Filling empty containers…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Today’s Jumuah sermon was a continuation of Dr Mohamad Abdalla’s lecture on the importance of time management. The entire lecture series has been absolutely inspiring and has captivated the Jumuah audience over the last 4 weeks. 

The issue of Time Management is something I am passionate about and I was blown away by the 1st lecture in the series a few weeks ago. Since then, the audience has grown in number with many attending Jumuah at Kuraby just to hear Dr Abdalla speak. 

In his talk today, Dr Abdalla mentioned a letter of advice from Imam Ibn Al-Jawzi to his son on the issue of Time. The story caught my attention so I noted a few details and looked it up this evening. This is what it read:

“Know, dear son,
that days are but hours,
and hours are but breaths,
and every soul is a container,
hence let not any breath pass without any benefit,
such as on the Day of Judgment you find an empty container and feel regret!
Be aware of every hour and how it passes,
and only spend it in the best possible way;
do not neglect yourself,
but render it accustomed to the noblest and best of actions,
and send to your grave that which will please you when you arrive to it.”

As a Muslim, I’ve heard this advice many times before but I found this particular line very intriguing… “let not any breath pass without any benefit, such as on the Day of Judgement you find an empty container and feel regret”. The idea of an ’empty’ container got me thinking. 

We place so much emphasis on either doing whats right or whats wrong that we forget about the time we’re not doing anything at all. How many containers do we leave empty each day? 

Perhaps by focussing solely on the good and the bad, we overlook the amount of time we waste each day. The fact that with each hour, we have the choice of filling these containers with good deeds, bad deeds or no deeds at all really puts things in to perspective.  Despite all the good we try to accomplish with every hour, I don’t like the idea of having too many empty containers. 

What are we doing with our spare time? 

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Time management… the right way!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

The last few weeks, perhaps months, have been extremely busy and I often found myself searching for ways to maximise my time and increase productivity while maintaining an Islamic lifestyle.

When you’ve got a long to-do list and an ever-changing routine, you tend to get carried away and at times engrossed in whatever you’re doing. You might not read enough Quran in the morning, perhaps prayers are delayed or even neglected… Sometimes even the people around you might be distanced in an attempt to work harder, faster, better.

In my own experience I’ve found that it’s easy to put off the little things when your focus is purely productivity. The reason I emphasise the little things is because I believe it’s the little things that facilitate the larger, more significant issues. Here’s a small example: Its mid morning and you’re at work, whatever or wherever that is, as noon approaches, you’re faced with a choice, break your productive streak, take a break and stop by the Mosque for Dhur… or maintain your focus, stay in for lunch and get the job done early… what to do?

I must admit, at times I chose to stay focussed, maintained high productivity and got the job done. I didn’t sacrifice my prayer though, I prayed at work and fulfilled that too but what I did sacrifice was the opportunity to actually get away from work, visit the Mosque, pray in congregation and rejuvenate before another session of work. In hindsight, a bad call!

This afternoon I took another approach, I was at the warehouse and had a few errands to run. As 12:30 approached, I decided to drop what I was doing and head to the Mosque for Dhur… this is what I gained:

  1. Prayer in congregation
  2. A break from routine
  3. Mid-day rejuvenation
  4. Spiritual fulfilment
  5. Witnessing a Brother embrace Islam at the mosque
  6. Re-assessed my priorities for the afternoon; and
  7. Very importantly, came across this Hadith –

Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said, “Verily Allah says: O son of Adam, free yourself for my worship, I will (in turn) fill your chest with satisfaction and remove your poverty, and if you don’t, I will fill your hands with distraction and will not remove your poverty.” [Ahmad, Ibn Majah]

Mind Blown! I’ve been looking at it the wrong way, it’s not about productivity to get things done so you have time to worship Allah… It’s about taking the time to worship Allah and achieving efficiencies in doing so! Productivity is pointless without contentment…

Sometimes it’s easier said than done but I hope, Insha Allah, I am able to remember this and apply it going forward.

