Question: In addition to his duty as a Prophet and state leader, God’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, was a father, spouse, and the closest friend of his Companions. He divided his time so justly between them that he did not violate the rights of anyone. Accordingly, as far as the volunteers devoted to high ideals are concerned, how should they manage their time so that they strike a balance at observing everybody’s rights over them?
Answer: Time management means taking into consideration everything that needs to be carried out, determining their order of importance, and planning life accordingly. It needs to be done in such a way that our acts of worship, such as the prayers, remembrance, and supplications, must also be included in it, as well as our responsibilities toward the people we are primarily responsible for such as one’s family and children.
For example, a believer cannot, and must not, abandon nightly devotions on the grounds of serving faith during the day. Be it only two units of prayer, a person with a believing heart must do some worship at night. A person who gets up in the night and spends some ten to fifteen minutes for the Tahajjud (Late Night) Prayer or supplicating to God does not lose anything in terms of serving faith, but on the contrary gains much, because a person who makes use of the night in this sense is counted as have set foot on the path to revival. Nocturnal devotions are among the deeds to be applauded by the High Assembly (al-mala al-a’la) in the Heavens. Supplicating to God by prostrating oneself in the profound silence of the night, meeting the prayer rug, humbling oneself before the Almighty, and shedding a few drops of tears is incomparably more virtuous than at other times. In this respect, nightly devotions must never be neglected when planning one’s time.
Give Every Rightful One Their Due!
As individuals must never neglect the devotions which nourish them with respect to the heart and spirit, by considering all the rights to be observed in their social lives, they must put these in an order of importance and try to give each its due. As it is known, in address to the Companions who neglected their families by devoting themselves to worship, the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him, stated: “Your soul has rights over you, your family has rights over you, God has rights over you… so give those with rights their due.”1 As is understood from this hadith, even a person’s devotions must not give way to neglecting the rightful ones such as one’s spouse, children, and the person himself.
Indeed, as the five prayers’ specific assignment to five different time segments of the day gives important lessons to believers for time management, the verses relating the wisdoms of the creation of night and days also gives them certain clues in this issue. For example, it is stated in chapter al-Qasas: “It is out of His Mercy that He has made for you the night and the day so that you may rest (during the night) and seek after His bounty (during the day), and that you may give thanks (to Him for both)” (al-Qasas 28:73).
With this and other similar verses, the Qur’an guides us in terms of time management and gives us the following message: if you put your life in order and do what needs to be done in the proper time of the day by making good use of the night with a separate depth and the day with a separate horizon, then you will be saved from living haphazardly, not be hindered by obstacles that stem from lacking a plan and program, and thus you will lead a much more fruitful life.
Planning of the Twenty-Four Hours
In order to be disciplined and efficient with time, it is possible to write down a 24-hour plan. If this can be done, from gathering together with friends for a talk of the Beloved to individual reading from tidying our room to spending time in remembrance and recitations from consulting with our spouse and children about certain issues to having a rest, which task to carry out what time of the day will have been clearly determined. Even the timespan to be spared for drinking tea or eating a meal can be considered within this planning. For example, if twenty minutes are sufficient for eating, one must suffice with that and not waste time with empty talk. It is even necessary to place precautionary time segments within this 24-hour planning so that extra factors to keep us busy do not upset our program.
From the essential to the trivial, if all things to be done can be planned with such elaboration, then our time will become more fruitful and the results obtained will rise from one to ten. When life gains such an orderly fashion, then in the long run the person will become fully disciplined, be accustomed to act within a certain program, and with the motivation obtained, the person will do what needs to be done without difficulty. Let it not be misunderstood—such a course of action does not mean resembling a machine. On the contrary, it means being a disciplined person and leading life in an orderly fashion. One with such discipline neither misses personal devotions, nor makes concessions with remembrance and recitations, nor neglects personal duties, nor violates the rights of family members.
Convincing the People We Walk Together
Another point of consideration with respect to time management is that a person must first reveal the plan to those in that person’s life who have rights over him or her, learn their thoughts and considerations, and then convince them in mind and heart about the significance of the duties he or she must carry out. That is, along with the rights of one’s spouse, children, and parents, it is necessary to explain as much as possible that God, religion, and the Qur’an also have rights over a person. If a person can maintain a consensus at this issue with the people who share the same home, then it becomes possible to carry out what needs to be done more comfortably and easily without being hindered by negative words and attitudes by the family environment.
Imagine a man who has convinced his carnal soul that he should devote a considerable part of his time to the path of glorifying the name of God and has heartfelt belief in this respect. Let this be a man who has internalized this issue in a way to fulfill this duty without avoiding any sacrifice. However, if the people with whom he shares a life are not aware of the greatness of the rights of God, the importance of making His Name resound in all corners of the world, the fact that this religion is a heritage entrusted to us and requires constant vigilance, and that it is a duty of crucial importance to restore a stronghold that has been damaged for centuries, from its essentials to details, then they will not wish to walk alongside him. The man, therefore, needs to make extra efforts to walk together with them. Otherwise, this will cause a weariness in the journey of that person.
