(i) Evidence that Paradise has various levels and its inhabitants will be in different categories

Paradise consists of levels, some of which are above others, and its people will be of differing levels and categories according to their position in Paradise. Allah (swt) says:

“Whoever wishes for the quick passing [transitory enjoyment of this world] we readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein disgraced and rejected, [-far away from Allah’s Mercy]. And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due to it, [ i.e. righteous deeds of obedience to Allah] while he is a believer [in tawheed] then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated, thanked and rewarded [by Allah]. To each – these as well as those – We bestow from the bounties of your Rabb. And the bounties of your Rabb can never be forbidden” [17:18-20]

Allah (swt) explains how He gives more of His bounty in this world or the next, as He (swt) wills, and His Bounty is not withheld [forbidden] from either the righteous or the sinful. Then He (swt) says:

“See how We prefer one above another [in this world] and verily, the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preference.” [17:21]

Allah (swt) explains that the differences between people in the Hereafter will be greater than the differences between them in this life, and the difference between the levels or ranks of the Hereafter is greater than the differences here in this life. Allah (swt) also differentiates between His Prophets as He does between the rest of His believing slaves. Allah (swt) says:

“Those Messengers! We preferred some to others; to some of them Allah spoke [directly]; others He raised to degrees of [honour]; and to ‘Eesa the son of Maryam, We gave clear proofs and evidence, and supported him with Ruh al-Quddus [Jibreel]…” [2:253]

and “…And indeed We have preferred some of the Prophets above others..” [17:55]

Muslim reports from Abu Hurayrah (ra) that the Prophet (saw) said “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah (swt) than a weak one although both are good…” and al-Bukhaari and Muslim report from Abu Hurayrah and ‘Amr ibn al-Aas that the Prophet (saw) said, “If a judge seeks to form an independent judgement [ijtihaad] and is correct, he will have two rewards; if he seeks to form an independent judgement and is wrong, he will have one reward.”

Allah, subhaanahu wa ta’ala, says: “Not equal among you are those who spent and fought before the conquest [of Makkah] [with those among you who did so later]. Such are higher in degree that those who spent and fought afterwards. But to all, Allah has promised the best [reward].” [57:10]

And “Not equal are those of the believers who sit [at home] except those who are disabled [by injury or are blind or lame, etc] and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit [at home]. Unto each, Allah has promised good [Paradise] but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit [at home] by a huge reward; degrees of [higher] grades from Him, and Forgiveness and Mercy. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, All-Merciful”. [4:95-96]

“Do you consider the providing of drinking water to the pilgrims and the maintenance of al-Masjid al-Haram [at Makkah] as equal to the worth of those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah? They are not equal before Allah. And Allah guides not those people who are the Dhaalimoon. Those who believed and emigrated and strove hard and fought in Allah’s Cause with their wealth and their lives are far higher in degree with Allah. They are the successful. Their Rabb gives them glad tidings of a Mercy from Him, and that He is pleased and of Gardens for them wherein are everlasting delights. They will dwell therein forever. Verily, with Allah is a great reward”. [9:19-22]

“Is one who is obedient to Allah prostrating himself or standing [in prayer]during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Rabb [like one who disbelievers]? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember [ i.e. learn a lesson from Allah’s Signs]” [39:9]

The Prophet (saw) said, narrated by al-Bukhaari from Abu Hurayrah, “… Paradise has one hundred levels which Allah has reserved for the mujaahideen who fight in His Cause and the distance between each of the two grades is like the distance between the heavens and the earth. So when you ask Allah for something, ask for al-Firdaws which is the best and highest part of Paradise. Above it is the throne of the Most Merciful, and from it originate the rivers of Paradise”. [al-Bukhaari in as-Saheeh, Kitaab al-Jihaad, Baab Darajat al-Mujaahideen fi Sabeelillaah, Fath al-Baari, 6/11]

al-Bukhaari also reports from Anas that Umm Harithah came to the Prophet (saw) when her son Harithah had been martyred at Badr, killed by an arrow. She said, “O Messenger of Allah, you know how dear Harithah was to my heart. If he is in Paradise, I will not weep over him, but if he is not there, you will see what I do”. He said, “Is there only one Paradise? There are many Paradises and he is in al-Firdaws, the Highest.” [Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab ar-Riqaaq, Baab Sifaat al-Jannah, wan-Naar, Fath al-Baari, 11/418]