Reflections by Shaikh Faiyaz Jaffer: al Asr
Every day is a new, unique opportunity, gifted to us by our All-Merciful Creator. For most of us, we do not see today as the blessing that it really is. We, as a human being, live life as a routine; the morning has a routine, the afternoon has a routine, and our evening has a routine. Though life throws us curveballs, generally our lives are stagnant. There are ups and downs, for sure, but if we take a moment to individually reflect on a day to day basis, perhaps we can find an opportunity to put in more effort to progress ourselves—and work to fine-tune our routine to realize how blessed every single moment really is.
In chapter 103 of the Holy Qur’an, a chapter which many have taken to memory, God swears by “the time.” We swear by things which we hold valuable, obviously, like God, the Qur’an, our mother…and the same principle naturally applies to God. When He swears by something, it also holds value, but sometimes we need to dig a bit deep down in order to find out exactly what that value is. Yes, time is of the essence, and time is money, but nothing is as irreplaceable and valuable and wasted by us as this unique blessing of God. Time, by means of our experiences, is an opportunity to mold us, for the good or for the bad. And if I meditate for just a moment, and think how much time I waste every day doing things which are not in the least beneficial to my physical, mental or spiritual well-being, I’d be quick to recognize the room, and need for improvement in my life. Partly why God states in the second verse of the chapter, “And verily man is in a loss…”
In a famous tradition, the Prophet (s) says, “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.” While quoting the tradition takes relative ease, practice and application is a different story. Today, we sit at the onset of a new year, several weeks into our resolutions and desire to make a difference in our individual lives. We often focus on things like our health and well-being, or our personal goals that connect to our definitions of success and progress. But at the same time we, there is a need to focus on our spiritual cultivation. As every day passes, new opportunities also pass. As every week passes, an opportunity to rectify the diseases of the heart also fades. We waste plenty of time sleeping, eating, watching Netflix and Hulu or browsing through social media—but what if I spent an additional 5 minutes every single day seeking knowledge that has the potential to illuminate my heart?
God swears by time because of its unique significance, and also is certain that most of humanity is going to be negligent to that very fact. The conclusion of Sura al-Asr mentions four types of individuals who are exception to the rule: “those who believe, do good deeds, enjoin on another truth, and enjoin patience upon one another.” Getting to that spiritual level, where my heart, body and soul are comprehensively practicing these four phases doesn't happen overnight but rather takes a lifetime. But there is a real opportunity to utilize the gift of today as a stepping stone to taking benefit of “five before five” and being the exception to the rule as it outlined in the blessed verses of the Qur’an.
So, a reminder to myself, which I hope will be a reminder to others: We all have incredibly busy lifestyles- whether we are students or professionals, young or old, male or female…but none of that should be a hindrance to taking a few minutes out of our day in dedication to seeking Islamic knowledge and purifying our hearts and souls. Collectively, as individuals and hopefully as communities, lets make an effort to put in 5 minutes each day to reflection on verses of the Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet (s) and his family. We all have access to resources literally at our fingertips, and if we solely dedicate 5 minutes each day to committing ourselves for this cause, we will find unique spiritual inspiration and practice.