Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host a short series on “Time Management” by Islamic Insights staff writer, Amir Ghafarian. The beginning of a new year invites us all to set new resolutions and goals. This New Year, commit to time management and increased productivity. This is two of three pieces aimed to give the momineen motivation to utilize their time more wisely, and insha’Allah, as a result, gain closeness to Allah (swt) and await the Imam (aj) properly.
So far, we have mentioned and brought to attention the preliminary steps to take prior to time-management. In this closing article, the application and practical aspects of time-management will be discussed. For some virtues, you’re able to copy and imitate the actions of he who posses it for achieving that virtue. If you want to be respectful, imitate and implement the manners of an individual who posses the highest degree of it. However, when it comes to time-management, in order to possess and master it, you must cater it to the activities and goals of your own life, not the lives of others. Having established that everyone’s ultimate goal, of which their life must cater to, is pleasing and obeying God righteously, it should be noted that there are many paths to God. It should be needless to say thought that all these paths to God are and should be encompassed by the AhlulBayt’s framework.
We all live different lives, with different ambitions, goals, circumstances, backgrounds and environments. In addition, our likings and disliking’s vary and thus lead to us pursuing varying academic/career/spiritual paths. As we have previously discussed, every endeavor, be it apparently religious (like prayers) or not (like playing sports) may potentially serve as a worship of God, depending on the intention of the act. Therefore, given the diversity in the sub-paths towards God, everyone’s schedule should be in accordance to that sub-path. A hawza (Islamic seminary) student living in Qom has different responsibilities and means of serving God than a 3rd year medical student in the West – both having the same potential in serving God if done with the right intentions, while fulfilling their respective responsibilities. Though the endeavors they both undertake revolves around pleasing God, if one attempts to follow the schedule of the other, they won’t fulfill their responsibilities and obligations. It isn’t fitting of a medical student to dedicate all his time to indulging into Islamic studies while having other responsibilities, and vice versa for an Islamic studies student. A responsibility of a father is different to that of a bachelor, a student to that of a working man, an athlete to that of an actor, a doctor to that of a nurse and so on. In order to fill in our schedule with the suitable activities and commitments, we must first determine our position in Imam Mahdi’s army. Imam Mahdi’s army requires individuals from all walks of life. Whatever professional career you choose, be the best in that.
The critical concept to understand here is that, through sincere and well-intentioned reflection, you must after understanding the practical’s and theoretical aspect of time-management, apply it into your life in accordance with the sub-path you plan on pursuing. As an example, if you plan on becoming a doctor, for the sake of aiding Islam and assisting the Imam of your time, plan your schedule in accordance to that goal. Will spending even 1 hour a day on a social media platform reduce your chances of getting accepted into medical school over another student who spends that time studying? If so, then reschedule. Since the actual scheduling varies per person, I cannot give an one size cures all prescription for reducing procrastination and the activities to fill your timetable with. It is upon yourself to recognize the sub-path you’re undertaking and create a timetable in accordance with it.
In the process of reflection, one should also think of the factors which steals hours on end of your time. Sacrificing hours aimlessly surfing the web watching cat videos, catching up on celebrity gossip, tagging friends in edgy memes or finding out which furniture best represents your personality are examples of this. It is said of Allamah Tabatabaei (ra) that of the 12 years he spent in Najaf studying, he only took 12 days off – equaling to one day off a year, of which it is said he (ra) dedicated it for Ashura. This wouldn’t be your typical “day off” as he viewed that day deserving of its own unique schedule. We must be convinced that we have the potential to become Khalifatullah (vicegerent). You have the potential to reach a level that Imam Mahdi (as) cries for his separation from you. Through intricate introspection you should learn about your own abilities and skills. Do not cling onto unrealistic and impractical ambitions. You either allow your existence to serve as a breeding ground for flourishing virtues of all varieties or submit to garden weeds. Constantly remind yourself of death by frequently visiting graveyards so that you’re made aware of life’s fragility. One of our biggest barriers is ourselves, for which the Qur’an has told us to be aware of:
O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. (5:105)
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ
Who is to listen and take heed? Time is a passing investment. You can’t alter how you utilized it in the past, but, if you take advantage of it, you will enjoy the fruits of it later on. The past few minutes you spend reading this article is gone forever and there is no returning of it. Really reflect on that. Bad time-management is a silent illness, unaccompanied by emotional pain. Absence of your parents or phone are lingering thoughts we are constantly aware of. But he who doesn’t manage his time will remain ignorant of its rapid passing. In the case that he becomes aware of it, it is too late. A lifestyle driven by time-management will only enforce itself once an individual feels obligated to welcome it.
