With the coming of the new year, many of us set about thinking and making resolutions for ourselves. These vary from individual to individual, depending upon personal preferences and priorities. Some of us may choose to focus on health, whereas others might think that they need to work towards learning a new skill or reviving relationships. Regardless, the objective is to make our lives more productive and meaningful.
As Muslims, it is our belief that every second comes as a blessing from Allah in the form of an opportunity to better ourselves and secure our Aakhirah, the life Hereafter. For this purpose, we not only need to be spiritually proactive but also manage our time wisely, so to enhance our lives and surround them with opportunities to do good.
Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within himself, with food for the day, it is as if he acquired the whole world.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
In a nutshell, this hadith beautifully sums up what contentment should feel like and how we must set our priorities straight. Also, through a show of gratefulness and remembrance of Allah, one is bound to find inner peace and tranquility which are essential elements for driving a purposeful life.
Lessons on Productivity from our Prophet
Productivity is a measure of one's performance that compares the output (achievements) with the input (means to gain). That is to say, on a given day our productivity depends (pretty much) on our habits and the routine that we follow. And, this is why when we aim to better ourselves, we often take to seeking inspiration from the habits of highly successful people. For Muslims around the world, the best example is set forth in none other than our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Be it at a secular or religious level, he is by far the only man to be regarded as supremely successful. For Allah testifies to this in the Quran saying:
"Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often."
(Surah Al-Ahzaab, 33: 21)
The challenge that each one of us faces comes in adopting the right habits and routines that practically work best for us and are sustainable over a lifetime. Even though we believe in the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, we oftentimes struggle to find the time and mind to put them into practice, with consistency.
Factually speaking, it is true that the present day world with its many distractions is very different to how it was over 1400 years ago. But, when we closely look into the lives of the prophets and their companions, we realize that challenges always remained. The challenge of finding meaning and purpose in life, juggling between various roles, maintaining relationships, and being successful in personal endeavors has always been a real test for mankind.
The good thing is that our religion does not push to complicate things, rather they are exemplified thoughtfully. Our deen has been preserved for us in the form of writing in the Quran and narrations of various accounts and instances from the life of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, which will suffice till the final hour. Unlike other famous conventional personalities, our Prophet's life has been minutely recorded to serve as a means of guidance for the entire human race.
And, here is how we can take advantage of his example, to make our lives more productive and meaningful.
1. Reflect on his daily routine and adopt these practices.
It comes as no surprise that Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, never wasted a moment of his precious time and always utilized it to the best of his abilities. He was not only regular with his prayers, but also managed to structure his day carefully around prayer timings, and fulfill all his responsibilities without as much as complaining about how little time he had. And, this was the Messenger of Allah, who was an individual like any of us, but with a heart that always remained conscious of its Creator.
On a typical day, he would:
- Reserve quality time for his family and assist in house chores despite numerous personal engagements and commitments.
- Dedicate a portion of his daytime to assist in communal affairs and in helping resolve important issues related to the community.
- Help those in need, such as the sick, orphans, and widows.
- Enlighten men, women and children on various topics pertaining to Islam and the divine message from Allah.
- Adapt his body needs according to circumstances. For example, if there was no food to eat at home, he would take to fasting but when there was, he would eat and share with those around him. He would also take a nap for a little while during the day, before Asr (the evening) prayers.
- Take time to reflect, express his gratitude towards Allah, and repent to Him.
- Spend time in the remembrance of Allah and in making dhikr.
To do: Following in his footsteps, we can incorporate daily supplications into our lives, as these serve the purpose of keeping us spiritually engaged and aware throughout our day to day activities and help in bringing uncountable blessings and rewards. Here are some nice resources:
For Adults: Daily Dua
For Children (5-10 yrs): My First Book of Dua by Mohd. Harun Rashid
Similarly, we can transform our daily actions to acts of worship by finding the niyah or intention to please Allah. For instance, when stepping out to work in order to earn for the family, one should make the intention and testify to Allah that you are doing it to please Him, by fulfilling your responsibility. In this manner, taking care of your family, juggling between a variety of tasks amidst housework, and raising children, will convert a mere task into a form of worship.
