Regrets & Missed Opportunities
Here are some brief words from Imam Ibn al-Qayyim about missed opportunities and squandering benefits. The Qur’an says: Say: ‘Shall We tell you whose works will bring the greatest loss?’ Those who efforts have been wasted in the life of this world whilst thinking they were doing good. [18:103-4] There are people whose smug self-righteousness is so ingrained that they go through life spreading corruption; campaigning to alter clear-cut religious precepts; or making a show of their piety – imagining all the while that they are acquiring virtue. Ultimately, such people shall suffer the worst of regrets. For their labours yield no real benefits and are emptied of God’s purpose for them. ‘Of all the words of mice and men,’ wrote an American novelist and satirist, ‘the saddest are, “It might have been.”’
Ibn al-Qayyim lists ten matters that he wishes us to meditate over, so as not to be of those who are ridden with regrets in the Afterlife, forever mumbling to ourselves: ‘It might have been!’ He writes:
‘Ten things which, if lossed, have no benefit:
 Knowledge that isn’t acted upon.
 Works of faith that are bereft of sincerity [to God] or conformity [to the shari‘ah].
 Wealth from which nothing is spent; so neither is joy gained by hoarding it, nor is it sent on ahead to the Afterlife.
 A heart empty of God’s love, yearning for Him, and intimacy with Him.
 A body devoid of obedience and service to Him.
 A love that doesn’t confine itself to the Beloved’s pleasure, nor does it comply with His commands.
 A moment of time not used to rectify one’s remissness, or seized to do good works and draw closer to God.
 A thought that dwells on what isn’t beneficial.
 Serving someone whose service doesn’t bring you closer to God nor does it rectify your worldly affairs.
 Your fear of, or hope in, someone whose forelock is in God’s hand, and is himself a captive in the divine grasp: possessing no power to bring about harm, benefit, death, life or resurrection.
The greatest of these losses, and it is the real root of all losses, are two things: wasting the heart, and squandering time. The heart is wasted when the world is given priority over the Afterlife; time is squandered by procrastination. Corruption stems entirely from following caprice and procrastination: rectification stems from following right guidance and preparing for the Encounter.’1
1. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2009), 162.