When calamity strikes
Recently, I went through the unprecedented experience of being extremely pressured at work. Circumstances meant that I was on a very, very tight deadline – with a mountain of work to do and zero room for failure.
I’ve always prided myself on not being one of those people who take work home. On not being one of those people who work on weekends or long hours overtime. For me, the work-life balance is a critical one, and I never, ever wanted work to encroach on my personal time. There’s a time for work, and a time for normal life – and the two shouldn’t mix.
But this situation struck me so hard and was so crucial that I had no choice. Over these last few weeks, I’ve found myself working harder than ever and putting in more hours than ever. In particular, there was one weekend where I worked late every day – even Saturday and Sunday.
When the calamity that caused this first struck, my initial reaction – predictably for a human – was emotional. I was angry at the person making these demands, and argued my case (in my head, at least – since external argument would only make things worse). But soon after, I realised that – whoever’s fault it was – this was a trial that Allah had placed in my path. Every trial – every experience in life – is meant to teach us something. And I realised that this one was specifically put in my way, and I needed to rise to the challenge, and try to get the best out of it.
I needed to use this opportunity to draw closer to Allah, and to be grateful that this circumstance was forced upon me.
This was out of the norm. This wasn’t my usual routine. Aside from the crazy amount of work I needed to put in, this was an experience that was meant to teach me lessons that I could take into the future and apply once my life settled down again…ways I could and should improve once things went ‘back to normal’.
To the extreme
So that weekend, I was in hyper-productive mode. I was going on adrenaline – having a far-decreased desire for food, free time, and even sleep. I was intensely focussed on getting the work done – getting through this challenge so that things could go back to normal. I worked and worked and worked, and all through that weekend, I felt Allah’s help with me. If you remember Him, He will remember you – and such consciousness on our side can only ever be a positive thing.
Alhamdullilah – by the end of that weekend, I’d met my target (in the worldly work).
Through that period, I rediscovered my true potential in terms of work and productivity. I remembered previous times – in my studies – where I was also under intense pressure, and out of necessity, I pushed myself to get the work done in time and ended up achieving success (in the worldly sense).
I witnessed, once more, how capable I am of getting through a lot of work with minimal time-wasting and distraction.
I realised that the over-indulgences that so taint my time really can be overcome – if my attitude is correct, and my focus is on something worthy – rather than being complacent in the comfort of routine and ‘normal’ circumstances.
The ultimate deadline
But I also reaped the spiritual benefits of such exertion. I drew a critical lesson about humans and time: when we’re faced with a deadline in worldly matters, we (hopefully) do whatever it takes to meet that deadline. We have a sense of urgency, an increased work ethic, and have little or no time for distractions and things of little real importance. We focus on our goal, and work hard to achieve it.
But as Muslims, we should also have the perspective of our most important deadline – which we know we will definitely face: that of death.
We will all die, and once that happens, our chance for meeting our goals pretty much come to an end. While we’re alive, we have the chance to do good – through obedience to Allah, and restraint from disobedience. These years and moments of our lives are our chances for sending forth preparations for our graves, standing on the Day of Judgment, and our Eternity thereafter.
What we do here determines whether our eternal journey will be good or bad.
So, in a sense, we have a deadline to meet.
But the difference is, none of us knows when our deadlines will come.
We could be young or old, occupied or relaxing, engaged in good or engaged in bad. Whatever the case, death will find us.
And once that happens, our book of deeds is closed – and our deeds are all that we can take with us beyond that barrier.
With this deadline so much more worthy, and so much more urgent than any worldly deadline, we should be pushing ourselves each and every day. We should have no time for disobedience to Allah. We should have no time for unnecessary distraction and time-wasting.
In short, we should live our lives as if it’s our last day – because in reality, it might just be our last. And when we wake up from the dream that is this dunya, we’ll see the reality of things. So the time for action is now – before it’s too late.
Making it real
Such thoughts and feelings about the future can be solidified and made more permanent via knowledge. Our religion is one in which we’ve been given a vast amount of knowledge about exactly what will happen to us – from when we close our eyes for the last time on Earth, to what follows in the realm we depart to, to the Day that we’ll all be standing – awaiting our books of deeds, and what comes after.
And our teachers and scholars provide these reminders – for example, in Jumuah khutbahs. But unfortunately, in some cases, they don’t really reach our hearts or minds. It’s not that the message is irrelevant or uninteresting. It’s that the speaker isn’t effective in the way he delivers the message. It’s like he has his position, and his audience has to be there every week, so it seems he doesn’t really make the effort to improve his delivery of the message or vary his styles to capture the audience’s attention.
So it can be frustrating for many of us, who receive the knowledge, but it doesn’t get beyond our ears. Or if it does, it fades quickly because the speaker hasn’t captured our attention.
If such a description rings true for your local scholars, it doesn’t mean hope is lost. In today’s time, we have the wonders of technology to help us receive the message from some of the world’s greatest and most effective Islamic scholars and public speakers.
In particular, I’d recommend watching / listening to the following speakers and series – which do a great job of explaining the topic of the Hereafter in ways which, insha-Allah, will stick with us and benefit us much more than the quickly-forgotten Jumuah khutbah we might’ve fallen asleep in:
- Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick – Journey to the Hereafter
- Imam Anwar Awlaki – The Hereafter
- Muhammad Al-Shareef – Conversations in Paradise and Hell
So seek out the knowledge, and do it with the intention of benefitting yourself in both this life and the next.
May we all benefit from such reminders, and may we all reach our final moments in this dunya in a state that we’ll be ready to meet our Maker.