2. Take note of his personal interactions.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, focused much attention on relationships and interactions. Abdullah bin Mas'ud narrated that the Prophet said:
"Shall I not inform you of whom the Fire is unlawful and he is unlawful for the Fire? Every person who is near (to people), amicable, and easy (to deal with)."
Every decision and choice he made regarding how he spent his time, who he spent it with, and what he did on a day-to-day basis revolved around making meaningful choices to please Allah. And, be it through his dealing with his family and friends, strangers or enemies, he was always approachable, caring, understanding, and kind. Allah mentions in the Quran:
"And you are truly ˹a man˺ of outstanding character."
(Surah Al-Qalam, 68:4)
Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, nurtured his relationships in meaningful ways:
- He would actively visit and inquire about his family and companions, the sick and way farer. He would engage with them in meaningful conversations and pay due respect.
- He was an easy going person. For instance, if there was food in the house, he would eat himself and often share or give away to the needy but on days when there would be nothing to eat in the house, he would fast.
- He would not indulge in idle talk. He would either talk when there was a need, or else remain silent.
- He would act in kindness and always model positivity and good behavior. Even when someone was at fault, he would not address them in a demeaning manner, but rather, save the conversation for a later time and give advice privately.
- In extreme situations of anger, he would remain, calm down and revisit the matter later so as not to allow his emotions to drive his decisions.
To do: In many instances when dealing with others we are quick to make judgments and often do not take the time to self-reflect. The Sunnah of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is filled with examples of patience and its virtues and how we must fulfill our responsibilities towards other creations of Allah (not just humans even!).
By working around a fair routine, we must ensure that we prioritize taking time out for our family, other relationships, and those who could use our help at any given point in time.
3. Follow his efforts on giving dawah.
The Prophet’s, peace and blessings be upon him, primary mission and role was to serve as Allah's apostle and invite humanity towards the path of righteousness. And, for this purpose Allah chose to bless him not with extraordinary superpowers but with patience and the best manners. He was born an orphan, and both his parents passed away while he was still very young. He learned the art of his dealings by accompanying his grandfather and uncle through their trade missions and soon became popular among his own tribesmen and people from other clans. After receiving his Prophethood and migrating to Madinah, he worked to spread Allah's message. By then, even though he had a sizeable number of enemies, but they still respected the Prophet for his integrity and exemplary character. Many of his brutal enemies even converted to Islam after being inspired by his virtue and mannerism.
What made the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, notable and trustworthy was:
- His humbleness and generosity
- Consistency in modeling good behavior and practicing kindness
- Equality in treatment of others, whether it be a Muslim or non-Muslim
To do: As Muslims we have a duty to remain steadfast, enjoin in acts of goodness, and speak up against injustic where necessary. But, we must also not forget to be mindful of our actions in the process of maintaning peace and harmony. For that will determine and speak volumes with regards to our values as a nation and help leave a positive impact in different regions around the world.
4. Reflect on his priorities.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, remains the best role model for mankind because he was so perfect spiritually, physically and socially. Even in the dullest of his moments he never complained to Allah, and always worked on strengthening his relationship with Him.
He habitually woke up in the last quarter of the night and would reserve that time for himself. He would converse with Allah, glorify Him, and seek His mercy for himself and his followers. And, he would do that because he was conscious of the fact that each one of us were brought into this world for a purpose which we have to fulfill, and for that we will be held accountable (individually). That thought, in itself, is what ascertains consistency.
To do: At the end of the day, it is each man for himself. So, the best way to keep ourselves motivated is to remain conscious of the real purpose of our existence, constantly engage in self-reflection, and always seek help from Allah for the sake of His pleasure and love.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, provided us with revelation from Allah and also showed us how to apply the guidance of the Quran to our daily lives. God willing, may every little effort that we make, to emulate his example, help us reach our ultimate goal and fulfill the purpose of our lives.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.