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Practical Tips for Purification of the Heart

“A day in which neither wealth nor children shall be of any benefit, except one who comes to God with a sound heart” (Sūrat’l-Shu‘arā’: 88-89).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “In the body there is a morsel of flesh, if it is sound, the whole body is sound. If it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Indeed, it is the heart”. Spiritual purification of the self is thus the essence of Islamic teachings. Knowledge of this science was traditionally learned by keeping company with good teachers and righteous companions. However, this option is unavailable to many of us. What follows is advice that I have been gathering from various scholars regarding spiritual purification. I have compiled the following as a reminder for myself and for those searching for similar advice.

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Begin with Repentance

Sins are barriers which restrict the opportunity to do good works; so we must begin with sincere repentance. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “When a servant commits a sin, a spot is inscribed on his heart. Should he then refrain and ask for forgiveness, it is removed. When he repeats it a larger one appears, until his heart is enveloped by it”. In a hadith qudsi, God says, “O My servants! You sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you”.

While we will continue to struggle with wrong actions, they must not be a reason for us to despair and give up on drawing closer to God. Do good works and the attachment to sins will wane with time. A specific repentance with the intention of starting on a spiritual quest will act as a starting line and will put us in the right frame of mind.

Why ask for forgiveness if we know we will commit sins again?

Ibn Atallāh summarizes a few reasons: Allah loves those who constantly repent (Baqarah: 222), our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the best of creation, would seek repentance over 70 times a day, repentance from a sin reduces its sweetness – it discourages you from doing it again.

Establish Daily Routines (Awrad)

Just like our physical muscles, our spiritual muscles need to undergo regular training in order to be strengthened. Imām Al-Ghazāli exhorts on the importance of routines, “Your time should not be without structure, such that you occupy yourself arbitrarily with whatever comes along. Rather, you must take account of yourself and order your worship during the day and the night, assigning to each period of time an activity that must not be neglected nor replaced by another activity. By the ordering of this time, the blessing will show in itself.”

Following is a brief list of actions one must perform regularly, without excuse or neglect.

a)     The Obligatory Prayers

This one is so obvious it doesn’t need to be stated. However, the reality is, most of us struggle to keep up with our five prayers on time. Those already doing this should work on offering the voluntary prayers (sunnan rawatib) and supererogatory prayers (dhuda, ishrāq, alāt’l-wuū’ etc).

Sound actions emanate from sound states. If you are struggling to keep up with the prayers, look at the spiritual causes that might be hindering your access to this blessing. Are you constantly engaged in wrong actions from which you haven’t repented? What type of company do you keep; do they have concern for faith and prayer ? Is your heart regularly exposed to environments where major ills are committed (e.g. consumption of intoxicants)? Worship is a gift that can be taken away, so be careful. A scholar reported his experience stating that, “I once said something about someone I should not have said, and I was deprived of the night prayer for forty days”.

‘Actions are by their intentions’, so check yours. Sincerity in intention is to seek God’s pleasure alone. How do you know if you are sincere? Imām Qushayri quotes in his Risala, “The major flaw of the sincere one is that he is aware of his sincerity. When God Most High wants to render his sincerity pure, he removes from his sincerity his awareness of being sincere.”

b)    Have a daily reading of Qur’ān

Whether it is a hizb (i.e. 1/60  of Quran), a few pages or a few lines, pick an amount that you can commit to reading from the Qur’ān everyday. Make it a routine to read that amount after one of the obligatory prayers—after Fajr is usually the best time to do so.

c)     Daily Supplications (Dhikr) for Morning and Evenings

Having a regular wird (a designated amount) of dhikr is also necessary in one’s daily routine. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) recommended supplications for mornings and evenings. These have been complied in numerous books and litanies. Set aside a time, usually after Fajr and Maghrib, to recite them.  Imām al-Haddad’s Wird-al-Latif and Ratib-al-Shahir are from one of the most comprehensive and easy to recite (takes just 10-15 mins), based completely on Qur’ān and Sunnah. You can pick one which you like or vary between them. Other places these supplications can be found are in books like Hisn al Muslim, Adhkar Imām Nawawi and other collections.

