“A time will come when your life will flash in front of you. Make sure it is worth watching.” For a man, this might happen thrice. Once, when he is ripening in age and occasionally going down the memory lane. Secondly, when he is on the death bed, and his entire past reels before his eyes. Lastly, it will be on the day of standing, when he will account for his worldly life before his Lord (swt). Fifty thousand years of standing and waiting will turn a child into an old man.
How many of us even think about this amidst the frenzy of undertaken tasks or, conversely, when having nothing to do? Quite amusingly, we find people ranging from those for whom twenty-four hours are not enough, as they are madly dashing from one finished business to the next unfinished one, to those who have ample time at hand to waste and still the day is not done. Both categories have one trait in common. They will stand before Allah (swt) and account for every second they spent.
It all begins with the need to lead a meaningful life. What is it? A meaningful life is a life with purpose. Suleman Ahmer of “Timelenders” explains that it has the following four elements:
- Time management
- Additional required competencies
It is the picture of the future you want to see: independent of time and real for now and another hundred years to come. In Pakistan, we see brands such as “Rooh Afza” of “Hamdard” by late Hakeem Muhammad Saeed. Whether you shop down the aisles of hypermarkets in Dubai or Pakistani grocery stores in the USA, you are bound to find “Rooh Afza”. The brand has thrived, as the vision of the company has transcended time.
The vision ought to be correct in nature, too. We know that Adolf Hitler also had a vision: to annihilate from the planet an entire race, based on the misdoings of some prejudiced and evil minds. Hence, he doomed to gas chambers children and the elderly, males and females simply because of their ethnicity. This injustice stemmed from a twisted vision.
The question is: how to bring meaning to one’s life? Mr. Ahmer states: “Meaning comes by design not accident.” Silica, which is actually sand, can be made into a glass by planning and deliberate designing. Now, this glass holds meaning, as it is of some value. The same holds true for our life. If it is lived purposefully, it acquires meaning and value; otherwise, as Allah (swt) says: “Verily, We created man in the best stature (mould). Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low.” (At-Tin 95:4-5) It is Allah’s (swt) domain to make exceptions to the rule, but as a practice, nothing can be built without a design.
It is imperative that your vision for yourself, your family, or your company should be crystal clear. On a humorous note, it is said: “You are not clear about your idea until you have shared it with your grandmother.” If you have clarity about your vision, you will be able to convey it convincingly to others, too.
Every day towards a meaningful life is a struggle. If a person who intended to memorize the Quran dies before his mission is completed, he will be raised as a Hafiz on the Day of Judgement, even if he was able to learn only a single Ayah (verse) from the Quran.
If my decision-making of today is not in alignment with my vision of tomorrow, will I reach my destination? I had planned to go to Murree and took a flight to Timbuktu. Anyone can guess the consequences of it.
- Time Management
It is the ability to prioritize our day according to a strategic vision and then to accomplish these prioritizations through Azm (determination). Following are two very vital elements of time management: a) planning, b) Azm
Generally, planning is assumed to be an expenditure. But as Winston Churchill said: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Planning is an investment which saves from aimless waste of time. It does not mean predicting the future. It simply means to envision and plan your best.
Disruptions can also be better handled in a planned situation, when you are ready for them ahead of time. Uncertainties are a part of life, regardless of where you live.
In some US states, people wake up to sleet and ice that disrupts their plans. Likewise, in Pakistan, strikes, political rallies, and protests are frequently throwing one off guard.
Just as it is unwise to start building a house without a vision or a blueprint, it is unwise to start your day, your week, your month, your year, and your life without a plan. The quality of your planning determines the quality of your day or project at hand. The time before Fajr is highly recommended as the best for planning activity.
How does a Cheetah hunt?
It is Allah’s (swt) Sunnah to facilitate man’s learning on this Earth through His various creations and the signs in them.
A Cheetah is known to be the fastest land animal on the planet. Its top speed is 110 km per hour, which it is able to maintain for about 55 seconds. It runs from 0 – 90 km per hour but accelerates in just four seconds to its top speed. A Cheetah is mainly found in the plains of Africa and Central Asia. Its weight is about 120 pounds.
Now, a Cheetah’s favourite prey is a gazelle. This animal can run 80 km per hour but has more stamina. The ground reality is that with every attempt of the Cheetah to hunt and kill, its ability reduces as it becomes exhausted. Hence, it makes the kill in fifteen seconds.
The Cheetah settles down 200 – 400 metres away in the grassland from the waterhole. From there, it observes the size and speed of the gazelle. It waits for almost four hours with patience. Once it has marked its prey, it attacks. No matter how many other gazelles leap past it, the Cheetah has set its eyes on the one that it has to kill in fifteen seconds. The Cheetah decides whether to stalk or sprint. If it sprints, it has to shift from the 3rd to the 5th gear, but if it stalks the gazelle, frightening it, the Cheetah can only run up to 3.8 miles, after which it gives up.
