Time Management and Islam

Time is one of the greatest blessings of Allah (swt). It is the most precious thing on earth, because we can earn money but we cannot earn time, so we must use time as a tool and not as a couch. Thus, effective utilisation of time should be a quality of a believer, who wants to attain true success in the Hereafter.

Time management refers to a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time while accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities which include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing. Initially, time management was in reference to just business or any work, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods.

If you can manage your time, you can do anything. We all hear about time management and its importance and people often rebuke us for the way we manage our time, but rarely have we come across a concise methodology on how to manage time. In order to understand how to manage time, we need to grasp what time management is about.

Contrary to popular thought, time management is not about managing your time, because technically, you cannot manage something on which you have no control. Putting it in simple words, time management is about managing yourself in a way that you make use of the time sphere that you are in. Today, the concept of time management has become very relevant due to modern day distractions such as social media, video games, mobile phones, etc.

Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “By the Time! Indeed, mankind is in loss, expect for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Qur’an 103:1-3). In the beginning of the chapter, Allah (swt) takes an oath on time. Anything that Allah (swt) swears by in the Qur’an is a significant matter.

The word ‘time’ particularly signifies the quick and speedy passage of time. Thus, the chapter state that a person who does not use his time in believing, doing righteous deeds, enjoining people to truth and enjoining each other to patience are among the people who will be under loss.

Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “Indeed Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties (in exchange) of that they will have Paradise.” (Qur’an 9:111). It is not unusual for Allah (swt) to use the metaphor of business to describe the life of this world and our purpose in it. This verse states that Allah (swt) has already purchased our time in this world.

Thus, one should make use of the time as per the command of Allah (swt) and he has no right to make wrong use or waste this time as it does not belong to him. This verse ultimately instructs the person to effectively utilize his time.

Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “So when you are free, busy yourself in praying.” (Qur’an 94:7)

Prophet (saws) also used to engage himself in prayer after all his engagements. Thus, the Qur’an instructs us to make use of our free time in the worship of Allah (swt) as it is the best occupation. This also helps us to understand the importance what Islam has given to time.

Allah (swt) in Surah al-Mu’minun talks about the believers who attain true success. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: They always turn away from and avoid whatever is vain and frivolous.” (Qur’an 23:3). In this verse, Allah (swt) emphasises on not wasting the time on useless and unproductive activity.

A true believer is he who is always conscious of his duties. One should imagine himself being in the world as though he is in an examination hall where he is taking a test and it is required of him to complete his examination.

Such realisation makes one behave in the manner of a serious-minded student who, while seated in the hall, fully concentrates on the examination, knowing that the time allocated to him to complete the test is very short. Like the student, one should also be conscious that few hours granted to him for doing so is extremely crucial for his future career. One should, therefore, utilise each and every second so that he might give the best possible performance.

Without wasting a single moment, a believer should spend all the time available to him in pursuit of something which produces beneficial results. Even in selecting ones leisure activities, one should choose those that eventually produce better results. Rather than being inclined to kill time, one should regard time as a precious and a valuable commodity, which he naturally tries to utilise in the best possible way.

The life of Prophet Mohammed (saws) is the best example for us to learn how to manage time. Prophet Mohammed (saws) during the short period of 23 years revolutionised the society, from paganism and idolatry to submission to one true God, from tribal quarrels and wars to national solidarity and cohesion, from drunkenness and anarchy to disciplined living, from utter bankruptcy to the highest standards of moral excellence, from absolute backwardness and ignorance to the epitome of knowledge, science and civilisation.

He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, and initiated numerous social and political reforms. He revolutionised the human thought and behaviour for all times to come. The human history has never witnessed such a complete transformation of a society or a place and all these unbelievable wonders in just over two decades. This shows how well he managed his time to accomplish the task.

The Prophet Mohammed (saws) said: “The feet of a servant will not move on the Day of Judgment until he has been questioned about four things. His life – how he spent it, his knowledge – how he acted upon it, his wealth – where he earned it and how he spent it and his body – how he used it.” (Tirmidhi)

The hadith contains two key principles with respect to Islam’s approach to time management, a sense of urgency to our life and expressing thanks for our blessings. The whole language of this hadith points to the limited nature of our life and how time is running out.

