In the last two articles [The Concept
s towards time in both Qur’an and Hadith. To see the fruits of practicing these principles, we can observe the statements and examples of our pious predecessors from the time of the great early gen
erations (Salaf us-Saalih) to our times. The following is a limited selection of extremely dedicated Muslims who were continuously productive and truly understood the value of time.
An oft-quoted Islamic saying about time comes from Imam Shafi’i who famously expounded two principles of time management:
“Time is like a sword: if you don’t cut it, it will cut you. Second is yourself: if you don’t busy it with right, it will busy you with wrong.”
The first point reminds us of the urgency of time, the metaphor indicating the sharp ruthlessness of the way in which time can seemingly ‘cut’ you: you can waste an hour, a day, a month, or years. To ‘cut it’ with time, one has to actively manage it, bringing us to the second point: our nafs. In Surah 14:53, Yusuf (peace be upon him) says,
“Man’s very soul incites him to evil.”
Our nafs al-ammarah thus needs active restraining and purifying, lest it lead us to do bad deeds.
In the time management context, when one simply drifts along without a clear focus or plan, it is so much easier to be tempted to sin or waste time. What’s the main reason why ‘yobbos’ engage in petty crime or delinquent behaviour? The answer heard time and time again is that they have ‘nothing to do.’ At an individual level, where a person has no goal or project or purpose they end up wasting their life away. Teenagers disengaged with school waste their life on computer games and gossip; jobless young men take to drugs; elderly widows living alone spend all their time in house work as they know not what else to do. I believe the soaring rates of depression and mental illness, sadly even in our Muslim community, is partly due to a lack of purpose and direction. It’s not enough to be Muslim. One has to understand what Islam entails. And anyone who understands what Islam entails, understands the state of urgency we’re in. We cannot help being busy.