Are We Letting Time Whizz Right Past Us?
Imam al-Shafi‘i remarked: ‘Time is like a sword, if you do not cut it, it will cut you.’ He also said: ‘Your soul, if it is not kept busy with the truth, it will busy you in untruths and falsehood.’1
Islam’s “masters of the heart” tell us that filling our lives with works of faith and with service to others is how blessings (barakah) of time is manifested and the journey to God made constant. The jewel in the crown of the journey, and the seeker’s weapon, is remembrance of God (dhikr).
Imam al-Ghazali (d.505H/1111CE) speaks about the need to organise our time and fill it with prayer, charity, dhikr and other award (‘litanies’, ‘regular acts of devotion’) so that our time is blessed and not squandered, and so that we are not cast adrift from the path by dragging our heels or constant procrastination. He writes:
وَلَا يَنْبَغِي أَنْ تَكُونَ اوْقَاتُكَ مُهْمَلَةً فَتَشْتَغِلَ فِي كُلِّ وَقْتٍ بِمَا اتَّفَقَ كَيْفَ اتَّفَقَ، بَلْ يَنْبَغِي أَنْ حَاسِبَ نَفْسَكَ وَتَرِبَ أَوْرَادِكَ فِي لَيْلِكَ وَنَهَارِكَ، وَتُعَيَّنَ لِكُلِّ وَقْتٍ شُغْلًا لَا تَتَعَدَّاهُ، وَلَا تُؤَثِّرُ فِيهِ سِوَاهُ فَبِذَلِكَ تَظْهَرُ بَرَكَةُ الْأَوْقَاتِ. فَأَمَّا إِذَا تَرَكْتَ نَفْسَكَ سُدًى مُهْمَلًا إِهْمَالَ الْبَهَائِمِ لَا تَدْرِي بِمَاذَا تَشْتَغِلُ فِي كُلِّ وَقْتٍ، فَيَنْقَضِي أَكْثَرُ أَوْقَاتِكَ ضَائِعًا، وَأَوْقَاتِكَ عُمْرُكَ، وَعُمْرُكَ رَأْسُ مَالِكٍ، وَعَلَيْهِ تِجَارَتُكَ، وَبِهِ وُصُولُكَ إِلَى نَعِيمِ دَارِ الْأَبَدِ نَفْيُ جِوَارِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى؛ فَكُلُّ نَفْسٍ مِنْ أَنْفَاسِكَ جَوْهَرَةٌ لَا قِيمَةَ لَهَا؛ نَ إِذْ لَا بَدَلَ لَهُ فَإِذَا فَاتَ فَلَا عَوْدَ لَهُ.
‘You should not waste your time, doing at any moment whatever chances to present itself when it presents itself. Instead, you should take stock of yourself and structure your acts of devotion during each day or night, assigning to each period of time some specific function that is kept to and is not left for something else in that time. In this way the blessing (barakah) of your time will become evident. But if you leave yourself to drift, aimlessly wandering as cattle do, not knowing what to occupy yourself with at each moment, you will squander most of your time. Your time is your life; your life is your capital through which you spiritually transact [with God] and through which you reach endless bliss in the proximity of God. Every breath you take is a priceless jewel that cannot be replaced. Once it passes, it can never be retrieved.”2
1. Cited in Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa’ (Riyadh: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1998), 239.
2. Bidayat al-Hidayah (Beirut: Dar al-Minhaj, 2004), 120.
Just to add if I may, the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam, said that of the blessings, the two which people lose out most in are free time and good health! May Allah Most High grant us tawfiq wa taysir in all our affairs.
Thank you for this reminder.
And thank you for that beautiful prophetic reminder JG.
Somthing that came to my mind & wished to share. JazakAllahu khairun for this article.
Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
“Wasting time is worse than death, because death separates you from this world whereas wasting time separates you from Allaah.”
Jazakallahu khayran for sharing that piercing wisdom. May Allah save us all for a fate worse than death.
JazakAllah kheir for this great reminder of how to use our time effectively in the service of our Lord. Yes, it is very easy to ‘drift’ and planning our spiritual path and what we want to achieve to be closer to our Creator is something we need to give high priority to. We need to realise that our worldly commitments need to become secondary to our practice of our faith. Insha Allah we can all learn from this article and improve in our race towards ‘closeness to Allah’. (Not a race against each other but a race with worldliness which we want to overtake to get closer to Allah, our ultimate goal).
You hit the nail on the head: it’s absolutely essential that we learn to make our worldly responsibilities revolve around our worship of God and practice of our faith. We were not created for ammusement, living trivial lives, the mere attainment of careers, become a tech geek, or just to marry and raise children. We were created to know, adore and worship Allah.
Just earlier a friend and I were discussing time management and dropping out of some classes.
Even in works of faith one can get overwhelmed.
Whoever managed to master time management, I take my hat off to him…( metaphorically speaking).
Routines are most certainly important, especially with one’s litanies, but finding the right balance between fulfilling the needs of others with fulfilling the needs of the self, especially spiritual needs, certainly isn’t easy.
May He grant us much needed barakah in our time and much wisdom in what to choose even when chasing the good.
Anymore tips in increasing barakah of time would be much appreciated.
Unfortunately you’re asking someone who struggles with time management himself! Wise head and tawfiq definitely needed.
Perhaps there are some gems that may be gleaned from the book, The Value of Time, by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah, rahimahullah?