadn’t woken them up, they would have missed to note that the Companions laughed a little and when they did, it was quite often to follow a Sunnah.
17. He shouldn’t have, seeing that the man had said something blasphemous. Didn’t he consider that he could be dragged back by the angels to where he started his long journey from: right at the centre of the Fire?
18. “The laugh of the ‘Lord of the worlds”: an indication that it is not the laugh of the creators. It is a laugh that suits the Lord of the worlds.
19. When Allah decides to grant Mercy, man cannot enrage Him out of the intention. He is not like the created, always reacting to words, situations and circumstances. He is the Creator of the situations and circumstances by His will.
20. It was that wish that brought you into Paradise, otherwise, hadn’t you done everything, O man, even until the last sentence you spoke, to deserve yourself abiding in the Fire forever?