Time is Life
By Shaykh Saalih Aal Taalib
Fellow Muslims! Fear your Lord Who knows all that is hidden, and Sufficient is He, concerning the sins of His servants, as Acquainting and Seeing. Allah says,
“O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. (Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always), and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims (with complete submission to Allah)).”
(Aal ‘Imraan 3:102)
In this world, man is between two dreaded things: his past life which he does not know what Allah is going to do with it, and the remaining part of his life which he does not know what Allah is going to decide on it.
The wise one then makes proper use of his life for his own benefits, fills his worldly life with righteous deeds in preparation for his hereafter and judiciously uses his free time before a time comes when he will be busy. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, there is nothing one can do after the death has come, and there is nothing after the life of this world but Paradise or Hell.
Dear Muslims! Man’s conditions in this world change between health and illness, free time and busy time, toil and rest, seriousness and indolence.
These days, the end of the academic year has created some free time. It is now common that people have their annual vacation in the summer; a situation that was unknown before but only created by the contemporary modernity that has turned man into a tool for the whole year, toiling tirelessly and frantically running after the materials of this world, far from spiritual nourishment like eemaan, which is the source of rest for the body, heart and the soul. The plague of vacations had become so widespread that it has become the sign of the summer all over the world.
In view of the reality of Islam, its universality, its comprehensiveness and its balanced rules and just laws, it has affirmed the soul and the body’s right to have their share of rest and relaxation. The Messenger of Allah said, “Surely, your body has a right upon you and your family has a right upon you. So give each their right.” (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
The soul might become tired because of a long work. And the hearts also are tired like bodies. ‘Alee said, “Give the hearts an hour of rest every now and then, for if the heart is coerced into work it becomes blind.”
Nevertheless, this recreation should not be allowed to exceed the limits of what is permissible. It is authentically reported that the Messenger of used to make jokes but he would not say anything but the truth. He engaged ‘Aaishah in a race, played with children and encouraged playing with one’s wife. He approved that the Abyssinians should play with their javelins. He would tell his companions, “Throw [arrows], for your father was an arrow-thrower.” These are some of the allowed recreation that do not consume all the time and that do not become one’s perpetual habit.
Making oneself happy and cheerful and refreshing oneself through permitted recreational activities are some of the things that Islam considers in its law. A permitted recreational activity is the one that does not contradict the fundamentals and laws of Islam It should not be a forbidden thing or lead to a forbidden thing or block the way to an obligatory deed.
Brethren in faith! Since vacations have become a reality in people’s life, the conscious Muslim should therefore always keep two things at the back of his mind:
One: That the time of vacation is a part of his life, that time is life and that vacation does not mean abandonment of works.
Two: That he is not excused from abiding by Islamic obligations. For, man is required to use all his time in worshipping Allah, which is the purpose for which he was created. Allah says,
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).”
However, this does not mean that one should spend all his time in prayer, fasting and jihad without any stop or rest. What is meant is that man should always remain in obedience to his Lord in all his situations. He should not abandon the obligation, for he is always commanded and prohibited and there is no time in his life in which he is free from Islamic regulations and free to do all that he likes. He should always abide by obligatory, supererogatory and permitted things. At least, he is obliged to shun all forbidden things however remote or relaxed he may be.
Holiday is not a time used on the margin of life. It is rather part of man’s life that is not owned by man but by Allah, Who created man so that he might use the time in the service of his Lord. That is why Allah made it forbidden that man should destroy his own life or waste his time in any form and for any reason. Allah says,
“And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire.”
This is in spite of the fact that the suicide perpetrator killed only himself. This underlines man’s responsibility before his Creator, regarding his own life.