d)    Salutations (Salawat) upon the Prophet

Sending prayers on the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) helps us engender love for him and is key for cleansing the heart. In our daily supplications, we must include a routine of salutations (Arabic: salawat, Urdu: durood) on him. We should aim to do this throughout our day, but including it in our daily routine inculcates the practice. One way to do this is to establish the habit of saying allallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam whenever he is mentioned. Pick a salwat you like and make it a habit of repeating it. The most famous book of salutations upon the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is Imām Jazuli’s Dalā’il al Khairāt. The book has set aside a chapter of salutations for each day of the week; it can be recited on a weekly or daily basis.

In general make an effort to, “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allāh.”

Control you diet

Imām Al-Ghazāli  considered the stomach and genitals to be the dominators of our desires; if they are in control; all other limbs are kept in check. Controlling our diet is especially needed, given that we live in a society where obesity is a serious problem and we don’t think twice about eating to satiety.

Imām Al-Haddād succinctly summarize the moderation we need to bring to our diets: Do not make good and pleasurable food your prime concern…Beware of eating excessively and frequently eating to satiety, for even if it be from halal foods it will still be the beginning of many evils. It results in hardening of the heart, loss of perspicacity, confused thinking, laziness in worship, and other things. The way to be moderate is to stop eating while still desiring to eat, and not to start eating until you really want food. The sign that yours is a real desire is that you desire any kind of food.

Reading List

Following is a list of manuals that outline in greater detail the steps one needs to take to attain purification of the heart. While many books have been written on the subject; these books are known for the ‘hands-on’ approach taken by the authors.

1)    Agenda To Change our Condition by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir. A short book written for Western readers in mind. It sets our practical steps one should take to achieve Taqwa (God-consciousness).

2)    The Book of Assistance by Imām Al-Haddād: A must read for anyone seeking spiritual purification. The book is known for succinctness and practicality.

3)    The Beginning of Guidance by Imām Al-Ghazāli: Hujjat al-Islam’s goal in this book is to outline beneficial knowledge; he also lays out a timetable to which one should aspire to follow. Written in the post-Ihya period, it’s a must read for students of knowledge and the layperson alike.

4)    Purification of the Hearts by Imām Mawlud: Presented in English with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s commentary, the book outlines spiritual diseases and their remedies.

The last piece of advice is to make du‘ā’. Practical measures outlined above need to be coupled with constant prayer asking God to grant us a pure heart and help us abstain from sins. Guidance and steadfastness is a gift from God, so it must be asked for. The following is a beneficial prayer to be recited regularly:

يَا مُقَلِّب الْقُلُوب ثَبِّتْ قَلْبـِي عَلَى دِينك

“O Over-Turner of Hearts! Make firm my heart upon your religion”

Imam Nawawi’s Spiritual Bucket List

All of the above has been summarized succinctly in a paragraph by Imam Nawwawi in his Maqasid. While it appears challenging, we must have high aspirations and should work towards achieving this spiritual bucket list. (Taken from Shaykh Hamza’s translation of Sidi Ahmed Zarruq’s Foundations of the Spiritual Pathanother beneficial read):

One reaches Allah Most High by repenting from all things, unlawful or offensive; seeking sacred knowledge in accordance with one’s needs; maintaining ritual purity; performing the obligatory prayers in the first of their time and in congregation, including the Sunna prayers that correspond to each of the obligatory prayers; adhering to the eight raka’ats of the midmorning prayer (Duha) and the six raka’ats after the sunset prayer and before the night prayer; performing the night prayers (tahajjud) after awaking from one’s sleep; fulfilling the witr prayer; fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and on the three days of the full moon – i.e. the 13th,14th, and 15th of the lunar month – and also the days of the year in which fasting is recommended; reciting the Quran with the heart’s presence coupled with reflection upon its meanings; frequently asking forgiveness of Allah (istighfar); maintaining prayers and blessings upon the Prophet, peace be upon him; and, finally, adhering to the meritorious invocations of the morning and the evening that have come to us from the Sunna (adhkaar as-sabaah wa al-masa)

 [Last Updated: January 2018]

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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election. contact: waleed dot ahmed at muslimmatters.org

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umara Tanwer

    July 31, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    Assalaamu Alaikum. JazakAllah khair for this very beneficial post!

