Are we making the best use of our time in this life? Are we to simply pass our time in whatever way possible so that we can get to the hereafter? How are we to balance our time across various aspects of this life? Is there a right balance? Are our life’s priorities purpose driven?
These are some of the questions we Muslims ought to ask ourselves to get the most from our lives. It matters because we have at best only a few years to live. Considering the various phases of our lives individually, the available time is even shorter. Have you thought whether you will be satisfied when you get to the end of the road? Will you do things differently if you know how much time you have left? What if your remaining time is very little?
Time is passing us quickly – and as it does, we should ask ourselves whether we have much to show for it. Are we fulfilling both our religious and worldly responsibilities? Are our families getting our fair share or is it all about other matters? Are we balancing our time across all other obligations? Are we even conscious about how we use our time?
Time is therefore one of the most valuable assets that we have. Being wise in the use of that asset is thus only prudent. Time is one of the many things that Allah has used to swear by in the Quran (verse 1 of Surah Al-Asr). The Prophet, too, told us to use time to make the most of certain assets before time takes it away from us. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Make the most of five things before five others: LIFE before death, HEALTH before sickness, FREE TIME before becoming busy, YOUTH before old age, and WEALTH before poverty.” [Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 1077.]
Those who have run out of time will tell us its value. Ask the old who have nearly run out of time or ask the terminally ill who have been given only a few months to live. They will tell us how productive they would get if they got more time.
The reality is that our lives are too busy and daily routines too engaging to make us pause to assess what we are earning or opportunities that we are missing as we pass our allotted time. But here are some of the things we can do to ensure that we use our remaining time in this life effectively.
Be mindful of your purpose in this life
As Muslims, we believe that Allah not only created mankind but clarified their purpose of being here. That may seem quite obvious to some but questions related to the “purpose and meaning of life” have been grappled by western and non-Muslim philosophers for centuries. The foundation of our Islamic beliefs thus does away the need to get entangled in the philosophical innuendos of the topic. Islamic principles make it clear that Allah created life, this universe, and the rules that embody it. And mankind is to worship Him by submitting to those rules.
Amongst the many, consider the following three verses –
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:56].
“Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” [al-Mu’minoon 23:115]
Needless to explain but a sense of purpose can help in reconciling the many complex questions and issues that aren’t always that easy for us to comprehend. It helps in imbuing the energy that we need to keep moving irrespective of the challenges that we face and to adhere to a system of living that we believe was designed by the Creator for His Creation.
Become more action oriented
As straightforward as it may seem, there is something inherently complex about taking action in life that prevents many from failing to accomplish enough. Ask yourself if you could have accomplished more by this time in your life by taking more actions in the past? What is it that stopped you from accomplishing more? As it turns out, many of us fall victims to procrastination, never ending planning, or simply failing to have the discipline or courage to decide to act at the right time. The result is that time passes without us accomplishing much or not as much as we could have.
As Muslims, we will be judged on what we do. Our faith is incomplete without us following up on it through actions. There are many places in the Quran where the mention of faith is coupled with the need to take action. Consider these verses from Quran:
3. Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds which Allah has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience.
In another place in the Quran, Allah warns us about putting our words into practice. He says in the Quran,
“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allâh that you say that which you do not do” [al-Saff :2-3]
Don’t concern yourself with unnecessary matters
Today, we find ourselves exposed to a wide range of information outlets waiting to distract us from key priorities. Between the Internet, satellite TV and various forms of staying connected, we can end up wasting useful time soaking our minds with information that we usually can do without. While a lot of such information may satiate our curiosities and gossipy habits, they take up valuable time and drain our energies – both of which can instead be used to gain the right knowledge, fulfill our responsibilities, and in taking useful actions. Remember what the prophet said:
“From the perfection of a person’s Islam is that he leaves alone that which does not concern him. (Reported From Abu Hurairah – Tirmidhee (no.2318) and others)
So, as various media channels provide us with the opportunity to get plugged in to a world of information and knowledge, we must become selective in its use based on what benefits us.
Don’t forget the daily remembrance of Allah
Many of us make the mistake of taking advice about remembering Allah as merely a spiritual one and seeing no connection with the real world. Instead, we should remind ourselves that our success in this life (related to our work, earnings, family, health, etc.) is tied to the remembrance of Allah (in prayers and at other times as well during the day). Consider what Allah tells us in the Quran:
In another verse, He says:
O you who beleive! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers. [Surah Al-Munafiqoon 63:9]
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also said:
Should I not inform you of the best of deeds, and the most sanctifying of deeds before your Lord, which does more to raise your positions (with Him), and is better for you than the disbursement of gold and money, or battle with the enemy?” They (the companions) said: “Indeed inform us.” He (SAW) then said: “Remembrance of Allah.” [Narrated by At-Tirmidhi, 5/459; Ibn Maajah, 2/1245]
Taking the time to pause often and reassessing of how we use our time can help us refocus, reprioritize and reenergize. It can also prevent us from going to extremes where we focus on certain priorities of life more than others. It is thus time to reflect these principles in our actions and accomplishments.