Abdullah ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. Surely, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” [Sahih Bukhari 6719, Sahih Muslim 1829]
When I first heard this hadith, I didn’t pay much attention to it because I didn’t have a “flock” that I could think of – I was not married, and I had no major responsibilities that involved anyone else, so I figured it wasn’t really applicable to me. Sure, I had chores that my parents had assigned me; my belongings that I had to be responsible with; and assignments from class that I had to hand in on time – but all of it still didn’t feel like a flock that I was answerable for. When I heard it more recently though, I gave it a little more thought. Who would come under my flock? My husband, family, students? It dawned on me then that I had never thought of myself.
If I had realized it all those years ago, I might have paid closer attention to what it meant. We are taught to be responsible for our words – speak good or keep silent; for our actions – do good unto others, don’t harm any living creature; and so on. What is mostly not brought to our attention is responsibility with time. Everyone’s probably gotten told off by their parents – or felt guilty at least – for wasting time, but how do we turn that around? How do we make the most of every second that we have been given, so that it benefits us in the next life?
Think about your day: the amount of time spent on worship never amounts to the time taken up by other activities, whether they be chores, entertainment, work or pleasure. Certain things just have to get done, and all of it cannot be accomplished by sitting on your prayer mat the whole day.
How then do we please Allah? The Muslims of old used to fit so much in their day that they appeared to have more than 24 hours to work with – Imam Abu Hanifa would finish reciting the Qur’an 30 times in a month – once a day; while Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, despite being a traveler and a student, prayed 300 rak’ahs every day, reducing it to 150 rak’ahs only when he wasn’t feeling well; and Imam an-Nawawi wrote 50 books in his lifetime even though he died at the age of 44.
In addition to their ‘ibadah, they were merchants, teachers and students, and they still had time to spend in society. They seemed to get so much done while we, with our productivity tips and time management apps, are still struggling. The complex with the world today is that we are all caught up in a whirlwind of activity. We think we are saving time by sending voice notes instead of typed messages, or because Google pulled up search results in 0.12 seconds; but our phones are really a vortex that suck up enormous chunks of our time every day. With a landmine of information out there, we feel like we are using it for good, only to look up at the clock and realise that an hour has slipped by.
How do we fight against this tornado?
- Distance yourself from your phone – Out of sight, out of mind! This really does work if you are completely immersed in your work and are not looking out for a distraction.
- Be mindful of your time – Think “If I were to die right now, would I be ready to go? Is this the best use of my time?”
- Work on your intentions – This is the best productivity tip: make everything you do for the sake of pleasing Allah, if you want to maximize your time here to reap the most rewards in the Akhirah. When our parents told us not to waste time, they probably followed it up with something like, “Did you recite the Qur’an today?” to get you to do something good. However, that is not the only action that is beloved to Allah ﷻ. Every little thing done with the right intention gains us reward – even if it is as small as taking a shower (because Allah ﷻ loves those who are pure), or cooking for the family (because feeding people is beloved to Allah), or even holding your tongue when you want to be rude (because Allah loves that we only speak good words).
Your entire day can be in line with pleasing Allah ﷻ, by being mindful of the things you say and do, and connecting them back to Him. This is easier said than done though, for it takes a lot of practice to be conscious of all our little actions and thoughts; but with greater awareness of them comes better awareness of the fact that Allah ﷻ is always watching us.
So we are all responsible – for ourselves first, before anyone else. For our bodies that were entrusted to us to take care of – not abuse, and to keep healthy; for our souls, to maintain a constant connection with our Rabb; and most of all, for our time, because that is an asset that we can never regain. A second lost is gone forever. Are we making the most of it?
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him said, “Call yourselves to account before you are called to account…”