  2. Avatar

    amel

    July 31, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    its a really good post, giving pointers on what should be done daily, jazakAllah

  3. Avatar

    Traveller

    July 31, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    May Allah reward you in abundance brother, the links are amazing thank you.

  4. Avatar

    Hili Cliffe

    August 1, 2013 at 5:21 AM

    How sure are we that our sin is forgiven? Doesn’t it depend on Allah’s decision?

    • Avatar

      Zaheer

      August 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Salaam,

      Not sure brother Waleed stated this anywhere in the article, or if you’re just asking out of interest’s sake – the answer, of course, is that Allah’s decision encompasses everything, so naturally it is His (s.w.t.) decision whether he forgives the sins of an individual, or not.

      However, this is precisely why we should make istighfaar, and then make istighfaar, and again, and again. We are never certain that Allah has forgiven us, so we constantly seek His (s.w.t.) forgiveness until He (s.w.t.) returns us to Him (s.w.t.).

      On a relevant side-note: many people get discouraged from seeking forgiveness, and from making du’a in general, because there are no “signs” that Allah has forgiven them or has answered their du’a. This is the first mistake to make because it demonstrates lack of faith – Waleed’s excellent example of the Nabi Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) making constant istighfar, even though he never committed sin and any sin he may have committed would have been instantly forgiven, is a sign for us. We have numerous sins, and no automatic protection from Allah for them, unless He (s.w.t.) wills. So, by rights, we should be making much more istighfar than our beloved Nabi (s.a.w.s)

      • Avatar

        Hili Cliffe

        August 6, 2013 at 7:24 AM

        Hello?

        May I thank for your effort to reply to my question. However, I am shocked that being a Muslim I cannot be sure that my sins are forgiven. It means that I cannot rest assured of the kingdom of Allah (s.w.t). It is thus just guess work. How will you therefore tell somebody to repent of his sin if you yourself are not sure if that person will be forgiven. It implies that if thus believing in Isa bin Marriam can bring forgiveness as christian’s Bible claim, then He is worth following.

        • Avatar

          Zaheer

          August 6, 2013 at 9:11 AM

          Hello Hilli,

          I think you may have misunderstood. Or, rather, my explanation was inadequate:-)

          What I meant was, everything is in Allah’s decree – we cannot say, “Okay, I asked for forgiveness, now Allah has forgiven me”. This doesn’t mean we should despair in Allah’s mercy, never ask for forgiveness, and na’uthibllah, start worshipping Isa (a.s) and asking him for forgiveness.

          What it does mean, is that we should never feel secure that our sins are forgiven, and that we can “rest” and not increase our good deeds, spiritual levels, and du’a.

          So, while no one can guarantee that their, or anyone else’s sin has been forgiven, the Qur’an and Sunnah has taught us that Allah’s mercy is vast, and that so long as we make sincere repentance, there is the possibility of Allah forgiving it. And all sins, besides ascribing partners to Him (s.w.t.), can be forgiven even after we die, if He (s.w.t.) so wills.

          The important thing is that we don’t despair when committing sin, but feel regret, make repentance, and move on (i.e. don’t dwell on the sin and whether Allah has forgiven it or not). Assume the best of your Lord, as our Nabi (s.a.w.s.) has said, but fear His (s.w.t.) punishment as well. In this way, the balance between hope in His (s.w.t.) mercy and fear of His (s.w.t.) punishment can be achieved. The vehicle? Du’a:-)

          Hope this explains what I meant.

    • Avatar

      abdirahman

      December 25, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      The real diseases are sins and one must repent from them all the time. We can never be sure if Allah accepted our repentence. However a sign that shows your prayers has been accepted is that you stop commiting those sins.

