Time: One of Allah's great blessings
The place you are looking at is a cemetery. A special place of great wisdom that some of you will try to avoid ever going to, that some of you may pass by every day and that others of you may have to visit one time or more in your lives.
The people lying here were once as alive as you. Like you, they walked on the streets, went shopping, met up and had fun with their friends, worked for a living, raised their families and strove to spend their lives as pleasantly as possible. They planned everything to do with these activities in great detail. But when they were alive, and maybe just like you, these people never even imagined that one day they would have to leave everything they had behind. Like you, perhaps, they thought of the life they were given as being so long it would never end.
But contrary to what people imagine, the life given them in this world passes very quickly, for which reason life is very short. Everyone now living in the world, and you watching this film, are all spending an appointed time and drawing closer to death with every passing second.
Many people are in fact aware of and talk about this fact. You will no doubt have witnessed many people around you complaining about how fast time passes, for which reason they can not do all that they want to. This is particularly evident among old people. They always hark back to the past and their own youth. When asked, they say that their lives have gone by “in the blink of an eye” and how they are amazed how fast time has flown and made them old and weak.
It is not only old age that reminds one how fast time flies. Some people say that life is really very short and that one can look death in the face at any moment when something bad happens to them, for example when someone close to them dies or someone they know has a narrow escape from an accident. They say that one must live life as well and satisfyingly as possible.
Some people are so caught up with their daily affairs, business or activities that amuse them and help pass the time, that they even forget that time exists at all, let alone being aware of how quickly it flies by. They sometimes express their amazement by saying things like “where did the time go?” or “is it evening already?”
Although these people are aware that time is going by very fast, they fail to grasp the wisdom behind it. And this is the point that misleads people and prevents them using their time properly.
There is a purpose and wisdom in the span allotted to people in this world. So long as they use this limited time bestowed on them by Allah “to earn His approval and merit paradise”, then they will have used their time in the best and most proper manner.
But if someone starts using his time chasing after earthly concerns instead of doing good deeds for Allah’s approval, then he will suffer grave doubts and stress. As a result, he will be afraid he is not making enough use of his life. Such a person may then spend all his life in a very greedy, selfish and opportunistic manner, making concessions regarding moral virtues.
It is the way that people who live far removed from the moral values of the Qur’an try to squeeze all their desires and wants into their brief lives, rather than to earn Allah’s approval, that underlies their stress and concerns over using their time productively, at least in their own eyes. The reward for such an intent will certainly be the eternal life of hell. In Surah Hud Allah reveals:
As for those who desire the life of this earth and its finery, We will give them full payment in it for their actions. They will not be deprived here of their due.
But such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void. (Surah Hud, 15-16)
True believers aware of this, however, act in the knowledge that time is one of the most valuable blessings and that they have to earn Allah’s approval and paradise. They spend their time that they cannot take back, on behavior that they hope will earn Allah’s approval and they keep that intention in mind.
One hopes that Allah will approve of one’s behavior at any time or place, under all circumstances, thus one should be scrupulous about exhibiting moral virtues as much as possible. One should thus find the opportunity to remember Allah at every moment of the day and earn His approval. Allah reminds His servants of the auspicious nature of doing “right actions” in this verse from the Qur’an:
Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord’s Sight, right actions which are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
WHERE IS TIME WASTED?
The heedlessness of those people who are unaware of the blessing of time that our Lord bestows is always visibly reflected in their thoughts, words and lives.
Since they never think of the life of the hereafter, they become passionately involved in numerous activities they enjoy or have become used to doing. They try to benefit themselves by repeating these all day, or at specific intervals. When not doing these things, they feel stressed and uneasy. But the fact is that they are unaware that the time they spend on satisfying their own desires rather than for Allah’s approval is completely wasted.
Since they spend their whole lives on the same tasks and activities they regard the time they spend on them as normal and see nothing wrong in it. They do not act with the will to consider how time passes and whether they are wasting it. For that reason, they never reflect on the time they waste. Allah reveals how those who have turned their backs on the Qur’an and spend their time in this world on mere distractions:
Woe that Day to the deniers, who play at frivolous games: (Surat at-Tur, 11-12)
The Time Wasted on Idle Thoughts
Idle thoughts lead nowhere and are of no use. For example, ways of wasting one’s time include preparing various plans and strategies against a situation a person thinks will work against him, worrying about whether what people are talking about will do one any harm or spending a long time reflecting on something that will do one no good at all.
The most common error that causes people to waste their time is the constant remembering of and lengthy reflection on things that happened in the past, but with no intention of learning from them.
Since everything that has happened or will happen to people does so within a destiny created by Allah, unnecessary thinking about and analysis of things that have happened or may do so in the future is merely time wasted.
Ignoring the perfection of destiny and bringing to mind something one regrets from the past and spending hours on such thoughts is an empty pastime encouraged by satan in order to make a person waste time.
