Managing the Gift of Time

It is very common to hear people say things like "Let’s go and play to while away time". Or "We chatted for hours while waiting for the cook to finish preparing the dinner”. This is especially common among the youths.

On the other hand, you hear some people make statements like "Time is money""I don't have any time to waste". Some even say "Time is gold". But the reality is that time is much more valuable than whatever these two sets of people perceive it to be. This is both from an Islamic point of view and even from the point of view of our mundane lives.

The Importance of Time.

Allaah in several verses of the Qur'an made reference to time. In many of those verses, he actually swore by it. As matter of fact, a particular chapter of the Qur'an was named Time (Surah Al-'Asr). The following are examples of such verses; Allaah says:

"By (the Token of time (through the ages). Verily man is in a state of loss" (Q103:1-2).

Allaah also says:

"By the night as envelopes. By the day as it appears in brightness." (Q92:1-2).

He also says:

"By the forenoon (after sunrise). By the night when it darkens" (Q93: 1-2).

The scholars of the religion explain that whenever Allaah swears by any of his creatures He is attracting our attention to it and pointing to us its benefit and significance. This is the case with Time.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in many of his ahadith also stressed the importance of time. He said;

"Allaah said, 'The offspring of Adam abuse the Dahr (Time), and I am the Dahr; in My Hands are the night and the day!", (Bukhari).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said:

"Health and leisure time are two blessings on which a lot of people are losers"(Bukhari).

He also said:

Grab five things before five others: your youth before your old age, your health before illness, your wealth before your poverty, your leisure before your work, and your life before your death." (Al-Hakim)

All the verses and ahadith quoted points to the fact that time is something that is very important in the lives of people in general, and more especially, in the lives of the Muslims. It also clearly point out that we should manage our time and not waste it.

What is Time Management?

In what can be said to be one of the best definition of Time management ibn Al-Qayyim said:

"It is doing what ought to be done at the right time"(Madarij As-Saalikeen).

We all know that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the example for us as Muslims, let us see how he spent his time and he advised us to spend it.

Time in the Prophet’s Actions and Sayings.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was the most careful about his time. Never did he spend any time without doing something for the sake of Allaah, or something necessary for bettering his own life. Describing the Prophet's dealing with time, Ali ibn Abi Talib said:

"When he gets home, he divides his time into three portions: one for Allaah, one for his family and one for himself. And he divides his portion between himself and the people (At-Tabarani)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) committed himself to filling his time with worship and remembrance of Allaah. According to 'Aisha (RAH), he used to wake up during the night and pray so much that his feet became swollen. She told him:

"Why are you doing all of these even though Allaah has already forgiven all your sins, past and future ones? He replied:

"Shouldn’t I be a grateful servant?"

"When he became too tired," added Aisha, "he prayed in the sitting position, and when he wanted to do Ruku', he stood up, read, then did the Ruku". (Bukhari)

Allocating and Organizing Time.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught his companions and the Muslims in general, to organize their time and utilize it for worthy matters in public and private matters.

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn AI- 'As reported that "The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came in and said to me:

"Is it true that you stay up all night praying, and fast all day?" I replied 'Yes'. He said, “Do not do that. Wake up and pray during the night and sleep, and fast and break your fast. Your body has right over you, your eyes rights over you and your wife has right over you "(Bukhari)

What this means is that, even though Muslims are supposed to spend most of their time in the worship of Allaah, we ought to divide the time in order to give those rights without infringing on any of them.

Rest and Recreation

When organizing time, there should be some time for rest and recreation, for one becomes bored in prolonged seriousness, and hearts, like bodies, becomes bored too. Therefore, some fun and recreational activities of the permissible type are necessary.

According to Hanzalah (RA), he went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: "O Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), Hanzalah has become a hypocrite?" Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) asked: what is the matter?" I answered: "O Allaah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when we are with you as you remind us of Heaven and Hell we feel as if we see them with our own eyes. However, when we leave you, we become involved with our wives, children and gardens, so we forget a lot."

Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) replied:

"By the one in whose hand is my soul is, if you continued the way you were with me, the angels would be shaking hands with you in your beds and streets, but o Hanzalah time (for this) and time (for that). He said it three times. (Muslim)

Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to teach his Companions that the heart can become bored and tired and it changes. Therefore, it ought to be looked after and entertained from time to, time, but by means of what Allaah is allowed.

