Let’s do an exercise. Pause and think about the most pious person you know of. Think about the good that they do, the devoutness in their worship, the unfailing motivation they’re blessed with.. What comes to mind when you think of their result in the Hereafter? Hold that thought.
Now think of a person who’s the least practicing in your circle. The person who struggles with the daily prayers, the one who can barely read Quran, the one who has ‘issues’ with his/her faith. What do you think about their result? And stop right there!
Did you instantly brand the first one as Jannati and the other one Jahannami? If yes, know that you can be completely wrong. The first one can end up in Hell despite all their good and worship. And it’s because of the following hadith:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 147 :
Narrated by Sahl bin Sad As-Sa’idi (radiallaahu `anhu)
Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) and the pagans faced each other and started fighting. When Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) returned to his camp and when the pagans returned to their camp, somebody talked about a man amongst the companions of Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) who would follow and kill with his sword any pagan going alone. He said, “Nobody did his job (i.e. fighting) so properly today as that man.” Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, “Indeed, he is amongst the people of the (Hell) Fire.” A man amongst the people said, “I shall accompany him (to watch what he does)” Thus he accompanied him, and wherever he stood, he would stand with him, and wherever he ran, he would run with him. Then the (brave) man got wounded seriously and he decided to bring about his death quickly. He planted the blade of the sword in the ground directing its sharp end towards his chest between his two breasts. Then he leaned on the sword and killed himself. The other man came to Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) and said, “I testify that you are Allah’s Apostle.” The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) asked, “What has happened?” He replied, “(It is about) the man whom you had described as one of the people of the (Hell) Fire. The people were greatly surprised at what you said, and I said, ‘I will find out his reality for you.’ So, I came out seeking him. He got severely wounded, and hastened to die by slanting the blade of his sword in the ground directing its sharp end towards his chest between his two breasts. Then he eased on his sword and killed himself.” when Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, “A man may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact he is from the people of the Hell) Fire, another may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Hell (Fire), while in fact he is from the people of Paradise.”
So no matter what you see in people, do not judge them based on their appearances. Always hope for the best, yes, make dua for their success in this world and the next, but never say for sure that such and such will go to Paradise and so and so to Hell. That is for Allah alone to decide. He knows the apparent and the hidden and He is the best of all judges.