What do you when a year comes to an end? Do you sit back and reflect on the year gone by, pondering over your achievements and failures, or are you too excited for the next year that you can’t delve over the past? This is the most common behavior at the start of a new year. While some people love to reflect on their days gone by others could not care less. There is, however, some goodness in both the attitudes. Reflecting on your past allows learning from your mistakes and getting a better grip over your life. Looking forward, on the other hand, enables you to let go of your past and not get stuck in there which is a constant battle for some people.
The fact remains that the time is fleeting. It is ephemeral and will keep on passing until you reach the last day of your life. Imagine, someone giving you a million dollars and giving you freewill to spend it as it may please you. What are you going to do with this sum? Go on a shopping spree and shop till you drop? Or book a luxury cruise and journey around the world? A prudent mind would be careful with its spending. Someone will deposit it in a bank and take only as much as is needed. Someone will invest it in a profitable business and enjoy the profits. Someone will donate some of the money for a welfare project and use the remaining amount for personal use. Someone else, a generous soul, would also share it with his kin along with picking one of the above options.
Replace one million dollars with your time. What will you do now? Or rather, what are you doing with your time right now? While we treasure our material resources we are not as careful about our time which is our most precious resource. Time is fleeting as the snow melts in warm weather.
In the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala swears by time and informs us that mankind is in loss. Only those are safe who are believers and do righteous deeds. Their goodness does not end at themselves but they also advise each other to truth and patience. Here comes the concept of “you are known by the company you keep”. If your friends are such who are impatient in their behavior and casual with their time then you too will be someone who is short-tempered, edgy and careless. If your friends are those who are distant from the religion and not even careful about the obligations then you too will be someone who compromises on his religion. On the contrary, if you are someone who has understood the reality of this life and the purpose of your existence you will neither give in to the treachery of Satan nor allow your time to pass in futile activities. You will be particular about your obligations and also encourage your friends to honor their responsibilities. You will be extra careful in your manners, in your speech and with your time. Therefore, Islam instructs you to look after one another and to be conscious of those you befriend.
Health and time are two blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that one does not take benefit from while they are available. Ask someone who is terminally ill, what do they regret the most? They will say: the tasks that they left unattended. Ask an elderly person whose knees have become weak and can no more sit down to pray. They will tell you they miss resting their forehead on the prayer rug in prostration. And yet, the healthy ones take this ability (and blessing) for granted. Married sisters with children will complain of not finding enough time to offer their prayers with humility and concentration. Stealing a few spare moments to recite some portion of the Qur’an in itself becomes a challenge for them.
The famous five questions about time, youth, wealth and knowledge is a criterion enough to keep us on guard. The first caliph, Abu Bakr Siddeeq radhiAllahu ‘anhu, would ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to not make him of those who are careless of time. Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu would ask for blessing in his time so that he could do more in little time. And this is what his life portrays. He was able to use his time for beneficial tasks only.
How can one know whether they are using their time correctly or not? This is best explained by Junaid al-Baghdadi. He said,
There is no substitute for time that it can be traded with. Lost time is gone forever. Once someone was asked to sit down and have a chat. He replied, “Can you please ask the sun to stop as well so we can chat?” That’s a powerful statement!
This, however, does not mean that one should not talk to people. What matters is the theme of your conversation and the time spent on it. For some people, their daily tasks revolve around their religious obligations. Others, on the other hand, will give the leftover time from their routine chores to religious obligations. They will come to the prayer rug exhausted and tired considering it an obligation and not a delight that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam enjoyed. Some will spend hours on phone sharing their troubles and worries with their families and friends but they will offer their prayers as quick as they can often skipping the du’a at the end. Friends and families can only listen to your worries but cannot always help you. It is Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala who can listen to your concerns and bring you relief. Talking to people sometimes makes them agitated whereas talking to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala increases your ranks with Him. Going around people, calling one person to another hoping someone would hear them out frustrates people. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is waiting for you to break down and pour out your concerns to Him. He listens to you, guides you in your matters and brings you relief keeping all your private matters secret. However, we want to give all our time, attention and energies to people.
Giving time to people on idle chit chat is wasted; giving time to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala on the other hand is being deposited with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The profit that you would have had earned on that time would be given to you when you meet Him. When Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam met Prophet Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam on the night of Isra, Prophet Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam said,
“O Muhammad! Convey my salaam to your Ummah and inform them that Paradise has an excellent soil and sweet water, and is an even plain. Its trees are subhanAllahi wal-humdulillahi wala illa illalahu walahu akbar (Glorified be Allah and praise be to Allah and there is no God but Allah, and Allah is the Greatest).”
Engage in remembrance of your Lord and adorn your space in Paradise. Again, this does not mean leaving everything else aside rather the beauty of Islam is that its pillars teach discipline.
The five daily prayers, for example, teach the discipline to manage your time. If one begins their day from tahajjud prayer they can achieve more and much calmly than starting their day in the late morning. Your prayers will be on time, your daily recitation of the Qur’an and words of remembrance will be regular and you will feel contentment in your heart.
If the time is fleeting, can one take control of it? Of course, they can. Some people carry books with them while commuting or waiting at the doctor’s office. Others play with their phones and exchange text messages. It all comes down to priorities and disciplining one’s self.
- List down your goals for this year. Before you proceed, ask yourself if they are achievable. Do not plan to fail by setting too high standards. Begin slow and small. Go for the S.M.AR.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals.
- Briefly outline the steps that you will take to achieve them. If you intend to memorize the Qur’an, how are you going to begin? Look at the examples of people who have already achieved this goal. Most people begin from the 30th Juz. The Surahs in it are brief and hence easy to memorize. As you memorize some portion of the Qur’an, in sha Allah, it will encourage you to learn some more. Ask yourself if you should stop here or proceed to the understanding of the meaning of the Qur’an? Some people begin with the Hifdh first and then study the exegesis others start with understanding the Qur’an. Which exegesis will you pick? Which is the most authentic one?
As you begin to brainstorm, your mind will show you ways to achieve your goal. Do you have a role model or a mentor? Is there someone who inspires you in religion as well as worldly life? Can you show them your goals and steps? Consult them for advice.
- Before going to bed write down your tasks for the next day. When you wake up in the morning go to your list and see where you need to start from.
- Make short and restricted shopping trips. Do not keep going from one shop to another or one market to another finding something for a better price. Often while looking for a better price we compromise on our time. Buy what is needed and return home. You will not only save your precious time but also Halal-earned money.
- Keep your meals simple. Simple meals mean less cooking, less cleaning and eventually more time for meaningful things.
- Quit television and use your time productively. Learn a skill, work on it and perfect it. Most people like to slouch on the couch in front of the television set to unwind their stress being unaware of what it is doing to their brains. Instead, read a book or listen to a lecture for a good night’s sleep.
- Follow routines. After starting a planned week following the steps outlined above do not return to your old self on the weekends. Your time is still fleeting. Take charge of it. Sleep early, wake up early and follow your routine.
Make a great deal of du’a and always ask yourself whether what you are doing right now will bring you closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Paradise, or distance further away? This one question can remove a lot of distractions and obstacles from our life, including our great enemy Shaytan. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala allow each one of us to use our time productively in doing that which pleases Him, aameen.
One of our admins’ article published in the Intellect magazine.