You can either consume or invest your time. When one consumes time they engage in activities that are not of benefit to themselves or others – essentially ‘killing time’ through idol activity. In contrast, when one invests time they learn a new skill, gain new knowledge and engage in activities that benefit themselves and others.
In today’s society, many people define time management skills from a financial perspective, suggesting ‘time is money’. Muslims consider time more valuable than money. Hassan Al Basri, a famous Muslim scholar who was taught by one of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) closest companions, said: “I have lived in times when many people were more careful about how they spent their lifetime than how they spent their money.”
Sometimes we see individuals sell their most valuable possessions to pay for a life-threatening surgical operation, hoping to extend their lifetime. Such cases seem to be clear demonstrations of the recognition that time is more valuable than money. Ironically, if we were to see someone burn their money we would probably consider the person crazy and lock them up, yet for those who waste time there are few serious consequences.
Good time managers do what ought to be done in the best way, at the best time. As an essential business resource, along with know-how, finances and human resources, time is an asset that must be managed appropriately if one is to gain benefit from it. Those who are skilled at using time wisely and in a positive manner will maximize the benefits gained from other limited resources.
Realistically, it is not easy to invest every moment of one’s time wisely; nonetheless, if we can consciously aim to use it effectively most of the time, we are on the right path. Despite the immense value of time, it is still considered one of the world’s most wasted resources. Some people simply aren’t aware of the tremendous loss of potential created by poor time management skills.
Time is a scarce resource. It cannot be accumulated, nor can it be stopped… once it passes it is gone forever and can never be recuperated. In light of these qualities, it is indeed considered, by both individuals and groups, as one of life’s most valuable assets. Time is also the basis and very essence of life. Although it can’t be bought, rented, borrowed or doubled, it can be managed and invested wisely. Those who have sufficient time to do their work, contemplate and appreciate God’s gifts and worship Him for His blessings, manage their time wisely and consciously use time effectively.
Good time management is not about changing or developing time, but rather, minimizing the amount of time one wastes with unnecessary actions. Being conscious of how one uses time and ever mindful and thankful for this precious resource is a good starting point.
In Islam, good time management starts with setting appropriate goals and working diligently to achieve them. Those who set specific, definite and measurable goals in their life are more aware of the effects time has on the achievement of their goals. When we are consciously aware of how time can affect the goals we pursue, we are more apt in using our time constructively, striving to meet our objectives and achieve our dreams within identified time frames.
Allah says: “Is he who goes groping on his face more rightly guided, or he who walks upright on a straight road?” (Qur’an, Chapter 67 Al-Mulk Verse 22)
In Islam, Muslims are urged to invest their time in the best manner and never waste it.
“Health and time are two of God’s most wasted blessings among most humans.”(Hadith)
“No one shall be judged on Judgment Day until he or she is asked about four things: what they spent their life doing; how they used their bodies, how they used their knowledge and what they did to expand it and how they earned and spent their money.”(Hadith)
If one considers the life of the Prophet Muhammad, it offers the best example of how humans ought to invest their time. Whenever he was at home he would divide his time into three equal parts: one-third was used to worship God, one-third was devoted to caring for his family and one- third was dedicated to improving himself. In fact, he used to use half of the latter third to improve understanding of the public who often visited, seeking greater knowledge of Islam.
The Prophet urged people to seize the opportunities time offered to direct their lives in meaningful ways:
“Seize the opportunity of your youth before you become old, your health before you become sick, your wealth before you become poor, your spare time before you become very busy and your life before you die.”(Hadith)
The Prophet Muhammad also urged people to take time to do good deeds throughout their life:
“If the Judgment Day suddenly arrived and someone has in his hand a seedling, then he should do his best to plant it before he dies.” (Hadith)
Those who do not appreciate time and waste it shall, without doubt, regret it when the end of their life is at hand. It is at this time they will realize, with sorrow, the true value of time and wish they had invested it more wisely. However, at that point it is too late and nothing can be done to remedy the situation.
“O ye who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. And spend of that wherewith we have provided you before death cometh unto one of you and he says: My Lord! If only thou wouldst reprieve me for a little while, then I would give alms and be among the righteous. But Allah reprieves no soul when its term comes, and Allah is aware of what ye do.” (Qur’an Chapter 63 Al-Munafiqoon Verses 9-10)
The second occasion they will come to understand the error of their ways is on Judgment Day, a time when everyone is judged by the deeds they did during their life time. It is at this time the wrongdoers will wish they could return to their time on earth to do right – when they see the Hellfire that awaits those who waste their time uselessly.
“But as for those who disbelieve, for them is fire of hell; it takes not complete effect upon them so that they can die, nor is its torment lightened for them. Thus we punish every ingrate. And they cry for help there, (saying): Our Lord! Release us; we will do right, not (the wrong) that we used to do. Did not we grant you a life long enough for him who reflected to reflect therein? And the Warner came unto you. Now taste (the flavor of your deeds), for evil-doers have no helper.” (Qur’an Chapter 35 Fatir Verses 36-37)
Often those who waste time have not taken the time to establish priorities in their life; the Quran warns those who neglect doing what they ought to do will suffer.
“Already have we urged unto hell many of the jinn and humankind, having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle – nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful.” (Qur’an Chapter 7 Al-Araf Verse 179)
Avoid procrastinating, delaying and postponing doing duties that ought to be done. When you respond to a request with ‘I will do this tomorrow’ or ‘when I have more free time I will do it’ or ’when I get older I will do it’ remember the only time we really have is the present moment.
Treasure it and use it wisely – it is indeed a present to be valued since we never know whether it will be given to us tomorrow.