SHAFAQNA – Question: In the age of computer gaming, smart phones, endless numbers of Apps, and Whatsapp – in other words, a world in which there has been an explosion in the amount of information we are exposed to everyday – many of us find it hard to manage our time the way we probably should be Islamically. So what does Islam say about time-wasting and making full use of one’s time?
This question is especially relevant for say, the youth who spend several hours straight every day playing computer games, or any other thing which is of no real benefit – neither for their worldly life, and more importantly, for their afterlife. So in addition to the first question, what can we say to such youths in particular in order to motivate them to make better use of their time before their youth is over?
Whether they play on Xbox or online, video game players enter fictional worlds filled with witches, elves, dragons, or war games which promote killing, hatred with a passion, racism and not to mention vulgar language, etc. Like any other industry, video game designers aim to make profit, which means they want you to play more. Thus, whether you play as a single player or online with multiplayers, your games are designed to get you addicted, because you have to either complete the mission or aim for a higher score, and hence these games will have no ending. That is why most gamers are obsessed with video games and spend far too much time playing. A teenager was referred to me by his mother for spending 17 hours every day on video gaming! I think we are soon heading towards rehab hospitals for virtual game addicts!
To treat Internet and game addiction like any other behavioural disorder, it is essential to be educated about their negative effects and then implementing a bit of will power to make a change.
Most of us are unaware of the personal and familial repercussions from computer games and social media until we are addicted and have lost our health and family.
If you feel restless or irritated when you are unable to play or attend your social media, if you are lying to friends and family members regarding the amount of time you spend playing or messaging, and if you are depressed and enjoy isolating yourself from others in order to spend more time gaming, lo and behold! You are already addicted and your health and family are at stake!
Due to the lack of education as to how and when we may use the Internet, cyber family and friends are replacing real family and friendship. Many people build relations with strangers at the cost of losing their near of kin. Imagine a man who is leaning on his couch in the dining room texting his virtual friends. He often laughs or wonders. His wife on the other side of the room tries to speak to him but he is too indulged in his virtual conversation! It is irritating, isn’t it?! As a result, her initial love turns into disliking her husband. As much as love is associated with trust, hatred begets suspicion and thus their family turmoil begins. Alternatively, this becomes a norm and the wife begins her own virtual world of family and friends.
1. Your capital is melting!
Time is the fourth required passage of existence to specify an event. The other three being spatial coordinates. Every one of us enjoys only a limited and finite units of time and hence we are all mortal beings. It is such a precious asset that the Almighty Allah takes an oath by it: “By the time.”! (The Holy Qu’ran, Surah 103)
Time is the only worldly capital that is invisible yet irreplaceable. It is the only capital from which all worldly and hereafterly capitals stem. Time is our main capital to buy our eternal abode and infinite prosperity in the hereafter. It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s): “When we wake up to every new day (or enter a night), it will be said to us: “O son of Adam! I am a new day, and I witness you, so say and do good in me to testify for you on the Resurrection Day. Surely, you shall never see me again”. (al-Kaafi vol. 2 p. 523)
How strange that when a few dollars are stolen from us we cry and complain, yet we generously hand over our life capital for video games and Internet surfing?! How strange that we grieve over the loss of a few dollars in a deal but so generously give out hours of our life?! Isn’t this strange that we don’t even treat our ‘time’ as money?! Abu-dhar asked the holy Prophet (P) about ‘time wasting’. Allah’s Messenger said: “O Abu-dhar! Be stingier on your ‘time’ than your dollars and cents.”
Sheykh Mohammad Z. Razi (died in 925AD) was an Iranian chemist and philosopher. He has written a book in ethical psychology called ‘Spiritual medicine’. In the preface of his book he says: “This book is not useful for those who do not value themselves and their life!”
Unfortunately, most of us do not value the time in our life until we lose it all. Thus, it is narrated that most of the cries of the people of Hell is ‘their regret for delaying’. Thus, one of the names of the Resurrection Day is a ‘Day of Regret’!
