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Time is money

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Time is money.  So goes one of the most commonly used metaphors for time.  There is an element of truth in it.  By utilising time in a productive way we can produce wealth.  Similarly, by wasting time we may also be losing opportunities to produce wealth.  Yet this metaphor also implies something about the purpose of life itself that requires examination.

The metaphor ‘time is money’ would seem to suggest that we should not be wasting time.  Actually by equating time with money it allows one to while away time once one has made the required amount of money!  So people talk about ‘killing time’, and the need for the gadgets that let them kill time.  Surely time is much more important than money to waste it in this manner!  To put things in perspective a quick historical comparison is in order.

Consider the period of early Muslims when none of these technological marvels were available.  There is a common notion that people then lived leisurely in sleepy little towns with little to do.  In fact, that was a period of unprecedented activity in all spheres of life.  Theirs was a period of intense activity, from the social, cultural and educational to economic and political during which nearly half the known world embraced Islam.

Coming from what was then a most backward part of the world, these God-fearing, God-conscious Muslims brought to the world a truly humane and holistic civilisation.  Individually, they used to spend far more time in worship than we do today:  most of them engaged in individual prayers for a greater part of the night.  This would seem to leave a lot less time for other pursuits.

The means of communications were then not so fast as they are today.  Often they had to travel on horseback for weeks or months, say, to collect a report of a Hadith from someone who had heard it directly from the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.   Yet during this period, despite all the logistical difficulties, together they collected hundreds of thousands of Ahadith that have been compiled into various collections, and are available today.  This is just one aspect of their work!

How in the world did they find time for that?  The answer is simple.  They were driven by a different metaphor for time.  They valued time as a gift from their creator and understood that its proper or improper use would determine the outcome for the eternity.  They had listened to the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, when he said: ‘There are two blessings that most people are deluded by: health and available time.’ (Bukhari)  They took  his advice seriously when he said: ‘Value five things before five other things:  youth before old age; health before sickness; affluence before poverty; leisure before becoming too busy; and life before death.’ (Tirmidhi).

Abdullah bin Hasan, Radi-Allahu unhu, reports that whenever two Companions of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, met they would not leave until they had recited Sura al-Asr to each other, reminding themselves of the eternal loss that everyone risks if time is wasted in foolish pursuits.  They did not waste any moment of their life in gossip, tittle-tattle, or meaningless pursuits….

Every day that passes makes us a day older.  One day, our time will be up, and we’ll leave this world forever.  What happens afterwards will depend on how we used all the moments available to us before that certain but unknown moment comes.  Time is life.  What is at stake is the entire eternity.

Extract taken from ‘Impact International’, September 1997 issue, with thanks.


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