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Time: The Ever-Diminishing Capital

“By time. Indeed man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.” (Al-Qur’an, 103)
This Sarah is undoubtedly well-known to many readers, for it is frequently recited in our prayers and is from amongst the shortest chapters of the Qur’an. Despite its short length, if we ponder over its meanings, we will find many lessons and points of benefit that can be taken from it. Imam al-Shafi once commented the following about it: “Had Allah not revealed anything except this surah, it alone would have sufficed as it includes all knowledge required.”
Of the many points we can reflect over, one is found in the very first verse, in a matter of two words: “By time”. Of all that exists in the Heavens and the Earth, Allah, in this verse, takes an oath by time. Have you ever wondered why? An oath is of little value unless it is made upon something of significant value or magnificence; so what weight is carried by time?
Simply put, time is amongst the greatest blessings from Allah. The well-known proverb “Time is Money” completely belittles its true value as, in reality, it is far greater than that. Additionally, and worryingly, it is always diminishing, slipping away from our grasp. That which has passed can never be reclaimed. Conversely, we still have the opportunity to make the most of that which is ahead of us.
The Prophet 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.”
In another narration, our beloved Prophet warns us that many of us are neglectful of this immense blessing from Allah, saying:
“There are two blessings which many people do not make the most of and thus lose out: good health and free time.”
We should all ask ourselves: how are we spending this commodity which is so great that Allah, the King of kings, takes an oath by it? Are we amongst those who the Prophet warned would lose out, or do we give time its right?
The average life expectancy in the UK is currently just below 82 years. It may seem like we have ample time to build up a reasonable amount of good deeds. But then, let us break this down further: we consider the first 16 years or so as childhood; roughly 20 years are spent in sleep. On top of this, we spend many hours a day at work or commuting, as well as occupied by menial tasks such as eating and cleaning; all of which adds up to another number of years.
Stepping further back, we know that generations upon generations have been laid in their graves for centuries, and when we are finally resurrected, the Day of Judgement will last 50,000 years before we are entered into our final, eternal abodes. With this shift in perspective, our time in this world is truly short and cannot be wasted; particularly as it will determine what comes next.
This temporary nature is made abundantly clear in another hadith. The Prophet said:
“The most privileged people in the world from the people of the Hellfire will come on the Day of Resurrection to be dipped in the Hellfire, then it will be said: O son of Adam, did you see any good? Did you get any blessing? He will say: No, by Allah, my Lord!
Then the most miserable people in the world from the people of Paradise will come on the Day of Resurrection to be dipped in the Paradise, then it will be said: O son of Adam, did you see any hardship? Did you have any distress? He will say: No, by Allah, my Lord! I did not once see hardship or distress.”
This is the reality of our existence in this world. A fraction of a moment in the Hereafter, and the Dunya is entirely forgotten. As such, we must dedicate our time to pursuing success in the Hereafter and we should all aspire to be productive and pro-active in seeking out opportunities to please our Lord. Muslims, by virtue of the fact that we know and understand this life is temporary, should be the most productive of people – in all aspects of life.
Of course, the hustle and bustle of life in the West can often drain energy, and many of us struggle to make ends meet, even with long shifts. Therefore it is only natural that we need rest and relaxation too. But Allah is al-Karim – we can attain reward for any halal act, including relaxing and sleeping, depending on our intention, as will be discussed briefly below.
Let us now look at some practical realities and potential solutions to make better use of our time.
Firstly, if we find ourselves engaging in sin, whatever it may be, let us find permissible alternatives as quickly as possible, so as to not make time something that counts against us. And we must remember, we will not only be accountable for how we spend our time, but where we spend it too; sitting in a place disliked by Allah even if we are not knowingly engaging in a specific sin at that moment is risky business indeed – perhaps something those working in the West need to be particularly cautious of when invited to drinks with their colleagues.
If we are blessed enough to look after the obligatory acts and make effort to stay away from sin, then let us seek to increase in good actions and intentions – for we rarely stand still; we know that the minimum Shaytan will try to get us to do is to leave a good act for a less good one, or for a sin, and will continuously try to do so. We counter him by the opposite, continuously finding ways to maximise reward in our time and actions.
Those who are busy in their day-to-day lives must remember that Allah can bless and increase our time if we strive to use it wisely. Simple ways in which we can add to our scale of good deeds are:
? Regular remembrance of Allah and His blessings upon us, seeking forgivenes and sending salutations upon our Prophet – these utterances of the tongue can be done at almost any time, whether we are at work or during idle time such as when commuting, and are very heavy on our scale of good deeds.
? Increase in time spent on the Qur’an – in its recitation, its memorisation, and of course in its reflection. No matter how busy we are, there must be a set, allocated time for our daily portion of the Qur’an; and this is not a burden at all, but rather a source of guidance, peace, contentment and even relaxation.