Updated: Dec 5, 2019
It was reported from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said, “There are seven whom Allah will shade with His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His . . .” (al-Bukhari; Muslim). Each type of person he then named is listed below with clarification, including the very important point that any Muslim can achieve this status regardless that this hadith happens only to mention men. Much of the explanation below is paraphrase or condensed summary of an article by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid which, itself, relies heavily on the commentary of Ibn Hajar, Allah have Mercy on him.
All shade, as everything in the creation, belongs to Allah, but Allah has emphasized and honored the special, exclusive shade on the Day of Judgement by calling it His. It is a mercy and protection we seek from Allah because on that terrible day the sun will be brought extremely close and people will sweat like no sweat we know in this life. So what are these categories that we aim to achieve in this life?
1. The “just ruler” is mentioned first, perhaps because it is likely to provide a far reaching benefit as in the case of a righteous khalifah. However, this may be a program administrator or even a parent who exercises their authority even-handedly. It is the person who discharges their assigned authority over others in a righteous manner, including by standing against oppression and undue social disproportionality.
2. Next is “a man who spends his youth and energy worshiping his Lord.” Desires and physical capabilities are strong during this stage of life while wisdom and experience may be limited. So this is an inducement to stay steadfast during this time, and success in it surely demonstrates piety.
3. “A man whose heart is attached to the masjid.” Ibn Hajar mentions that the other categories besides this one could be either a man or a woman. However, he attaches this particular category to men because it is most related to the obligation on men to perform prayers in the masjid, whereas the best prayer for women is in seclusion at home. However, there are other reasons for any Muslim to voluntarily go out to the masaajid, which may be especially important in the West, like teaching or learning, various community functions, caring for the facilities, providing and seeking support, etc.
4. “A man who is called by a woman of rank and beauty and says, ‘I fear Allah.’” This reminds of the story of Yusuf, peace on him, but it will be likewise if a handsome man of high status were to call a woman to fornication and she rejected him out of obedience to Allah.
5. “Two men who love one another for the sake of Allah and meet and part on that basis.” This is two Muslims who maintain their love for each other in order to please Allah such that worldly reasons cannot come between them. It is only to the benefit of the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the Cause of Allah that we refrain from pettiness by firmly loving those who love Allah.
6. “A man who gives in charity and conceals it to such an extent that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives.” Ibn Hajar explains that this refers to utter secrecy when giving charity. The point of that is to avoid the praise of others that might corrupt the intention. Additionally, it is better to let our deeds be counted with Allah than to linger on them even within ourselves as this may lead either to arrogance or complacency. However, those who give openly as an example to induce others to give and then maintain that pure intention, then this is also for the Sake of Allah.
7. “A man who remembers Allah when he is alone, and his eyes fill up.” So this is the Muslim who, even when there is no one around to impress, their love and longing for Allah brings forth enough emotion that they cry from that. Even if we are unable to achieve the other categories, may Allah make us all from these. Ameen.
Other ahadith add more categories: “Those who fight (for the sake of Allah); those who help the mujaahideen; those who defer payment of debt for debtors who are in difficulty, or let them off all or part of the debt; those who help people who are heavily in debt; those who help slaves who have drawn up contracts of manumission; those who have a good attitude; those who walk to the mosque; sincere and honest traders; those who take what is due to them and no more; those who spend for the sake of Allah; those who sponsor orphans.” Allahuakbar. Allah is al-Kareem, the Generous.
al-Bukhaari, no. 620; Muslim, no. 1712; and others
Al-Munajjid, islamqa(dot)info, question 924
Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari (620)