When I was a student I used to read short Arabic stories to improve my Arabic. The following is one of the stories I will never forget:
On a hot burning day, a man was selling blocks of ice. He was calling out: “O people! Have mercy on me whose capital is melting!” Perhaps that is why the Almighty Allah states: “By the time! Certainly man is in a manifest loss.” (Surah 103). We really do not value the time in our life.
2. Islam is the religion of time management
Islam theoretically and practically has been disciplining its adherents to manage their time. The Daily Prayer is the most significant worshipping act in Islam, yet God has allocated a fixed and limited time for it. Muslims are not expected to spend all hours of their days for praying. Fasting is another important worshipping act, yet, God has designated a special month and fixed hours to its observance. Likewise, Hajj is an obligatory pilgrimage only for limited days.
The Imams of Ahlulbayt (a.s) advised their followers to manage their time wisely. Imam Sadiq (a.s) said: “Surely an intelligent person divides his days to gain a provision for his hereafter and to make living and the third is seeking some permissible pleasure.” (al-Mahasan, 2:345)
Once an old man made an appointment to seek some knowledge from Imam Sadiq (a.s). As soon as the Imam answered his questions, the holy Imam let the person go and excused himself by saying “I am very stingy for my time, so you may leave please.”
3. Manage your time
On the Day of Judgment we will all be asked about ‘how we spent the days of our lives? It is only wise to mark yourself before being marked. Before you shut down your day, check your mobile and tablet and find out how many hours you have spent today for games and social media? Then sincerely ask yourself what did you gain in return? Did you really need to know all that you were told today?! There are many project management software you can use to manage the hours of your days. Use one of them, and next time when you want to start a game or an Internet chat, click on ‘billable meeting’! Remember even ‘Salaat’ has a fixed and limited time! Repeat to yourself several times a day ‘it is ok to turn my mobile off’. You don’t have to be available at all times.
4. Find a replacement
One of the behavioural syndromes of the ‘only child’ where both parents work is to naturally resort to games and social media. Some psychologists refer to being an only child as a ‘disease in itself’. A child who has no siblings to play with nor receives enough parental attention will naturally look for alternatives. Even at a family get together a lot of their time is spent in silence in front of a television or computer screen! Honestly, we parents are the first to be blamed. We all like to take a break from work, school, even family and children, but when was the last time you took a break from your mobile phone?!
A couple came to my office yesterday for counselling. The man was complaining that he cannot tolerate his rival! “My wife spends far more intimate time with him than me,” cried the man! I thought she was having an affair, but then I realized his rival was her mobile phone! She sleeps with it, wakes up with it, goes shopping with it, and even goes to the bathroom with it!!! Parents and couples need to take a ‘social media vacation’ and spend more time together in real activities. Social media are more of intervening agencies, causing more separation between those who live under one ceiling, yet connecting those living physically far from each other! Most people use games and social media to fill up their free time. Time management and implementing real activities for leisure kicks futile games out of your life.
5. Watch your spiritual food
The Almighty Allah states: “Then let man look at his food.” (Surah 80, Ayah 24). Any information sent to us is a kind of food we take. As many of us watch our food diet, we also need a media diet, Internet diet, and gaming diet! Make sure you are very selective of your online games and chats. Don’t let ‘others’ decide what you play and what you read. Let your intelligence and religious conscience scan them first.
6. Observe piety of media
Today you no longer need to pop into your news agency to see a porno magazine or walk in Oxford Street to see nudity. No need to go to your local RSL Club for gambling. They are all available at your fingertips and in the privacy of your smart phone! Today’s technology is yet another divine challenge to filter true Muslims from hypocrites whose Islamic speech and appearance impresses you but in their so-called privacy they are the worst creatures of God because they lack the piety of media! Before you press a button or touch your mouse remember what God says to you: “Knows he not that Allah does see (what he does).”(Surah 96, Ayah 14)
Remember we are mortal beings and usually no notice of vacancy will be given. Death suddenly falls upon us. What will happen if you die whilst playing a haram game or engaged in a haram chat?!
Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei