Time – your most valuable asset!
By: Abu Muhammed
While the sighting of the crescent heralds in a new month and a new year it is also tells us that another day, another month, another year has passed-never to return-and that THE most valuable ‘capital’ that Man possesses, TIME, is corroding and withering away. Every passing day propels us closer towards our appointment with Death and the Akhirah while simultaneously we are moving away from this world. Strangely enough our desire for this world seems to increase with every passing day!
In order to highlight the importance of the correct utilisation of this most important resource Allah Jalla wa aala takes an oath on time saying,
‘By (the oath of) time. Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds and encourage one another to truth and towards patience’
(Qur’an -Surah 103, Verse 1-3)
Scholars mention the reason for this is to draw our attention to the importance of time. Imam Shaafi (May Allah have mercy on him) mentioned that I understood Surah Al Asr when looking at an ice vendor. Remembering that in those days there was no refrigeration, this ice vendor had to be so astute and intelligent when selling ice in that he had to make sure that the ice is available when the need arises and the quantity has to be correct and the position that the vendor locates his stall has to be perfect. Unlike other capital which, if a person locks away when he closes his business, will remain, ice on the other hand, continuously diminishes and melts away. In the same manner whatever a human being chooses to do he cannot stop the ‘ticking of the clock’. Time, inevitably by its very nature, marches on.
As the saying goes, ‘Time and tide waits for no man’
Hasan Basri (May Allah have mercy on him) used to say, ‘O Man, your life comprises of a few breaths that can be counted. With every breath drawn a part of your existence has diminished!’
In the same manner that an ice seller has to be astute and intelligent we have to be the same when coming to our time. We have to learn to maximise our time in those things which will benefit us in the Akhirah(Hereafter). In the same manner that prudence is required in business with regards to capital we also have to be prudent with regards to the capital of our life-TIME. In a hadith it is mentioned,
‘Every person sets forth in the morning as a vendor of his own soul (investing his life in a business enterprise).He either achieves its Salvation or its ruination (Some investments add value to his capital while others diminish his capital resulting in a loss)’ – (Hadith-Sahih Muslim)
As human beings we all tend to procrastinate when coming to goodness on the feeble excuse of not being ready yet, of not having sufficient time, of not having sufficient money and of being too young. We always want to achieve the ‘big things’ that matter little realising that consistently doing the ‘small things’ that matter will eventually accrue to make up that ‘big thing’. In fact one of the main reasons of regret that the disbelievers will have in the Akhirah will be because of their procrastination. In this procrastination little do we realise that on the one hand we have no guarantee of our health and that time, which is our greatest capital is continuously diminishing…never to return.
A common complaint today for not fulfilling family commitments or for engaging in voluntary religious activities, whether this be for our individual or communal benefit, that will improve our faith and increase our knowledge is ‘NO TIME’. The question may arise, ‘Where do we find the time?’ If we analyse our daily lives we will find that after allocating time to fulfill our obligations of work, family, kids etc we will find that most of us have some spare time. As mentioned we often feel that this time is too little to achieve anything significant. However as the saying goes, ‘If you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves’ It is this spare time which makes the difference in either ‘making’ or ‘spoiling’ an individual. The sum total of time and good health is opportunity to do good and progress in our spiritual realm.
In a hadith Abu Hurrairah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) said,
‘Most of mankind are at a loss regarding two favours, good health and free time (opportunity)’(Hadith- Sahih Al Bukhari)
The Arabic word used to explain ‘at a loss’ is ‘Maghboon’. Scholars, in explaining this word, say that this word is derived from the root word ‘Ghaban’ which carries either one of two meanings. Firstly it means that a person sells a very valuable and expensive item or commodity for a paltry price or secondly it could mean that a person pays an exorbitant price for something that is very inferior and cheap. In the explanations given it would naturally follow that the seller in the first instance and the buyer in the second can be described as, to say the least, foolish. This word ‘Maghboon’ therefore serves to emphasise the great value that a person should place on good health and free time/opportunities. It is said in a hadith that the people in Paradise will have no regret except for those moments in this world that were spent without the Zhikr (Remembrance) of Allah Jalla wa aala. If that is the case than it has to be said that the squandering of these two blessings will be considered to be very foolish and will result in a loss that will ultimately lead to regret.
When these two favours are found together they provide the best occasion for maximising their benefit. We will find that the period a person enjoys maximum benefit from both these favours is his/her youth (15-40). In middle age (40-60) the health begins to dwindle and the responsibilities that a person has in terms of earning and family is at its peak. In old age (60+) while a person’s free time may increase, old age together with its specific peculiarities like sickness, weakness etc begin to set in.
While it can be said that this also accurately describes the best opportunity to maximise our worldly and material achievements it has to be said that, keeping the broader objectives of our Shariah in mind, this hadith and all others with similar content wishes to bring to our attention the utilisation of these favours for the purposes of maximising the benefits that will accrue to us in the Akhira which is the objective of and purpose of creation of Man. In a hadith it is mentioned,
‘This world has been created for you (Man) and you (Man), have been created for the Akhira’
On the subject of youth we find that while in Islam, Allah Jalla wa aala holds a person responsible (Mukallaf) the moment they mature (15 in the case of males and earlier for females), the western culture which we find ourselves in, has chosen to extend the age of immaturity to the approximate age of 25 years. So, only when a person finishes his secondary and tertiary education as well as finding and settling into some form of employment does society now place the ‘mantle of responsibility’ upon him…or her for that matter. That’s a good ten years of a man’s life and more in the case of women that is spent with the misguided notion of ‘freedom’ from any responsibility. Unfortunately as Muslims living in predominantly western societies we have not been left untainted by the effects of this culture and mentality.
