The Quran and Sunnah both emphasize the importance of time in the life of a Muslim. Allaah swears in the beginning of many Soorahs (chapters) by time or moments in time, for example Allaah Says (what means): “By the dawn and the ten nights (i.e. the first ten days of the month of Thul-Hijjah)…” [Quran 89: 1-2]
And also Says (what means): “By the night when it covers, and by the day when it appears…” [Quran 92:1]
And also Says (what means): “By the morning brightness and by the night when it covers with darkness…” [Quran 93:1]
And also Says (what means): “By the time…” [Quran 103:1]
When Allaah swears by something of His creation, it directs our attention to the benefit of that thing. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, further emphasized the value of time in many authentic Hadeeths. For example, Mu’aath bin Jabal related that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “The slave will not go forward on the Day of Judgment until he is asked four questions: about his age and how he spent it, about his youth and how he used it, about his wealth and how he acquired it and spent it, and about his knowledge and what he did with it.”
Youth is considered the peak stage in human life, because young people have the capacity and energy to accomplish many good deeds, but when they get older, they cannot do as much. These are stages of development as mentioned in the Quran, for example in Soorah Ar-Room (The Romans), Allaah Says (what means): “Allaah is He Who created you in (a state of) weakness, then gave you strength after weakness, then after strength gave (you) weakness and grey hair …” [Quran 30:54]
If we do not use our time effectively for something good, then we will definitely use it for something bad, which destroys our rewards and our lives. For example, if you do not make Thikr (mentioning Allaah and praising Him), then you will be saying something else, perhaps backbiting or perhaps talking about your children, your work, your neighbors, your friends or your enemies. What counts for you is using the time for something useful, doing good deeds and saying good things.
Try to make a short revision at the end of each day about what you did during that day. Ask yourself: What did I do today? What did I do that was bad today? Make repentance for the bad things that you have done and said, sincerely determining not to repeat such things. With the good, determine to do it again, do it more often and do it in a better way.
Our lives are judged according to what we did, not according to how many years we lived. We know that life is very short, and at the end of it comes death. We do not know when we are going to die, so we have to make sure that we do many good deeds before we pass into the next life and we are unable to return to repent from our bad deeds, or to do more good deeds. Time passes very quickly as Allaah Says (what means): “The Day they see it, (it will be) as if they had not tarried (in this world) except an afternoon and a morning.” [Quran 79:46]
And also Says (what means): “And on the Day when He shall gather (resurrect) them together, (it will be) as if they had not stayed (in the life of this world and graves, etc) but an hour of a day.” [Quran 10:45]
Time is very precious and if it passes, you cannot make use of it again. If yesterday passed without the performance of good deeds, then it is gone; you cannot reclaim any benefit from yesterday’s time. For example, if you came to travel from one city to another and you found that the airplane that you were supposed to travel on has already left, do you think that it will be back to pick you up? Or if you were traveling by train and you missed the train, do you think that the train will reverse to come back to get you?
When it is time for a person to die, he may ask for more time to do good deeds, as Allaah Says (what means):“Therein they will cry: ‘Our Lord! Bring us out, we shall do righteous good deeds, not what we used to do.’ (Allaah will reply): ‘Did We not give you long enough lives so that whosoever would receive admonition could receive it, and the warner came to you? So taste you (the evil of your deeds). For the wrongdoers, etc, there is no helper.” [Quran 35:37]
We say that we are so busy with our work and our children, but Allaah warns us against this saying (what means): “O you who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allaah. And whoever does that, then they are the losers. And spend (in charity) of that which We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says: ‘My Lord! If only you would give me respite for a little while (i.e. return to the worldly life), then I should give sadaqah (i.e. Zakaah) of my wealth, and be among the righteous (i.e. perform Hajj). And Allaah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death) comes. And Allaah is All-Aware of what you do.” [Quran 63: 9-11]
Many people before us used their time effectively by performing good deeds, teaching, doing something for the benefit of the Muslims, their families and their relatives, or by advising others to be good, and calling others to Allaah and Islam, etc. They considered every day that passed which they did not use effectively for the sake of Allaah as denying the favors of Allaah.
Today we have those who “kill time.” These people gather to talk about things that are not related to Islam or the Muslims’ affairs; they play around or talk about others. These people are not killing time, but they are committing slow suicide because they are killing their time — and their time is their lives! So they are slowly killing themselves and after they die, what good deeds have they done?
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “There are two favors (or bounties) of Allaah’s bounties, and in them many people are cheated (or deceived): health and free time.”
People underestimate the value of these two favors, and thus, they are cheated. This is like a person who has a house that he wants to sell. Someone comes and offers him 50,000 dollars for it. He isn’t sure of its value, so he hesitates. Finally, he agrees and sells it for that amount. Later he finds out that his house was actually worth a million dollars. Imagine how cheated he feels; imagine that feeling that if he had only known beforehand what it was really worth, he could have gotten more!
It is the same with our time. We underestimate its great value, and then when it is gone, we feel that we have been cheated because we didn’t get everything out of it that we could have. But just as the one who sold his house below its value cannot get it back and sell it at its true value, we also cannot go back and do more with the time that is already gone. At the end of our lives, we will not be able to go back and live our lives over again and we will not be given more time to do good deeds, to try to make up for the time we wasted.
So we must organize our time wisely, being very careful about what we use it for. We must treat the free time that we have, in which we could do good deeds as a precious resource, guarding it against waste or misuse.