3 Buckets

by Omar Jamil

Everyone is busy. In fact, everyone believes that they are busier than the average person (which is impossible!). Though people generally recognize that others have commitments and obligations, they only have a firsthand view of their own requirements, and so we perceive ourselves to be busier than those around us.

Whether you ask a 3rd grader or a freshman in college, both will tell you that they have too much work! Is a freshman in college objectively busier than a 3rd grader? Of course, but both are busy according to their own capacities.

While everyone shares a common thread of being busy at their own level, we share something else that is even more important.

Really, we are not that busy, and could be using our time much more efficiently. We waste way too much time. All of us. Take it upon yourself to tabulate how much time you are using inefficiently. Every minute that you spend on social media, playing games on your phone, perusing the internet, engaging in useless talk or simply doing nothing, and you will find that your hours of productivity may equal or be outweighed by your hours of waste.

Imam Ghazali, may Allah be pleased with him, was not only a master of the Islamic sciences, but was an excellent life coach in his own right. Imam Ghazali wrote “The Revival of the Religious Sciences,” one of his many works, in only a few years. That feat in itself requires incredible dedication and an excellent use of time. But more noteworthy was the way he wrote “The Beginning of Guidance.” One of Imam Ghazali’s students asked him for a summary of “The Revival,” citing the length of the work. In response, Imam Ghazali later that day gave the student the completed work called “The Beginning of Guidance”. Both novice and elite students of knowledge now uses that text as a one stop shop for Islamic development. Not surprisingly, in the text, Imam Ghazali discusses the importance of using our time wisely, and how that is an essential component in our progress as Muslims.

So what can we do to use our time more efficiently? Primarily, we need to identify our priorities. Imagine that time if water flowing out of a faucet, and that we must catch it in buckets. The 3 buckets that will help you use this time the best; the three buckets without holes in them are Islam, your family/social obligations/rest and work/school. Your prayers goes into Bucket 1, talking to your parents and checking on your friends and sleeping falls into Bucket 2, your homework and extra curricular activities fall into Bucket 3. All of these things are productive. All of these activities allow us to catch time without wasting any of it. Other buckets exist but are not as reliable. Social media, video games, TV shows, movies, gossip etc. These buckets may seem to help you bond with friends or relax, but understand that they have holes in them, and that at the end of these activities, you will have nothing to show for them, and usually come away with some sins. If we examine our actions we will quickly find that much of our time is spent filling up faulty buckets, and we are accumulating little water in the three buckets that matter most.

In the Qur’an Allah SWT says in a Surah we have all memorized that “By Time, Indeed Man is in Loss” (103:1-2). If we can remind ourselves of how quickly time if passing by, and focus on catching it with our most productive activities, we will not only be more productive in this world, but have more to show for our actions in the hereafter.


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