Many of us have experienced the procrastination pandemic. It really shouldn’t be seen as anything less. It’s a serious condition that works its way into our lives, often early on and insidiously, until it becomes a well established habit. Specifically, it can give rise to a more serious form where our necessary and important tasks can ONLY be accomplished under the pressure produced by way of it, I’m speaking about our longest lasting pandemic, procrastination. Despite the impressive amount of effort that can be produced by it in a small period of time, procrastination places the individual in a constant state of self deception, self restriction, and prevents him or her from ever realizing or achieving a state of Ihsan as it is described to us in Hadith Jibril by which the Prophet (saw) stated Angel Jibril (as) “…who came to teach you your religion.”
“Ihsan is that you worship Allah as though you see Him swt. For though you do not see Him, indeed He sees you”. [Bukhari].
Allah (swt) sees all. He sees our wastage of our time just as He sees us reach for our devices and spend countless hours on them, for a, break, and but perhaps more importantly, He sees the manner in which our tasks and deeds are performed and completed. For the one who understands this concepts and whose actions are governed by it, has reached a state of Ihsan, he or she enjoys an unprecedented advantage over those who exclude themselves from it. Both in the life to come as well as this life. Their waking in the morning, their sleeping in the evening, and what lies between the two are experienced, perceived, and appreciated on a whole other echelon. It is explained by scholars that the latter part of the following Hadith Qudsi illustrates the elevation of one’s state from that of Imaan to Ihsan
Allah Most High says: “He who is hostile to a friend of Mine I declare war against. My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him” (Fath al-Bari, 11.34041, hadith 6502)
But how can one even reach the level of Imaan, let alone Ihsan if procrastination is part an parcel of his or her character and daily life? Tragedy isn’t it? So should we merely ask for Allah (swt) to remove procrastination from our lives? Are there not other factors contributing that can cheat you from achieving this great state? Perhaps looking at the solution to procrastination in a slightly different manner may be what will allow us not only reduce it, but make it a thing of our past.
My hypothesis is to focus on, and correct that which may not only unshackle us from the yoke and chains of procrastination, but perchance seat us amongst our righteous predecessors. My hypothesis really is based on a statement by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in response to a question from his son, one that I came across while reading an older article by Productive Muslim and would like to share here with you:
His son, Abdullah, asked his father (Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal ) one day: “Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, one of the greatest revivers of the Sunnah and a role model for all Muslims, looked him in the eye and said: “With the first step we take into Jannah.”
For us as Muslims living in the West we witness the work ethic employed by many of its people (leaders and citizens alike), their perspective when it comes to their duties and tasks, and how it has imparted meaningful change, innovation and (worldly) successes, but, is far from perfect. While here in the West many may call to and claim professionalism there is a societal reality that tasks are done completed and performed in a manner best describe, many feel ‘I’ve done enough’. This often is defined by best practices, established protocols, ethics, and policy, to much of the credit to these Western societies, has contributed to the successes mentioned above. However, the reality remains that many work in order to enjoy the disproportionate remaining time for leisure and the transient pleasures it brings, only to return to their work in anticipation for the next round of leisure opportunities. This cycle acts like a form of perpetual view that our work as a hurdle standing between them and reaching that state of leisure and pleasure.
This on many levels is a hindrance to excellence and leads to mediocrity and actually firmly entrenches the status quo. This Pandemic has exposed the danger within upholding the status quo, the danger and fragility of the ‘Old Guard’, and exposed the dull and rusty state of critical thinking sword leaving many feeling helpless and defenseless. This sobering and uncomfortable state puts the insignificance of our 1st world problems that we allow to occupy so much of our conversations (complaining) into perspective. Our adherence to ‘I’ve done enough’ and the status quo it maintains pulls us away from what is better, into thinking Nafsi Nafsi instead of Ummati Ummati.
In its defence the ‘I’ve done enough’ perspective although it lacks appreciation for both time (prioritize leisure and pleasure above all else) and effort (relegating one’s effort to an ‘acceptable’ bare minimum) just as procrastination, we see the power of consistency even if the effort is not where it should or needs to be. With the former we see that an established and enforced standard gives rise to consistent efforts being put forth and is undoubtedly the source of the successes we see because we know the Prophet ﷺ said,
“The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small”. [Sahih Bukhaari and Muslim]
However, as mentioned previously, this presents challenges and a level of lackadaisicalness which leads to the dangerous reality of an established stagnancy of the individual and by extension the society by way of an acceptance of status quo.
So how can we avoid between the ‘I’ve done enough’ culture we live in, and at the same time avoid procrastination? We must revive the perspective of Ihsan, but how do we do so practically in our lives? We should take into consideration the following:
1. Follow one of the best advices I’ve heard, from a recent Muslim Minds lecture Dr. Syed ibn Iqbal whose advises us on a key to reaching Ihsan and all things one thing at a time
2. Plan our day. Even if the day is almost finished and seems like a write off, take five minutes, or even two minutes to plan out the remaining time in order to benefit from what remains. (hadith) never belittle a good deed – plant on the day of Judgement a date seed.
Abu Dharr (ra) reported: The Prophet (saw) said, “Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face”. [Sahih Muslim].
3. Surround yourselves with friends who you trust, who will hold you accountable, who will advise you on what you need to hear, and who have similar or more lofting aspirations for this life and the next.
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, (saw), said, “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2378]
4. We should familiarize ourselves with the our Prophet (saw) his way of life, his character, and those of his companions and the righteous generations that followed as well as the contemporary Mujudids (revivers of Islam) from our history
“At the beginning of every century Allah will send to this ummah someone who will renew its religious understanding.” [ Abu Dawood]
in order that we may take example and practically set for ourselves role models to aspire and strive to emulate.
What practical benefits can we expect from adopting this way?
- More adaptive to change especially ‘when going gets tough,’ you are more likely to be amongst those ‘tough that gets going’, in other words, you are better able to equipped to survive and thrive during harder times, or times of uncertainty
- Gaining and maintaining respect. As Muslims living as minorities we need not seek to be merely liked, but command and received respect. Ihsan will push you to be the best, achieve more, be on the ‘cutting edge’ and because of this give you a status (a professionally, academically, socially, morally, etc.) that is undeniable, desirable, and ultimately and more importantly, respected.
- Better relationships, as Ihsan doesn’t work 9-5 as the hadith entails it impacts positively all aspects of ones’ life, bettering it in quality, and quantity.
My dear brothers and sisters, if we wish to achieve success in this life both individually and as an Ummah (the two are not mutually exclusive) we must internalize a love and desire to live with Ihsan and achieve its status in all things. It must begin with knowledge and understanding of it, followed by seeking it out consistently, and internalize the mindset that tells our Nafs, ‘I can’t stop, and I won’t stop’ my pursuit of Ihsan until I take my first step into Jannah.