Time Management From The Sunnah

This article features the Prophet’s ﷺ advice on how to get the most from your time.

Time management is such an important topic in today’s fast-paced, hustle and bustle world. There just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, so find hundreds of books and blog posts on the subject, not to mention the hundreds of strategies to help people manage their time better, like the famous GTD methodology for example.

This is why I decided to share my Fara’id (Islamic inheritance law) teacher’s advice from my days studying Islamic Law at Medina University in KSA. The bachelors degree program at Medina University is no joke; we study on average 8 subjects a term and 25 hours a week for 4 years, and a lot of students also try to take advantage of the many classes held every evening in the Prophet’s Masjid. So as you can imagine a lot of the students would complain about the work load. My teacher had a very simple piece of advice that he had derived from a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ.

It is reported in both Bukhari and Muslim that Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) complained to Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) about her heavy workload and told her that she wanted to get a maid to help her around the house. Aishah later informed the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about his daughter’s struggles, so he went to visit her at her home. When he arrived he found that Fatimah and her husband Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both) had already retired to bed. They began to get up to show their respect, but he told them not to worry and he sat with them on their bed. He ﷺ said, “May I direct you to something better than what you have asked for? When you go to bed say ‘Allah akbar’ (God is great) thirty four times, ‘subhan Allah’ (glory to God) thirty three times, and ‘al-hamdu lillah’ (praise be to God) thirty three times, and that will be better for you than a maid.”

The take away that my teacher wanted us to learn was that the first step to managing one’s time, before seeking to organize it with a clever method or productivity app (or in our case pleading with the teacher not to give us another assignment), is first to seek Allah’s blessings for the time available using this simple act of remembrance, so that an hour may seem like so much more.

I found this piece of advice invaluable over the years for managing my long list of tasks at work and at home. I still use todo lists, calendars, productivity apps, etc, but first I always try to remember to perform this nightly ritual, because without the help and blessings from our Lord all of these things are inconsequential.

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