The question that should preoccupy the thinking of every Muslim is how Allah can guide him or her to enter Paradise. The issue referred to in the question is part of the Unseen or ghayb. There is no room in Islam to know such matters related to the Unseen except through revelation or wahy that is proven to be from Allah on the lips of His Messenger.
Thus, let us exert more efforts in pleasing our Lord so that He Almighty guides us to enter Paradise with His Grace.
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states the following: First: Paradise does not have only one gate, rather it has many gates. Allah Almighty says: “And those who kept their duty to their Lord (al-muttaqun—the pious) will be led to Paradise in groups till when they reach it, and its gates will be opened (before their arrival for their reception) and its keepers will say: Salamun `alaykum (peace be upon you)! You have done well, so enter here to abide therein.” (Az-Zumar: 73)
There is also evidence narrated in the Sunnah which points to the number of these gates. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “In Paradise there are eight gates, among which is a gate called Ar-Rayyan, through which no one will enter except those who fast” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 3257; Muslim, 1125). This hadith indicates that the number of gates is eight.
Second: There are some reports that speak of what is written on the gates of Paradise. The strongest report that we have found is the one narrated by At-Tabarani and Al-Bayhaqi from Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “A man entered Paradise and saw written on its gate ‘Charity receives a tenfold reward and a loan an eighteen-fold reward.’”
Although some scholars were inclined to accept the attribution of this hadith to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), others—including Ibn Al-Jawzi, Al-`Iraqi, Al-Manawi, and others—classed it as da`eef (weak), because the narrators who transmitted it from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) include a narrator who is very weak.
There is another report that says: “Written on the gates of Paradise is: ‘Laa ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah, `Ali akhu Rasul Allah’ (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, `Ali is the brother of the Messenger of Allah). This was written two thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth.”
But this is a false report that cannot be attributed to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). (See As-Silsilah Ad-Da`eefah, vol. 10, no. 4901)
We should also note that anything speaking about this topic or similar topics that have to do with Paradise, Hell or other matters of the Unseen cannot be accepted as correct unless it is based on revelation or wahy that is proven to be from Allah, on the lips of His Messenger.
And we have to ask ourselves, what is the practical benefit of knowing such things? What good things will we be missing out on if we do not know this?
The question that we should really be asking is: How can we get to those gates? How can they be opened for us? How can we enter them?
This is the decisive question that people should concern themselves with.
In truth, there is only one way to reach Paradise: the straight path in which there is no crookedness. Allah Almighty says: “And verily, this is My straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His path. This He has ordained for you that you may become the pious.” (Al-An`am :153)
The first step on that straight path is believing that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, believing that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is a Prophet and Messenger from Allah. This is the matter concerning which Allah took the covenant and pledge from the Prophets before they were sent. Allah Almighty says: “And (remember) when Allah took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: ‘Take whatever I gave you from the Book and hikmah (understanding of the Laws of Allah), and afterwards there will come to you a Messenger (Muhammad) confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him.’ Allah said: ‘Do you agree (to it) and will you take up My Covenant (which I conclude with you)?’ They said: ‘We agree.’ He said: ‘Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this).’” (Aal `Imran: 81)
Allah called all of those who were given a Book before him to believe in this final Prophet and His plain Book. Allah Almighty says: “O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Now has come to you Our Messenger (Muhammad) explaining to you much of that which you used to hide from the Scripture and pass over (i.e., leaving out without explaining) much. Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a light (Prophet Muhammad) and a plain Book (this Qur’an). Wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to the Straight Way (Islamic Monotheism)” (Al-Ma’idah: 15-16).
Allah tells us that His proof is established against the People of the Book and others by means of this final Prophet. Allah says: “O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Now has come to you Our Messenger (Muhammad) making (things) clear unto you, after a break in (the series of) Messengers, lest you say: ‘There came unto us no bringer of glad tidings and no warner.’ But now has come unto you a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And Allah is Able to do all things” (Al-Ma’idah: 19). After he has come, none can enter Paradise unless they follow him and obey him.
It was narrated that Jaabir ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Some angels came to the Prophet while he was sleeping. Some of them said, “He is sleeping.” Others said, “His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” Then they said, “There is an example for this companion of yours.” One of them said, “Then set forth an example for him.” Then they said, “His example is that of a man who has built a house and then offered therein a banquet and sent a messenger to invite the people. So whoever accepted the invitation of the messenger, entered the house and ate of the banquet, and whoever did not accept the invitation of the messenger, did not enter the house, nor did he eat of the banquet.” Then the angels said, “Explain this example to him so that he may understand it.” And then they said, “The house stands for Paradise and the caller is Muhammad; and whoever obeys Muhammad, obeys Allah; and whoever disobeys Muhammad, disobeys Allah. Muhammad separated the people (i.e., through his message, the good are distinguished from the bad and the believers from the disbelievers).” (Al-Bukhari, 2861)
According to a report narrated by Ad-Darimi: Rabee`ah Al-Jurashi said: Some (angels) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and it was said to him: “Let your eyes sleep and let your ears hear and let your heart understand.” He said: “My eyes slept but my ears heard and my heart understood. It was said to me: ‘A master built a house, then he prepared a banquet and sent a caller (to invite people). Whoever responded to the caller entered the house and ate of the banquet and the master was pleased with him, and whoever did not respond to the caller did not enter the house or eat of the banquet, and the master was angry with him.’ Allah is the master, Muhammad is the caller, the house is Islam, and the banquet is Paradise.” (Sunan Ad-Darimi, 11)