Time is limited. Death is certain. However, our intention to live a productive life and to serve Allah and His creation will itself be enough to count as a positive action.
By Taha Ghayyur
If you study the seerah (life of Prophet Muhammad ) with specific focus on his daily and regular routines, it is an eye-opener. How meticulous he was in planning every aspect of his day; how he prioritized tasks; how serious he was about keeping his word and how he kept his speech precise and not indulging in idle talk. Here are five lessons on time-management that we can draw from the Prophet’s enormously productive and purpose-driven life.
1. Be an Early Riser
The Prophet said: “O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings (i.e., what they do early in the morning).” [Ibn Majah] Schedule your important tasks earlier in the day, especially those which require mental exercise, and watch the blessings from Allah do the magic.
2. Schedule your day around the Five Daily Prayers
No compromises. The discipline to give up all your work and life’s distractions to perform salah strengthens your willpower to live a purposeful life. Just as you endeavor to be punctual for meetings with your colleagues or project team mates, you should perform your salah on time.
While some of us who are students or working professionals may find it difficult to pray on time, we can overcome this by discussing the issue with your colleagues or friends. Once you have fulfilled your most important obligation, the rest will become easy for you.
3. Prioritize and Be Consistent
If we look into the seerah, we can deduce that the Prophet’s day was divided into three main parts.
Spiritual development: This was the time he dedicated solely to Allah . It was typically the late part of the night when the Prophet would recharge himself spiritually for the next day and boost his resolve to face the challenges in his mission. It was during the night that he engaged in intimate communication with his Lord, the Source of all strength and empowerment, through qiyam (night prayer), dua (supplication) and zikr.
Family affairs: The prophet was consistent in making time for family matters.
Personal/Social affairs: He consistently made time for his companions, so no one felt neglected or had their affairs swept under the carpet. This was the time when men and women would come with their personal, marital, financial, spiritual and even health problems. This is when he would receive delegations from other nations and faiths or attend to nerve-racking issues of politics, conflicts and leadership.
Figure out the real priorities in your life. What is worth spending an hour on? What comes first? What is a must-do and what is good-to-do? Allocate time consistently to activities that matter. Unless you plan for and schedule time for community work, studies or attending to parents, your spouse or children on a daily basis, they are not considered important enough to you. Chances are, you will eventually start neglecting these high priority actions.
4. Hasten in Doing Good
Prophet Muhammad had a sense of urgency in doing good and warned others against procrastination.
Narrated ‘Uqba bin Al-Harith: Once the Prophet offered the Asr prayer and then hurriedly went to his house and returned immediately. I (or somebody else) asked him (as to what was the matter) and he said, “I left at home a piece of gold which was from the charity and I disliked to let it remain a night in my house, so I got it distributed.” [Bukhari] Procrastinators do not appreciate time nor the means and the opportunities that Allah gives them to be productive. Each day has its own share of work and each time has its own share of obligations. Therefore, in the Prophet’s life, there was no such thing as idle time.
5. Honoring the Time of Others
Prophet Muhammad was sensitive to his companions’ time and needs. His khutbahs (sermons) were brief, concise and powerful. Aim to arrive for meetings, classes and events 10 minutes before they are scheduled to start. If you are running late, inform the other parties. Honoring others’ time is part of fulfilling your promise. Breaking a promise not only causes inconvenience to others, but also causes you to lose their respect.
(Taha Ghayyur is a writer, consultant and community organizer. He works as a freelance writer with WordMatters.ca and as Development Manager with Sound Vision, a pioneer in Islamic multimedia in North America).