It is reported from the companion Mu’adh ibn Jabal:
One morning, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was prevented from coming to us for Fajr prayer, until we were just about to look for the eye of the sun (meaning sunrise). Then he came out quickly, had the prayer prepared for. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) performed the prayer, and he performed his prayer in a relatively quick manner. When he ended the prayer, he called aloud with his voice saying to us: “Stay in your rows as you are.”
Then he turned coming near to us and said: “I am going to narrate to you what kept me from you this morning: I got up during the night, I performed ablution and prayed as much as I was able to, and I dozed off during my prayer, and fell deep asleep. Then I saw my Lord, Blessed and Most High, in the best of appearances. He said: ‘O Muhammad!’ I said: ‘My Lord here I am my Lord!’ He said: ‘What do the most exalted group dispute about?’ I said: ‘I do not know Lord.’ And He said it three times. Then I saw Him place His Palm between my shoulders, and I sensed the coolness of His Fingertips between my breast. Then everything was disclosed for me, and I became aware.
So He said: ‘O Muhammad!’ I said: ‘Here I am my Lord!’ He said: ‘What do the most exalted group dispute about?’ I said: ‘About deeds which remove sins.’ He said: ‘And what are they?’ I said: ‘The footsteps to the congregational prayers, sitting in the mosques after the prayers, doing proper ablution even in difficulties.‘ He said: ‘Then what else?’ I said: ‘Feeding food to others, being lenient in speech, and prayer during the night while the people are sleeping.’
He said: ‘Ask.’ I said: ‘O Allah! I ask of you the doing of the good deeds, avoiding the evil deeds, love of the poor, and that You forgive me, and have mercy upon me. And when You have willed tribulations among the people, then take me [in death] without the tribulation. And I ask You for Your love, the love of whomever You love, and the love of the deeds that bring one nearer to Your love.'” Then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Indeed it is true, so study it and learn it.”
(Tirmidhi; Sh. Al-Albani graded it saheeh in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi (3235))
This hadith points out some specific deeds which cause sins to be forgiven. In it, we learn that the Prophet (ﷺ) was delayed for Fajr prayer one day and he explained to his companions the reasoning behind it after quickly leading them in prayer. This shows that he had something important to share because his usual habit was that he would make the Fajr prayer long.
Then the Prophet (ﷺ) explained that the previous night He saw Allah in a dream while dozing off to sleep after his usual night prayer and described to us the conversation he had with his Lord. Let’s examine the conversation he had with his Lord:
“What do the most exalted group dispute about”
This is in reference to the the high ranking angels that are close to Allah and the topic of their discussion. Allah asked this question three times to show its importance. Then the Prophet (ﷺ) mentions that Allah disclosed to him everything when He placed His Palm between his shoulders and he sensed the coolness of His Fingertips between his breast. There is mention here of some of the Attributes of Allah and we leave them as they are without explaining them, denying them, nor likening them to His creation. After this incident, he knew the answer to the question that was posed to him.
“About deeds which remove sins”
This is the response to the question that was posed to him. This is what those high ranking angels are busy discussing among themselves. These are those acts of worship by which Allah forgives sins and removes them from the person. Then the Prophet (ﷺ) is asked to list such deeds.
“Footsteps to the congregational prayers”
This is in reference doing congregational prayers in the mosque. It is reported in another hadith that every step a person takes to the mosque raises his rank and removes a sin until he enters the mosque.
“Sitting in the mosques after the prayers”
This means waiting for the next prayer after one prayer. For example, a person comes to the mosque to pray Dhur in congregation and then remains there after it waiting for ‘Asr.
“Doing proper ablution even in difficulties”
This means that the person properly and fully washes the limbs during ablution even in difficult circumstances, such as, when the water and the weather are very cold. This is because the person in such situations struggles against himself in order to properly worship Allah.
“Feeding food to others”
Meaning those in need and the poor. We can also include in this feeding guests and being hospitable towards others.
“Being lenient in speech”
Meaning being gentle towards others not just in our words but also through our actions.
“Prayer during the night while the people are sleeping”
This is in reference to the night prayer (Tahajjud).
“Love of the poor”
It is said that what is meant by the poor here is the one whose heart is submissive to Allah humbling itself to Him and fearing Him. This is because the poor do not possess much from this world which obligates them to love for its sake. They love only for the sake of Allah. Loving the people of faith and those who are obedient to Allah brings one closer to doing the same types of deeds.
“When you have willed tribulations among the people then take me [in death] without the tribulation”
Meaning of tribulations here is in reference to misguidance and worldly punishment. He is asking Allah to not be included among those who will be misguided or suffer worldly punishment.
“Indeed it is true, so study it and learn it”
Meaning the dream that he had was true, therefore, memorize the instructions and supplications that were given in it.