    • Avatar

      nb

      March 13, 2016 at 1:50 AM

      Part of repentance is having faith in Allah’s promise that he WILL forgive you. Yes we don’t know until day of Judgment if its accepted but we BELIEVE it is, Allah is what you think of Him so have the BEST opinion of Him. You will always commit sin that’s why we always turn back to Allah not because we are hung up on the past. Also, taubah means turning back, not seeking forgiveness,Our Nabi S.A.W would “turn back” to Allah i.e remember Him after being occupied with worldly work, which is normal and we all need to keep remembering Allah. Allahu Alim

    • Avatar

      Hassan

      May 25, 2016 at 6:57 PM

      Well it surely depends upon the decision of ALLAH but if you are repenting with true heart and pure intention you’ll have a satisfaction. This is the indication that ALLAH has forgiven you. I hope it answered your question.

    • Avatar

      Fatima Irene

      August 4, 2016 at 7:52 AM

      assalamu alaikum. When you cannot do that sin again, it only means that Allah s.w.t. has already forgiven you. Of course don’t forget to ask for His forgiveness first. There is always forgiveness from Allah s.w.t. whenever you ask for it, because that is who Allah s.w.t. is! The Most Forgiving. :)

  5. Avatar

    Guest

    August 2, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    thank you! much needed now that ramadan is ending

  6. Pingback: The TMI Hijabi |

  7. Avatar

    Kimberly Kate

    October 9, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Assalaamu’alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuhu. JazakAllahu Khayran.

  8. Avatar

    Ahmed Siddiqui

    March 5, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    Alham-du-Lillah. There is nothing wrong with this article. In my opinion the remedy for the purification of heart is very basic . Every individual that comes to the Masjid follow these rituals regularly without any doubt. This topic is a real heavy duty topic and it requires tremendous research and explanation. There is a difference in over the counter medications and prescribed medications, both of them have healing power and effectiveness except that later one is superior to the earlier one. May Allah guide us all. My comments are not intended to hurt any body’s felling’s except that I am still thirsty.

  9. Avatar

    addina

    March 22, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    Thank you for sharing this article. May Allah keep firm our hearts in this religion.

  10. Avatar

    Kutub

    August 13, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    Jaza kallah for the post .indeed good advice for spiritual enhancement.

  11. Avatar

    khalidoon

    July 1, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    Jazakkallahu khair. MashaaAllah this is really a great help to those who are in need of such advices like me. But may i ask, how may i be sincere then if being aware that i am sincere means i am not sincere? I hope you help me be enlighten in this matter sukran

    • Avatar

      Waleed Ahmed

      July 1, 2016 at 5:17 PM

      waiiyak. we can’t know if we’re sincere and whether an act we did was in fact accepted by God. we have to constantly check our intentions and keep renewing it while we do our acts..its a constant struggle

  12. Avatar

    Sana

    July 2, 2016 at 4:29 PM

    Very beneficial article,very helpful and enriching,may Allah bless u and all of us aameen

  13. Avatar

    Adam

    July 28, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    Allah says that he forgives sins times in the Qur’an. All u have to do is worship none but Him. Follow the way of Muhammad peace be upon him. And the messenger said to follow up an evil deed with a good deed and the latter will wipe out the former. Meaning if u fall into a sin then do something of good ie charity, be dutiful to parents, help someone in need, help an orphan etc. Lots good we can do if we think. Read the Qur’an if u are unsure about things. It was sent as a book of guidance after all. Allah protect this deen and Bestow ur mercy on the believers. Ameen.

  14. Avatar

    A sinner

    November 8, 2016 at 8:27 AM

    Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun, tuhibbul-‘afwa, fa’fu ‘anni
    (O Allah, You are Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness; so forgive me).” :'( :'(

    brothers and sisters plz keep me in your prayer.

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 16: The Best of You

Now that we have learnt about fruit out of season, let’s now talk about the best of you.

I want you all to think about your closest friends and how you treat them. 

Question: Would anyone like to share how they try to treat their closest friends?

That’s wonderful! You try to be thoughtful and considerate of their feelings. You bring snacks to share with them, you may buy or make them a gift.

Question: Now, I want you to close your eyes and think of the way you treat your family members. Is it the same?

Question: Why do you think that there is a difference between the way we treat our friends and the way we may treat our siblings or parents?

