"By time, verily man is at loss" so begins one of the shortest surah in the Qur'an. The majority of the mufassireen (commentators) are of the opinion that the word Asr refers to time. Allah takes oath by time to impress upon us the importance of time. Perhaps, for many of us, this is the period when we are most conscious of the precious nature of time, as we try to stretch every second while gearing toward the all important exams. At a time like this when our minds are most focused and yet most distracted, we have to stop and take a moment to reflect and take stock of our lives. We have to ask ourselves what our goals and priorities in life are, and most importantly how we are expending the commodity upon which Allah has taken an oath?
This article started with the first verse of surah al-Asr. But do we truly understand the implications of this surah and put it into practise in our lives? Perhaps, you may he thinking that such assertions are patronising and condescending for who in their right mind, living in this society is not aware of the value of time, when people have to resort to country hideouts to get a sense of their lives. But, precisely because we live in this society are we becoming lost in the quagmire of materialism? Whether we are aware or not it would not be incorrect to say that many of us suffer from a disease, it is a disease of delusion about time and lack of understanding of our priorities in life.
Allah created us for the sole purpose of doing his ibadah 'I have only created the jinn and the mankind except that they may worship Me.' we were not created in vain: 'Did you think that we had created you without purpose, and that you would not be brought hack to us for account?' Indeed that is what our goal in life is, to seek the pleasure of Allah, attain salvation from the hellfire and a place in paradise. To achieve these, we have to make sure that the most precious gift Allah has given us, our life is utilised in the best possible manner, for our lives are only remarkable and we can only attain the position of the best of creation' when we serve Allah.
Hasan al Basri (rahimullah) writes whilst thinking of the oath of time, I saw a person selling ice and he was exclaiming, 'O people have mercy on a person whose merchandise is melting away'. He then concluded: 'Now I fully understand this oath'. The vendor's capital is ice, if he does not manage to sell it, it will melt away, thus suffering a loss. Likewise if one regards time as ones capital and life as a business, if it is allowed to pass without being utilised it is only a matter of time before we will lose our business. And if we invest that time solely for the dunya, then we have already lost.
Most of us consciously or unconsciously have a defected view of life and time. We tend to regard both as a vast expanse without end, where each day rolls into the next. This should not be the case, as many sayings of the Prophet indicate 'Every morning there is a shout, oh children Adam this is a new day, it is a witness over your actions.' Each day is unique and an opportunity, not a continuum of the last. Whatever we do on that day will be closed forever, only to be opened on the Day of judgement. Abdullah ibn Mas'ud once said 'I do not regret about anything as I regret about the day in which the sun has set, as this day has been decreased from my life and in that day my actions cannot be increased'.
We are at an age when we are enjoying some of the best things in life; wealth, youth and time without the pressure of responsibilities, which our parents are shouldering. But such blessings will not go unquestioned. As the hadith of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) tells us: .... on the Day of judgement a servant's feet will not move until he is asked about four thing; about his life and what he spent it on, his body and what he used it on and about his wealth from where did he earn it and what he spent it on: The substance of our answers to these questions is to be made now. 'Two blessings are such that many people are in deception about them.
The first is good health and the second is spare time' Each minute that goes we cannot get it back, each day that passes is gone. We have to invest the time of this life for the next life. The society we are living in is engrossed in the materialistic world and accumulating as much as possible be it power, fame or wealth. We Muslims are not exempt from this pursuit of the dunya. Our despicable position in the world is due to this very fact.
We may think that the position of the Muslim ummah and its many problems are very far from us and not a thing that we can affect. But are we not in our own way running after this world. What are our conditions and state of mind when we have to sit our exams or we have an assignment to sub-nut? It is one of complete anxiety to the extent that we start abusing the rights of our body. We become engrossed in attaining that goal we forget what our real goal in life is. Some of us are even prepared to miss our salat in order to get such tasks done. I am not advocating that we don't spend time upon our studies or other duties. Far from it, what I am trying to inculcate is getting our priorities in life straight and truly valuing our time and what we do with it. Of course we must study and try our best, for a Muslim should never be one who undertakes things half-heartedly There is no contradiction between the two when we utilise our time properly.
If we look at the lives of the companions and our pious predecessors we understand how vigilant they were about their time. They were a people who were successful for they truly knew the precious nature of time as Imam Shafi'ee said:'I stayed with the people of tasawuf and learned two things from them. First is that they say time is like a sword if you don't cut with it, it will Cut you. Second is your self, if you don't keep it busy with right, it will make you busy with wrong.
Umar (radiAllahu anhu) said 'I hate to see people wasting time, whether in their dunya or for Akhira'. Employ your time wisely, do not waste it sitting in front of the T.V or playing computer games. It is very easy for us to fall into the tricks of shaytan and justify such actions as valid, 'we all need time to relax and give our minds a break!' Such activities rarely achieve anything apart from diverting our balance of time. Abu Huraira narrated:
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: Allah's saying 'The son of Adam hurts Me by abusing time, for I am Time; in My Hands are all things and I cause the revolution of night and day.'
There are much better and fruitful ways to relax if we look at the life of the Prophet and his companions. We do not want to-when we get to our Parents age-look back upon our youth with regret as time wasted.
'And it is not your wealth, nor your children that bring you nearer to Us (Allah), but only he (will please Us) who behaves and does righteous deeds. As for such, there will be twofold reward for what they did, and they will reside in the high dwellings in peace and security.'
We are blessed by Allah that we have Islam at a young age. If we endeavour with our lives now to attain the pleasure of Allah, perhaps we too can be one of the seven types of people who enjoy the shade of the Throne of Allah-on the day when there will be no other shade.
"In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. By al-Asr. Verily! Man is in loss, except those who believe, and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and exhort one another to patience."