What is the status of the story of Bilal’s footsteps in the Paradise?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The companions of the Prophet PBUH are from the best generation as they live during the time of the Prophet PBUH and were educated by the Prophet PBUH himself. This is acknowledged by the Prophet PBUH himself through his saying:
خَيْرُ النَّاسِ قَرْنِي، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ
The people of my generation are the best, then those who follow them, and then whose who follow the latter.
Sahih al-Bukhari (3651)
Besides, it is also stated in the Quran that Allah SWT is pleased with the Companions and Allah SWT prepares for them gardens of which beneath it rivers flow:
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct - Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.
Surah al-Tawbah (100)
Coming back to the above question, the story of the Prophet PBUH heard the footsteps of Bilal in the Paradise originated from a sahih hadith. Among them is what is written by Imam al-Bukhari (256H) in his Sahih:
- Narrated from Abu Hurairah RA that the Prophet PBUH said to Bilal during Fajr prayer:
" يَا بِلاَلُ حَدِّثْنِي بِأَرْجَى عَمَلٍ عَمِلْتَهُ فِي الإِسْلاَمِ، فَإِنِّي سَمِعْتُ دَفَّ نَعْلَيْكَ بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ ". قَالَ مَا عَمِلْتُ عَمَلاً أَرْجَى عِنْدِي أَنِّي لَمْ أَتَطَهَّرْ طُهُورًا فِي سَاعَةِ لَيْلٍ أَوْ نَهَارٍ إِلاَّ صَلَّيْتُ بِذَلِكَ الطُّهُورِ مَا كُتِبَ لِي أَنْ أُصَلِّيَ
"Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise." Bilal replied, "I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I prayed after that ablution as much as was written for me."
Sahih al-Bukhari (1149)
Among matters that can be taken from this hadith is stating the time of worship (specifying a time for certain worship) is permitted because Bilal had done so based on his own deduction, which then is acknowledged by the Prophet PBUH. [See: Fath al-Bari, 3/34]
This hadith also becomes the dalil of the commandment to perform Sunnah prayer after completing ablution. This is also mentioned by Imam Ibn al-Jawzi when he stated that this hadith indicates the encouragement of performing prayer right after taking ablution to fulfil its purpose. [See: Fath al-Bari, 3/34]
Besides, this action of Bilal bin Rabah is in line with the Sunnah taught by the Prophet PBUH through his hadith:
- Narrated by ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir al-Juhaniy RA, that the Prophet PBUH said:
مَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ يَتَوَضَّأُ فَيُحْسِنُ الْوُضُوءَ وَيُصَلِّي رَكْعَتَيْنِ يُقْبِلُ بِقَلْبِهِ وَوَجْهِهِ عَلَيْهِمَا إِلاَّ وَجَبَتْ لَهُ الْجَنَّةُ
Anyone performs ablution and performs the ablution perfectly and then offers two rak’ahs of prayers concentrating on them with his heart and face but paradise will necessarily fall to his lot.
[Sunan Abi Dawud (906)][Sheikh Shu’aib al-Arna’outh evaluates this hadith as a strong hadith]
In conclusion, the story of the Prophet PBUH heard the footsteps of Bilal RA in the Paradise is a sahih story and it shows the high position of Bilal RA as he preserves and practices the Sunnah taught by the Prophet PBUH. May this brief explanation give us an understanding of the science of hadith. Lastly, may Allah SWT give us understanding in this religion so that we may practice it. Ameen.