What are your priorities?
Umar ibn ul Khattab (RA) was known to say:
Whoever is irresponsible about their prayer (salaah) will be even more irresponsible about everything else in their life
If someone can’t be good to Allah(SWT) – the One who gave them every good – then how can you expect them to be good to anybody else?
What will we be measured against?
To succeed at an exam – whether it’s your academic exams, a driving test or a performance audit at work – you need to know how you will be assessed. What is the subject matter? What are the priorities? How will you be marked?
Allah(SWT) is the Most Just and He(SWT) surely informs us of this in our answer-book for life – the Qur’an and Prophetic example.
1. Our connection – start talking
The questions in the grave reflect whether we acknowledged Allah(SWT) in our life at all. If we have lived a life in neglect or disobedience of Allah(SWT), we wont be able to answer the questions truthfully – “Who was your Lord? What is your religion? Who is this man who was sent amongst you?”.
Ultimately, a good ending and ease in the grave and the Hereafter comes down to our connection with Allah(SWT) in this life. Did we talk to Him(SWT) like we do our best friends – sharing our worries, needs, desires and shortcomings? Asking him for solace and support? Recognising our dependence on Him(SWT)? Holding Him(SWT) in the highest regard and with due respect?
How much time do you spend talking to your best friend? Allah(SWT) expects that we talk to Him(SWT) just five times a day and in those moments, He will be closer to us than in any moment when we fall in submission to Him(SWT) recognising our reliance and dependence on Him(SWT) only.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
The first thing among their deeds for which the people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be prayer. Our Lord will say to His angels, although He knows best, ‘Look at My slave’s prayer, is it complete or lacking?’
If it is complete, it will be recorded as complete, but if it is lacking, He will say, ‘Look and see whether my slave did any voluntary (naafil) prayers.’ If he had done voluntary prayers, He will say, ‘Complete the obligatory prayers of My slave from his voluntary prayers.’
Then the rest of his deeds will be examined in a similar manner.”
– Sunan Abu Dawood, 4753
2. Listen carefully to the response
So if salaah is your opportunity to speak, how do we receive a response? Allah(SWT) does have a specific message for you, and He (SWT) has spoken this message Himself. And then revealed it and preserved it. Allah(SWT) is not bound by time, place, language or culture and this message transcends any such parameter.
This response is the Qur’an.
One of the reasons why humanity has been preferred over other creation is that they have the ability to pronounce the Qur’an on their tongues. And as Allah(SWT) reminds us the Qur’an has been made easy for us, but who is there that will take heed?
Just open it asking for guidance and you will receive your response.
3. Have I treated my parents with love and respect and have I given due consideration to all their needs?
“Our Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you are to be kind to Parents whether on or both of them attain old age during your lifetime, say no to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honour.
And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say: My Lord: bestow on them your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.”
– Surah Al-Isra 17:23-24
4. How have I used my tongue?
Allah(SWT) highlights some key characteristics of the believers in Surah Al Mo’minoon. After encouraging focus and humility in salaah, the next point is to avoid useful or harmful speech.
Al-Laghw is always used to refer to vain talk even though the meaning can be expanded to include useless/senseless actions. A teacher pointed out a really interesting relationship between the previous characteristic (prayer with khushoo’) and this characteristic. A good relationship with Allah (SWT) should be reflected in our action.
I remember once, when I was talking to a brother in a local masjid, he was mentioning that if a person does a lot of ‘ibadaah and it doesn’t reflect on his dealings with the people around him, then his ‘ibadaah is not benefiting him in any way. SubhanAllah, I for once, was really affected by his speech. How have I treated people around me? My family? My friends? How many times have I sinned against other people? How many times I’ve talked with people around me and suddenly we start to talk about others not knowing that we are actually backbiting them? If we have attain khushoo’ in prayer how can we not maintain the “khushoo’” (conscious) in our dealings with the people?
If this is happening to us, we really should check back our ‘ibadaah. Did we perform them with sincerity? Did we do it just for the sake of doing it or to please Allah? May Allah guide us to perform all ”ibadaah for the sake of Him only and perform them with ihsaan, ameen.
5. How have I used my wealth?
The next characteristic mentioned in Surah Al Mo’minoon is those who are are active in deeds of charity. Zakah has always been mentioned right after prayer in the Qur’an which highlights the importance of this specific action as one of the basic tenets of Islam. Zakah purifies our wealth as prayer purifies our heart.
6. How have I used my body?
The last characteristic that was pointed out is one who guards their chastity. This characteristic is in correlation with the guarding of the tongue, based on the hadith:
Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him” (Bukhari).
In another narration, the tongue and private part were said to cause the majority of people to end up in the hellfire. The arrangements of these verses are of particular interest. Why would the verses regarding use of the limbs (guarding tongue and private parts) placed between verses that mention ‘ibadaah (prayer and zakah)? It was said that these verses were put in between to underline the importance of being good not only to Allah but also to His other creations.
7. How do I spend my day?
If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?
The late co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, would ask this question daily and went on to explain: “… and whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Because he argued that: “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new”
In relation to this and other thinking about the keys to job satisfaction – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, some related questions are:
- Am I in total control over the direction of my life/work?
- Is my life/work affording me the opportunity to get better and better at something that matters?
- Am I spending my time in the service of something larger than myself?
8. What have been my key achievements since the last review?
I take a look back and the things I’ve worked on since my last reflection. If this is your first time, just think back on the last couple months or year for any particularly interesting or impactful things you’ve been working on or done.
This step is helpful because you’re able to see if you like the pace and the style of projects you’ve been working on and if it seems like a productive use of your time.
9. Set your goals
I write out the goals that I set for myself as well as those others expect from me. This gives me another lens to look at performance because I’m able to look at my projects and how they relate (or don’t) to my goals.
10. Reflect on your fulfilling Moments
What were the times when I felt I was really at the top of my game? Looking back at these mountain-top experiences helps me to look at the circumstances surrounding them. Can I do something to encourage those circumstances to happen more frequently? Was there anything inherently different about that time than what happens on my typical day? Can I make it happen more often?
11. Areas To Improve
After considering all of these things, you probably uncovered some areas that you’d like to improve on. Make note of those and how you plan to approach making changes.