Not losing time over idle thoughts depends on remembering Allah at every opportunity and reflecting on the proofs of creation that disclose Allah’s existence, artistry and omnipotence. In this way, one prevents one’s mind being taken up by empty things and also has the opportunity to properly appreciate the might of Allah. In Surah Al ‘Imran, Allah describes the moral values that devout Muslims must display on this subject:
Those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire. (Surah Al ‘Imran, 191)
Time Wasted on Idle Talk
Idle talk in one’s daily life constitutes a large part of time that is wasted. Gossiping, laughing at other people, spending hours telling people about recipes, the latest fashion or soaps on television, spending hours arguing about empty matters out of a sense of pride or engaging in idle discussion of politics are all forms of idle talk that cause people to waste their time. In addition to wasting one’s time, such talk also causes one to forget the life of the hereafter and causes one to be unduly tied to this world. But the best talk one can engage in for the hereafter is to remember Allah and to initiate talk about of His greatness and might.
People must remember Allah when they speak and speak of His greatness, His matchless artistry and the signs leading to faith that prove His infinite power. They must tell one another of the verses of the Qur’an and repeat Allah’s mercy and compassion on them. Instead of wasting time on talking about their enmity toward one another, sins and other idle words, they should talk about goodness and fear of Allah toward one another, command one another to do good deeds and give one another good advice. They must constantly remind one another that Allah frees people from all troubles, as well as to have patience and display moral virtues, and must speak of things that will earn Allah’s approval. These are the subjects that will really be beneficial and useful to people. We are told in one verse:
You who believe! when you confer together secretly, do not do so in wrongdoing and enmity and disobedience to the Messenger; rather confer together in goodness and fear of Allah. Have fear of Allah – Him to Whom you will be gathered. (Surat al-Mujadala, 9)
It must not be forgotten that when people speak about empty and senseless matters they are wasting their time. But time spent talking in a manner compatible with Allah’s approval is never wasted, since it always attracts a fine and auspicious reward. Aware of this, believers strive never to fall into empty conversation. When such an environment does arise, they change the subject and try to create one in which Allah is remembered. Allah reveals this exemplary behavior by believers in the Qur’an as follows:
Those who do not bear false witness and who, when they pass by worthless talk, pass by with dignity; (Surat al-Furqan, 72)
Time Wasted on Pointless Matters
One of the points regarding living by Qur’anic moral values on which some people err most is that they divide their lives into time spent worshiping and time spent on other things.. These people only remember that life is transitory and the existence of the hereafter at specific times. Apart from those moments they see no harm in spending their time as they please. For that reason, they may spend much of their time on matters that are of no benefit in terms of the hereafter. They may even sometimes postpone a good deed and prefer to spend the whole day on empty and pointless pursuits.
Just a few examples of the way people waste time these days are the way many people surf the web for no purpose, chat for hours on their computers, spend more time than necessary on housework and sports, read the same stories in magazines and newspapers over and over again, spend ages in front of the television and lose track of time for hours while they are out shopping.
Yet they could restrict the time they spend on such activities and spend it on good deeds, investigate the signs leading to faith and further increase their devotion to and love of Allah. They could transform the time they spend on such activities into time that will benefit them, by seeking to earn Allah’s approval. For example, they could use the ease of communications and chatting on the internet to preach religious moral values, seek to maintain their health by participating in sports and thus have long lives with which to earn even more of Allah’s approval, draw wise conclusions from the events shown on the television and better understand how all people should abide by the moral values of the Qur’an. In short, they can secure an environment in which a person can earn Allah’s approval at every opportunity, so long as he intends to do so.
TURNING ONE’S BACK ON EMPTY AND USELESS THINGS
One can only avoid thoughts and behavior that waste one’s time by striving to earn Allah’s approval. People who are unaware that time is a great blessing regard occupying themselves with matters that cause them to waste their time in this world as actually a great benefit to them, while believers regard occupying oneself with empty and pointless activities as a great loss. Since they know that they will live for all eternity in the hereafter as a result of their actions, they constantly spend their time on good works that will earn Allah’s approval. Of course, like everyone else, a believer can have a good time, eat nice food, enjoy himself and travel about. But in doing these things he always gives thanks to Allah and never makes any concessions on his devotion to the moral values of the religion.
Since believers’ real aim is the approval of Allah, they regulate their time accordingly. They make a fine distinction when it comes to matters regarding this world. They are able to identify, by using their intelligence and conscience, which activities are hollow and which auspicious. Thus they avoid wasting time. The way that believers turn their backs on empty and useless activities is described thus in the Qur’an:
When they hear worthless talk they turn away from it... (Surat al-Qasas, 55)
People who spend their time unconcerned with Allah’s approval, wasting it, regard the blessings and concerns of this world as much closer to them, and spend their time on those instead. If these people, who do not live by religious moral values, knew they could suffer a terrible punishment at any moment, then in all likelihood the most important thing they would do is to manage their time in the best manner. They would concentrate their minds and not waste their time, and would make detailed calculations to that end.