This is unimaginable precision in strategy! Four hours of planning and fifteen seconds of execution!
If an animal can do this every day, why can’t we? It is better to plan for a year and execute in a day, than to plan in a day and execute in a year. It is also said: think a hundred times, before you decide. But once you decide, stand by it as one man.
- Determination (Azm)
We all have our own mental script: the discretionary mental routine (DMR). These are the actions you don’t need to think about prior to doing, as they are performed sub-consciously. For example, gear shifting while driving a vehicle or playing tennis in a particular style.
The Quran mentions three faces of the human Nafs:
- Nafs Ammara, which is the naughtiest one,
- Nafs Lawama, which is slightly better, and
- Nafs Mutmainna, which is by far the best in conduct.
It is important to understand the mental script of people. A person’s DMRs are the same for others as they are for himself or herself. For example, if a man finds it hard to forgive himself for his past follies and sins, he will not forgive others for their slights either.
Once a marriage counselor shared that while attempting to settle a marriage dispute, they came across a lady who was persistent that she would never forgive her husband. The husband was begging her to pardon him, but she wouldn’t budge. When probed further, she revealed that she never forgave herself for whatever errors she committed in life. Hence, she was managing herself and others with the same DMRs.
Another example is that of Umar (rtam). It is said that Satan would frightfully take a detour, whenever he spotted Umar (rtam) in his way. Umar (rtam) as a caliph slept on bricks for a pillow. He offered a whip to a common man so he could strike him for a mistake he had once made in anger. His life meant only one thing: service to Islam for seeking Allah’s (swt) pleasure by following the Quran and the Sunnah. Naturally, when he found one of his governors hanging curtains in his house, he stripped him off his title. Umar (rtam) expected the same level of piety from his team as he practiced himself. His standards were very high, and undoubtedly his performance was extraordinary.
Azm is when we keep our promises to ourselves, and they form into determination. Aihid is when we keep our word given to others, and it translates into a promise. Azm is the hardest to keep, because we have to keep a watch on ourselves. There is no one else involved but you. In case of an Aihid, others are involved; there is someone to complain to you about a promise in case you dishonour it.
A parable can be drawn to understand this concept better. Consider Aihid to be a 100-metre hillock that needs to be climbed versus Azm being a 1000-metre mountain that needs to be scaled. Azm and Aihid are directly proportional to each other. Those who are able to keep promises to others are generally good at keep their word to themselves, too.
Every child is born with a high Azm. Due to broken promises, his Azm decreases. When people around him do not honour their Aihid with him, he loses his Azm and starts breaking promises.
On the authority of Abdullah ibn Amr (rtam), the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever possesses four traits is a Munafiq (hypocrite), and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses, and when he makes an agreement he violates it.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
How serious is breaking an Aihid? And how much worse is it to ignore it, defend yourself, or not be bothered about it? Well, this case falls into the violation of Huqooq-ul-ibad (rights of Allah’s (swt) slaves); hence, the Ulema offer the following as a rectification measure:
- Step one is to ask those to whom you have broken your promise to forgive you.
- If he demands it, you will have to fulfill any financial loss that may have resulted due to your broken promise as compensation to him.
- Next, seek Allah’s (swt) forgiveness as you have transgressed His Haq, too.
- Finally, repent and offer Taubah. This should include regret over your action, resolution to leave this sin right away, and intention to never repeat it in the future. With a renewed Azm, your Aihid will go up, too.
What are some of the misconceptions that Satan drills into our head to prevent us from observing the above measures?
- Breaking a promise is Gunah-e-Kabeera (a greater sin) that cannot be forgiven.
- Fear of returning to sins. And even if you return to doing the same, your Taubah will not be cancelled by Allah’s (swt) mercy.
Namely, it is extremely difficult for a hopeful believer to go to hell, simply because, Allah’s (swt) mercy rescues him from so many different directions.
It is the ability to share your vision with others and to inspire and facilitate them in pursuing the shared vision. Sharing is done at an intellectual level, inspiration is driven from the heart at an emotional level, and resources are provided and a direction allotted for facilitation.
It was back in 1937, when some students in England founded the slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya? La ilaha illah!” This chant became the backbone of the freedom struggle led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He said: “A Muslim does not fear grief.” And true to his word, he demonstrated by every ounce of his action and devotion the true spirit of leadership. He shared the vision with the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. He inspired them to decide from the heart and showed them the direction to achieve it. Alhumdulillah, Pakistan was born under a remarkable and miraculous example of leadership.
- Additional required competencies
This may include knowledge pertaining to some subjects, skills which need to be developed, and abilities that must be gained. For example, if someone fosters the vision of deep sea diving, he will have to train himself before he sets out on his quest. Otherwise, he will be a guaranteed failure.
May Allah (swt) enable us to live meaningful lives, keep our promises made to ourselves and others, and envision entrance into Jannah and work towards it. Ameen.