Throughout our lives we are presented with ‘windows of opportunity’ that will propel us very high into the spiritual domain if we grab hold of these opportunities. If we ignore them the least loss that we will endure is that we will remain at the same ‘spiritual’ plain or level. The greatest loss would be that this missed opportunity becomes a source of regret.
We wish to cite two examples in our history of where an opportunity was seized and another of where it was lost.
1) In the Khilaafate of Sayyiduna Umar (May Allah be pleased with him), during one of his famous nightly patrols, while resting against a wall of a particular house, he overheard a conversation from within that house between an elderly woman and her daughter. They were people who sold milk. The mother, in order to increase the volume of the milk encouraged her daughter to mix water with the milk. The girl refused saying that the Khalifa Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) has prohibited such practices. The mother retorted that at this odd hour of the night how would Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) be aware of what they were doing? The girl than said, ‘But Allah Jalla wa aala knows!’ Sayyiduna Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) was so impressed with this response that he asked his servant to mark this house and they both returned home. The next morning Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) sent his servant to enquire as to whether the young girl was married. He was informed that she was unmarried. Sayyiduna Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) called his three sons together and asked which of them would like to get married because he has found an ideal woman. He also told them that had it not been for his old age he would have married the woman. One of his sons, Aasim (May Allah be pleased with him), indicated his willingness and the proposal was duly sent and accepted. This couple had a daughter who later married and had a son. This son grew up to be Umar bin Abdul Aziz (May Allah have mercy on him).
The Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) mentioned in a hadith
‘Surely, Allah will send for this Ummah at the beginning of every hundred years a person who will revive its religion for it’ – (Hadith-Abu Dawud)
For the past fourteen hundred years ALL Scholars have reached consensus (they differ regarding every other century) only on one person and that is none other than Umar bin Abdul Aziz (May Allah have mercy on him) whom they regard to be THE Mujaddid (Reviver) of the first century of Islam. He was also regarded to be the fifth Khalif of Islam. He ruled with such justice that was reminiscent of the Khilafate of his great grandfather Sayyiduna Umar (May Allah be pleased with him). It is said that in his time, which unfortunately lasted only two years, the wolves and sheep would drink from the same watering hole without the wolves devouring the sheep, indicative of his justice. On a particular day a wolf devoured a sheep which prompted the shepherd to say that, ‘Today justice has been removed from this world. The Khalifa has passed away’. Upon enquiry it was found that the Khalifa had indeed passed away! This was an example of an opportunity seized by Sayyiduna Umar (May Allah be pleased with him)
2) In the early days of the mission of the Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him)a man from Taif came to Makka Mukkarrama for some business. When he went to the Haram he saw a man, a woman and a young boy doing, what he thought, were strange actions. His curiosity aroused, he enquired from Abbas(RA), the uncle of the Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) as to what it was that they were doing and who these people were. He was told that this is my nephew Muhammad(pbuh), who claims to be a prophet, his wife Khadija(ra) and his cousin Ali(ra) and they claim to be worshipping their God and they have rejected the religion of their forefathers. The man, being interested, thought for a moment and than decided that as he was in a hurry he needed to leave. He reasoned that as his business interests brought him frequently to Makka he would meet Muhammed on his next business trip…fast forward 20 years later…in the year after the conquest of Makka an entire group of people come to Medina Munawwarah to accept Islam at the hands of the Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him). Amongst this group was a man who was crying profusely! He was asked as to what is it that has caused him to weep so much. He replied that many years earlier he had an opportunity of being from amongst the first to embrace Islam and he let that opportunity pass by. This was the reason for his crying. In fact his name is not even mentioned in the narrations so all that he is now, is a statistic, when he could have been one of the well known personalities of Islam. This is an example of an opportunity not seized.
With regards to health an incident comes to mind. A few years back a Scholar from Palestine narrated an incident of a youngster in Palestine who was a very wealthy businessman. They had been to visit him encouraging him to spend some of his time for the sake of Allah and contribute towards the benefit of the community through active involvement in meeting people and giving them encouragement. He’s response was always that he was too busy in his business and had no time. One day while driving one of his fancy cars he met up in a severe accident that resulted in him being totally paralysed from his neck down. When he was visited in hospital he began to cry and he said, ‘Pray that Allah Jalla wa aala gives me my health back so that I can assist you in good works’
As far as our health is concerned we have no guarantee and incidents like the one mentioned above are a common occurrence these days. In fact the Noble Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) has said,
Value five before five
Youth before old age-Good health before sickness-Free time before you become occupied-Wealth before poverty and Life before death.
(Hadith-Narrated by Ibn Abbas in the Mustadrak of Hakim & Musnad Imam Ahmad)
It is mentioned that the Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) were very easy with their money but very tight with their time. Whenever they parted company they would recite this Surah Al Asar so as to remind themselves of the importance of time and its correct utilisation. In other words they parted easily with their money but not their time.
May Allah Jalla wa aala make it possible for us to value both our health and time and to understand that as long as we have both of them we have an ideal opportunity for good!