The reward for not wasting time in this world on the Day of Judgment, will be far greater than can be measured in possessions and property. On the Day of Judgment, people’s empty talk in this world and the hours they spent on empty activities will be of no use to them or anyone else. On that day everyone, young and old, rich and poor, will enter the presence of Allah and be rewarded appropriately for their actions in this world. What one must do before that day comes is to use one’s time in a manner that Allah will find pleasing and form a sincere intention of doing so. Otherwise, nothing can make up for the regret that will be felt later on.
If only you could see the evildoers hanging their heads in shame before their Lord: ‘Our Lord, we have seen and we have heard, so send us back again and we will act rightly. Truly we now have certainty.’ (Surat al-Sajda, 12)
It must not be forgotten that it is an easy matter, by Allah’s leave, to renounce empty ideas and activities. Satan depicts it as difficult and may try to make people continue to waste their time. But by Allah’s choosing, this indoctrination by satan can be neutralized through sincere prayer and resolution. As revealed in a verse, Allah is He who heeds people’s prayers:
If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Surat al-Baqara, 186)
HOW CAN ONE BECOME A TIME ENGINEER?
Think of an engineer. Who is punctilious about his work, takes care over every detail and uses his time very efficiently to finish his work punctually ... Also imagine that this person receives a large salary for the work he does. Of course this person will work very carefully and never waste his time in order to be paid such a salary.
The fact is that the blessings of paradise that Allah promises to His sincere servants are far superior to and more valuable than anything one can obtain in this world. It is terrible heedlessness for someone who works very carefully and never wastes any time when it comes to obtaining the transitory benefits of this world and doing nothing to earn the pleasure of Allah and the blessings of paradise.If one wishes to escape that thoughtlessness, all one has to do is to think about the eternal delights and blessings Allah promises His servants and to make a sincere decision regarding earning His approval. Someone who realizes he has been wasting his time can pray, read the Qur’an and reflect on its verses, avoid empty talk and take care to speak wisely, without wasting his words ... In short, everyone can adopt the Qur’an as his guide and strive to draw close to Allah by various means.
Believers must be careful and punctilious about spending their time in a manner that is pleasing to Allah. The better a believer uses his time, the more opportunity he has to earn Allah’s approval. From that perspective, a believer must find time for everything that will earn Allah’s approval. If he cannot find time for some things, then he must review whether he is using his time properly and in a manner compatible with Allah’s approval. Having finished one task, he must immediately embark on another. Every true believer must always bear this verse of our Lord’s in mind.
So when you have finished, work on,.. (Surat al-Inshirah, 7)
Since time is a blessing for believers, they make fine calculations, just like an engineer, as to how to make the best use of it. For example, a believer may limit the time he spends on routine activities, do two jobs at the same time, start the day early or plan what he is going to do the day before .... Since believers hope to be rewarded for their good deeds on the Day of Judgment, they will never postpone even a task they can accomplish in just a few minutes. They will do it at once. In the Qur’an, Allah reveals that the smallest good deed will be rewarded:
Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it.
Whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it. (Surat al-Zilzal, 7-8)
Even though the life of this world is very brief, it is still long enough to learn and earn Allah’s approval. Everyone can adopt the Qur’an as a guide and use it to draw close to Allah. But the really important thing, that must never be forgotten, is the intention to use one’s time well, no matter what the task involved, to earn our Lord’s approval and prepare oneself for the eternal life of the hereafter. That is why people have no time to lose.
Since a person has no idea how much time he has, it is a huge mistake to stupidly be distracted by the temporary delights and amusements of the life of this world and spend one’s time on satisfying one’s earthly desires. Spending this time believing in Allah and trying to earn His approval may be instrumental in one attaining eternal happiness on the Day of Judgment. The deterrent situation awaiting those who waste their time in this world is described as follows in the Qur’an:
They will shout out in it, ‘Our Lord! take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!’ Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Taste it then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers. (Surah Fatir, 37)
Believers, on the other hand, know why the life of this world has been bestowed on them and that they have to use their time in this world solely for the life of the hereafter and to earn Allah’s approval. Since they behave intelligently and in the light of their consciences, they know how to spend every moment of the day and can easily tell what to concentrate on for that purpose. It is certain that the care, awareness and attention that believers display on this subject will be instrumental in their gaining more of Allah’s approval and achieving a higher station in the paradise that Allah has prepared for them. Allah knows the truth, of course. These are the tidings He gives His devout servants:
As for those who believe and do right actions, We will lodge them in lofty chambers in the Garden, with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, for ever. How excellent is the reward of those who act: (Surat al-’Ankabut, 58)