By Fatema Kahil
They are indeed infamous: individuals who are always late. It seems that no matter what the circumstance or the occasion, they just can’t appear to be on time. Some even attempt to justify their chronic tardiness with a litany of excuses: traffic on the Interstate-5, a sick relative, or even DNA tuned to different time zones, forcing compliance with “Middle Eastern Standard Time,” “Brown Standard Time,” or most surprisingly, “Muslim Standard Time.”
The cultural titles acquired as a result of traditional tardiness are not too surprising. After all, certain cultures differ in the matter of time etiquette. However, the problematic label found among the list is “Muslim Standard Time.”
Have Muslims truly earned themselves such a noble reputation, to have a time zone named after them? Apparently so, as the title must exist due to sluggishness on the part of the Muslim nation. A better question is, how has such a title even come into existence if Muslims are followers of Islam? Isn’t Islam a religion that frequently stresses the importance of respecting time?
Indeed, Islam does preach the immeasurable worth of time, and thus, the respect that should be paid towards it. “Time is gold”, is a well-known saying. However, in Islam, time if far more valuable than all the gold that ever existed. Allah (swt) and His messenger, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), have clearly preached significance of time, as well as how to wisely utilize it in order to increase faith and achieve success in this world and the hereafter. After all, time is an element that we will always wish we had more of as stated in the Quran: “Spend something from whatever We have provided you with before death comes to one of you and you say: ‘My Lord, if you would only delay things for me for a short while, then I will act charitably and become honorable!’ God will never postpone things for any soul once its deadline has arrived. God is informed about anything you do” (63:10-11).
In this verse, Islam emphasizes the importance of time by reflecting its impermanence. Time is a measure of life. It is a form of trust gifted to humanity by the Creator. Humanity is born in time, it lives in time, and it dies in time. Thus, it is obvious that time is the realm in which all of creation functions. Consequently, what humanity does with its time is ultimately what humanity does with its life, and the way humanity uses it or abuses it determines its fate.
As a result, time is an element that must be respected. As Islam preaches, time shouldn’t be disregarded. In fact, to disregard time, by being late for example, is the same as breaking a promise: a promise to be on time.
Fulfilling a promise is among the ethics of a faithful believer. Whoever does not carry out a promise will neither be respected nor trusted. Not only that, but breaking a promise or an oath is the twenty-first greatest sin. (Shirazi 21)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (as) proves that the breaking of a promise is of the greater sins by relating the following verse from the Holy Qur’an: “And those who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder that which Allah has ordered to be joined, and make mischief in the land; (as for) those, upon them shall be curse and they shall have the vile of the abode” (Surat Ra’d 13:25).
All throughout the Qur’an, verses are found that reflect how much the breaking of an oath is detested by Allah (swt). The Qur’an states, “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do” (Surat as_Saaf 61:2-3).
The meaning of this verse, as explained by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq is as follows: “A believer’s promise to his believing brother is a vow that has no expiation. But one who goes back on his word declares his opposition and enmity to Allah, and invokes the anger of Allah” (Wasa’il ul-Shia).
Disregarding time, then, whether by wasting it, or by being late to an appointment or meeting, is one of the greater sins. Not only so, but lacking respect for time reflects negatively on Muslims as a whole. Surely, there is sagacity in the religion of Islam. Thus, to neglect its teachings is to neglect its wisdom.
The solution to time mismanagement is simple. Put away the lists of excuses and make an effort to make appointments on time, to promise only what you can do, and to contribute otherwise empty hours to the community. By doing so, we will honor our divine covenant with Allah (swt): time.