How often have we come across the statement, “It is quality – not quantity – that matters”? Yet how many actually listened to it? There is a quality of listening that we must invest to fully grasp a message. When we look around the world, we see how giant corporations are racing against one another for profits and more profits. Do you know how Japanese companies penetrated the Western markets after the Second World War? By paying microscopic attention to processes at ALL levels of their businesses. Companies are making billions by following one principle: TQM = Total Quality Management.
Advice From Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then (take it for granted that) Allah sees you.” [Bukhari]
To us, everyday tasks and chores become repetitive, and we emphasize getting a job done rather than doing it with perfection. We become inefficient because we waste valuable resources and ineffectiveness seeps in when we lose focus of our end goals, ultimately ending up being unproductive.
Islam is a Practical Way of Life
The distinguishing feature of Islam is practicality. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) set an exemplary benchmark for us; his life a living reflection of the Qu’ran. To be Productive Muslims, let us look at how we can incorporate Total Quality Management in our daily activities.
1. Quality Intentions
Intentions (niyyah) are in actuality, the mission statement of our actions. We intend to achieve something, abstract or concrete, but there is always a foundation on which we pile our actions: “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended” [Bukhari].
Intentions draw a fine line between faith and hypocrisy, and because they are only completely and truly known to Allah (glorified and exalted be He), they are our true test of faith. The question is how to have sincere quality intentions, meant only to please Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and attain His most prized blessings.
- Know yourself: ascertain who you are. Identify your strengths and weaknesses in your faith to understand the right potential and meaning of your intentions.
- Be sincere and honest with yourself. Only then will you be honest with Allah (glorified and exalted be He).
- Be critical of your thoughts, words and deeds.
- Do not take your routine actions and words for granted. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Be clear minded and refrain from deceiving yourself by dwelling in denial.
- Question yourself and your thoughts and align all your actions to the mission of pleasing Allah (glorified and exalted be He) constantly.
- Read the Qur’an regularly to remind yourself about what your intentions should actually be and what goals they should lead up to.
- Live up to the purpose of your life everyday by consciously making powerful, strong intentions for the next day to plan ahead and know where you are going.
2. Quality Listening
Allah commands us: “When the Qur’an is read, listen attentively, and fall silent, so that you may be blessed with mercy.” [Qur'an: Chapter 7, Verse 204].
Quality listening is all about effective listening. Statistics compiled by the International Listening Association show that 75% of the time that we should be listening, we are not. We are involved in the process of hearing sounds and voices without registering their meaning or importance and without processing their purpose and goal. Hence it is idle listening, leading to nothing specifically. However, by knowing communication and understanding effective listening, Productive Muslims must work to develop the competitive edge of focus which will help us:
- Save time
- Understand our environment
To listen effectively:
- Listen to understand, not to respond.
- Respect the speaker and understand the content and context of the subject before hastening to reacting.
- Remove distractions.
- Give respect to the speaker whether they are your parents or siblings, friends or colleagues, and give your full attention to them by facing them fully.
- Be quiet!
Make notes: If you’re in a lecture, a seminar or in a class, try to make brief and succinct points of what the speaker is teaching. The notes are useful reminders and summaries for future use and they keep you focused.
Don’t waste your time on junk: For example, there are videos on YouTube with curiously interesting captions about insignificant, petty matters that we waste our time on, idling away our time being lazy and gaining nothing. It is important, therefore that you pick and choose what is worth spending your time and energy on.
3. Quality Prayers
Quality prayers are in essence the pillar of our personal faith. Our five daily prayers are mandatory on us. But what makes us so sure that our prayers are really meeting the prescribed criteria set by our Lord? How do we know that the time we are investing in praying to Allah (glorified and exalted be He) meets the quality level required of us? In other words, just appearing for your paper on exam day does not guarantee a good grade – good intention, preparation and sincere effort leads to it.
“Successful indeed are the believers those who offer their salah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. These are indeed the inheritors, who shall inherit Paradise. They shall dwell therein forever.” [Qur'an: Chapter 23, Verses 1-2].
With regards to prayer, we can draw up the following table to analyze what tools can be employed to enhance the quality of our prayers:
- Have a strong desire to do what is obligatory.
- Lessen external distractions: reply to texts beforehand and turn off your phone to keep from looking at or hearing it during prayers.
- Read material that will increase your knowledge about the huge importance of prayer in Islam.
- Clear your mind. Take a few minutes to relax and take a breath, rather than jump into salah.
- Read about the passion of the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for prayers and try to emulate them.
- Pray (sincerely) to Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to guide you with patience, gratitude and understanding.
- Don’t be lazy when you walk up to prayer: be passionate, even if you don’t feel passionate.
- Offer your prayers at their earliest stated times to ward off laziness and procrastinating.
- Be attentive when you do your wudhu and understand that you are going to appear before the one who is the Lord of the Worlds.
- Understand that your prayers are a gift to you from Allah (glorified and exalted be He) through Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): Show Allah (glorified and exalted be He) how much you love His gift!
4. Quality Speech
The entire life of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has been chosen as the model of excellence nominated and delegated by Allah (glorified and exalted be He) Himself. One of the most beautiful qualities of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was his manner of conversation. Following his example:
Spread Salaam (Peace): Whether you know people or you do not know them, initiate greeting them by saying salaam.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another: spread salaam (the greeting of peace) among you” [Tirmidhi].
If they take the lead, then respond them with enthusiasm – sincere enthusiasm.
The four dearest words to Allah (glorified and exalted be He): Initiate all your plans and works with the name of Allah (glorified and exalted be He), and end them by praising Allah[ swt]; optimism, contentment and barakah are sure to find you.
Narrated Samurah ibn Jundub: The dearest words to Allah are four: Subhan Allah (Hallowed be Allah), Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah), La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah), and Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). [Muslim].
