SHAFAQNA- Who decided time was ours to spend at our whims? How can it be that we are from God and to Him is our return, yet the time we waste is ours? Everything we have in this life is from God’s kindness and mercy and just as we have to return to God, so does the gift of time. A lack of correct allocation of time leads us to fall short in various areas of our lives – academically, professionally and in our personal relationships. Most importantly however, as the workload piles, the first thing we begin to neglect is the most important relationship we have: with God, the most Glorious.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
(I swear) by time, that surely mankind suffers loss,
except for those who believe and do good deeds,
and they enjoin Truth and they enjoin constancy.
– Surah Asr (Time)
The self-help time management advice books, websites and speakers are part of a million dollar industry as an increasing number of individuals are searching for ways to organize their time and become more productive. This is not a recent phenomenon and even educational institutions, work places and Mosques are inviting speakers to address their audiences about managing their time. The jury remains out on the effectiveness of self-help books, videos and websites that seem to offer only short-term solutions to an established chronic and universal issue. The weakness of these publications and programs stems from their focus on the individual’s success. Clearly, human beings aren’t always after their own success and need a more systematic approach towards accountability. Hence, the need for religion in our lives becomes apparent.
Islam is thus not a set of rules we must adhere to only regarding prayer and fasting, but also concerning our interaction with others, our use of time, and personal productivity. A substantial number of advice books hold merit in their own respect and should not be disregarded completely. However, it behooves us to become familiar with time-management in Islam according to the Prophets and Divinely-sent leaders because our actions should emulate their lifestyle and excellent qualities.
Time Is Not Ours to Waste
Who decided time was ours to spend at our whims? How can it be that we are from God and to Him is our return, yet the time we waste is ours? Everything we have in this life is from God’s kindness and mercy and just as we have to return to God, so does the gift of time. A lack of correct allocation of time leads us to fall short in various areas of our lives – academically, professionally and in our personal relationships. Most importantly however, as the workload piles, the first thing we begin to neglect is the most important relationship we have: with God, the most Glorious.
Lazy Towards the Hereafter
The happiest among us are those who have put effort towards building their lives around Islam, rather than building Islam around their lives. It is among Satan’s attempts to steer us away from God and our obligations as Muslims by telling us we simply don’t have time for prayer on busy days, or that it is acceptable to hasten prayers so that we can return to work. These are symptoms that unconsciously make us negligent towards the Hereafter.
There are plenty of distractions that make us lazy towards our religious and personal duties. From social networking to merit-less television programming, from harmful gossip and conversations that have absolutely no benefit to excessive sleep and procrastination, we have become proficient at wasting time. The implications of being lazy during our personal time have profound effects on our worship. Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) warns of the consequences of laziness in this world: “I hate for a man to be lazy in his worldly affairs, and whoever is lazy in his worldly affairs will be lazier in his affairs of the Hereafter.” (Al-Kafi)
If we consider that each day we are blessed with 1440 minutes, and then further examine how we put them to use we would find that rather than “not having enough time” as most of us complain, we just make a series of negative choices as to how we spend our time. The ability to put off doing small things, such as making a phone call or completing a relatively small task enables us to put off bigger and more significant actions such as reforming our worship or engaging in self-growth and development.
Organizing our Time Around Islam
It’s common for each of us to put things off for later; the to-do list slowly grows to the point that it becomes undo-able, and Satan presents us with numerous obstacles and excuses. However, we can look at Islam’s principles concerning ethics and self development and gain advice and key steps that will keep us away from the lazy lure, allowing us instead to become more effective Muslims and individuals.
1. Plan Ahead and Divide Up Your Day: It’s important to maintain consistency in our lives, and we can look to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) for the perfect example in how to do so! The Holy Prophet stated, “I have divided my time into three equal parts – one part for worship, one for my family affairs, and the last part I have further divided into two, one for social engagements and one for rest.”
2. Count Your Prayers: It’s important to plan our day around our five daily prayers and not vice versa. The Holy Prophet said, “Prayer (Salat) is the first deed for which men will be called to account.” (Nahjul Fasahah) In Imam Khomeini’s Adab al-Salat, the significance of prayer is further reiterated: “The first thing about which the servant is questioned is the Salat; if it was accepted his other (worshipping) acts would be accepted, and if it was returned to him, his other acts would be returned to him (too).” We all know that a busy life makes prayer harder, but how often do we remember, if at all, that our prayers will make a busy life easier? Set your alarm or laptop to alert you when it is time for prayer. If you’re on the go, make sure you have the prayer times written down for the day. A great resource is PrayTime, and if you have an iPhone, be sure to install the application alQibla!
3. Watch Your Promises: It’s important to know our limits, and everyone has a different point at which they can’t do more. Naturally, when others ask us for favors, we wish to help them out and while this admirable, it can also cause a dent in our daily or weekly plan. The Imams have spoken extensively about keeping promises and the negative effects of breaking a promise. If you simply cannot have a task done in the time frame someone is requesting, politely let them know rather than disappointing them and placing yourself under more stress. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) says, “Do not make a promise that you are not confident of fulfilling.” (Ghurar al-Hikam)
4. Where Does Your Time Go? It’s important to look at and criticize where our time goes every day. Each person has a different level of productivity and efficiency. Make a list of the biggest time wasters for you and think of creative ways to eliminate them. One avenue to consider is technology; although created to make us more efficient, technology has also become a substantial distraction in our lives.
Upon reading the many self-help books concerning greater time management, one will discover that the “tips” are actually very Islamic in nature. They seek to help individuals become more balanced physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. Islam has, from its advent, sought to allow human beings to reach their maximum capability while reminding them of their obligation to God, their fellow human beings and of course, to themselves.