On Time

By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.  (Qur’an Surah Al Asr 103:1-3)

Today was the first day of my crochet class…a class I was asked to teach, rather than initiated myself. To say the least, it was disappointing. No one showed up. Well, actually one person showed up ten minutes before class was over. And two people told me they weren’t going to be able to come. The class was slated to be an hour and a half and I arrived ten minutes early. In the end, I went through a range of emotions that culminated in tears. But don’t feel sorry for me. I learned some valuable lessons in patience this week through becoming angry at things that were not under my control. I learned how much I want to control things and have things go my way, and that when they don’t, I often feel insecure and out of control myself, which leads to anger. I got to this realization through a pep talk from a reading of the Hamza Yusuf’s translation of Imam Al Mawlud’s Purifcation of the Heart. That was last night.

But what I experienced today was a mixture of anger, sadness, and frustration. A mixture that has been all too common this week. Maybe it didn’t quite get to the anger point. No, it did. And what angered me most is that Muslims who said they would be there were not. Yes, Muslims are human, but we strive to be the best. Isn’t that what ihsan (excellence) is all about? We really are over-achievers, but in my maturation of Islam, I’ve learned that a lot of Muslims are just a big disappointment–not living up to ideals that I hold to be of such value, and that our religion holds to be of such value. And I’m not able to control or fix these things. And in this, I’m being taught a lesson by my Rabb. That lesson is la howla wa la quwatta illa billah (there is no power or might but God’s). And perhaps to just be better at being grateful in having the opportunity to reap the rewards of patient perseverance.

I just want people to realize that when you don’t show up or are late to an engagement that you’ve committed to, you are showing disrespect for the other person’s time. I know, I used to be that person. My husband used to have to wait hours for me everyday before we got married (and hey! he still married me right?), but I’ve gotten much better. I’ve learned that time is an amana, a trust. And when we are late or stand people up, we are saying that our time is more important than theirs. There are other things I could have been doing today than sitting pretty in a room by myself. But that’s okay. It was qadr (a decree from Allah), and I crocheted something functional during that time. A gift…that will warm someone’s special little newborn feet up. I used my time wisely. I hope. I pray.

But what kind of post would this be if I were just complaining about others’ disrespect for my time? Who am I, anyway? And what use would that be? So I’ll share some wisdom that won’t be a waste of your time–an excerpt from a book that made me more mannerable with my husband’s and others’ time: Shaykh Abd Al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah’s Islamic Manners. He covers The Manners of Visiting in Chapter 4, citing verses from the Qur’an that tell those who believe to fulfill their promises, as making appointments are akin to making a promise. In it, he writes:

“Keeping appointments is vital to our lives. Time is the most precious commodity; once wasted, it can never be recovered. If you made an appointment, whether with a friend, colleague or for business, you should do your utmost to keep this appointment.  This is the right of the other persons who, despite other commitments, favored you with a part of their valuable time. If you do not come on time, not only have you disrupted their schedule but you have also marred your image and reputation. If your punctuality becomes poor you will lose people’s respect. You should keep all your appointments whether they are with an important person, a close friend or a business colleague. You will then be responding to the call of Allah in Surah al-Isra: ‘And keep the promise; the promise is a responsibility.’

It is enough to know that our kind Prophet (saws) gave an appointment to one of his companions. The companion came three days later. The Prophet (saws) gently reprimanded him saying: ‘You have caused me some trouble. I have been waiting for you for three days.’ The companion probably had an excuse for this delay; however, he had no means by which to inform the Prophet (saws) about his inability to keep the appointment” (pp.37-38). What does that say about those who don’t keep their appointments in this day and age when we have phones, smart phones, e-mail, and many other methods of communication? Only two people contacted me?

I guess I could reinterpret the lack of communication as politeness. I mean, I don’t call people when I know they’ll be busy. I wouldn’t want to disrupt a class. But what about  a text? Or what about just saying, I’ll be a no-show, so that I can do other things with my time? My time which is extremely limited as a pregnant mother with a toddler. But again, I’ve resorted to this all being about me and my precious time. I’m an only child, I have issues with selfishness I know. Maybe I’ll read that section in the Purification of the Heart next. At least I realize that I have a problem being self-absorbed and am not in denial…

But still, why are Muslims always late? (Or the majority of Muslims late, to be fair). And why didn’t people show up for my class? Maybe it’s the general Muslim lack of respect for arts and crafts. They’ve been sidelined for science and math, and other occupations. But art is important. And it deserves as much respect as science and math. If any Muslim tells you otherwise, refer them to the Prophet’s wife Zaynab ibn Jahsh. You can read a little bit about her in a previous post here. I will be writing more about her in days to come, inshAllah to be published in an anthology, but my point is that there is a place for art in Islam. Art can be a means to give charity as in the example of this Mother of the Believers, but it is also a charity in and of itself. In his work entitled Following a Madhab, Imam Zaid Shakir, says we can’t all run off to be surgeons or doctors or even scholars. Someone has to pick up the trash. Someone has to clean the poop. And someone has to make sure we are in buildings. And I’ll add that someone has to be creative enough to make those jobs bearable by making things beautiful. The arts have a place in every sphere of life–from architecture to the design of books. Would you even read most of the books that you pick up if they didn’t have a pretty cover? Some people are visual-learners, you know. Would you really know where the stomach is located in relation to the esophagus if someone didn’t draw it? And could you keep warm in the winter if someone didn’t figure out how to pull loops of fiber through itself to make knits?  It’s a fard kifayah (mandatory obligation) for different occupations to be done by some one, but the jobs don’t have to be done by everyone. And while I wasn’t expecting everyone in the world to show up for my class, I did want a few some ones. How did the excitement of children coming to art class that I witnessed only three years ago become replaced by utter disdain and disrespect with adulthood?

I just want to warm up this cold world. I just want to carve out a little niche of light to make this world a better place in my small corner of existence. Whether through writing or crocheting or teaching my children to be good people. I don’t really care the method (though I’d prefer all three). But you must learn from my mistakes…and other’s mistakes. Even if you never show up for my class, do me a favor and read Shaykh Abd Al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah’s books Islamic Manners and The Value of Time. And never be late for another class without a reasonable excuse. May those who I’ve been late for forgive me for my tardiness. In my obsession with myself today over the lateness (and absence) of my students, my mom informed me that I’m always late for her. Even today. As being determined to teach my one late student in ten minutes turned into twenty minutes, which in turn made me late for my appointment with my mother. Ya Rabb!

what my students would have seen...had they been there.

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