WASTEFULNESS – 2

All the bounties received by human beings, whether through our own efforts or freely bestowed, are blessings granted by Allah the Almighty. This is because it is Allah the Almighty who creates all these bounties in the first place, and it is He who creates the abilities and powers that servants need in order to obtain them. We must never forget that we are the recipients of divine blessing. We must pursue our live without ever losing track of the knowledge that all these bounties are items given in trust, about which we shall be questioned one day. The noble Qur’an clearly states it:

Did you then think that We had created you in vain, and that you should not be returned to Us?(Mu’minûn, 23/115).

So when we make use of the material or spiritual property we possess, we must be aware that we are not unaccountable. We should utilize whatever is at our disposal so as to merit divine consent.

In another verse in the noble Qur’an, our Lord reminds us of the great interrogation and underlines that we bear a responsibility:

Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the profit.(Takâthur, 102/8)

Allah regulates how we may acquire the bounties He bestows. He also regulates the ways we may use them. These rules establish the difference between lawful and unlawful things. Extravagance is counted among the things that cause loss of divine mercy and love, and attract divine wrath. In the noble Qur’an, Allah declares:

…and be not prodigal. Lo! Allah loves not the prodigals.(An`âm, 6/141)

Profligacy in the use of time

Wasting time is one of the gravest mistakes that people are prone to. It is a result of inattentiveness and forgetfulness. Life is an extremely valuable bounty bestowed by Allah upon every living thing once only, and for a limited period of time. Thus it is necessary to spend time on actions that suit its value. There are always different things that might be done with every moment. However, the guiding principle is to give priority to whatever is most important now. We should then order whatever follows according to each thing’s level of importance.

For instance, for a mother to give priority to nursing her baby is proper, since that is a behavior required by her mercy and compassion toward her baby. However, if she should persist in nursing the child while her apartment is on fire, she would be showing stupidity and would incur a heavy responsibility. At that moment, her priority is to try to put out the fire. If she were to take it easy and do nothing while the apartment burned, in a short while she and her baby too would be destroyed by the fire.

Similarly, because of the fragile character of this era, it is among our responsibilities to use our time to try to make the religion of Allah stronger.

The noble Companions of the Prophet, who were extremely careful about their use of time, felt that the best time they spent was the period when they were occupied with carrying the divine message to other people. One of the Prophet’s Companions was about to be executed by nonbelievers. The person responsible for the execution allowed three minutes for this Companion’s last wish. The Companion thanked the unfortunate man and said, “So it seems that I have three more minutes to explain Islam to you. I hope you find guidance.”

In today’s world, clearly some people are lost to the erosion of unbelief and immorality. Given this situation, it is incumbent upon every believer, because of our faith and conscience, to reach out to such people with gentle and conciliatory words and let them know the beauty and kindness of Islam.

To behave wastefully when making use of time, that extremely valuable capital, by engaging in futile and pointless activities, may endanger the life of the Hereafter. For people who have drawn aside the veil of ignorance, time is an incomparable bounty, unlike anything else. In Surah ‘Asr, (Time),Allah the Almighty says:

By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), verily humanity is in loss, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and join together (in the mutual teaching) of truth, and of perseverance.(‘Asr, 103/1-3)

This chapter, which begins with an oath sworn on Time, declares that times lived without faith or not employed in doing good and joining together in advising truth and patience, are simply lost. They are occasions of disappointment. Those who utilize their time properly are indicated to be exceptions to the human rule. Thus the chapter implies the bitter truth that the majority of people fail in regard to time.

Allah the Almighty gives the following advice to His servants so that they may escape from the disappointments of time and may receive divine blessings:

Therefore, when you are free (from your immediate task), still labor hard, and to your Lord turn (all) your attention. (Inshirâh, 94/7-8)

That is, one must turn immediately from one good work to the next. We should not allow even a moment to pass without investing it in worship and good deeds. For time is a treasure lent to us so that we may acquire happiness in the Hereafter, and death is the deadline for the repayment of our debt.

A businessman takes out a loan with a promise to pay back his debt at a definite time. The time is fixed so that the indebted person may prepare for the payment. Our worldly life is the time allotted us to prepare for the life of the Hereafter, so that we might perhaps acquire divine acceptance. If a businessman does not take the deadline seriously and does not prepare for it, he will suffer difficulties when his debt falls due..And if human beings do not use the time allotted us properly, we Weill be unable to escape from disappointment. Every person is destined to assume responsibility for a fixed period beginning immediately at birth. At the end of that period, each of us will meet Azrael (pbuh), the angel of death. And although it is certain that the debt of human life will fall due, our due date is unknown. This tremendous situation urges us at all times to be ready to pay over our lives.

The reality that life is a divine bounty to be properly utilized is the basis of an important Sufi principle, known as wuquf-i zamâni, “remaining present with the time.” According to this concept, a person of faith who aims at cleaning his soul and purifying his heart must engage in conscious and appropriate good acts from moment to moment, and examine himself all the time. He must leave what is unnecessary, and keep away from idle talk. As Mawlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî tells us, such a person must protect his tongue from being a “clown of words.” Indeed, this is how Allah describes those servants who obtain salvation:

They shun vain and useless affairs. (Mu’minun, 23/3).

