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June 1, 2004
Eternity at Stake

by Faisal Akhtar

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? You would draw out every cent. Each of us has such a bank. It is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of these you failed to invest in good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back and there is no drawing against the "tomorrow."

Such is the nature of our most invaluable possession; our time. Every second we lose is a second we will never get back. Playing video games, listening to music, aimlessly surfing the internet, watching TV and reading useless fiction are just a few examples of what we waste our time doing.

Narrated by Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "Allah said, "The offspring of Adam abuse the Dahr (Time), and I am the Dahr; in My Hands are the night and the day." (Bukhari)

Indeed we disobey Allah and his Messenger when we waste our time since we have been warned again and again about not wasting time.

Bin ‘Abbas narrated that Allâh’s Messenger said, “There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time for doing good.” (Bukhâri)

We as Muslims need to occupy our time in doing good deeds. A rather prevalent concept among Muslims (which is mostly Western) is that we should spend our time enjoying ourselves. Thus we hear such statements as "Have a blast man, learn to enjoy life" and "You only live once." Any economics class you attend basically states that "People work so they can purchase leisure." Such concepts are completely alien to Islam. The purpose of this life for us as Muslims is not to enjoy ourselves, but to earn reward for the hereafter. We need to treat this life as a vehicle that will get us to our final destination which is Jannah. If we use this vehicle for no other purpose other than the joy of the ride, we will never arrive at our destination.

Abdullah Bin Mas’ud narrated that Allah’s Messenger said, “A man shall be asked concerning five things on the day of resurrection: concerning his life, how he spent it; concerning his youth, how he grew old; concerning his wealth, whence he acquired it, and in what way he spent it; and what was it that he did with the knowledge that he had.” (Tirmidhi )

Notice that in this Hadith that our Prophet mentions time twice. First we will be questioned about our life but it does not end there. We will again be questioned about our youth and how we spent it. We are only young once and we will not get this time back. Our youth is very precious and we must spend it in the worship of Allah. If we later regret having squandered our youth away, we will never be young again.

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, Make me a child again, just for tonight!
Elizabeth Akers Allen

No such lamentations and cries will work once this time has passed. We must learn to value what we have while we have it.

What then must we do with our time? Before we learn what to do with our time, we must first learn what not to do with it. What benefit is Madden NFL 2004 to us in this life or the hereafter? What purpose does reading the latest Danielle Steel novel serve? Why do we watch TV? Why can't we live without turning on the music in our car for just one minute? All such activities occupy our time while bringing us no benefit whatsoever. In fact, all this so-called "entertainment" requires a lot of work. We must first purchase these things before we can use them and while using them, we must assault our senses in order to derive pleasure from them. Turning on the music too loud, playing video games all night long and watching late night TV or reading trashy novels requires a lot of energy. Our body has rights over us, our family and friends have rights over us, our community has rights over us, and most of all, Allah has rights over us. Do we fulfill these right before we "entertain" ourselves? All such activities that we waste our time in will never be any consequence to us, but the failure to utilize our time properly will be. If we waste time, time will waste us.

One thing that never fails to annoy me about the Muslim Ummah is the phenomenon of Muslim Standard Time (MST). Rarely have I seen any Islamic activity start on time. If an ISRU meeting were scheduled at 7:00, only those people who need to start the setup will come at 7:00 but the attendees start arriving 20 to 30 minutes late because they know the speaker will not be on time. The meetings start a half hour to an hour later than scheduled and in a rush to get out of the room by 9:00 we don't even get to hear the whole lecture.
The emphasis on timing that is placed in Islam is illustrated by the fact that three out of the five Pillars of Islam have specified times and they must be performed at those times. Hajj takes place at a specific time during the year, Salah takes place at a specific times during the day, Fasting is required to be done in a specified month. Why can't Muslims show the same kind of respect for time in their day-to-day rituals as they must concerning thier religious rituals? I am at a loss.

What then must we do with our time then? I can probably best illustrate this with a story I found online.

One day, an expert in time-management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said,

"Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."

The time management expert replied, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered.
"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

What are the big rocks in our lives? For a Muslim, the answer is obvious. First Allah, then our families, then our communities and then our Ummah. But are our daily routines reflective of these priorities? If our biggest concern truly is Allah, then why do we spend so much of our time disobeying Him? If our next big priority really is our family, then why do we prefer to hang out with our friends and not to spend that time with our own mothers? The way we spend our time is a reflection upon us. It tells us what we value most in our lives. If someone says "I value my Eman most" and then spends his time watching TV, listening to Music and committing other sins while failing to nurture his Eman, he is lying. We must catch and correct all such hypocritical tendencies within ourselves.

