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.

Be The Muslim Man You Want To Be

In this article I discuss how damaging procrastination can be for the Muslim man and how to beat it.

Procrastination: sacrificing long-term goals for immediate gratification.

Procrastination is without a doubt one of the most effective tools in the Shaytan’s arsenal. The whole premise of Islam is to postpone immediate gratification in the Dunya for the long-term pleasures of the Hereafter. So the intelligent Muslim man gives up the pleasures of alcohol, drugs, fornication, and gambling for the greater, longer-lasting pleasures of Jannah. Allah, the Most High, said:

“As for those who fear standing before their Lord and forbid their desires then Jannah will be their refuge.” (An-Nazi’aat:40-41)

So it is the job of the Shaytan, as every man’s enemy, to make him procrastinate on performing the actions that will bring him success in this life and the Hereafter and to tempt him with the pleasures of this life.

Procrastination effects us in the most important aspect of our lives: our jobs, our health, our families, and our worship. We delay our projects till we are missing deadlines. We make plans to go the gym that never materialize. We delay visiting family members until they are taken from us. We delay our salat until we miss the time to pray. And so on and so on.

Imagine the things we could achieve, and the men we could be if we did everything we planned to do. If we stopped letting the Shaytan and our desires get the better of us.

So how do we overcome the temptations of the Shaitan and resist our own desires to become more productive Muslim men?

Step 1: Ask Allah for help

As Muslims we know that without Allah’s help we cannot achieve anything on our own. Everything we do is by Allah’s permission, therefore we must first ask Allah for His aid and to make our affairs easy. The Prophet ﷺ used to make this powerful dua seeking refuge from laziness and inability that every man should memorize:

اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الهَمِّ وَالحَزنِ وَالعَجزِ وَالكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الجُبنِ والبُخُلِ وَ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِن غَلَبَةِ الدَينِ وَقَهرَةِ الرِجَال

“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, inability and laziness, miserliness and cowardliness, the burden of debts and being over powered by men.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet ﷺ would also make a habit of asking Allah to make his actions beneficial and worthwhile every day after praying Fajr, he would say:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أََسأَلُكَ عِلمًا نَافِعًا وَرِزقًا طَيِّبًا وَعَمَلًا مُتَقَبَّلًا

“O Allah, I ask you for knowledge that is beneficial, sustenance that is good, and actions that are accepted.”

Step 2: Begin the day right

Start your day by praying Fajr on time, preferably in the masjid if possible. How successful do you think your day is going to be waking up with the Shaytan’s pee in your ear! And whilst your at it don’t go back to sleep. The hours after Fajr are your best getting-things-done hours. These hours are full of barakah and before the time most people get up, so less distractions from kids, text messages, emails, etc.

Try it out if it isn’t already a part of your routine. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in this short period of time.

Step 3: Write it down

Write the things you want to get done in a to-do list or even better set a time and date for when you want to do it and record it in your calendar. Research shows that by simply writing the action down you can double the likelihood of you following through with that intention.

Step 4: Just get started

This may sound obvious, but the hardest part of any action is just getting started, so we have to make getting started as easy as possible. One way is to say “I’m just going to do this action for 5 minutes today.” For example, maybe you need to mow the lawn. It’s going to take at least half an hour, but you have been putting it off for days, so today you are just going to mow the lawn for 5 minutes. It’s easy to get started on a task that is only going to take 5 minutes. Once you get started most likely you will want to keep going until you are finished.

Or maybe you want to get into the habit of reading the Quran daily, so instead of setting a difficult goal you say I’m just going to read for 5 minutes. Even if you stop after 5 minutes it is still better than no minutes, and you can try and do 6 minutes tomorrow. After a few days it should become a habit and getting yourself to read Quran everyday should not be such a tough task.

Step 5: Pair things you hate doing with things you love

If you have a daily chore that you hate then pair it with something you love to do. For example, you hate doing the dishes, but you love to listen to a certain podcast, so whenever you do the dishes listen to your favorite podcast. You have an assignment to complete and you love doughnuts, so eat doughnuts whilst working on your assignment.

Feel free to let us know in the comments whether these steps were helpful for you, or if you have any other techniques you use to beat procrastination.

