Jumuah lecture on Friday 30 August 2019 (28 Dhul Hijja 1440)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
With us being in the new Islamic year, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on this issue of time and the system which we have in our life, in the form of days and nights, months and years and so on, which takes the shape of a calendar.
The Holy Quran speaks about this issue repeatedly, and this particular issue of time was the subject of many enquiries. Therefore, in the very early part of the Holy Quran, specifically verse 189 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ ۖ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ
“They ask thee, (O Muhammad), of new moons, say: They are fixed seasons for mankind and for the pilgrimage.”
This verse talks about enquiries made regarding the different phases of the moon. These different astronomical phases of the moon are units to measure time and for Hajj, because Hajj is an Ibadah (act of worship) which is conditioned with particular timing, on particular dates.
Therefore, the phases of moon, which is a natural phenomenon, is a method for us to know when to perform Hajj, because Hajj cannot be performed at any time we wish. It must be performed in the month of Dhul Hijja, specifically from 9th Dhul Hijja.
THE HOLY QURAN INCULCATES TIME MANAGEMENT AS A DISCIPLINE
The logic of the Holy Quran is trying to draw our attention to something very important, namely, the value of time. In life, be it individually, communally, or socially, we cannot have any form of success or achievement, if we do not have a system, discipline or order. Hence, the Holy Quran says that this system has been placed for us so that we can organize and discipline our lives, so that we can benefit from time.
It is a deep philosophical discussion if we want to truly understand what time is, but the units by which we measure time, like seconds, minutes, hours, days, nights, weeks, months, years are units given to us so that we can be organized. Verse 5 of Surah Yunus (chapter 10 of the Holy Quran) is particularly relevant in this regard:
هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty), and measured out stages for her; that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth He explain His Signs in detail, for those who understand.”
Now, in this verse, Almighty Allah (SWT) counts these units of time and this system of disciplining the time in which we live, as one of the greatest gifts which He has bestowed upon us.
This verse explains that it is Almighty Allah (SWT) who gave the sun its shining light and similarly light to the moon, and it is He who measured the astronomical phases of the moon. And the reason for this is so that we may learn the calculation of years and the reckoning of time.
Again, in verse 12 of Surah Israa (chapter 17 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ آيَتَيْنِ ۖ فَمَحَوْنَا آيَةَ اللَّيْلِ وَجَعَلْنَا آيَةَ النَّهَارِ مُبْصِرَةً لِتَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَلِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَصَّلْنَاهُ تَفْصِيلًا
“And We have made the night and the day two signs, then We have made the sign of the night to pass away and We have made the sign of the day manifest, so that you may seek grace from your Lord, and that you might know the numbering of years and the reckoning; and We have explained everything with distinctness.”
These verses prove that there is a great philosophy and significance to this system. The Holy Quran reminds us that this system is in place to bring discipline and order in our life, when it comes to time. The value of time is so crucial, and the Holy Quran emphasizes this repeatedly to the point where Almighty Allah (SWT) takes an oath by time, in Surah al-Asr (chapter 103):
I swear by the time,
إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
Most surely man is in loss,
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.
This is an indirect hint, that we are in a state of loss if we do not inculcate that discipline of time in our lives. Those who realize the value of time are the people of faith and those who do righteous deeds and display patience.
So, all these verses describe the system of time, and then Surah al-Asr explains why we should give high importance to time.
THE USHERING IN OF THE NEW YEAR ALLOWS US TO REFLECT AND TAKE STOCK OF OURSELVES
The end of the solar or lunar year, and the ushering in of the new year, provides us an opportunity to reflect on the year that passed, and what we have achieved, and what we are planning to do in the year ahead. Similarly, our birthdays make us think, that another year of my life has gone, and I have one year less in this world now, and what am I going to plan for the year ahead.
Therefore, the Holy Quran explains that one of the main characteristics of believers is that they stay away from vain talk. Verse 3 of Surah Mu’minoon (chapter 23) refers:
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
And who shun vain conversation.
The word “lagh” has various meanings. One of the interpretations of the word “lagh” is wasting time and just doing nothing. The people who will be in big trouble on the day of Qiyamah (Judgement Day) are those who wasted their time and did not value their time. They lacked system in their life.
Therefore, the dua which is recommended to be recited at the end of the year is a reminder that another year has passed. We live in a constant time machine, which simply flies by. We need to take stock of where we are, what are we doing, how much time have we wasted and what have we achieved?
The Holy Quran even narrates that on the Day of Qiyamah, there will be people who will be regretting about why they wasted their time. The value, importance and role of time and discipline is itself a focus in the Holy Quran, for which I have provided a few hints in this regard from the verses cited above.
PROPHETIC SUNNAH AND TEACHINGS FROM AHLUL BAIT (A.S) ADMONISHES TIME WASTING
Similarly, if you reflect on the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he placed heavy emphasis on proper time management and not wasting it to destroy our life. This was his approach practically and in the advice he gave people too.
There is a beautiful, long Hadith which Rasulullah (SAWA) gave as advice to one of his very, very important and pious companions by the name of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (r.a). The Hadith advises to realize the value of “5 things before 5”. They are as follows:
- Your life before your death;
- Your health before you get sick;
- Your available time before you don’t have that opportunity any longer;
- Your young age before you become old;
- Your wealth before you become dependent.
Imam Ali (a.s) says that we should prepare ourselves today, for tomorrow, and we should take benefit of the time we have. He then makes a very deep, thoughtful statement, saying that we should take the opportunity of possibility! We should not miss the opportunity of possibility, because it will not always be there.
Therefore, when we look at successful people in this world, we realize that they are the ones who placed a high price on the value of time and who managed it effectively.
In another Hadith from Imam Ali (a.s), he says that a Mu’min’s (believer’s) time is always full. He/she does not have free time.
There is a companion of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s). He was an old man, aged 94 years old. This old man comes to Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), requesting some advice, which he kindly provides. This man kept sitting there, and Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) tolerates him out of good manners and etiquette.
The next time, this man came again to Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), requesting some advice. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) again happily obliges, but after providing advice, requests that he needs to move onto the next task which is waiting, because he has a focused program in his life, and he must accomplish all these things within a set timeframe.
TIME WASTING OCCURS WHEN DESIRES OVERTAKE OUR INTELLECT
This re-emphasizes the importance of time management which the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) have repeatedly taught us on different levels. For example, in the same Hadith noted earlier from Rasulullah (SAWA) to Abu Dharr, Rasulullah (SAWA) explains to him that every rational person whose desires do not overtake his intellect. Time wasting occurs when your desires overtake your thinking capacity.
Rasulullah (SAWA) then advises Abu Dharr that every intellectual person whose intellect has control over his desires should divide his time into 4 portions:
- Ibadah (acts of worship) and dua (supplication to Almighty Allah (SWT));
- To take account of himself;
- To reflect upon creation;
- Time for Halaal enjoyment
Rasulullah (SAWA) then explains that the 4th portion is a support for the first 3! You must have time for relaxation and enjoyment, which will support the first 3 sections.
In a similar Hadith from Imam Ali (a.s), he says that we should divide our time into 3 portions:
- Halaal earning
- Halaal enjoyment
These are all general guidelines, but the crux of the message is that success of an intelligent person in life depends upon the great importance placed on time and proper management of that time.