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Yes, we do spend a lot of time together. We see each other when we’re cranky or frustrated. Sometimes we want our own space to think, or we don’t want someone interfering with our things. Those are all valid reasons. But, do you know that it is more beloved to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that you treat your family members better than you even treat your friends?

It’s true! In a hadith, Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَيْرُكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِهِ وَأَنَا خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِي وَإِذَا مَاتَ صَاحِبُكُمْ فَدَعُوهُ

“The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.” 

Question: What are some ways we can be the best to our family members? I’m going to share with you a hadith that may help you get some ideas: 

وعن أبى أمامه الباهلى رضي الله عنه قال‏:‏ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ “أنا زعيم ببيت في ربض الجنة لمن ترك المراء، وإن كان محقاً، وببيت في وسط الجنة لمن ترك الكذب، وإن كان مازحاً، وببيت في أعلى الجنة لمن حسن خلقه” ‏(‏حديث صحيح رواه أبو داود بإسناد صحيح‏).‏

“I guarantee a house in Jannah (Paradise) for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a house in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.”

If we work on these three things: less arguing, no lying, and good manners, alongside all of your other suggestions, we will be rewarded with Jannah, inshaAllah

Question: Do you think we can all work hard to be the best to our family members?

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 15: Fruit Out of Season

Now that we have learnt about making our intentions big, let’s now talk about fruit out of season.

Who can tell me who Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is

Yes, she was the mother of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and also the best woman to ever live. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an that He chose her over all the women in the world.

Question: Do you know that she was also the niece to a Prophet? Does anyone know her uncle’s name? 

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His name is Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), good job! Do you know that Prophet Zakariya  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  was actually inspired by something he saw in Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room? It’s unusual for adults to admit that they learn from younger people, but we actually do, all the time! 

One day, Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) went inside Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room and he saw fruit that was out of season. 

Question: Can anyone tell me what fruit would be out of season in the spring, but we love to eat it in the summertime? Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?

Well, Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) would get fruit that was supposed to only grow in the summer during the wintertime too! This was a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would give her. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was so amazed by this! He asked Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) how she came upon the fruit and she replied:

 هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

“It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without measure.” [Surat Ali ‘Imran; 37] 

Now, by this time, Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was very old. And when you get to be very old, it is very unusual to have any more children. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his wife never had any children at all. But, he was so inspired by what his niece said that he raised his hands in dua’ and asked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a child. Even though having a child seemed  impossible because it was “out of season” for Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) he asks anyway knowing that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can grant us anything- even if it is not “in season!”

Question: Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?Did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answer Prophet Zakariya’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) dua’? 

Yes! Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was blessed with Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who too became a Prophet and was the cousin of Prophet ‘Isa  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)!

This shows us that it’s never too late or too early to ask for what our heart desires. Maybe Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will grant you something that is out of season too!

 

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How to Optimize Your Free Time

Time passes by. Many of us muddle through time, day in and day out. Only the wise and the prophets talked about the art of utilizing time in order to exist. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.”

Time, therefore, is the commodity of all endeavors. We all have 24 hours a day, and we choose how to use them. If you think you have wasted much time on miscellaneous activities last night, weekend, month, or even the years that have passed, then be hopeful that tomorrow inshaAllah you will have a balance of 24 hours. A new slate of opportunity. How will you make use of it?

Let’s take a case study of how an average professional spends his time through a weekday.

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Ahmed is in his mid-20s and works as an engineer. He wakes up for Fajr at 6am, and then gets ready for work to leave home at 8am. The 45 minutes he takes to commute to and from work each day is his favorite time to scroll through his social media and stay up-to-date with the latest news. He spends 8 hours at work. He arrives home in the evening at 6pm, and then eats dinner with his family. He dabbles in and out of conversations with his parents or siblings, and at 7pm he begins watching his favorite show on Netflix -and that’s an hour or two depending on the persuasion of the “Next Episode” button. His social media presence is most alive at 9pm, during the minutes after his show and before his bedtime. He looks at the clock on his wall and thinks about getting to bed soon. At 10pm he takes a dive into YouTube, and sometimes reads an article or two. Ahmed loses his sense of time between shows, likes, and endless scrolls. By the time he regains his consciousness of time, everyone else has fallen asleep.