The Messenger of Allah said, “The feet of the son of Adam shall not slip on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked of four things: His life as to how he spent it, his youth as how he used it, his knowledge as to what he did with it and his wealth as to where he got and how he spent it.” (At-Tirmidhee)
Travels are also part of life. And everyone shall be held accountable for how he spent the hours of his life. Based on this, we realize that the concept of time, according to Islamic legislation, does not permit man to waste any part thereof. We also realize the greatness of time in that Allah swears with it and with some parts of it. He says,
“By Al-'Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Ma'ruf) which Allah has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar which Allah has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience.”
Allah also swears by the night when it covers and the day when it appears and with the two kinds of creation: male and female. He also affirms that people’s efforts are diverse. He swears by the sun and its brightness, and by the day, night and the soul, affirming that whoever purifies his soul has succeeded and that whoever instills it with corruption has failed. All this, indicating that time is the essence of life.
Fellow Muslims! The wise is the one who reflects over his affairs and realizes that movement of days means nearness of his death however long or short he is destined to live. He then takes the safe side, strives in his day and prepare for his morrow. The time is nothing but man’s life and his repeated breath. Time is precious. The part of it that is gone will never be retrieved.
We seriously need to be alert. Many are the heedless who have sold off their most precious possession –their time – for a pittance. The time goes and those who fail to catch up with it, their days and times will go in vain and they will incur great loss, and nothing will remain of the life but only its effects. So choose for yourself what will benefit you. That is why the prosperous ones will be told on the Day of Resurrection,
“Eat and drink at ease for that which you have sent on before you in days past!”
And the miserable ones will be told,
“That was because you had been exulting in the earth without any right (by worshipping others instead of Allah and by committing crimes), and that you used to rejoice extremely (in your error). Enter the gates of Hell to abide therein: and (indeed) what an evil abode of the arrogant!”
Dear brethren! Man has two days in which he will regret his time that he has wasted and in which he will ask to be given some respite.
One: when he dies, that is when he will say,
“My Lord! If only You would give me respite for a little while (i.e. return to the worldly life), then I should give Sadaqah (i.e. Zakât) of my wealth, and be among the righteous.”
And the answer to this request will be:
“And Allah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death) comes. And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.”
Two: in the Hereafter when he enters Hell. Allah says,
“Therein they will cry: "Our Lord! Bring us out, we shall do righteous good deeds, not (the evil deeds) that we used to do.”
And the reply will be:
"Did We not give you lives long enough, so that whosoever would receive admonition could receive it? And the warner came to you. So taste you (the evil of your deeds). For the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers) there is no helper."
Fellow Muslims! Preserving time and making proper spending of one’s life need some resoluteness and strong will. As for indolence, it is a destructive and fatal disease. It reflects negatively on individuals and the society. It causes languor, poverty, moral and material backwardness and it leads to sins. Though work might be strenuous, indolence is undoubtedly destructive. If one sits down too much, he will fail to achieve his goals.
Tell those who are looking for places of fun to kill their time: ‘Do you think that life is just a pastime or do you think that death is just a fun?’
Tell those who spend their days between illusions and dreams: ‘If you are ignorant of how much of the time you waste, visit the graveyards, and seek from their inhabitants some time so that you might know that time is a precious thing that cannot be perpetually owned and a missed thing that can never be retrieved.’
Many are those who say: O Lord, send me back to the world that I may do righteous deeds that I had earlier abandoned.’ But they will be told: ‘No, life does not go back.’
Free time does not remain so for ever. It must be filled with either a good or a bad deed. He who does not occupy himself with good deed will have himself occupied with evil deed. The righteous predecessors disliked that a man should have nothing to do neither in matters of his religion or matters of his worldly life. If free time is combined with wealth and health, the danger then becomes greater if that free time is not used in good thing. The Messenger of Allah said, “There are two blessings in which many people are deluded: health and free time.” (Al-Bukhaaree)
Brethren in Islam! If someone has no goal to pursue, he will waste his time. The one who wanders about aimlessly bothers none but only himself. A man without a goal is like a captain-less ship tossed about by the waves. Days are records of deeds, so fill them with good deeds. Opportunities move like clouds, and languor is the habit of backward people. He who adopts the life of weakness will stumble. If procrastination and indolence are combined they generate loss. One of the righteous people cried when he was dying and when he was asked of the cause of his crying he said, “I am crying in regret of a day in which I did not fast and a night in which I did not pray.”