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Worship Protection

Sometimes we can fall short in our performance of the obligatory acts of worship. This is why it is so important to be consistent in the sunnah act of worship.

For every act of obligatory act worship there are supererogatory and voluntary acts of worship that act as a protection for the obligatory acts. The five daily prayers have the rawatib, zakat has sadaqah, Ramadan has the 6 days of Shawwal, and Hajj has Umrah. The purpose of these sunnan are to protect and preserve the obligatory acts of the religion so the slave doesn’t find himself falling short in his duties to Allah.

It is well known that iman can rise and fall and because iman involves the heart, the tongue, and the limbs that means that as iman rises and falls so does the quantity and quality of a person’s worship. The sunnan act as a buffer or a reserve to tap into when the iman drops, so that instead of falling short in an obligation instead the person falls short in the performance of a sunnah. Likewise, if the person, due to low iman or otherwise, performs the obligation, in a way that is deficient or lacking then the sunnan act as a rectification or recompense for that. For example, if a person performs the Maghrib prayer, but is lacking in his khushu’ or focus, then his performance of the two sunnah prayers after that will make up for that deficiency.

The scholars also inform us that from the signs that an act of worship is accepted is that you follow it up with more acts of worship. So if you want to know if your Hajj was accepted then ask yourself did I come out of the Hajj a better Muslim than when I began? Or if you want to know if your Ramadan was accepted then ask yourself am I worshipping Allah more than before Ramadan? If you just performed the Esha prayer and you want to know whether it was accepted then just ask yourself did I follow that prayer with another? If the answer is yes to these questions then most likely your worship was accepted by Allah

Think of the sunnah as an insurance policy protecting your worship. There is nothing more valuable than your good deeds and the most valuable of the good deeds are those that Allah made obligatory, so you should want to protect them as you would your car or home. So protect your worship by being consistent upon the supererogatory acts of worship and meet Allah on the Day of Judgement with a heavy scale of good deeds

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Working Hard or Hardly Working?

The Muslim man works hard to provide for his family.

The Muslim man has many responsibilities. His first and foremost responsibility is to his Lord; to worship Him alone and to be obedient to him. After his responsibility to his Lord  one of his most important duties is to work and provide for his family.

The Muslim man knows that it is his duty alone to keep a roof over the heads, clothes on the backs, and food in the stomachs of his family. This is the purpose of the man. He is the breadwinner and the protector. Allah, the Most High, said:

“The father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother’s food and clothing on a reasonable basis” (Al-Baqarah:233)

This doesn’t mean that he must be super rich and give his family everything they want and need, because Allah decreed that there will be rich people and poor people, so we can’t all be wealthy. Rather the Muslim man provides for his family in the best way he can and he works hard for the money he earns. The Prophet ﷺ said:

“No man earns anything better than that which he earns with his own hands, and what a man spends on himself, his wife, his child and his servant is charity.” (Ibn Majah)

There is a lot of honor in a hard days work for a hard days pay. The Muslim man hates to sit idol. He keeps himself busy in the service of his family. Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“I hate to see a man totally free, not doing anything from the work of the life of this world nor the Hereafter.” (Al-Hilyah, 1/130)

Laziness and procrastination are the enemy of the Muslim man. They are obstacles in the face of happiness and success. The Prophet ﷺ even used to teach the Sahabah to seek refuge in Allah from laziness, he said:

“O Allah! Indeed, I seek refuge in you from sadness and depression, weakness and laziness, cowardice and miserliness, being overcome by debt, and being overpowered by men.” (Al-Bukhari)

It is interesting that the Prophet mentioned sadness and depression along side laziness, because these things often go hand in hand; either the laziness leads to sadness and depression or the sadness and depression leads to laziness or incapacity.  Umar bin Al-Khattab also said:

“The happiest of people is the one under whose care people are happy because of him, and the most miserable of people is the one under whose care people are miserable because of him.” (Munaqib Umar, Pg 130)

The Muslim man derives pride and satisfaction from his work and from the things he is able to do for his family.

So to all of you Muslim men out there, work hard, take care of your families, and don’t forget to seek refuge from laziness and weakness with the Prophet’s dua on a regular basis.

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