Aug 24, 2012

Lessons of time management learnt from Ramadan

By Danielle Garvey


As Muslim women we occupy numerous roles including but not limited to the spheres of family, work/study, community and of course religion. For many sisters Ramadan sees their workloads double with additional religious duties as well as family and/or social obligations. As a result, our awareness of time, its value and management heightens as we struggle to find time to do everything.

With the Qur’an and sunnah as our guide, many of us manage to adapt to these new demands on our time and energy by establishing new schedules and habits. Yet once Ramadan ends, we once more find ourselves complaining that we ‘just don’t have time!’

The end of Ramadan should not mean an end to productivity just as it should not mean an end to ibada. A simple solution to this common problem is for us to simply evaluate some of the common productive practices we partake in during Ramadan and how we can apply them to our everyday lives.

Time block Have you ever noticed that the busier you are the more you get done? This is because having a full schedule naturally forces you to organise yourself by using simple time management techniques such as time blocking. This involves organising your tasks by urgency/importance and designating certain periods of time to work on each of them.

As believers we are blessed with ready-made time blocks, the foundation of which is our obligatory five daily prayers. During Ramadan our timetables absorb additional tasks such as waking for suhoor and praying taraweeh, resulting in a full and strict timetable. This scheduling of regular blocks of time for both religious and worldly tasks organise us to the extent that our opportunities for time wasting are severely limited. This is the first and most basic step to managing our time well throughout our lives and one which Allah has made easy for those who choose to take advantage of the gift of time.

However, it is important here to state the obvious – there should be no compromising on time designated for the obligatory ibada. It is not a time wasting activity to be cut back on. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was one of the most productive people to have ever lived and he always did his duty to Allah and it was of no disadvantage to him. Only good can come from worshipping your Lord in the way He deserves to be worshipped. After all, it is the sole purpose of our creation.

I’tikaf Common barriers to getting things done are interruptions and distractions-anything from a needy child to seemingly endless streams of phone calls, emails and text messages. For this reason, success coaches often spend a lot of time on how to deal with these occurrences however they need not look any further than the sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

I’tikaf is a sunnah practice which takes place in the last ten days of Ramadan. It can be described as a spiritual retreat which involves isolating oneself in the mosque and denouncing wordly preoccupations. The purpose of this practice is to focus on ibada in an effort to search for and inshaAllah benefit from laylat ul qadr. 

Although it is highly commendable to dedicate time strictly for ibada, a ‘faux i’tikaf’ can be used at any time to tackle any necessary projects whether worldly or religious and can be adapted to suit your schedule and circumstances. For instance, ten days for you may be one day spent focussing on your project in your home, library or indeed the women’s section of your local mosque, only going out for reasons which cannot be avoided e.g. to eat or use the bathroom. The most important thing is that the rules remain the same in the sense that all possible, unnecessary interruptions are eliminated. Warn in advance everyone who may wish to contact you in that time. If you are a mother, organise your husband, parents or any other willing babysitter to care for your children on that day. InshaAllah, adopting ‘faux i’tikaf’ as a regular practice will allow you to maintain control of your ‘to do’ list but also help in creating a healthier life balance by giving you sufficient time to yourself so that you may recharge your batteries and re-emerge as a better version of yourself in all your roles.

Waking early Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we make post-Ramadan is abandoning the habit of waking early. It is widely recognised amongst all sectors of society that starting our day early leads to a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that our beloved Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was a habitual early riser and encouraged this habit in others. Indeed it was in response to a du’a made by him, that Allah made these early hours a blessing for his ummah. The enormity of this blessing can only be fathomed if we observe the great extent to which the kafiroon benefit from these hours – and that’s without the baraka! Just imagine the benefit we can gain from it inshaAllah if we made the effort to form this habit.

Alhamdulilah, there are countless ways to benefit from these hours as it can be used for virtually anything whether it be catching up on work, exercising, preparing for the day ahead or if your spouse is also an early riser, enjoying some quality time together before the day begins. It can be an excellent means of maintaining balance in our lives. However, as we can see in the following hadith, the best way to truly benefit from these hours is to make istighfar and du’a to Allah:

"Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, inquiring:

'Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? 
Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? 
Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?" 
[Al Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 246:] 

As specified in the above hadith, this takes place in the last third of the night known as as-haar, the last three hours before fajr and it is these hours which are blessed. Therefore, in order to gain maximum benefit from this amazing opportunity, we should strive to wake up for tahajjud and work until fajr then continue to work until sunrise. However, for those unable to do so they may still taste some of the benefit of these hours by waking up for fajr, and returning to sleep at sunrise. It is important that we form this habit of staying awake after fajr because it is in fact makrooh to sleep between fajr and sunrise.

Sleeping Early Naturally, to wake early one must also sleep early. This is especially important when we are striving to pray tahajjud. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam maintained his own routine by taking a short nap between dhuhr and asr (known as qaylula) but most importantly, by sleeping immediately after isha prayer. In this way he was able to consistently perform tahajjud throughout his life whilst still fulfilling the rights of his body by providing it with sufficient sleep.

Some people may choose to work on some tasks in the evenings and there is nothing wrong with this however we must be mindful not to sleep later than half the night. If we stay up beyond this, we risk sleeping through not only tahajjud but also fajr, Allah forbid. In addition we would also be missing out on the many benefits found in the early hours which have been discussed above and there is no one on earth who is not in dire need of such blessings. This is without mentioning the potentially devastating effects consistently staying up late can have on one’s productivity levels and health including the development of potentially fatal illnesses.

These are just some of the time management lessons which can be learnt from the beneficial practices we engage in during Ramadan. Islam itself encourages the believers to value time and use it wisely, filling it with good deeds which may benefit us not just in this life but the hereafter inshaAllah. This is because our time here is short, as is illustrated by the hadith in which the Prophet saws says:

"(The significance of) this world (in comparison) to the hereafter is similar to one of you dipping his finger in the ocean and then seeing (the amount of water that) has stuck to it" 
(Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1330) 

This was well understood among the earlier generations to the extent that we even find scholars who chose their foods based on how long they took to eat. In the Qur’an and sunnah Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala has provided us with all the tools required to lead a productive life. Whether we choose to use and benefit from this however, is a choice each of us must make.

The Value of Time by Sheikh Abdul Fattah Guddah,

Sleeping habits of the Prophet (pbuh) lecture by Muhammad Al Shareef, )

18 Sources of Barakah by Abu Productive

In the early hours by Suhaib Webb

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


Post a Comment