In an attempt to understand how those who lived before us treated the gift of time, I began reading ‘The Value of Time’. We live in an era where time has little value and the accumulation of wealth overshadows our desire to attain beneficial knowledge. As you go through this treasure trove you soon come to realise how we are regretfully not of those people who know the true value of time. Instead we fritter it away, giving other irrelevant tasks weight compared to attaining and spreading beneficial knowledge, and we have lost a zeal for investing in good deeds – the one thing which will outlast us when we leave this world.
What passes through the pages in this book will leave you awe-struck, that the scholars of the past sacrificed everything from eating even when their body was calling in hunger, to minimal social relations in order to preserve time for the most important matters. If you were to take any lesson from this review, it is that we are given a microscopic view into the lives of wise giants in Islam. Wise because their profit was in the wealth of knowledge they produced for the masses. A profound use of their time shows that ensuring every moment was used for something beneficial and pleasing to Allah (Subahanahu Wa Ta’ala).
What particularly struck me about the way the book was beautifully compiled – was the reality of time worthy actions being achieved; sadly the accomplishment of goals in our lifetime is rare in our world of ‘uber-busyness’. I want to highlight some of the points mentioned in the book, though it will not suffice as an introduction so I hope that by the end of the review you will feel compelled to buy your own copy of the book or order a copy from IslamicBookStore.com and take practical lessons from it that can be applied in your own life.
Time is defined in the book as ‘the loftiest and most precious of all primary blessings’ and ‘is the substance of life, the sphere in which man exists, the citadel of his spirit, and his subsistence – him benefiting himself and others’. As many of us know, Allah swears by time in the Qur’aan in Surah Al Asr, so we should ask ourselves that if we are at a loss with time then wouldn’t the intelligent and wise people invest their time in the actions that will outlast his existence in this world? One highlight of this short yet comprehensive treatise is that it can change your perspective of time, so you come to realise the invaluable deed of attaining knowledge as being your goal in life.
One of my favourite scholarly works to read from are by the eminent Shaykul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, about whom the author says in ‘The Value of Time’: “Even more remarkable is the example of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, born 661, died 728, may Allah have mercy on him, at the age of 57 leaving around five-hundred written volumes. He could not have written hundreds of books, such that neither his companions, nor even his shaykh himself could count them, without complete use of his time in learning writing and worship”.
So you may be asking yourself: what are the secret ingredients of these prominent scholars we can only marvel at? I’d say they truly understood the statement that ‘time passes naturally, ends automatically, so whoever is not aware of his soul, his time will be lost, his loss will be great, and his regrets will be severe’. And it is indeed true to say that: ‘The pious predecessors and those successors who followed their way were the keenest of people to gain time and to fill it with good deeds, whether they were scholars or worshippers, for they raced against the hours, and used every instant, being very careful with their time, so that they may not lose any part of it’.
Of those mentioned, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Aqil, Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Jawzi and many others all reflect that protecting what time is spent on and striving for only the important knowledge leads to success for ‘the wise man must devote (his) keen mind and precious time to better actions and the higher aspirations, in order to attain what is most excellent and useful’.
In summary, we, the readers in an age where time is used and abused, can take these inspiring snippets of the great legacies that have come to pass and learn to utilise every moment Allah has blessed us with through:
Reflection: For Allah has warned us of those who are wasteful with time and says:“Did we not grant you a life long enough for him who reflected to reflect therein?” [Quran Chapter 35 Verse 37]
Eating less: They were careful to lose even a second of their time in pursuit of knowledge because of eating. Such that in some of the stories written they ate only bread as their soul was satisfied with the food of knowledge.
Walking faster: In order to travel in pursuit of the knowledge they were seeking in abundance, so they would not be lazy in going from one end of the earth to the other to obtain it.
Mixing with the people less: They would reduce their social time which is prevalent in our daily activities today. Leaving the people and not coming out of their homes unless for prayer in the masjid or necessary matters.
Constantly Writing and Reading: This is paramount to the first point, their reflection on the knowledge they gained led to the numerous works presented before us. This is testimony of their vigilance in worshiping Allah and being cautious not to waste a single moment by reading, writing or remembering; and spreading this beneficial knowledge.
And I could go on, but I want to leave you with a passage from the book to think about in respect to your own life and use of time: ‘Is your life in this universe anything other than the time which passes between birth and death? Gold can vanish, but you may acquire many times what you lose. But you cannot return lost time that has passed! Therefore time is more precious than gold, and dearer than diamonds or any precious stone or any profit, for it is life itself.’