Utilize Your Time, Don’t Waste It.

One of the most well-Known Hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) calling for grabbing the opportunity for investing time is the one related by ibn Abbas in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Grab five things before five others your youth before old age, your health before your illness, your wealth before your poverty, your leisure before work and your life before your death.” ( al-Hakim).

This hadith though brief is very comprehensive and loaded with meaning. It points out the importance of time and the initiative to invest it, together with the importance of using the power of the youth stage and leisure time in fruitful good work. It also warns against five obstacles that prevent proper utilization of time.

Time as A Vehicle for Worship.

In Islam, the daily prayers, fasting and pilgrimage, as well as other forms of worship, have fixed times within which they have to be performed. If not performed within the prescribed time, some of those acts of worship are not valid. The right time is a condition for their validity.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) usually urged Muslims to perform such acts of worship within the specified time. When asked about the best action, he replied:

"(The compulsory) prayers at their earliest time.” (Tirmidhi)

About fasting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Start your fast when you sight it (the, Ramadan crescent), and end your fasting when you sight it (Shawwal crescent). "(Bukhari)

Urging Muslims to wake up during the night for Allaah's remembrance the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)said:

"Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: 'Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to his invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there' anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?"(Bukhari)

Also urging Muslims to take the opportunity of the first ten days of Dhul-Hijja for doing good deeds, the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) said:

 "No good deeds done on other days are superior to those done on these (first ten days of Dhul Hijja)."

Then some Companions of the Prophet (peace-and blessings be upon him) said, "Not even Jihad?" He replied:

"Not even Jihad, except that of a man who does it by putting himself and his property in danger (for Allah's sake) and does not return with any of those things." (Bukhari)

Time as a Great Blessing.

Time is a blessing from Allaah, and people are instructed to preserve it and are held responsible for it. On the authority of ibn Abbas, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Health and leisure time are two blessings on which a lot of people are cheated" (Bukhari).

According to ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani:

"the hadith implies that only a few benefit from those blessings. For example, some people are wealthy, but are not occupied with their living. Others want to be rich, but are not healthy enough to work for it. If they do not have the health or the desire to seek wealth, they are absolute losers".

Such losers are compared to one who buys at a price much higher than that of the price market, but sells at a price much lower.

Ibn Hajar also said in the commentary of the above hadith that:

"The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) compares the case of the Muslims religious responsibilities to those of a businessman who invested some money in a trade. He wants to make profit and keep his original capital secure. To achieve his objectives, he has to be sure of whom he trades with, has to prove himself trustworthy and has to be clever enough to avoid being an absolute loser. Similarly, the Muslim's capital is health and time, and in his business with Allaah, he has to trust him completely, resist his own temptations as well as Shaytan's so that he can gain the benefits of this world and the Hereafter." (Fat-hul bari fi Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Time Wasters.

There are a lot of things that people do today that constitutes waste of time. We should try as much as possible to stay away from them. Here are some of them.

1. Disbelief: The greatest of time wasters is disbelief in Allaah. Allaah says:

"Say (o Muhammad) "Shall we tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they are acquiring good by their deeds. They are those who deny the Ayat of their Lord and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign no weight for them." (Q18:103-105)

2. Performing acts that are not sanctioned: This in other words is Bid'ah. It is very common to find people doing things which they are neither commanded by Allaah, nor the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), all in the name of getting closer to Allaah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)said:

"Whoever introduces something to this affair of ours will have it rejected." (Muslim).

This means that all that they did is wasted as well the time invested in such deeds.

3. Procrastination: Because of the illusion that we have ample time on our hands, we tend to postpone a lot of things that we are supposed to do immediately. An example is the case of someone who has an assignment to do but feels he has some more time. By the time the person will eventually settle down to the work, he may be occupied with something more pressing. Allaah says about procrastination:

"And spend (in charity) of that which We have provided you before death comes to 0l1eof you; and he says: My Lord! If only you would give me respite for a little while (i.e. return to the worldly life), then I should give Sadaqah (i.e. Zakat) of my wealth, and be among the righteous. And Allaah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death)comes. And Allaah is All-Aware of what you do" (Q63:10-11)

4. Idleness: Allaah says;

"We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them for a (mere) play". (Q21:16)

This verse shows that we should not only spend our time doing something, but rather we should spend our time on things that are useful for our worldly life as well as that of the hereafter.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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