“Son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days, whenever each day passes then part of you has gone.”
The above quote, attributed al-Hasan al-Basri, succinctly establishes the fact that Time is the true capital that humanity possesses. And, it is through utilising our time wisely, that we can yield all other manifestations and interpretations of success as understood by every generation throughout history. Whether that be success pertaining to the life of this world such as earning wealth to feed ones family, obtaining tranquillity and peace of mind, or success pertaining to the hereafter such as an easy standing on the Day of Judgment, a swift crossing of the bridge (Sirat) and reaching Firdaws al-‘ala – the highest level in Paradise.
For this reason, we must look at our time with the lens of business investors. The most successful businessmen and businesswomen will tell you that the most fruitful transaction is that one which involves minimum input and maximum output. Similarly, as Muslims seeking not only the home of the Hereafter, but the highest levels in the Hereafter, we too, need to seek those transactions which will yield maximum output in the next life. After all, the true capital we possess is our time and the true “success” will be when the scale (mizan) on the Day of Judgment tips in our favour.
The time we have in life is finite and the demands of daily life are only increasing, and many of us complain of not finding the time to worship Allah. And thus, it is ever more important that we strive to make every second of our existence count towards our scale of good deeds, even those activities we may consider mundane—or even rest. One may wonder: if the demands of daily life are only increasing how can I still worship Allah? Surely, I am disadvantaged in comparison to those who came centuries before?
Fortunately, Allah does not judge us based upon the materialistic, capitalistic standard of success being measured upon material results. The prophet taught us that “Actions are but by intentions.”
“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.”
Thus, the Muslim will receive that which he intended rather than that which he necessarily achieved. For example, Person X intended to memorise Qur’an in his life and took steps towards it, but for whatever reason he was unable to complete the memorisation of the Qur’an before his appointment with the Angel of Death. This person may receive a reward proportional to that which he intended rather than that which he achieved, and thus he could be rewarded as though he had memorised the entire Qur’an even if he did not do so, depending on the sincerity and quality of his intention.
This beautiful paradigm shift turns our attention to the intention rather than the result. And, for the Muslim seeking the highest levels in the Hereafter, this opens up huge opportunities to attain good deeds in the most exceptional of ways. A sincere intention can turn an everyday mundane act into an act of worship, rewarded by Allah. Moreover, this opens up the possibility of turning every second of our remaining existence from being a mere empty pastime to something that will credit our scales in the hereafter and count as worship (‘Ibadah). And thus, yielding huge returns in the next life with the limited time that we have.
It is for this reason that a number of scholars would say “Intentions are the trade of the scholars” for they understood that by simply having a sincere intention or multiple sincere intentions, one could not only turn sleep into ‘Ibadah but one could multiply that reward many fold based upon the number of intentions and this is something only the scholars would be accustomed to.
Zayd al-Shami said, “Verily I like that I have an intention for everything even if it be eating and drinking.”
This science is one which requires some thinking, some brainstorming and a lot of discipline. This article intends to start this journey for us all by setting out a template of some example intentions we can have during a typical day to yield 24 hours of consecutive ‘Ibadah.
The following sections provides examples of akhirah-centric intentions we can have during common everyday activities to turn them from mundane actions into rewardable acts of worship for which we can hope to reap rewards in the Hereafter. It is upon us, to actively check our intentions and question the purpose of our actions in relation to our short and long-term goals by constantly asking ourselves: “Why am I doing this?” This exercise of questioning the intentions behind our actions is extremely important since our intentions can waiver based on our nafs’ inclinations. Perhaps even more frighteningly we can easily become bereft of having any intention at all, thus wasting valuable opportunities to earn good deeds and build our Jannah.