2012 closing…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

 

Alhamdulillah, I am grateful for seeing the end of another year. Every day is a blessing from Allah whether you live by the Lunar or Gregorian Calendar or whether you ‘celebrate’ New Years or not.

After a few hectic weeks, we took a few days off to spend some family time together and celebrate our son’s 2nd birthday as well as our 4th wedding anniversary. These dates or milestones really put things into perspective and are sometimes good reminders about the things we take for granted. I could not believe my son was already 2 and the next day I couldn’t fathom being married for such a long time. The change in routine was good and gave me an opportunity to reflect on 2 of the most important people in my life. Some may call it celebration but I like to think of it as an appreciation for my son who just turned 2 and my wife who’s been with me for the last 4 years. I probably feel the same way every year but I can not believe how fast 2012 went by.

2012 was a big year, lots happened, so much changed and with the change came a few big challenges. My sister got married and moved to America, I quit my job in public practise, began working as a virtual business consultant and finally kicked-ff my online supplement business. Circumstances changed drastically with my dad’s illness and I guess things haven’t quite gotten back to normal since then. I haven’t yet had the strength to write about some of the things I learnt and felt during this challenging time but perhaps I might, Insha Allah.

With so much uncertainty and so much going on at home, time just flew by I’m glad I was able to stop and take a break for a few days to appreciate the blessings in my life. There are many things I wish I had done, so much that was done and as always a few regrets. My aim is to do the things I wish I had done, appreciate the things I did accomplish and work on reducing the regrets Insha Allah.

2012 closes, our holiday was the perfect transition into the new year and now… 2013! Alhamdulillah!

 

 

 

Ramadan Reminders: Rejuvenation thru Salaah…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Time Management in Ramadan is key to achieving spiritual success. Very few of us have the luxury of just dropping everything for 30 days and focussing on Ramadan so it is essential to plan and manage your time to allow maximum benefit. I’ve found that planning your day around your Salaah is a good strategy. The biggest gap is between Fajr and Dhur which allows you to focus on productivity, take advantage of the first half of the day and get most of your work/study done then. Dhur is a good break from work and allows you to refresh and rejuvenate.

People always tell me to nap at mid-day, I’d love to, but if I sleep at Dhur time I may miss Asr and Maghrib so until it becomes necessary, I’ll be skipping the mid day siesta.  After mastering the Qailulah, I highly recommend it for anyone who can spare 20-25 mins after Dhur each day.The time between Dhur and Asr is shorter but this is when your energy levels begin depleting. By 3 pm its time for another break, pray Asr and refresh yourself once again.

If you’re not sleeping enough and not keeping healthy, the time between Asr and Maghrib can become challenging, I find this time to be least productive in terms of work/study so I prefer to use this time to make Dhikr and reflect on Ramadan itself. Its the home stretch so give it all you got!

May Allah accept our efforts!

Stolen time…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

I was inspired by the following article titled “Shaytan called a worldwide convention”:

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In his opening address to his evil Jinns, he said, “We can’t keep the Believers from going to Masjids. We can’t keep them from reading their Qur`an and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience with Allah”. Once they gain that connection with Allah, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their Masjids; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Allah.

This is what I want you to do Jinns. Distract them from gaining hold of their Lord and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day! “How shall we do this?” shouted his Jinns. “Keep them busy in the non essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!” “Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-Qur`anic recitation constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Allah.” “Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so their husbands will believe that external beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives. That will fragment those families quickly!” “Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and unprepared for the coming week. Don’t let them go out in nature to reflect on Allah’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, and busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions. Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Allah.” “Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause. It will work! It will work!” It was quite a convention. The evil Jinns went eagerly to their assignments causing Believers everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

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If you’re chasing your tail from morning to evening, waking up early, working late, not sleeping enough, studying hard and pursuing all the luxuries of this world, how much time do you devote towards you Lord? Apart from the 5 daily prayers, (I’m assuming we all manage that much at least) are we able to spare a few minutes everyday to read Quran? 5 minutes a day to read a Hadith? 5 minutes at the end of each day to thank Allah for his bounties? 5 minutes each morning to pray for guidance? A few minutes after each prayer for the remembrance of our Lord?

