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Ramadan Reflection (Part 6) – Managing time


Written By: Ajmal-Masroor
21/07/2013 3:28
Religion & Culture

Toady, at the time of iftar, you would be set around the table with the variety of food served and ready on your plate. You would be counting minutes and even seconds. You would have the background TV or radio station switched on for the precise moment when the Adhan (call to prayer) would be made. You will not delay your iftar by even a minute. As soon as you hear the beautiful words of the adhan beginning with “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”, your lips would have touched the first food of the day. Your wait would finally be over.

The blessed Prophet once said, “the one who fasts has two moments of happiness: when they breaks their fast and when they meets their Lord.” The moment of breaking the fast is probably the most amazing experience one can ever have. It stems from the distinct memories of lush food in the month of Ramadan. I have always carried with me the smell of food wafting through the air in the late afternoon especially from about two hours before the Iftar time. The variety of smell, aroma of spices, sound of cooking and baking would often push my hunger to the breaking point. 

My weakness is bread and living next to a bakery and walking around to the smell of freshly baked bread is not the best way to cope with hunger in the month of Ramadan. That is my test and the ultimate test indeed - you have the food right in front of you, you can see it, smell it and touch it but you chose not to eat it. You only eat it at the appointed time. That is why God has noted our delight of iftar and has promised heavenly rewards that would be given personally by God. 

In another occasion the blessed Prophet said: “My followers will continue to remain upon my traditions as long as they do not delay their iftar until the stars appear.”

Muslims are scrupulous about iftar time; it must not be delayed. I know some Muslims would be prepared to declare war (metaphorically) against anyone who delays their iftar even by a few seconds. I understand and respect this amazing tradition. However, one thing I do not understand is that the Muslims who follow the letter and the spirit of these two sayings of the Prophet during the month of Ramadan become worse in time keeping in everything else! Why is that?

The traditional GMT phrase has now been renamed to Generous Muslim Time instead of Greenwich Mean Time. I have been to Muslim weddings where the bride and the groom turned up three hours late. Whether it is a community event, protest rally, seminar or public meetings, I have yet to see many that start at the advertised time. Most people would turn up couple of hours late and if the organisers wanted to start on time, they would have no audience. This has become part of a rotten culture and it has become acceptable to many people. 

The impact of this culture is extremely damaging to the reputation and respectability of the Muslim community. I am asked by my non Muslim friends a simple question, “will this event be following the Muslim time or English time?” I am embarrassed to even respond to such a question but deep down I know the accusation is well founded. We are terrible in time keeping! 

The irony is Muslims fast on the due date, start their fast at the precise time and break their fast at the appointed time. They pray five times a day at the fixed times. They perform their pilgrimage to Makkah at the assigned date. Majority of their rituals are painstakingly time bound. Yet in their social interactions they completely forget the precision and punctuality. 

You would imagine a people who are so well trained in spirituality that they would reflect the height of their spiritual time keeping in every realm of their life. Unfortunately there is a disconnect between the spiritual training and daily living. The consequence is dichotomous life standards – when it comes to God they are fastidiously punctual but when it comes to fellow human beings they are totally negligent. These extremes are not true manifestations of Islam.

God takes an oath by the token of time in the following chapter of the Quran. 

By the token of fleeting of time! 
Verily, Human beings are bound for loss
Accept for those who attain to faith, do good work, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity. (Quran 103:1-3)

The Arabic term used here is "asr” which denotes "time" that is measurable, consisting of a succession of periods. This time is constantly passing and can never be recaptured. God has chosen to introduce the concept time as a continuum, within which the humans must successfully develop and deliver on two sets of relationships – the vertical relationship and the horizontal relationship. Both are bound by time, deepened over time and destroyed because of abuse of time. 

The vertical relationship represents our interaction with God. We accept Him as one and only, the knower of the unknown and to him everything is transparent. He is the most merciful and the dispenser of grace. He is the creator, the fashioner, and the sustainer and to him belongs all sources of peace and safety. Muslims are very good at using the time in the context of delivering rituals to God. 

The horizontal relationship is all about the interpersonal and communal relationships. This is when we are expected to be fair with each other and just at all cost to our fellow human beings. We have to demonstrate utmost care and compassion to each other. We have to share our time, wealth and space with people around us. Muslims are good at giving charity but absolutely terrible at being consistent with their time. They fail miserably when managing time with their fellow human beings. 

God created time for the human beings to find true meanings to their life, as well as use time as a method by which they could measure their own successes and failures. Some Muslims have demonstrated an abysmal failure to respect the creation of God’s special gift – the time. They have failed to recognize the special gift of time from God. 

There is a very profound saying of the Prophet that epitomizes the essence of what is being intended by God when he has leased us some time:
“Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death”(Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim)

It is all about time. On the day of the final accountability the simple suggestions as stated in the above saying of the Prophet illustrate the significance of the fleeting time. The famous phrase we all learn in our childhood, “time and tide wait for none” is apt description of what is the ultimate reality of our life. 

We only get one chance at being youth and we often forget that we all will arrive at our old age soon. Part of managing our time is to recognize that when your youth is gone, you will never be given a second chance. You will never be able to turn the clock back. How you have used your youth would determine where your final resting place would be. If you have given scant care to your one and only youth, I am afraid you will only regret at your old age.

