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If Only…

“What are you binge-watching on Netflix?”
“Any good shows anyone watching?”
“Procrastinating as always… even worse now with all this time on my hands!”
“Carbs, carbs, carbs… I’m eating terribly.”
“Slept so late… woke up even later… bad habits forming already!”
“Kids and family driving me crazy already and it’s only Day 6…”
“More time to spare… still doing terrible in class – so behind!”

These are just a sample of the types of statuses, comments, and messages I have witnessed over the last few weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it.

And subhanAllah, I have found myself also falling victim to similar sentiments. Many people have found themselves stuck at home, quarantining and self-isolating. No commuting. No in-person classes or meetings. No crazy morning hustle to get the kids out the door. No after-school activities to rush to. No gatherings, commitments, or otherwise to fit into your insanely busy schedule. For some, their businesses or workplaces have had to close, and so no job to head to.

As Muslims, how should we approach the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in?

Time is one of the greatest blessings that Allah (SWT) can give, so much so that He, ‘azza wa jaal even swears by time in the Qur’an in several places. In perhaps the most well-known example of this, Allah (SWT) says in Surat al-Asr, verse 1: “By Al‑‘Asr (the time).” When our Lord swears by something of His creation, it is evidence of its importance, and this directs our attention to its benefit.

The Prophet (SAW) reminds us of the importance of taking advantage of our time in a beautiful hadith where he states: “Make the most of five things before five others: life before death, health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, youth before old age, and wealth before poverty” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 1077).

And yet, we don’t heed these signals or warnings. Instead, many of us continue to neglect the opportunity before us.

We binge on Netflix. We watch random videos. We scroll endlessly on Instagram. We read article after article on COVID-19. We sleep. We waste our nights. We waste our days. We realize that much to our disappointment, most of our bad habits can’t be blamed on a lack of time.
It was us. It was always us.

Rather than use this time to build good, solid habits in preparation for the most blessed month to come – Ramadan – we are busying ourselves with using this free time in a manner that is far from pleasing to Allah (SWT). We are getting lost in our days and nights, and in the process, potentially losing our akhirah.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “There are two blessings which many people do not make the most of and thus lose out: good health and free time” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6412).

Are we losing out?

How many times have we said, “If only I had more time, I would…
– Memorize Qur’an
– Pray Sunnah
– Read a book
– Make dhikr in the morning and evening
– Call my family or friends I haven’t talked to in some time
– Play with my child
– Set goals for Ramadan
– Work out
– Spend time with my family

What is our excuse now?

Have we set up a schedule in preparation for Ramadan? Have we started to establish the habits necessary for success in Ramadan? Or are we instead falling into habits that are displeasing to Allah (SWT)?

In a powerful ayah in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) reminds us of those who will look back at their life and wish they had more time:

“And they will cry out therein, “Our Lord, remove us; we will do righteousness – other than what we were doing!” But did We not grant you life enough for whoever would remember therein to remember, and the warner had come to you? So taste [the punishment], for there is not for the wrongdoers any helper.” [Quran 35:37]

What a golden opportunity we have right now! Yes, there is intense and immense difficulty we are faced with right now, but we know as Believers there will be benefit insha’Allah.

Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Do not resent the calamities that come and the disasters that occur, for perhaps in something that you dislike will be your salvation, and perhaps in something that you prefer will be your doom.”

For those of us who find ourselves with an extra hour, or two, or perhaps even more each day right now, what steps will we take to establish a new routine that is beneficial not only in dunya, but akhirah as well?

Will those “If only…” statements you made before remain as is, representing mere lip service? Will we be among those who look back at these weeks and months and feel ashamed? Will our TVs, cell phones or computer screens be witnesses against us in front of Allah (SWT)?

Or…

Will we know show our gratitude to Allah (SWT) by flipping those “If only” statements to “When I had more time, I did….” Will we be among those who look back at these weeks and months and be proud and grateful that these moments and actions will be witnesses for us in front of Allah (SWT)?

The Prophet (SAW) encouraged us to have a sense of urgency in doing good and warned others against procrastination. Narrated ‘Uqba bin Al-Harith: Once the Prophet (SAW) offered the Asr prayer and then hurriedly went to his house and returned immediately. I (or somebody else) asked him (as to what was the matter) and he said, “I left at home a piece of gold which was from the charity and I disliked to let it remain a night in my house, so I got it distributed.” [Bukhari]

We have an unimaginable opportunity before us. If we take advantage of it and make us of it, insha’Allah perhaps our status updates will look a little more like this in a few weeks time…

“Worked out today alhamdullilah!”
“Spent the whole day with the family.”
“Learned and memorized a new surah!”
“Finally eating healthy again.”
“It’s so nice to finally have more time for ibadah!”
“Set some new goals for Ramadan and the year!”
“On top of my studying and classes now!”

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