How A Software Development Course Made Me Rethink The Time I Waste ‘Learning The Deen’ On Social Media
The next course on my dashboard was by Boris Hristov. I was not very sure about the relevance of a course on time management to software developers, but there it was on the list of courses I would take on the journey to achieving my career goal. I could skip the course if I wanted to, but skipping a course that was titled Time Management in a World of Interruptions was the last thing I would do at a time when I was frequently catching myself looking at my phone for long hours, at inappropriate places and at a maddening frequency. My productivity was massively being hindered by distractions, the same way it is for most of you who will read this article, so can you please stop looking at me like that?
Boris Hristov, my teacher, started by making a note on how much a skill in time management could do to improve the quality of our professional lives, and for software developers who usually have a consuming professional life, a course on productivity enhancement was definitely worth an investment. I believed him and took the course. In one section, he would go on to talk about the value of good health, the importance of carefully thought out actions and the danger of operating our lives on the impulses that fuel our bad habits.
In other sections, the lessons were about automation of tasks, delegation of tasks and keeping distraction diaries. Each of these lessons came with meticulously prepared slides, a lot of explanation and interesting stories. I took a lot from him, but these lessons have nothing to do with why I am writing this. I am writing this because a stream of shocking conscious thoughts hit me as I watched till about halfway into the course. A wave of guilt enveloped me, and each valuable lesson I took from Hristov took pain and shame to digest. These thoughts started with a whispering in my head that said, ‘Boris Hristov is most probably non-Muslim’.
The people who put these courses together, who understood that an aspiring developer who could not yet program his ‘Hello World’ to display successfully needed courses in time management and productivity, these people were most probably non-Muslims. This bothered me, not particularly because I did not want to learn productivity tips from non-Muslims, but because non-Muslims, the people who should be the least concerned about productivity and time management, are suddenly seeming like the ones who are getting aggressively concerned about it.
These people usually want to become productive machines for their careers and professional lives but career goals and a vibrant professional life are secondary goals for Muslims. Muslims have to care about very massive primary goals, and at the same time about some of the same things these people care about. And every time, during the duration of the course, that I remembered that I wanted to be in Jannah; I wanted to learn enough of my religion to worship Allah correctly and to teach other people; I wanted to raise a pious family, to do things that take a lifetime of dedication and I seemed to not be as concerned about my time as a random non-Muslim was, the shame hit me again.
The truth is that we are only a large useless sack of goals that will never be achieved and dreams that will never come true if we do not learn to manage time right. A good understanding of this truth was displayed by the best and the most ambitious generations of Muslims from among the Companions and those who followed their good example. These were extremely dedicated people who paid great attention to their use of time and would not spend time doing anything except that it was either beneficial to their world or hereafter. They could rarely be caught wasting time. For these people, their great ambitions matched their habits.
For me and many Muslims like me today, we claim to have these same ambitions. We want to be in Jannah with them; we want to become scholars like them; we want to impact the world the way they did, but our habits rarely match our claims. We want to be students of knowledge and spend hours doing nothing of value on social media daily, except making jokes and having pointless conversations. Students of knowledge, but we would rather lie to ourselves and encourage our bad habits with the ‘I learn a lot on facebook’ anthem than decide to spend our time actively learning the Deen or teaching it. It would have been praiseworthy if all the wasted time was channeled into learning a skill that would be of value to our livelihood rather than wrapping ourselves up in the banner of ‘learning’ to burn our time and our lives.
There is a lot to learn on social media, and there are those who honestly learn there. I, however, and a lot of people who are close to me (and I know we can’t be the only ones) have often deceitfully justified the amount of time wasted on the internet with how much we learn from it. One beneficial post followed by an hour of pointless scrolling, then another beneficial post and two hours of a pointless conversation exchanging jokes in the comments box over that one beneficial post. Who are we fooling? If the one of the Salaf was told a story about this our strange method of learning, I imagine how much he would laugh over the joke. Over the joke that many of us, including some of those we deem to be knowledgeable among us, are gradually becoming with our use of the internet.
(I am not against social media use. In fact, there is a set of students of knowledge for whom I think it is a necessity to be active on social media. What I advocate is regulated use, for that and only that which is beneficial.)
The problem did not start with the internet, however. The problem started with losing the kind of consciousness that our predecessors had regarding their actions. This must have been caused by our loss of touch with their lives and their stories and by other things I am not sure about. What I am sure about, however, is that without regaining this kind of consciousness regarding our use of time and productivity, we would only be able to achieve a tiny fraction of our ambitious goals as Muslims.
After Boris Hristrov, I have started to notice how much attention non-Muslims who just want to do well in their careers pay to time management and productivity, and I see that it is a lot. A whole lot, but I am not bothered anymore. I look into the life of the Salaf and see that our true models when it comes to time management and productivity are these ambitious Muslims from the early generations. Anyone who would want to spend time the way they did should pick up books that detail their history, and strive to follow them. It is important, while we do this, that we do not deceive ourselves into thinking that the great levels of productivity achieved by the Salaf is impossible to achieve today; this is the fastest way to prevent ourselves from taking any lessons from their lives. How do you practice the impossible?
There are scholars who live in the present age (or lived very close to it) whose achievements point to a firm background of productive and time-management habits. Think of Sheikh Al-Albani, Sheikh Ibn Baz and Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen. Tens or hundreds of books. Hundreds or thousands of recorded lectures. Teaching appointments in universities. Think of these scholars and you will see that this productivity thing is for us!
(May Allah reward the Editorial Board of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, University of Ilorin Branch. They recently published a book titled Can Muslims Waste A Little Time? There, they featured verses of the Qur-an, sayings of the Prophet ﷺ and stories from the life of the Salaf that highlight the evil of time wasting and offer a lot of help on productivity. It is a small book that I found to be of immense benefit. Download a free copy of the book by clicking here or by copying and pasting the following link in your browser: https://bit.ly/2FSbBzK)