One of the shortest, yet most powerful chapters in the Qurʾān states By time, verily man is in loss, except those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience (Qurʾān 103:1-3). Indeed, time is a precious commodity that cannot be brought back once it leaves. Time is the human’s capital that he can invest wisely or lose. In several parts of the Qurʾān God depicts this world as a place where we carry out transactions. Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise (Qurʾān 9:111). If one spends his entire life only investing in this temporary world and in their immediate materialistic needs, then on the day of judgment they will be in loss.
The Qurʾān gives the example of the life of this world as rain and vegetation. And present to them the example of the life of this world, [its being] like rain which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it and [then] it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah has power over all things, perfect in ability (Q. 18: 45). This verse highlights the different phases of a plants life. First, it rains, then the rain mixes with the seeds, then they become vegetation, then they become dry and wither away. If we further reflect on this verse, the phases of plant life are much more complicated and detailed.
Why then did the Qurʾān highlight it in such a short way? Because that is how life works. Each of our lives is very detailed, but we do not remember the details. We only remember major occasions such as a birthday party, a wedding, graduation, death etc. There are so many details that we do not remember them because of the quick and fleeting nature of this life. One day you are young and beautiful like a new plant, then next thing you know your beauty will wither away with age and you leave this earth.
On the day of judgment God will ask people how long they lived in this world. “We remained a day or part of a day; ask those who kept count.” He will say, “You stayed not but a little – if only you had known. Then did you think that We created you without purpose and that you would not return to Us? (Qurʾān 23: 113-115). An estimated 151,600 people die every day, that is approximately 6,316 people each hour, 105 people per minute, and 2 people each second. The reality is that this life is short and our relationship with time is very fragile. Each breath we take will never return is one breath closer to our last. You can choose to either spend your doing useless and forbidden things, or you can do good. It is your choice, you can invest in your hereafter or in this world. No matter how wealthy one becomes in this world or how big of a house they build they will eventually lose it. The hereafter on the other hand is the true everlasting life where there is no time. It is eternal. On the day of judgment some people will regret and remorse for not investing in their eternal life He will say: “Alas! Would that I had sent forth (good deeds) for (this) my life!” (Qurʾān 89:24).
The Qurʾān presents this picture so that we may draw a lesson and act now before it is too late. Is our purpose in life only to make money and get old? Is it only to buy a house and accumulate wealth that others will eventually inherit? Getting caught up in the rat race of everyday life, television, sports, the newest gadgets often prevent people from thinking about the ultimate purpose of life. Is there more to this cycle? Who made us, how did we get here, and where are we heading? These are basic questions we need to ask about life and Islam has the answers.
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