Why don’t we have time? Why can’t we spare a few minutes of our lives to remember and thank our Lord? From a young age we are moulded to pursue this lifestyle. Go to school so you can study, go to uni so you can get a job, get a job so you can make money, make more money so you can afford the house, the car, the holidays, the gadgets… and once you’re in the system, it ain’t easy to unplug. We are all guilty of it, unfortunately the lifestyle many of us pursue is not conducive to our Islamic way of life, however I don’t believe they are completely incompatible.

As I mentioned in “The jar of life”- Sometimes the less important things in life can distract us, filling up our time and keeping us away from what really matters. If we get our priorities in order, we can fit everything in. The  key is to prioritize, do what’s most important and Insha Allah you will see Barakah in your time and Barakah in your life. As a Muslim, prioritize your faith, be punctual and sincere in your prayers, devote some time each day to your Lord. Spend time with your family and do charitable work, fulfil your religious obligations and seek knowledge in your Faith. Your career, no matter how important it may be, must come after your religion and family. You will find that if you are able to maintain this balance, your work, studies and other responsibilities will find a way to work around your faith and Insha Allah you will succeed in them too.

A few things I’ve learnt to aid in better time management and pursuing a more Islamic way of life:

  • wake up early and pray Fajr
  • read Quran, exercise, study, etc, early in the morning – (stay up after Fajr)
  • stay focussed and set targets
  • make notes and use a diary
  • work hardest in the first half of the day
  • take breaks and pray on time
  • eat regularly, eat healthy
  • take time out to de-stress
  • skip the music – listen to Islamic lectures or nasheeds
  • avoid unnecessary distractions (facebook, twitter, aimless surfing) – there’s a time and place for this!
  • remember Allah and reflect upon his bounties (even the small ones)
  • when doing for others, make a sincere intention – sometimes the only difference between a random act and a spiritual act is the intention
  • make time for your family
  • avoid gossip
  • thank Allah for his provisions
  • read a book (Quran, Hadith, Islamic Stories, etc.) No good deed will go unnoticed
  • avoid excessive tv, movies, gaming
  • pray on time and preferably at the Mosque
  • renew your faith by visiting the Mosque daily
  • if you watch tv, don’t let it be the last thing you do before bed
  • make a sincere intention to wake up for Fajr
  • sleep early

I ask Allah to guide us and allow us to pursue an Islamic way of life. Its harder to achieve this in today’s secular environment but if we are successful, the reward will be greater… Insha Allah!

Muhammad al-Shareef has an inspiring lecture on time management which is available for download at http://www.kalamullah.com/muhammad-alshareef.html

I leave you with a quote by Imam Anwar al-Awlaki… “be mindful of Allah and Allah will be mindful of you”.

The jar of life…

In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I came across a story which I later found was documented in Stephen Convey’s book, First Things First.  In the story, a lecturer conducts an experiment using a glass jar, rocks, pebbles, sand and water. He begins to fill the jar with rocks until no more rocks would fit. The audience was convinced that the jar was now full. He then added a few pebbles to the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks. This time the audience agreed that the jar was probably not yet full. He then added some sand to the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks and the pebbles. When the audience agreed that the jar was still not full, he poured water into the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks, the pebbles and the sand. The audience was convinced that the jar was now full. Finally, the lecture explained that if we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them in later.

If you think of the jar as your life, what are the rocks in your life? Family? Love? Friends? Religion? What we must remember is that it is most important to include the lager stones in our lives, because if we don’t do so, we are likely to miss out on life altogether.  If we give priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us.

The rocks in our lives should be our family & our faith. Pray and seek spiritual guidance, spend time with your family, take your wife out, play with your kids and make time for yourself. There will always be time to go to work and do your chores.

Sometimes the less important things in life can distract us, filling up our time and keeping us away from what really matters. If we get our priorities in order, we can fit everything in…

May Allah grant us the ability to identify the rocks in our lives and grant us Barakah in our time… Ameen.