What is important to know is that every moment of life in this world is precious. Unfortunately, many people these days, especially the youth, are unaware of the purpose of life. They imagine that life is simply about enjoyment. Their entire focus in life and all their efforts is so that they may do things and be places where they can have fun. If they are not doing something that is considered enjoyable, they partake in a process called “killing time”.
This means that they have “extra” time in between certain tasks they have to do and certain tasks they want to do. Therefore, they kill this interval by wasting their time either in front of the television or lying around or something similar.
However, what is important to know is that every moment of life in this world is precious. It cannot be wasted, because it will never return. And it is here that a strong system of beliefs can help one take full advantage of his/her time in this world. Islam teaches us that we are placed in this world so that we may work hard in order to build ourselves. We must build our spirits and minds. Therefore, the more time we spend on this task, the more we can grow spiritually and in knowledge. And the rewards and position that a person attains in the hereafter are related to how successful we are on this path. Thus, every moment is a precious moment, and we must not kill time but rather use it effectively.
Some traditions have compared this world to a marketplace. Imam Ali al-Hadi (peace be upon him) has said: “The world is a marketplace, in which some gain and others suffer loss.” (Tuhaf Al-Uqool, p. 361) And in explanation of verse 2 of Sura Asr (“Verily, the human being is in a constant state of loss.”), the famous exegete Fakhr Razi narrates a story from an earlier scholar, who said: “I learned the meaning of this chapter from a man who sold ice. He used to yell out ‘have mercy on one whose wealth is melting, have mercy on one whose wealth is melting.’ I said to myself: this is the meaning of the verse ‘verily the human being is at loss.’ Time passes him, and his life comes to an end. He does not earn any spiritual reward, and in this state, he is a loser.”
For one who views the world as a marketplace in which (s)he must earn for his/her home in the hereafter, there is no such thing as killing time, and every single moment is irreplaceable. This life is not just about having fun and enjoyment, but for reaching loftier goals. And when (s)he recognizes that his/her resources, such as youth, health, free time, and life itself, are melting away like a block of ice under the hot summer sun, (s)he strives even harder to make the best use of his/her time.
What is even more astonishing is that the Qur’an mentions the loss of resources as a general rule but makes an exception: “Except for those who believe and carry out righteous deeds.” (103:3) Not only will those who believe and do good deeds not lose or come out even in this market, they will in fact gain better than what they have given.
Therefore, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said: “Hours of leisure pass away like summer clouds; therefore, do not waste the opportunity of doing good.” (Nahj al-Balagha, short saying # 20)
It must not go unmentioned that Islam does not forbid having fun. It encourages a reasonable amount through permissible means. But it also discourages wasting time. It is up to each individual to determine which one of our activities is a waste of time and which is not by taking inspiration from Islamic teachings.
Sayyid Baqir Imrani is a popular speaker among North American Shia communities. Further articles and lectures by him can be found on http://www.mzk4.org.