"Oh my God. I am running late, again!...
Well, it's all good. No one is going to be there on time anyway."
How many times have you heard theis and similar phrases in the Muslim community? Perhaps you are guilty of uttering them yourself as a habit.
Sadly, starting off late, arriving late, and delaying our programs has become a norm for many of us.
It's gotten so bad that we no longer even feel guilty about arriving late to a class, function, meeting, Jumah prayer or appointment. Many don't even bother to apologize. We fail to realize how much time and resources of others we waste due to our own insensitivity and indifference.
I remember arriving at a wedding last summer about two hours late (due to a pre-planned legitimate reason), only to find over half the wedding hall full of non-Muslim guests still waiting for the bride and groom and their families to arrive. The most heartrending scene was of a group of non-Muslim friends laying on the ground asleep. It turned out they were out-of-town guests who had arrived a couple of hours prior to the "official' start time.
Of course the blame goes both to the organizers of the events and the attendees. It's easy to criticize the organizers, but we have to do our part of making the program or meeting professional. It begins with arriving on time and respecting everyone else's time.
As Muslims, every time we arrive late we lose respect in the sight of others. Imam al-Ghazali, in his commentary to a Hadith describing the characteristics of hypocrites, states that the trait "when he makes a promise, he never fufills it" includes specially those who consistently say 'In-sha-Allah' and arrive late.
I know of a great contemporary Muslim scholar who, when he used to enter a conference, meeting, or dinner, the audience or members would match and reset their watches to the minute he was supposed to arrive at because he was reputed to be strict with time-management.
What can you and your family do to arrive on time at any event:
- Get the directions to where you are going in advance. The common excuse for arriving late we often present is "got lost" or "I didn't have correct directions."
- Arrange your ride at least two days in advance. Call around and find out who can give you a ride. Always have a backup plan for rides. "I didn't get a ride" is one excuse given, to which I ask: did you ask around early enough? Don't wait for others to offer you a ride.
- Start getting ready at least 30-45 min. before leaving home. Don't run into the shower, squeeze in three Rak'at of Maghrib, or iron your clothes just three minutes before you are supposed to step out!
- Have a realistic estimate of travel time. If you know it takes 25 minutes to get to a place, you have to leave your home at least 35 minutes before arrival time.
- Consider weather and traffic conditions. Listen to the local news or watch the weather report before getting behind the wheel.
- The 10-minute Rule works! No matter what the occasion, always aim to get to the destination 10 minutes ahead of time. This allows you to accommodate any last-minute uncertainties: "Oh, I forgot my wallet at home," ""Man, I have to pick Brother x on the way," "Oops! I have to pray my 'Asr before I get to...." etc.
- If it helps you, set your personal watch, cellphone or car time five minutes ahead.
- "Well it's a typical Muslim party or conference! There is no way they will start on time!" Well, guess what, if we ALL adopt this attitude, no one would ever arrive on time and let the program start on time. We have to change this thinking and make a point to arrive on time. Being people of principle, we must remain consistent in all circumstances.
- Be honest! Be honest to yourself and others. If you know you are going to be late to a party or Halaqa, clearly set that expectation with your host, coordinator or meeting leader. What does it take to drop a message or call to let the other person know that you will be 10 to 15 minutes late (whether it's due to expected or unexpected reasons).
- Don't succumb to the "In-sha-Allah Syndrome." Use In-sha-Allah only when you know you mean it.