Time Management & Punctuality: Lessons from the Prophet (Part 2)

By Yuksel A. Aslandogan

Part 1

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A very punctual time keeper, the Prophet did not waste even the smallest amount of time.

Various accounts of the Prophet’s daily life tell us that he was very careful in the observation of his daily schedule. We understand this particularly from the observation that when the Prophet changed his schedule, this was a cause for worry in the community.

For instance, one Companion relates: “The Messenger of God (upon whom be peace and blessings) left his home at a time when normally nobody saw him outside.” (Ibn Al-Athir)

Another one is: “The Messenger of God ascended to the pulpit. He was never seen on the pulpit except on Fridays before.” (Ibn Majah)

Night Activities

The narrations from his companions tell us that the Prophet used to divide his night into three segments. One segment was dedicated to worship, one to his family and one segment to his personal matters. At times, he is seen as giving his personal time to his community in meeting with them and trying to address their needs.

The Prophet was observed to halt his daily activities after sunset. This does not mean, however, that he rested for the remainder of the evening; he sometimes held meetings after evening or night prayer.

As a general principle, he did not like sleeping before the night prayer or talking after it (Al-Bukhari). His wife `A’ishah (may God be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet used to sleep during the early part of the night and wake up for worship during the later part. (Ibn Majah). On exceptional circumstances, the Prophet was observed to stay awake and deal with community affairs until late hours of the night.

The night stances (Qiyam Al-layl), the hours he spent in worship, reflection and prayers all occupy an important place in the Prophet’s life. He is reported to have spent on average between 2/3 to 3/4 of each night in worship, remembrance, reflection, and supplication.

This corresponds to a period of 4 to 7 hours each night, depending on the season. He explains this emphasis on night prayers in the following way: “God descends to the first heaven of the earth every night and announces, ‘Is there anyone who repents; I will forgive, is there anyone who prays; I will accept,’ and this continues until early dawn”. (Ibn Majah & Ibn Al-Athir)

He also likened his night stances to those of the Prophet David: “The best nightly prayer in God’s sight is that of David. He used to sleep during the early part of the night, then wake up and spend a third of the night in prayers and sleep a little again before dawn” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim & An-Nasa’i)

Daytime Activities

The Prophet prohibited his Companions from sleeping after the Morning Prayer. He used to stay at the mosque until sunrise and have group conversations with his companions. The subjects of these conversations were both religious as well as entertaining, for example, poetry would be read or the dreams of the previous night would be related. It is understood that these hours were spent in a felicitous way, with Companions laughing at times and the Prophet smiling. (An-Nasa’i & Muslim)

The Prophet underlines the significance of these hours held for him with the following saying: “Sitting together with a group of companions and remembering God with them after the Morning Prayer until the sunrise is more valuable to me than fighting in the cause of God. The same is true for the hours after the afternoon prayer before sunset”. (Ibn Al-Athir)

Following the conversation with his Companions, the Prophet would then spend time with his family. On days when he was not fasting, he would have breakfast during this period. He is known to have eaten two meals each day, a late breakfast and a dinner.

Towards noon, he would take a nap and encourage others to do the same, as this would help them to stay awake at night for prayers. After the Noon Prayers came the time for community matters.

The Afternoon Prayer was followed by time for the family once again. In the Makkan period, the Prophet was married to Khadijah for 25 years, his only wife during this time. His multiple marriages occurred after she had passed away, when he was already over 50. The reasons and occasions for these marriages form the subject of a separate article.

But suffice it to say that in general these marriages could be categorized into three types: (1) Marrying the widow of a martyr to take care of her and to honor the family. (2) Marrying the daughter or other relative of a community leader to establish family ties with that community to avoid armed conflicts. (3) Marriage with a woman of a special status so that woman could become a teacher and role model for Muslim women. This third function was especially important, as the aspects of faith that pertain to special circumstances of women could only be taught by the experience of the wives of the Prophet.

The Prophet was observed to visit and spend equal, fixed times with his wives during his family time.

Human Biorhythm & Activity Changes

Researchers on human biorhythms tell us that multiple periodic biorhythms operate within the human body with different cycle times, changing from 90 minutes (ultradian) to daily (circadian), to longer than a day. (Smolensky, 2001)

As the human body operates with chemicals, hormones, and electrical signals, it needs to replenish these resources once in a while. (Chafetz, 1992) One mechanism for achieving this is having a short break such as a nap (Rossi 1991, Mednick 2002) and another is to change one’s activity when feeling tired.

The Prophet Muhammad points to this important fact by saying “Relieve us O Bilal!” Bilal was the chief caller to prayer. The Prophet was indicating that they were tired and less productive in the activity in which they were involved and that it was a good time to take a break and pray. “Relieve us” means “Please make the call to prayer” so the community will gather in the mosque for a congregational prayer.

The interweaving of different activities in his daily schedule is another indication that the Prophet was cognizant of the effect of the biorhythm on one’s productivity.

The popular mental picture of the Prophet Muhammad in the non-Muslim world depicts a person who spent most of his time in the battlefield or enjoying the spoils of war. Nothing can be further from truth. In this article we examined the life of the Prophet Muhammad from a time management perspective.

All in Moderation

The picture that emerges from this analysis is very different from the popular perception in the west. We learn that the Prophet spent most of his time engaged in worship, prayer, remembrance, and supplications.

The next two most important activities in his life were community matters, including spreading God’s message and family matters. We also learn that the Prophet was a very punctual time keeper. He did not waste even the smallest amount of time and admonished those who did.

We learn that he kept a tight daily schedule to the extent that his companions became worried when this schedule was not observed. He designated certain days and hours of each day for certain activities. He encouraged staying awake after dawn and having a short nap at noon.

He practiced such principles as eating moderately, sleeping moderately, and talking moderately, all of which ultimately help with better time management. He took advantage of every discretionary moment in life for remembering God and offering prayers. Every activity in his life was guided by his main goal of living and sharing God’s religion for a happy life on the Earth and in the Hereafter.

Interestingly, many of these practices are now recognized and recommended by modern experts of time management.

In summary, we witness a life that was lived fully and productively, yet opportunities for smiling were not neglected.

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Source: The Fountain Magazine

 

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