When they pass by senseless words and useless things, they pass by with dignity. (Furqân, 25/72)

A virtuous believer must always be aware of his inner world. He should consider how he asks Allah for pardon, how he thanks Allah, and how content he is with his life. He should reflect on the endless bounties he receives and on his gratitude for them, and he must repent for the time he has spent in ignorance. He should keep clear of the ignorance of his past, and set himself free from pointless worries about the future. He must strive to fulfill the requirements of the moment he is living. That is, he must be “the son of the moment” – he must fully appreciate the value of his life and especially the moment he is experiencing now.

A mature believer will spend his time in preparation for the life of the Hereafter. In fact, wasting our precious life on vanities is one of the chief causes of regret. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “The people of Paradise shall regret nothing but time spent during worldly life without the remembrance Allah!” (Haythamî, X, 73-74). Thus he reminds us that believers must invest their time like capital to reap an endless life. When opportunities are lost, remorse is of no avail.. Hence we must spend our lives properly while we have the chance. We must strive to thank Allah as much as we can with every capacity of our natures. For example, we should make efforts to thank Allah for the divine gift of the tongue by praising Him with the recitation of litanies, which is the cure for the heart.

The Prophet (pbuh) advised his wife, the Mother of the Believers, Hafsah : “O Hafsah! Beware of talking too much. Too much talk without the mention of Allah kills the heart. But mention Allah frequently, because it revives the heart.” (Ali al-Muttaqî, I, 439/1896)

Allah the Almighty warns us:

…Spend something (in charity) out of the substance We have bestowed upon you before Death come to any of you, that he should say, “O my Lord! Would that you gave me respite for a little while! I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good.”(al-Munâfiqûn 63/10)

The following Qur’anic verse, which relates the cries and excuses of those who end up in disappointment, is quite remarkable:

Therein will they cry aloud for assistance: “Our Lord! Bring us out: we shall work righteousness, not the (deeds) we used to do!” And Allah will say to them: “Did We not give you long enough life so that he that would, should receive admonition? And (moreover) the warner came to you. So taste the chastisement!” For the wrongdoers there is no helper. (Fâtir, 35/37)

The major cause leading to wastefulness concerning time is that people do not clearly grasp death, and keep assuming that it is far away from them. This is certainly a foundation of ignorance, and is responsible for the waste of other bounties, too. Indeed in the Prophetic tradition we read, “Remember death often! It uproots all kinds of pleasure.” (Timidhî, Qıyâmah, 26). All behaviors that remain indifferent to the Prophetic warning will lead to chastisement one day.

One day the Messenger of Allah said: “There is nobody who will die and not be regretful.”

His noble Companions then asked: “How can all people be regretful?”

And the Prophet (pbuh) replied: “If he is a pious person, then he will regret not having performed more good deeds. And if he is an evildoer, then he will regret not having abandoned evil actions.” (Tirmidhî, Zuhd, 59).

When a person carefully considers the effects of divine power in himself or in the cosmos, looking with the eyes of the heart, he feels compelled to think about how he should pursue his life. Death is the most visible event that affects the direction of anyone’s life. That tremendous moment of farewell is full of lessons to be pondered. Anyone who is aware of what death is will not be deceived by temporary pleasures; anyone who knows that he is a passenger traveling toward the Hereafter cannot be taken in by the toys in this worldly hotel. He will not spend his time playing with them. In the noble Qur’an, Allah declares:

We created not the heavens, the earth, and all that is between them merely in sport. We created them not except for truth. But most of them do not understand. (Dukhân, 44/38-39)

Even if we received every transitory bounty and lived for a thousand years, it would all come to nothing in the end. Isn’t our destination under the soil that is beneath our feet? Why do we not take heed of the fact that the youth and the strength of all mortal beings has always been ground up by the mill of time? It would be utterly horrible, with regard to the endless future life, if one tried to hang on to the flattery that feeds raw egos in a world unlinked to the Hereafter, if one took the toys of this playpen to be anything real!… Imam Shafi`î asks: “Would it be intelligent for caravans on the move to build houses on the road?”

Think of those who immerse themselves in worldly pleasures with the aim of achieving peace of mind without taking the Hereafter into account. It is certainly a saddening waste of one’s life. It is a painful loss! Those who fritter away their time as if they will never die, will regret their behavior and sorely miss their lost time later.

People identified with their carnal desires always try to avoid thinking about death and what is beyond it so that their heedless lives may continue uninterrupted.. But death will swallow them anyway. The prospect produces great anxiety about the future, and ultimately becomes a terrifying nightmare. All of us want to live in an imaginary world constructed according to our own preferences. But would an intelligent person trade reality for fantasy, a palace for a ruin? It is clear that there are many people who ruin their life in the Hereafter while aiming to improve their life in this world.

Mawlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî points out the way to escape from the worldly prison and achieve the endless happiness. He said, “Don’t hold fast to properties and possessions, so that you may easily leave them when you have to. And if you can easily leave a thing behind, you might as well leave it and earn the reward! Cling to the One who holds you fast: that is the First and the Last.” He also said, “The majority of people fear that their bodies shall die. But the thing that deserves to be feared is the death of hearts.”

There is a designated end for the life of all animate things. This designated end cannot be eliminated, or postponed for awhile so as to extend the course of worldly life. Time goes by, as is commanded by divine law. You cannot borrow any time, or lend any to others. In this world, it is possible to buy almost anything, but it is never possible to buy back time that has passed.

Yet though nobody remains indifferent when a gold coin is thrown out in the garbage, still many people care nothing when time is thrown away on futile things.

Fariduddîn Attâr remarked: “There are four things that cannot be reclaimed: a word that has left the mouth, an arrow that has left the bow, an accident that has already happened, and a life that has been spent in vain.”

One of Allah’s Friends gave us the following advice: “Go and visit hospitals once in a while! Then you will thank Allah because you are free from the pain and diseases the patients suffer; you have received the bounty of health. Go and visit prisons once in a while! Reflect upon the pain-filled lives of the prisoners. Notice that crimes are committed in just a moment, out of ignorance or psychological disorder. Think about the fact that sometimes people are wrongfully incarcerated and suffer for crimes they never committed. Think about the possibility that you could be one of them! Then thank Allah, since He has protected you from falling into such miserable situations. Praise Allah for your well-being. Then go and visit graveyards once in a while. Listen to the soundless cries and screams; understand the silent speech. Know that remorse is useless once life is over, and so learn the value of your time. Recite a prayer for the people of the graves, and try hard to spend your days filled with thanking Allah and praising Him with recitation of His names!”

Thus the faithful must make efforts to live always in remembrance of Allah the Almighty. Indeed Allah says in the holy Qur’an:

And be not like those who forgot Allah, therefore He caused them to forget their own souls. Such are the evildoers.(Hashr, 59/19)

Abû Abdur-Rahman as-Sulamî states that wasting time and keeping company with those who have no concerns beyond this worldly life are among the gravest faults of the soul. He then explains how such faults can be eliminated: “One should consider time the most valuable thing and use it accordingly. i.e., That is, one should continuously praise Allah with remembrance, always be in a state of worship, and keep on trying to establish sincerity in one’s soul. The Messenger of Allah said: “One sign of a mature Muslim is that a person leaves aside things that do not concern him.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 11).”

Among the Prophetic traditions we find the following statements:

“Value five things before the occurrence of five other things: youth before the occurrence of age, health before the occurrence of sickness, wealth before the occurrence of poverty, leisure before the occurrence of labor, and life before the occurrence of death!” (Hâkim, Mustadrak, IV, 341; Bukhârî, Riqaq, 3; Tirmidhî, Zuhd, 25).

“After the Resurrection, the feet of a servant will be unable to move before he is questioned about four things. (1) His life: how did he use it? (2) His youth: how did he occupy it? (3) His wealth: how did he gain it, how spend it? (4) His knowledge: what did he do with it? (Tirmidhî, Qıyâma, 1).

“There are two gifts: most people are deceived about their use. They are health and spare time.” (Bukhârî, Riqaq, 1).

Allah the Almighty declares frequently in the Qur’an that he shall hold us responsible in the Hereafter for both the material and the spiritual bounties we have received. Muslim scholars have arrived at different answers to the question of which are the most crucial gifts for which we must account. Ibn Mas’ûd  argued that they are “security, health, and leisure.” Mu’âwiya ibn Qurra  said that “the severest accounting on the Day of Judgment is the accounting of spare time.” (Bursawî, X, 504).

Imam al-Ghazalî warned, “O my son! Suppose that you died today. You would grieve for the time you had spent heedlessly. You would say “If only…” But it would all be over!”

Hadrat Junayd al-Baghdadi said: “One day in the world is more valuable than a thousand years in the Hereafter. That is because both earning things and losing them belong to this world. In the Hereafter we can neither earn nor lose.”

Time spent in vain is a painful loss that cannot be restored. All files belonging to the past are closed. However, we may still strive to restore the loss at the spiritual level by praying to Allah, asking His forgiveness, and taking refuge in Him as we regret our wasted time.

The river of life flows fast. The fleeting days making up our lives, numbered by the divine will, are like drops filling a cup. Each day we advance toward the endpoint; we move away from the world and draw closer to the grave. Since we do not when we will depart, we should keep in the mind that we can come across Azrael (pbuh) at any time, accordingly we should be ready at any moment to breathe out our last breath.

If we think carefully, we will discover that the future is open to good news as well as to dangers. And we do not know how many leaves are left in the calendar of our life..

May Allah the Almighty grant us, as he declared in the holy Qur’an, that we may worship Him until what is certain – which is death – comes upon us, [1] so that we die as Muslims.[2] May Allah grant that we pursue lives free of extravagance, established in moderation, and harmoniously balanced in the inner and outer worlds May we ornament His bounty Time with good and beautiful deeds!

Amin

[1].    See Hijr, 15/99.

[2].    See Âl İmrân, 3/102