However, if the person can make the latter believe in the ideal he possesses, share the same feelings and thoughts, and evoke the feeling of upholding the services he carries out, then he will have seriously facilitated his task at time management. When he does not fulfill the duties he should have fulfilled, if for example he does not attend a certain meeting or reading program that he was supposed to join, he will receive the first reaction from the people he shares his life with, which will be a strong recommendation for him.
Otherwise, if your spouse, children, or other people in the same household are unaware of the task management you have made in your mind and of the significance of practicing it, after some time it will be inevitable to have some conflicts in feelings and thoughts, and this will cause Divine support behind you to cease because the glorified guidance and assistance of God comes upon concord and unity. If you wish to become eligible for God’s making you succeed, you first must maintain concord and unity, no matter in what sphere.
Devoting Extra Time to Hizmet
Another point of consideration here is the duration of the time that we are to allocate for the sake of a lofty ideal. If a person solely spares some seven or eight hours for work using the logic of an ordinary employee, what he will do for the sake of the ideal will be restricted to the narrowness of that logic. If a person undertakes three or four responsibilities for the sake of a lofty ideal, and if doing them requires a time span of around 13-15 hours, then the person must try to fulfill that with an effective task management. That is to say, on the one hand he must devote as much time as possible on the path of serving God without wasting a second, but on the other hand he must strive to make use of that time in the most efficient way by putting what needs to be done in a certain order.
Particularly in our time, as there is a matter of restoring a spiritual stronghold which has been damaged for centuries, the people devoted to serving the Qur’an and faith have to show further sacrifice than the sacrifice shown so far and act more vigilantly in this issue. They can make a resolution for working in order to maintain that. For example, one person says that he can spare 12 hours a day for the sake of serving the people, another one takes a 13-hour responsibility per day, and another promises to work 14 hours in the path of God each day. In short, whoever voluntarily resolves to offer however much time it takes to complete a task, he or she regulates that time in a Hizmet-oriented way and tries to fulfill it. This is the understanding of the work that falls to a real believer. If the concept of working is not understood in this way, it means that this aspect of practicing Islam is not understood properly.
In spite of being able to do so, if some people are not devoting time to serving faith as expected from them, then it is necessary to convince them of this issue. It is very important to come to a consensus with the people before us at this issue. However, nobody should make any violations of rights after such a consensus. Everyone must be so scrupulous at fulfilling the responsibility that falls to him or her that neither the spouses should violate one another’s rights, nor those of their children, neither a case of injustice must occur between workers and their superiors, nor should the responsibilities in the workplace be violated.
Otherwise, while talking about working hours, if we are referring to acting with a simple worker’s logic, enjoying oneself after seven to eight hours of work, eating and wandering as one fancies, sitting idly in places to waste time, engaging in gambling and games, and taking part in some carnal and devilish activities, we are misunderstanding the issue. A person acting with such a mentality will not even be able to do one tenth of what he is supposed to do for the sake of humanity; a person with such a faulty understanding of work will not hesitate to go for a holiday at a time when he is needed; he will take leave at a point when important issues need to be fulfilled, thus upsetting the crucial responsibilities waiting to be fulfilled.
This is not the understanding of work expected from the volunteers of Hizmet. They try to fulfill the responsibility they shoulder at serving faith, and they never leave halfway a task they have started. When they fail to observe the rights of their spouses, children, and families, they strive to make up for it, trying to gain the hearts of the people whom they think they let down. For example, sometimes they appear before them with a bunch of roses, state their excuse for being late, and in the first opportunity they fulfill the promise they had given to them, making up for that unintentional mistake or neglect.
Incidentally, spouses must behave tolerantly toward one another at delays caused by some task that needs to be fulfilled. It should never be forgotten that during such a wait, the hours, minutes, and even seconds are counted as worship with respect to those who wait; indeed, such a waiting is a serious kind of sacrifice. Each one of the spouses that shares a home needs one another. There are certain issues and troubles a person needs to share and speak about with a spouse. In spite of needing to have one’s spouse at home, the seconds of a believer who waits for a marriage partner for the sake of serving faith can become as precious as years of worship unawares because the intention of a believer is better than his or her deed. While one of the spouses is busy with some benevolent act and the other one is giving material and spiritual support to the other spouse, then by God’s permission, they both have a share of the reward to be given for that righteous deed.
This text is the translation of “Mesai Tanzimi ve Aile Hayatımız.”
1. Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab, 86.