It is often said, that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. One could also add that, in the same way, failing to take control of your life will result in life controlling you, and years will flit away as time inevitably ticks on. Often, we tell ourselves we are incredibly busy, and it’s true. We have places to be, deadlines to meet, people who are depending on us for x, y, z and the never-ending to-do lists.
Welcome to adult life!
It is rare that any of us meets someone who really doesn’t have that much to do and has the luxury of copious amounts of spare time. Yet, even though we acknowledge that life is full of responsibilities, that this is true for most people, and the fact that we are all governed by the same 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, the phrase “I don’t have time” seems to have become our mantra in the modern day.
This is when we need to take a step back and take a deep, long look at what it is that is taking up our time, not only in our physical tasks and activities, but more importantly, in what we allow to occupy our minds during these 24 hours of each day. Do I have a plan? Am I floating through the day? Do I drift from one task to the next? Am I going from week to week, hoping that everything will turn out fine? Is my life at the point about making do, or am I living intentionally?
Islam places a great deal of importance on the concept of niyyah, or intention. A famous narration of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and give him peace) states:
“Actions are but by intentions, and every man shall have only that which he intended”
The power of this statement should not be underestimated. It not only underlines the importance of sincerity and ensuring that we strive to have righteous intentions for the things we do, but it also reveals the hidden power of the intention to raise a mundane action into one worthy of reward, simply by the intention that one attached to it. For example, an act of worship may be nullified by a person’s intention of hoping to impress others. While on the other hand, the simple action of sipping some water may become worthy of reward by intending it to nourish the body. One’s intention of sipping the halal sustenance, may be to maintain physical health to enable one to worship God, and to follow the Islamic adab (etiquettes) in the prophetic manner of drinking. Thus, by making numerous intentions, one may multiply the rewards for even such a simple action.
Having an intentional approach to one’s homelife is essential to the life of the Muslim, in which we strive to make everything we do an act of worship. By making intentions about how we conduct ourselves with our family members, the way we organise ourselves, and what we consume, we are forced to put active thought into these matters. Only then, can we avoid the trap of life taking control of us as passive bystanders, and instead, live a life that Allah wishes for us as human beings. Allah provides us with an opportunity to live up to the exemplary and beautiful way of life, and He offers us, through making intention, an escape from the ghaflah (heedlessness) which characterises the human condition.
By adopting lofty intentions in one’s homemaking, the so-called “drudgery” of cooking, mopping floors, changing nappies and cleaning toilets can become the reason for a person attaining a place in heaven! How noble it is to feed believing servants of God, so that they may worship. To humble oneself in the service of others and to create an environment free of najasah (impurities) and disorderliness in which family members may rest and rejuvenate for a life of service to Allah. What a waste it is that so many sinks of dishes have been cleared, loads of laundry washed, bedtime stories read and kind words shared between husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child while missing out on the immense rewards that might have been attained by combining these everyday actions with an intention of pleasing Allah!
To strive for a blissful home life, and to adopt an intentional attitude in one’s homemaking and family life, requires time – time to sit down, to think deeply, to write things down, to discuss ideas, goals and aspirations with other family members and, most importantly, time to consciously make du’a, to ask Allah to accept these intentions and to guide one in striving towards a righteous life. And as we mentioned, few of us feel we have much time. But seeing as everyone, in reality, has exactly the same amount of time, the question becomes not, “Do I have time?”, but rather, “How much of a priority is this in my life?”.
Home is where the heart is, where we foster the seeds of faith and family, which will ultimately affect every other aspect of our lives and the success of the community and humanity as a whole. If we can make time to catch up on news that doesn’t concern us, to meticulously plan our worldly careers, and to check our social media accounts, surely we can spare some time to think pro-actively and become intentional in what matters most. In the words of Imam Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him) from one of his works, “The Beginning of Guidance”, he really emphasises the importance of taking control of one’s time. This is a potent reminder of how, just as with managing our time, it is the duty of a Muslim to be proactive and intentional in all aspects of his or her life. He says:
“You should not neglect your time or use it haphazardly; on the contrary you should bring yourself to account, structure your litanies and other practices during each day and night, and assign to each period a fixed and specific function. This is how to bring out the spiritual blessing (barakah) in each period. But if you leave yourself adrift, aimlessly wandering as cattle do, not knowing how to occupy yourself at every moment, your time will be lost. It is nothing other than your life, and your life is the capital that you make use of to reach perpetual felicity in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, since each of them is irreplaceable and, once gone, can never be retrieved…”