Imam Al-Ghazzali said while addressing the soul in his book Al-Ihyaa, “Do you await a day in which it would be no longer difficult to go against one’s desires? This is a day that Allah has never created, and nor will He ever create it! For the Paradise will always be covered with difficulties, and difficulties will never be easy upon the soul to bear. The existence of such is impossible!
Do you not ponder the time you have spent promising yourself? You say to yourself, “Tomorrow I shall, tomorrow I will!?!” Did you not recognize that tomorrow has arrived, and is now today. How have you received this tomorrow of yours? Did you not know that “tomorrow” which is now today is really yesterday? Verily that which your incapable of achieving today, tomorrow you will be even further incapable of achieving!
This is because desires are like a firm tree which we have been enslaved to uproot. If one is incapable of fighting his desires and he delays this battle, it is like a person who delays uprooting a tree while he is young and strong; knowing the fact that this procrastination is only giving way for the tree to grow stronger and firmer, while he himself is growing weaker and weaker.”
The Prophet (PBUH) said in an authentic tradition,
If we were to really ponder this Prophetic tradition we would find it directly applicable to each and every one of us. How so? Well lets take a moment to analyze “Mr. Normals” daily habits and what they translate to on a larger scale.
- An average person sleeps 7.5 hours daily. This is equivalent to 20 years of sleep in a lifetime.
- An average American spends 4 hours a day watching TV. This is equivalent to about 10 years of one’s life and 25% of awake time.
- An average person goes to work 40 hours a week. This is equivalent to about 25% of weekly time.
Note: I will not be mentioning the time spent on the internet, because it fluctuates greatly between avid users and those who use it when they HAVE to. This makes the stats remarkably irrelevant.
After the above mentioned activities, we’re left with about 4 hours a day to utilize, be it in Ilm, worship, serving our parents, or even just sitting and remember Allah. But the reality of the matter is, that most of us spend even these few hours in vain. Moreover, Shaitan has equiped us with several avenues to do such. Going out with friends, hanging out at the malls, or even just sitting around and warming up the sofa, are just some of the ways we spend our free time. All of this, and much more that is left between the lines, shows us the direct relation of the previously mentioned tradition. Loss, it sure is, when even the small portion of time that remains, and can be allotted to khair (good), is spent procrastinating, cultivating false hopes, or simply in vain.
Procrastination is one of the greatest ills that can leave an individual entirely devoid of any benefit! If this were to be the case in our day-to-day lives (school, work, sports, etc.), how about Ilm? The Ilm about which Allah says in the Quran,
Attainment of such a momentous yet noble objective, requires more than what the word ‘effort’ can illustrate. Some of the scholars used to say, “Ilm will not give you a portion of itself, unless you present your entire existence to it.” Presenting our entire lives to Ilm, requires restructuring, for the most of us, our entire lives (which InshaAllah I hope to discuss in a future article). For one that REALLY hopes to gain Ilm, every single breath he takes needs to be strategically taken. No more, “After I finish university”, “I just wanna get over with some financial settlements, or “InshaAllah, the next time the class comes around.”
One of the most profound statements, which affected me personally, is the statement of a man by the name of ‘Aamir ibn Qays. A man came to ‘Aamir and requested that he speaks to him.
‘Aamir replied, “Stop the Sun!” ‘Aamir is trying to say, “The clock is ticking, the sun is getting ready to set, and the moon is taking it’s course! If you are able to put all this to a halt, I am willing to stop and speak to you.” And as Hasan Al-Basari puts it, “O child of Adam, your always switching between two mounts, the night leading to the day, and the day to the night; And then the night and the day hand you over to the hereafter! How severe therein is the danger!”
I would like to leave you with a few portraits from Imam An-Nawawi’s life which illustrate the pinnacle of preservation of one’s time:
1. Abu Al-Hasan Ibn Al-‘Attar (who was a student of Imam An-Nawawi) says, “My Sheikh mentioned to me that he never spent any time, be it the day or the night, except in studying knowledge. Even while he walked the street, he would read and review. He did this for six consecutive years, and then begin to author, benefit others, and speak the upright word. He would eat no more then once a day after Isha prayer. Furthermore, he would only drink once a day at the pre-dawn time.”
2. Al-Kamal Al-Udfuwee says in his book Al-Badr As-Safir, “Qadi Al-Qudat Badrud-Deen (student of Imam An-Nawawi) mentioned, that he once asked Imam An-Nawawi about his sleep. Imam An-Nawawi replied, “When slumber overcomes me, I recline on my book for a moment and then get back to my work.”
3. Imam An-Nawawi said about himself, “I didn’t set my side to the ground (didn’t lie down) for two entire years.”
4. Ibn Al-‘Attar mentioned that Imam An-Nawawi used to attend twelve lessons a day!
5. Al-Kamal Al-Udfuwee mentioned in another place in his book, “Imam An-Nawawi was once debated about a matter in the book Al-Waseet. While he was being debated he said, “Do you debate me about this book when I have reviewed it 400 times!?” And just to put things into perspective, Al-Waseet is seven volumes long.
I ask Allah to help has practice and convey!
Abdul Wahab Saleem
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia