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Narrated `Abdullah bin Masud:

I asked Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! What is the best deed?" He replied, "To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times." I asked, "What is next in goodness?" He replied, "To be good and dutiful to your parents." I further asked, what is next in goodness? "He replied," To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause. "I did not ask Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) anymore and if I had asked him more, he would have told me more.(Sahih Bukhari 2785)

And this hadith

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was asked, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked," What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's Cause." The questioner again asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" He replied, "To perform Hajj (Pilgrim age to Mecca) 'Mubrur, (which is accepted by Allah and is performed with the intention of seeking Allah's pleasure only and not to show off and without committing a sin and in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet. (Sahih al Bukhari 26)

The controdiction arise with the second best deed. According to Saheeh 2785 the second best deed is to be nice to your parents,about according to Sahih 26 the second best deed is to do jihad.

What is the explanation for this controdiction?

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This question "what is the best deed" was always answered depending on the situation and depending on the person asking. It wasn't meant as a scientific classification of deeds.

For example, in another hadith:

It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud that he observed. I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) which deed was the best. He (the Holy Prophet) replied:

Prayer at its appointed hour. I (again) said: Then what? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Kindness to the parents. I (again) said: Then what? He replied: Earnest endeavour (Jihad) in the cause of Allah. And I would have not ceased asking more questions but out of regard (for his feelings). [Sahih Muslim]

Another hadith:

It was narrated from Abu Umamah that he asked the Messenger of Allah: "Which deed is best?" he said: "Take to fasting, for there is nothing equal to it." [Sunan An-Nasai]

The purpose is to give advice to people according to their situation and their personalities. A person who has some elderly parents, the Prophet would emphasize the parents. A person who does not have parents, the Prophet would emphasize Jihad. A person who is more suited for fasting, the Prophet (SAW) would emphasize it more. Etc.

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  • Elaborating on the situation: Fard al-ayn Jihad takes precedence over being dutiful to your parents, whereas for Fard al-kifayah Jihad you are told to seek their permission (sunnah.com/bukhari:3004).
    – UmH
    May 15 at 4:27

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