What Ahmed is unaware of, is that millions of dollars are spent on algorithms for social media and entertainment platforms to keep people engaged. They are all competing for our time, and in exchange, provide us with only instant gratification. Finally, Ahmed falls asleep at 11pm to wake up early again for Fajr the next day.

Shall we do the count? Before we do, let us take no interest in how Ahmed spends his 8 hours at work, including his lunch hour. But the rest are for us to dissect.

Ahmed arrives home at 6pm and goes to bed at 11 pm; 5 hours each day that passes by untamed. In order to bring about any change to his day, Ahmed must then assume that there is another day that starts at 6pm. A day within a day[1]. He says he comes home tired, but we are only urging him to make use of 90 minutes out of the 5 hours. As for the rest, he can do with them as he pleases. Ahmed agrees, but asks what to do about the temptation to be on social media. Here are some tips:

  • Create friction between your finger and the undesired applications on your phone. Don’t place social media applications on your home page; this will give your brain the chance to think twice before utilizing them.
  • Most smart phones allow you to set screen time for each application. Set a daily time limit of one hour for all them.
  • Fast from social media for a duration of 24 hours once a week, and utilize that time to appreciate the small things. Make a conscious effort to spend quality time with family or call an old friend.

Now shall we talk about the 90 minutes?

Now that Ahmed has generously vowed to account for 90 minutes of his day, I want to give back to him the days of his weekend.

هَلْ جَزَاءُ الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ 

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” [Surah Ar-Rahman; 60]

Therefore, let us deal with the daily 90 minutes between Monday and Friday. 90 minutes a day over 5 days gives you nearly 8 hours. Those 8 hours are your self-realization hours. They are your bread and butter. They are yours. Do with them what your natural inclination calls for; go to the gym, write poetry, write stories, get a start at memorizing the Quran, read, attempt a new language, start a business , volunteer at your local masjid or nonprofit, help organize fundraisers for humanitarian causes, or even start a conviction circle. Let these hours be sacred for you to protect with sword and shield.

I speak humbly from experience. For me, these 8 hours are my reading time. For example, in the past I used 2 months of 90 minutes a day reading on Islamic history, therefore, I read Lost Islamic History, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Islam Between East and West. I hadn’t planned on reading those particular books, but one led to the other. I could have also finished Lost Islamic History and chosen a  few of the sources from its bibliography. My next topic was Art, and currently it’s Seerah; I started with Yasir Qadhi’s – Seerah series, then I plan to read Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings (for this subject such order is important). I have also used the 90 minutes attending reading groups, organizing weekly halaqas, and strategizing with my local masjid board on how to increase voter turnout during elections.

You’re probably assuming that I have figured out the formula of time management. I must tell you I don’t. It’s all a matter of process, and I took am still working on it.

So, whenever it is that you decide to start productively using time that can be spared, my personal experience has shown that it’s best not to ask questions or plan a year ahead. Just start as if you’re jumping inside a pool, and as the days pass, you will develop the appreciation of time passing by. You will acquire the muscle to make use of it. Also, start slow. Don’t listen to your blind motivation in the beginning; do little, but be consistent, for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) loves this too. As The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.”

Eventually, making better use of those 90 minutes will become a habit, but when it does, don’t worship it. If you are sick or have a family obligation, take it as a reminder of your humanity. We are wingless creatures that strive for the stars, and some days we must fall on our faces. Brush off the dust and aim to do it again the next day.

One last note: be humble. Don’t be self-righteous, and begin to talk about how many books you’re reading or reps you’re reaching.

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا 

“Walk not on the earth with arrogance. Verily, you can neither penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.” [Surah Al-Isra; 37]

It helps me breathe and reorient my priorities. Be still, keep your feet on the ground and vision aimed at the skies.

Ahmed, my old friend, now is your turn to begin to feel time— pass by.

 

 

[1] Bennett, Arnold. How to live on 24 Hours a day, George H. Doran Company 1910.

 

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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