I will conclude this piece with one last story from a great scholar of ours. Our own ulama serve as a great example to look up to, for arriving at remarkable degrees of knowledge, purity and spirituality requires delicate time-management and self-control. Ordinary people used to adjust their time in accordance to the actions of our ulama. It has been narrated by the neighbor of Sayyed Khomeini (ra) that during his stay at Neauple-le-Chateau, France, that: “This man always went from his balcony to some other room at 9’o clock. This consistency was so high that whenever I saw him leave his balcony, I knew with conviction that it must be 9 o clock.” These fine tuned specificities of Sayyed Khomeini, reflecting his firmness with his time-table, are what distinguishes him (ra) from everybody else; leading to his religious/political achievements. These kinds of individuals are built over years of self-refinement, of which we are all capable of, if we observe the correct measures. It is narrated by Imam Ali (as) that:
الناس نيام فإذا ماتوا انتبهوا
People are asleep, once they die they wake up
Those who remain adamantly steadfast upon an objectively based methodology of living live transcend the veils of ignorance imposed by worldly attractions, hence why it is narrated by the Holy Prophet (saws) that “If you wish to see a dead man walking on this earth, a man whose resurrection has already happened, look at Ali ibn Abi Talib (as)” I pray this series serves as a motivation, that becomes actualized, for all of us to attain the status of khalifatullah (loosely translated as vicegerent of God). As hard as taking the first step will be, so long as we genuinely rely on Allah for guidance, you’re destined for nothing but success.
If we trust our Master only as much as a little child trusts his parents, our affairs will be solved.
– Ayatollah Bahjat (ra)
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا
وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” [65:2-3]
I will be providing the dear readers a couple of practical advices, based on my own personal experience (hence subjective!), on how to successfully manage your time well:
- The first step, in any righteous endeavor, is to plead for the assistance and guidance of the AhlulBayt. They are the source whom God has entrusted anything blessed (خیر) to emanate from.
- Create a daily, if not weekly, schedule for what you want to get done. Be as precise, yet flexible as possible. A daily schedule, if remained loyal to, will ensure the correct usage of one’s time. Knowing how to create a daily schedule is just as important as having one in the first place. Because this isn’t the place to discuss how I personally conducted by own daily schedule, perhaps a future article may be dedicated for that, I strongly advise my dear readers to check out other sources online.
- Determine your major time robbers! We often think we have absolutely zero time to spend reading books, with our family, going for a workout, while simultaneously spending hours on social media daily. Personally, having determined what my short-term and long-term goals are, I deactivated/deleted any social media platform which doesn’t aid in their pursuit. Being a pre-med student in university, I thought I would never get around to reading novels of my choice, but, after reducing (and even deactivating) my presence on some social media platforms, I’ve gotten around to dedicating 1 hour of reading time prior to sleeping each day! This may seem trivial, but it has already allowed me to finish reading two extracurricular books! How this extra time is to be spent varies per person, but the main idea is: eliminate your time robbers (and this varies per person) and replace them with your hobby of choice!
- Set up a reward system to encourage yourself to stick by your daily schedule/short-term goals.
- Remind yourself, periodically, about your goals and why you want to achieve them.
- Have good role models that you can look up to, as a source of motivation and inspiration for persevering through hardships.
- Realize you’ll die one day, so might as well make the best of this life, no?
This piece marks the end of this series on “Time Management in the Perspective of the Ahlulbayt and Qur’an.” I thank all those who’ve invested their time in reading my humble insight on how to manage one’s time. I pray you all attain nothing but success in all your righteous endeavors.