The reality is that whenever everyone nears his death he regrets every moment in which he had not done a good deed, regardless of whether the person was righteous or neglectful. Can’t we then catch up with what is left of our lives? You will find the earliest generations the best in terms of their keenness to preserve their time more than a stingy person would be keen to preserve his money. The harvest of their keenness was useful knowledge, righteous deeds, fighting in the way of Allah, glory and a firm-rooted civilization of towering branches.
But when you look at the situation of the contemporary Muslims, you will be surprised to notice how they waste their lives and times in a manner that is foolish and idiotic thereby lagging behind after they had been the leaders.
Fellow Muslims! If a man’s life is blessed he attains, within a short time, uncountable favour's of Allah Many are those who are made to succeed in achieving a lot within a short time so much so that you think that their achievements are miracles, while the reality is that they are only blessed and made successful in investing their time in useful things. The best example is the Messenger of Allah who brought the people out of darkness to the light and changed the face of human history within a short period of twenty-three years.
Another example is ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab who worked continuously through days and nights. He would say, “If I slept in the night I would waste my life and if I slept during the day I will waste the lives of my subjects. How can I then sleep between these two periods?”
Ibn ‘Aqeel said, “I cannot waste an hour of my life. Even if my tongue stops from reading and discussing matters of knowledge, and my eyes stops from browsing books, I make use of my thoughts at my time of rest and when I am lying down. When I get up I’ll already have in my mind what needs writing down.” That is how he was able to write his book, al-Funoon, about which adh-Dhahabee said, “Nothing greater than it [in its field] has ever been authored.”
Ibn al-Qayyim said about his Shaykh, “I have seen wonders in the strength of Shaykh al-Islam concerning his ways, his actions and his writings. In a single day, he would author what a copyist would copy for a whole week.”
Adh-Dhahabee said about him, “His writings reached about five hundred volumes.”
All this is in addition to his other activities like da’wah and jihad.
The Messenger of Allah said, “He who fears [sudden attack of the enemy] sets out in the night, and he who sets out in the night will arrive at the appropriate station. Behold, Allah’s commodity [Paradise] is precious and expensive! Behold, Allah’s commodity [Paradise] is precious and expensive!” (At-Tirmidhee)
Brethren in faith! Since we have talked about time and the importance of investing it in useful things, here is a piece of advice for those who are gambling with their lives in the ambiguities of darkness that lead to unlawful shedding of the blood of Muslims.
Dear Muslim youths! The afflictions of your Ummah are many and its wounds are still fresh. However, the most bleeding wound of the Ummah and its most painful disease is the deviant thoughts and actions of some of its youths. It greatly pains this Ummah to see some of its youths attacking the scholars, the rulers and the wise men of their society who weigh the interests of the Ummah and try to prevent the worst of the two evils with the lesser one. This is a deviation that results in killings and shedding of innocent blood among Muslims and within the vicinity of the sacred cities.
The reprovers have reproved and the sincere advisers have given their sincere advice. The scholars have explained the truth. Will you then cease?
Many of the lives that should have been used in constructing the useful society with the guidance of the scholars and upon the Sunnah of the Prophet have been wasted. This is a call from a sympathetic and sincere adviser to those who have denounced the community of the Muslims to return to the right path. Let those who have committed mistakes repent, and those who are accused surrender themselves so that they can enjoy security. It is an act of bravery to admit mistakes and face the consequences.
It is our hope that you will understand and reason and then be excused and shown mercy. If not, you need to atone for your sins. Either of the two options is however better for a Muslim than proceeding in committing mistakes. Whatever Allah has decreed shall come to pass, and to Him belongs the control of all affairs in the beginning and in the end. We seek refuge with Him against misleading trials.