Abdullah bin Hasn (Radi-Allahu unhu) reports that whenever two companions met they would not depart till they had recited Surat al-Asr to each other reminding themselves of the eternal loss that everyone faces if we waste away our time in foolish pursuits. They did not waste any moment of their lives in gossips, useless talks, or meaningless pursuits.

We need to also learn to reflect upon our use of our time. The example of a person who does not think about what he does and why he does it is similar to that of a woodcutter who once got a job with a timber merchant. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.

The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees

"Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"

Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring fifteen trees. The third day he try even harder, but he only could bring ten trees. Day after day he was bringing fewer and fewer trees.

"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.

"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees..."

When was the last time we stopped to sharpen our axe? When was the last time we stopped and tried to reflect on what we do and why we do it? We sometimes get so caught up in the daily busy schedule of our lives, we don't realize that we are trying to cut trees with a blunt axe. We are trying to do the same things over and over again and expecting different results. That is one definition of insanity. So take a few moment out of your day and reflect upon what you did the whole day. Why do you go to school? Why do you study? Why do you eat? Why do you sleep? Why did you do what you did the whole day? If you can't justify an action based on your priorities as a Muslim you listed above, that action is worth giving up. Brothers and sisters, start first by turning off the music in your car and put on some Quran. If you find yourself getting tired of songs after listening to them ten or 20 times, I guarantee, you will never get tired of the Quran. Stop watching TV, stop playing video games and throw away those dumb novels. After you give up all these things, you will start finding time for the things you had always wanted to do. You will be able to stick to a workout regime. You will learn a lot more in school and you will learn about your deen.

So brothers and sisters, we need to start valuing our time. It is by far our most precious possession. We are racing towards our deaths. Our life is a runaway freight train without breaks and the destination is death. We don't know when our death is coming. We need to use our time wisely. Our time is our life and our eternity is at stake.

“By the time, verily man is in (a constant and perpetual state of) loss, except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and join (together) in the mutual enjoining of Truth, and of patience and constancy.” (103:1-3)





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Justoju said

MashaAllah, excellent topic brother Faisal. We really have become an ummah of time-wasters and have forgotten that it was the mu'mineen who taught the world how best to use their time efficiently. We waste the key our success.

on June 1, 2004 2:34 AM
Nadia said

Mashallah,an excellent article Brother Faisal. I really needed something of this sort and I was just searching for it last night and Subhanallah, could not have found something as beautiful. Very informative. May Allah(swt) give all of us the ability to make the best use of our times. Ameen!

on June 1, 2004 9:18 AM
Bint Abdul Khaliq said

As Salaamu alaikum

Excellent reminder for us all Mashallah! May ALLAH reward you for taking the time to put that piece together.I really needed it.I also noticed that things like TV,frivolous novels and pastimes leave you with this empty feeling inside,and you are left thinking to yourself What did I actually achieve by this? It is not a pleasant feeling.

By the way...I recently visited an Islamic Institute and I noticed that they always ended their gatherings with Surah-Al Asr.I was wondering why,but The hadith you quoted cleared it up for me Jazakallah Khair.

Was Salaam.

on June 1, 2004 2:11 PM
Faisal Akhtar said

JazakAllah Kahir Sister for your positive feedback.

I just remembered an excellent point about time management Stephen Covey made in his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (Excellent book, I highly recommend it). The point he makes is that each morning we wake with a schedule in mind and we prioritize that schedule. We put those things which are the most urgent first. However, we must learn to schedule our priorities. Whatever we hold dearest to our hearts, we must learn to make time for those things. So, we need to make time worshipping Allah, for our Family, and other things that are most important to us as Muslims otherwise, we will drown in our busy schedules never getting around to the things that are most important to us.

on June 1, 2004 3:12 PM
Bint Abdul Khaliq said

As Salaamu Alaikum

"7 Habits of Highly Effective People" (Excellent book, I highly recommend it)."

Alhamdulillah got the book-just can't find the time to read it.lol

Good advice.May ALLAH grant us the ability to use each moment to take us closer to HIM.Ameen.

on June 1, 2004 3:20 PM
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