A lot of people wake up only to take more care of their time when they are struck by a severe illness. I am afraid it may be too late. You should have been more humble and connected with God when you were healthy and well. Now that you have fallen ill and you need God to help you find a cure, you are turning to God. What use is that when you have not given a damn about God in your youth? Again this is a brilliant reminder for us all that we may not remain as healthy as we would like to be. We must not allow the time to be wasted when we are so full of life, vibrancy and health.

How many of us can put our hand on our heart and claim that we are absolutely confident about our wealth remaining with us for the rest of our life? I doubt anyone can give such a guarantee. Yet many people become stuck and addicted in their desire to amass as much wealth as possible for the hard times in the future. They forget, the guarantee for a good future does not depend on how much you put away but how much you spend in charity selflessly and as a consequence of your full conviction on philanthropy. God is the one who provides, your duty is to use your time effectively and share your wealth generously. 

Again this is all about time. Many poor people complain that they are too poor and many rich people complain that they are not rich enough. Yet most fail to ask the obvious questions, how many opportunities have I wasted? How many times have I shown gratitude and humility for what I have? How much money would give me happiness? How much wealth is enough? 

Wealth and poverty are two sides of the same life’s coin. The believer is content in poverty and grateful in prosperity. The bottom-line is that they do not waste their time reminiscing in either of the states. They do not simply sit on their backside and feel sorry for their sad state. They do something about it. They invest their time and energy to change. 

One of the most over used phrase that I come across is “I am really busy”. Everyone is busy, even those who are unemployed are busy. I often wonder what they are busy with. It is sad that we fail to take advantage of the free time in our life. We hide behind the busy excuse. Life has a funny way of preoccupying us. If it is not work, it is children, wife, family, hobbies, friends, holidays. The list is endless. At each stage of our life’s journey we seem to become busier and we forget that within the busy lifestyle unless we take advantage of the greatest blessings of time God has given us, we would simply pass life and time would pass us. The two would never meet! A true believer utilizes his or her time effectively. He or she knows the time they have is limited on this earth and thus makes every effort to be productive and efficient with time. 

The ultimate reminder of the sanctity and preciousness of time is our life before death. We only get an average of sixty years. I often request people to ponder over three simple questions when evaluating their life on this earth:

1. What is your legacy? In other words if you died today how will you be remembered? Would the world rejoice at your departure or would the world grieve over your death? Successful is the one who leaves this earth and the people around feel a great sense of loss. Failure is the one whose death brings much joy, happiness and relief to the people. How will people remember you? 

2. How did your life benefit the world? Have you made a difference to the world? Have you changed the world in a positive way? What contribution have you made to the world and it’s inhabitants? If you have done nothing to benefit others I am afraid your life and time has been wasted. 

3. How did you benefited from the world, which you occupied? Many people just live and often live a vegetative state. They do not take advantage of the array of blessings all around them and they do not benefit others. This is a life totally wasted.

Effective use of our time requires careful management. Ramadan is an ideal opportunity to inculcate the spirit of time keeping, punctuality and advanced plan. You have twenty-four hours a day. If you sleep for 7 hours, eat for 3 hours, work for 8 hours, use the bathroom for 1 hour, watch TV or browse the Internet for 2 hours, you still have two hours to spare. What do you do with your spare time? 

It is part of our faith to believe that time is from God. We are reminded of this fact in the following hadith:

“The children of Adam offends Me when he curses time, for I am time. In My hand is the affair of time, I alternate the night and the day.” (Bukhari and Muslims) 

Mismanaging time, abusing time or wasting time is a direct attack on God. Time does not have a will of its own; it simply follows the will of God. Time is a creation of God that has been gifted to the humans. When we mismanage our time we are inflicting a serious abuse of that trust, thus, insulting God. 

Can you imagine life on this earth without time? The entire universe and its intricate planetary system including the solar and lunar cycles, tidal waves, and the earth’s movements along its axis, existence of day and night and life itself would all seize to function. Everything in this universe operate with the precision computed for them using time. The opposite is a total chaos and absolute anarchy. 

Our bad time management is not only a demonstration of our failure to recognize the significance of time for our existence but it is also a sure sign of the lack of faith in God. You manage your time so well in Ramadan, why can you not use the strict routine of Ramadan to learn better time management beyond Ramadan? 

When people say they are so busy they do not have much time, I often wonder if they are managing their time well. I believe we all have plenty of time in hour hands. God has given us 24 hours in a day and surely He knows that we do not need any more time to manage our life. Saying we do not have enough time in the day is statement that contradicts God’s wisdom and demonstrates ingratitude. Instead of complaining about time, think about planning it better. 

Here are a few practical tips of better time management:

1. Accept time as a gift from God
2. Plan your time well and in advance
3. Only make a time commitment that you can keep
4. Only accept an invitation that you are able to honour
5. If you are regularly late, take steps to mend your way
6. Change your attitude, it is the only way to change a bad habit
7. Think of the implications of your bad time management, it messes up other peoples’ plans and destroys your reputation. 

In the month of Ramadan you are so diligent with time keeping when it comes to Iftar and Suhur, please follow the same spirit consistently for the rest of the year. 


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Ramadan Spirituality Islam 


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About Ajmal-Masroor

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  • Name: Ajmal Masroor
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    Ajmal Masroor is an Author, Broadcaster, Relationship Counsellor , Politician and Imam based in London, UK. His facebook profile can be followed https://www.facebook.com/AjmalMasroor

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