Eliminate rude words: If you happen to have a harsh vocabulary coupled with a harsh tone, people are likely to shrink away from you no matter how good and nice you might be at heart.
Abu Hurairah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Muslim]
Even the Qura’n commands us to “Speak to people good words…” [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 83].
Respect and genuinely care for people: One way of truly respecting our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters is by protecting their honor in and out of their presence, from ourselves and those around us, by warding off unnecessary gossip and backbiting that goes around us.
“The Muslim who helps another when the latter’s dignity and honor are under attack, shall be helped by Allah – Glorious and Sublime is He! – at a time when he needs Allah’s help. But he who forsakes a Muslim, when his dignity and honor are under attack, shall have Allah forsake him at a time when he would wish for Allah’s help”. [Al Ghazali,Ihya Ulum al Din; Kitab Adab al Suhbah p. 369]
Three is not a crowd! When you are more than two people in company, don’t ignore the third party by making them feel left out even if he/she happens to be a complete stranger and the other is your childhood best friend. Involve everyone in discussion. It is recorded in Bukhari and Muslim: “If you were three, then do not whisper between the two of you ignoring the third till the number increases. This is because whispering will sadden him.”
Mind those adjectives: Whenever you are in a position of having to describe someone, try to use true, good adjectives and represent the best you can of them to others, as you would like them to do for you. “If a person conceals the weakness of another in this world, Allah will conceal his weakness in the Hereafter”. [Muslim]
Truth, truth and nothing but the truth: This should probably have been number one on my list, but truth is the best of speech, no matter how bitter it may sound or how unprofitable it may be to one’s own self, stick to the truth, and the truth will save you.
Qur’an: Block time out for Qur’an everyday to increase your consciousness of Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and to purify your speech.
Speak no evil: If you are in a habit of swearing or using bad words, tell a friend or a family member to keep a check on you and find good company to benchmark against. Increase your frequency of remembrance of Allah (glorified and exalted be He), and you will naturally find your tongue and your heart shying away from words with any degree of vulgarity/obscenity. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ” A true believer is not involved in taunting, or frequently cursing (others) or in indecency or abusing” [Tirmidhi].
Don’t be obnoxiously critical: Instead of discouraging or criticizing your peers or students or anyone who comes to you for advice, thank them, appreciate them, motivate them, and use the best way of pointing out any flaws you may seem to find and help them see how best to fix them.
It is recorded that Anas said, “I served the Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, for ten years. During that time, he never once said to me as much as ‘Uff’ if I did something wrong. He never asked me, if I had failed to do something, ‘Why did you not do it?,’ and he never said to me, if I had done something wrong, ‘Why did you do it?’ [Al Adab Al Mufrad]
Be soft-spoken: Remove all harsh words and phrases from your dictionary. Ask your friends and family members what vocabulary of yours they have found offensive, make a list of it, and replace them with kinder words.
Imagine the importance of being mild in one’s speech if Allah (glorified and exalted be He) even commands Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and Harun (may Allāh be pleased with him) concerning Pharaoh: “But speak to him gentle speech; perchance he may take warning or fear Allah”. [Qur'an: Chapter 20, Verse 44]
Silence is golden: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say what is righteous or keep silent” [Bukhari].
If you keep yourself busy with things and don’t waste time on idle gossip and topics and endless discussion, you may find less time to spare for random talking.
5. Quality Learning
Learn with sincerity: That means knowing you aren’t doing it for fame or recognition and that you are not doing it to beat someone at a test or proving someone wrong to belittle him. Learn to seek the truth and to increase your character through this knowledge.
Make use of the time that has barakah: The time after Fajr has barakah in it, and making use of it to read and memorize is extremely valuable.
Read widely, read deeply and read daily: This formula is actually from Barron’s SAT guide and is actually very effective if practiced with consistency.
Make notes and review notes everyday: Whatever you study, review it, not around the time of your quiz, or the time of your exam, but review it the day you studied it. It adds immensely to your learning power and retaining ability.
Share your knowledge: Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people.” [Muslim]. And believe it or not, sharing knowledge with friends does leave behind a stronger impression on your own memory.
6. Quality Love
It is Islam’s beauty that it says ”None of you will truly believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
- We all have our own way of loving one another but the best way to love is the way of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Love Allah and His Messenger the MOST! Don’t just say you love them, live your love: follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Love the Qur’an: Recite it with love, and memorize it with love and share it with love. Love the Sunnah: When you speak of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), speak of him with love and remember to send blessings on him as much as you can and strive to emulate him with love, compassion and gratitude.
- Love your parents and your family members. Set a good example by being forgiving and generous with them through your time and good manners.
- Love your fellow Muslims. Give gifts to one another, spread salaam, avoid suspicion and gossip, backbiting and blaming, and call one another with the best names. Love them like you would like yourself to be loved. Give and forgive.
- Be grateful to one another as gratitude leads to love. Only by being grateful to people can one be grateful to Allah (glorified and exalted be He).
- Remember one another in your prayers and supplications.
- Share the knowledge and the blessings Allah(glorified and exalted be He) has granted you, with the Muslim Ummah. Facilitate for one another the path towards jannah. Enjoin what is good, forbid what is wrong, and believe in Allah (glorified and exalted be He) the way the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did.
- Finally, live to please The Creator and His Creation purely for the sake of Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Be Productive Muslims – the Muslim Ummah is meant to excel.
Do you have any other tips to create TQM in your life? Share with us by leaving a comment below.
About the Author:
Zainab Khan is a student currently doing Bachelors in Business Administration. She tries to connect what she learns in her academic courses with the teachings of Islam. She loves documentaries on outer space, and enjoys travelling and spending time with her family and friends.