The first question on the Day of Judgement is going to be about how we spend our life, which is nothing but our time. Thus, we should make effective utilisation of our precious time given to us, as on the Day the Judgement our feet will not move unless we answer to Allah (swt) as to where we spent the precious time which was given to us by Him (swt).

In another hadith, Prophet Mohammed (saws) said, “There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time for doing righteous deeds.” (Bukhari)

In this hadith, the Prophet had made it clear that people will have free time but they will lose it. Thus considering time to be a great bounty and utilizing it effectively will make us successful and we will stay away from being losers.

Prophet Muhammad (saws) said, “Rise early to earn your living and do your affairs, for it brings about blessing and success.” (At-Tabarani). Prophet Mohammed (saws) also said: “O Allah! Bless my nation’s early rising. If he dispatched an army or a division, he did that early in the morning.” (Abu Dawood)

He (saws) always demanded that work should start early in the morning. When a person starts his day early in the morning, then he will have a lot of time to do various activities and will ultimately increase his level of productivity.

Prophet Mohammed (saws) said: “Seize the opportunity of five things before five things come to you, your life before your death, your health before your illness, your free time before your time of occupation, your youthfulness before your old age and your time of wealth before your time of poverty.” (Al-Hakim)

The youths spend their youthful days in forbidden things and desires; they did not seek the pleasure of their Lord or put forth good deeds by which they can attain happiness when they meet Him. Theirs is a loss upon loss and regret upon regret. This is because they wasted the opportunities provided for them.

Free time is also a blessing that Allah (swt) bestows upon His servants. So if Allah (swt) blesses someone with free time and he does not show the gratitude for this blessing through deeds that can elevate him or bring prosperity to his society or strengthen his nation but, instead, spends it in fun and pastime and sinful words and deeds, thereby wasting that precious time, such a person is in a serious and irrevocable loss.

Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “Lose no time to do good deeds before you are caught up by one of seven calamities awaiting you: a starvation which may impair your wisdom; a prosperity which may mislead you; an ailment which may damage your health; an old age which may harm your senses; a sudden death; the Dajjal (Antichrist); or Doomsday, which is indeed the hardest and most bitter.” (Tirmidhi & Baihaqi)

Thus, this hadith makes it clear that a person should never ever waste his time and should constantly involve himself doing good deeds. One should also fear about the calamities he might face in the future because of which he might not be in a position to perform good deeds and use his time effectively to the fullest.

Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “Surely Salah at fixed hours has been ordained on the believers.” (4:103) Performing five times Salah is a technique to make an individual punctual and teach him time management. When a person decided to perform Salah five times a day, he also starts planning as to how to make time from his worldly affairs to perform Salah. For examples, an individual who makes a plan to sleep early in the night so that he does not miss the Fajr Salah.

Doing such kind of planning five times a day, helps the person to learn the skill of time management. If a person is trained to manage his time five times a day, he will also be able to manage his time effectively in all the other activities he indulges in.

Salah also trains a person to be punctual. As the person develops the habit of praying five times in a day on time, he would automatically be punctual for all other activities as well.

Ramadan is the month of training a person. It not only trains a person to be spiritually strong, but also trains an individual on how to manage time. For example, when a person decides to fast, he gets up in the middle of the night to cook food and also ensures that there is enough time for him to eat the Sahar before the arise of dawn, and when he does all this, his sleeping schedule also tends to change. Thus doing this consistently for 29 or 30 days will teach the person to manage his time and also his sleep.

Time is one of the greatest blessings of Allah (swt). It is the most precious thing on earth, because we can earn money but we cannot earn time, so we must use time as a tool and not as a couch. Thus, effective utilisation of time should be a quality of a believer, who wants to attain true success in the Hereafter.

In order to make effective utilisation of time, one should critically analyse where he is spending most of his time and where he is wasting it. Allah (swt) has given us a limited lifespan; so we need to use it in doing good deeds and gaining the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Thus, in order to ensure happiness in life and the hereafter, the believer should make a plan as to how he would make effective utilisation of his time.

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