The Seven Islamic Habits of Highly Productive People

by Maulana Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee


وَالْعَصْرِ (1) إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ (2) إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ (3)
By the oath of time. [1] Verily, mankind is at loss. [2] Except for those who believe, perform righteous deeds, encourage each other towards truth and patience. [3]

Just a simple look at Surah al-Asr shows us that main thing that Allah wants us to invest in is ourselves. What really matters is who we are as people and what we make of ourselves. Regardless of the circumstance, Islam wants to make us the best version of ourselves in every aspect of our life.

Look at great people; they used to look after little things:

  • Malcolm X
    • 15 hours a day in prison
    • Never spends a plane ride without a book.
    • So particular about being chaste, that females started thinking he was weird
  • Imam bukhari
    • Read 10 juz at night and one khatam during the day in the month of Ramadan
  • Ghandi
    • Spent whole life in the search of improving himself, diet etc.

While many university courses, self-help books, and biographies have made time management their central theme, Muslims need to realize that time management is also a core principal in our faith. It has been a practice of the pious to distribute their time, and to even take an account of it at the end of the day. It was even the practice of the most productive person, Muhammad (peace be upon him), as it is mentioned in a Hadith:
فكان إذا أوى إلى منزله جزأ دخوله ثلاثة أجزاء : جزءا لله عز وجل وجزءا لأهله ، وجزءا لنفسه

“When the prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) would go home, he would distribute his time into three portions; one for Allah, one for his family and one for himself.”

We also see in a hadith of Bukhari that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) would distribute his days. He would spend one day in the company of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and one for the earning of his livelihood. Several of the companions had a practice to spend their mornings in earning their livelihoods and their evenings in the company of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Therefore, a lot of the practices being taught in the lessons of time management in the western world, have already been established in Islamic thought. Our teachings have taught us how to optimize our lives and extend our capabilities to unparalleled heights. Here are seven habits adopted by productive people, and their proofs from Islamic texts. This is a real stepping stone towards social progression.

1. Remove the poison
Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (1) الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ (2) وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ (3)

Verily, the believers are successful [1] Those who are humble in their prayers [2] And those who turn away from all that which is vain (Surah Al-Mu’minun Verses 1-3)

We all have certain time wasters or ‘poisons’ in our lives. We engross ourselves in entertainment, social media, and other idle practices that do not benefit us in this world nor the hereafter. The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) told us, “Part of the excellence of one’s Islam is that he leaves that which does not concern him (does not benefit him in this world not the hereafter).” He was the most productive of people to ever exist. It comes in a Hadith,
قد ترك نفسه من ثلاث : المراء ، والإكثار وما لا يعنيه

He had left three practices: Unnecessarily arguing with people, excessive talking, and involving himself in things that do not concern him.

2. Make reasonable goals

This is one of the main lessons taught in time management courses. Sure, we would all like to reach our true potential and wake up tomorrow as the embodiment of self-discipline and time management. But then again, not everything we want is achievable by the snapping of a finger. True change takes time and small steps are necessary in order to reach our goals. These goals are only achievable by those who are willing to persist and continuously move forward towards achieving them.

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-As was a youth in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He would fast all day and worship all night. The Prophet (peace be upon him told him), told him

فَلاَ تَفْعَلْ صُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ وَقُمْ وَنَمْ فَإِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِعَيْنِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِزَوْرِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا

Don’t do this. Fast somedays and eat the others. Stand in prayer for a portion of the night and sleep in the other. Verily, your body has a right on you. Verily, your eyes have a right on you. Verily, your spouse has a right on you. And verily, your guest has a right on you.

The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) also stated,
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ خُذُوا مِنَ الأَعْمَالِ مَا تُطِيقُونَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَمَلُّ حَتَّى تَمَلُّوا وَإِنَّ أَحَبَّ الأَعْمَالِ إِلَى اللهِ مَا دَامَ وَإِنْ قَلَّ.

“Oh people! Perform your deeds according to your capability. Allah does not get tired [of rewarding you] until you get tired. And the most beloved of actions to Allah are those which are performed regularly, even though they may be few.”

3. Do not multitask

This is also a major lesson in self-help books and time management courses. A philosopher named To do two things at once is to do neither.” When we continuously switch between tasks, our brain is actually taking on extra stress and is wasting time to adjust to the task we switched to. This is also the reason why we are asked to focus completely in our Salah, and not to talk during Wudu. It was a practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to turn completely towards people while speaking to them and to give them his full attention. Muslims are required to give their full attention while listening to the Quran and we are not to indulge in conversations during its recitation. The Holy Quran commands us,

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنْصِتُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“When the Quran is being recited, listen closely to it and remain quiet, so you may receive mercy.” (Surah Al-Araf Verse 204)

4. Do not rush while completing tasks.

A great quality of overachievers is that they bring their one hundred and ten percent into everything they do. They simply focus on the task at hand and give themselves ample time to complete it. When we do not allot enough time for the completion of tasks, we stammer through our work and end up with mediocre results. The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) has clearly advised us against this by saying,
الأناة من الله والعجلة من الشيطان

 “Doing things slowly is from Allah, while rushing is from the Devil.”

5. Consult before making decisions

The Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was divinely guided by Allah. Yet, he still made it a practice to consult his companions before making decisions. Allah even commanded him in the Qur’an,

وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ
“and consult them regarding affairs” (Surah Al-Imran Verse 159)

Taking on this step will give us confidence in our decisions, and will protect us from regret. This command of Allah is directed towards the Prophet (peace be upon him), but is needed by us even more.

6. Sleep and wake up early

The author admits, that this may just be the most difficult of habits. Islamically, we should only be indulging in activities that please Allah or sleep. It is stated in a Hadith that,
عَنْ أَبِي بَرْزَةَ، قَالَ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَكْرَهُ النَّوْمَ قَبْلَ الْعِشَاءِ وَالْحَدِيثَ بَعْدَهَا

It is narrated by Abu Barzah that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) would dislike sleep before Isha, and conversations after it. (Al-Bukhari, 568; Muslim, 647) 

Consequently, we should use the above as an opportunity to wake up early in the morning. Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him stated) prayed,

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لأُمَّتِي فِي بُكُورِهَا‏

Oh Allah bless my nation in its early morning. (Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 12, Hadith 2236)

7. Nap in the afternoons

It is no secret that this has been a general practice of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and all his companions. Recently, there have also been a lot of studies in favor of such naps. NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and concluded that a forty minute nap results in a 34 percent increase in performance and a hundred percent increase in alertness. Furthermore, it has also been the practice of greats like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison.

Which of these habits have you adopted? 


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