Question: A hadith says, "In Ramadan, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed." What is meant by "The gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed"? When one does a good deed, it is said, "You opened the gate of Paradise." Is the gate of Paradise closed and do we open it?
We do not open it. It is opened according to our deeds. The gates of Paradise are opened to those who believe and do good deeds. As for disbelievers, the gates of Hell are opened to them. Saying to a Muslim "You have opened the gate of Paradise" means "You have done a deed that will bring about your entering Paradise. You have become worthy of admission to Paradise."
Such kinds of hadith-i sharifs that encourage people and give them glad tidings are for Muslims with correct faith. Disbelievers cannot enter Paradise whatever they do unless they convert to Islam.
When are the gates of Paradise opened? That is, when does a person deserve to enter Paradise? What deeds lead us to Paradise? Some pertinent hadith-i sharifs are as follows:
(The gates of Hell will be closed to him who fasts for seven days in the month of Rajab. The eight gates of Paradise will be opened to him who fasts for eight days.) [Tabarani] (It states that a person who fasts on these days is deserving of entering Paradise.)
(The gates of Paradise will be opened to him who stands for salat.) [Tabarani] (It states that a person who performs salat is deserving of entering Paradise.)
(The gates of Paradise are opened on Fridays, Mondays, and Thursdays.) [Muslim] (It recommends that people should perform more acts of worship on these days.)
(The eight gates of Paradise will be opened to him who, while performing a perfect ablution by starting it with the Basmala, says the Word of Testimony when washing each limb and "Allahumma aj'alni minat-tawwabina waj'alni minal mutatahhirin" after completing the ablution. He enters it by whichever of them he wishes.) [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Hakim] (It states that an ablution that has been performed by observing its sunnat and mustahab actions and by saying the certain prayers prescribed can take a person to Paradise.)
(A gate in Paradise will be opened to him who leaves his home to learn knowledge.) [Ibn 'Asakir] (It states that those who learn knowledge that is compatible with our religion to make themselves useful to Muslims are deserving of entering Paradise.)
(Two gates will be opened from Paradise to a person who reaches the morning in obedience to his parents for the pleasure of Allah. If one of his parents is alive, then one gate will be opened.) [Ibn 'Asakir] (A Muslim child who earns the pleasure of his/her parents compatibly with our religion is deserving of entering Paradise.)
(All the gates of Paradise will be opened to him who performs five daily prayers, who fasts in Ramadan, who gives the zakat, and who abstains from seven major sins. It will be said to him, "Enter it peacefully and safely.") [Nasai] (It states that a Muslim who performs what is commanded and who abstains from what is prohibited is deserving of entering Paradise.)
(The Ha-Mims [Qur'anic chapters beginning with Ha-Mim] are seven. The gates of Hell are seven, too. Each will come before each gate of Hell and will say, "O my Lord! Do not allow anyone who believed in me and who read me to enter by this door.") [Bayhaqi] (It states that those who read the mentioned Qur'anic verses are deserving of going into Paradise.)
(Be truthful! Truthfulness is one gate from the gates of Paradise. Beware of lying. Lying is one gate from the gates of Hell.) [Hatib] (It states that truthful people are deserving of going into Paradise while liars are deserving of going into Hell. Such statements are of the kind dhik-ul juz iradat-ul kul. That is, a part of an issue is said but the whole of it is meant. A disbeliever, too, may tell the truth, but a disbeliever cannot go into Paradise, even if he/she tells the truth. On the other hand, a Muslim will definitely enter Paradise at last, even if he/she lies.)