3973. It was narrated that Mu’aadh bin Jabal said: ‘I was with the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa salam on a journey. One morning I drew close to him when we were on the move and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action that will gain me admittance to Paradise and keep me far away from Hell.’ He said: ‘You have asked for something great, but it is easy for the one for whom Allah makes it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate anything in worship with Him, establish prayer, pay charity, fast Ramadaan, and perform Hajj to the House.’ Then he said: ‘Shall I not tell you of the means of goodness? Fasting is a shield, and charity extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire, and a man’s prayer in the middle of the night.’ Then he recited: “Their sides forsake their beds.” until he reached: “As a reward for what they used to do.” [32:16-17] Then he said: ‘Shall I not tell you of the head of the matter, and its pillar and pinnacle? (It is) Jihaad.’ Then he said: ‘Shall I not tell you of the basis of all of that?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He took hold of his tongue then said: ‘Restrain this.’ I said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, will we be brought to account for what we say?’ He said: ‘May your mother not found you, O Mu’aadh! Are people thrown onto their faces in Hell for anything other than the harvest of their tongues?'”
a. Fasting, giving charity, and Tahajjud (late night prayer) are the doors of good deeds. Each one of them is a source for many other good deeds. So, any voluntary deed such as fasting, charity, and Tahajjud – whichever is easy – should be performed as much as possible.
b. Supererogatory fasting is among the best means to avoid sins.
c. Charity expiates sins and the expiation of sins results in Paradise.
d. Tahajjud prayer could be performed in any part of the night. However, performing it after having passed midnight; particularly during the last third part of the night, is preferable.
e. Protection of the tongue is a very important act that is related to many important deeds. The benefits of fasting could be achieved only if the fasting person abstains from telling lies, evil deeds, and using bad language against others. The reward of charity is granted only when one does not invalidate it by reminders of it, and avoids demonstrating his good deeds out of pride and showing off. Tahajjud prayer consists of remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Qur-aan which is also a good deed related to one’s tongue.
f. The basis of Islam is confirming the statement of monotheism (i.e. affirming that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger). By this confession one enters in Islam; without monotheism, the position of religion is like that of a person whose head has been cut off.
(Hasan, The chapters on tribulations (abwaab al-fitan), 5/192-194, Sunan ibn Maajah, darussalam)