many of us when hearing and reading eulogies of past communities, invariably begin to compare that past with that of our present. naturally we begin to focus on our present days’ failings, longing to have lived in that romanticised past, free from most if not all difficulties. eventually when we climb down out of the clouds and into the real world we realise, that we cannot change the fact that we live in the 21st century. a century seemingly filled with daily horrors and devoid of morality, it can sometimes feel unbearably hard to live in; however, wallowing in our misgivings can often be counterproductive and rather as the proverb goes, if we were to make hay while the sun shines, there is much to gain in living in this era and in this part of the world too.
for everything there is a season...
islam is a divinely ordained way of life, transcending time and place. in every hardship we face, there is wisdom for the believer and an opportunity for him to rise in status with his lord. “truly with hardship comes ease”and the prophetic narration, “how wonderful is the affair of the believer? for his affairs are all good, and this applies to none but the believer. if something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and he is rewarded for that. if something bad befalls him, he bears it with patience and he is rewarded for that” are but a few examples of how islam ingrains lessons of encouragement and positivity. realising these lessons should help us counter the excessive complaining, procrastination and general negativity towards life that we find within many of our circles.
the united kingdom is that part of the consumer world where life is furiously fast. even muslims visiting from abroad can often be left puzzled by the widely varying prayer times especially with no public call to prayer to remind them of their daily obligations. the inherent difficulties faced by muslims here with the seasonal variations in prayer times are part and parcel of life, so what positives can we take from this difficulty?
the winter days are very short, sometimes the end of fajr is as early as 8.00 am and maghrib at 4pm, whilst during the summer days, fajr ends at 4.30am and maghrib at 9.30pm. there are many advantages we can draw from this:
firstly, the opportunity to pray in congregation three or four times a day in the mosque during the summer period should be very easy even for those who are working full time. and why would one want to miss out on an opportunity like this when the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: ‘the prayer of a person in congregation is twenty seven times better than the prayer of the person individually.’ naturally, the chance to have a wage or salary which is 27 times more for practically doing the same thing at the same time is not an opportunity any of us would want to miss (from this october, 2010, the minimum wage will be £5.93 an hour, so that would mean £160.11 an hour!). so why with our daily prayers, which we must pray within their fixed times, do we not grab that offer? the first offer is one that benefits us in this life and the second offer is one that benefits us in the ever-lasting life of the hereafter.
secondly, the time between maghrib and the beginning of fajr is very short in the summer, so praying the night prayer during the last third of the night is surprisingly easy. in other countries closer to the equator where the nights are much longer, waking up in the last third of the night is harder and praying most of that last third is even more so. in addition, in the winter (in the uk), the days become so short, we can wake up a short time before fajr at a quite normal time. we can pray our night prayer after which we can carry on with the rest of our day with as much ease as when we do our daily routine of work, school etc. so, how can we deny ourselves of this opportunity, when the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) informed us: “our lord descends every night to the lowest heaven, when only one third of the night has remained. he says: “who will invoke me, so that i may give him? who will seek my forgiveness, so that i may forgive him.” and in another report, he (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) adds: “then allah extends his hand and says: ‘who wants to invest (good deeds) with the one who is not wasteful or unjust?’ he continues to say this until the dawn arrives.”
thirdly, during the winter, the beginning of fajr till maghrib amounts to just ten hours (6am to 4pm) and so fasting should be easy as pie! (although, eating some pie would kind of defeat the purpose of the fast!) in fact, a person is only expected to miss out on lunch. how can one not do this when the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “the best fasting is the fast of david (dawood): he used to fast one day and not the next.”moreover, there are the recommended fasts for every monday and thursday and the middle three days of the islamic months. some of our scholars have considered fasting to be one of the greatest actions in islam. whilst all actions have a limit to their reward, fasting is an act that has not, as it consists of various types of patience, lessons in self-development and numerous guiding morals.
fourthly, praying the recommended mid-morning prayer - salatul-duha (or ishraq) becomes effortless. the time for the mid-morning prayer is from when the sun has risen to the height of a spear above the horizon, which is around fifteen or twenty minutes after sunrise. since maghrib in the winter period is a lot earlier, it would be safe to pray this slightly earlier, about 10 minutes after sunrise. however, the point is that it could be prayed before one leaves for work. how can we miss out on this, when the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “whoever prays fajr prayer in congregation then awaits patiently until he offers the shurook prayer shall have the reward of a person who has completed both hajj and umrah, not lacking in any way.”
fifthly, the prophet (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said that the du’a from ‘asr to maghrib on friday is one of the blessed times in which it is most likely to be answered. the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “friday is twelve hours in which there is no muslim who asks allah for something but he will give it to him, so seek the last hour after ‘asr.”. since, the time after ‘asr till maghrib, during the shorter days of the year in the united kingdom, is so small, the effective time we seek to make that assured dua is much easier to achieve.
sixthly, acts of worship which are restricted by time have a higher reward in terms of the percentage of time spent in worshipping. so if someone only has one hour to do his evening adhkaar – the percentage of time in that evening that he spends in performing this worship is much higher than when he does the same in his summer evenings. for instance, since the nights are very short in the summer period, the reward for praying the whole of the night is achieved simply by standing for quite a short time. the opportunity of a lifetime!
seventhly, how many times do we hear ourselves bemoaning the terrible weather that the united kingdom has? it snows in the summer, we get heat waves in the winter and to top it all off it rains throughout the year! but is complaining about the weather, which is by allah’s decree, in fact a complaint to the most high? we need to realise the weather is from the many bounties of allah and seek from its opportunities in order to raise our taqwa. i will always remember when a respected shaykh from the middle-east visited the united kingdom and it began to rain. as the muslims all rushed for cover, the shaykh, ran out into the rain and began to cry profusely and make du’a. later he told us, “in my country, we sometimes get rain just once a year. the muslims in the united kingdom are blessed with this opportunity of washing away their sins and thanking allah for these blessings,” as our prophet (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “two are the du’as that are never returned unanswered: the dua made when the prayer is being called, and at the time of rainfall.” yet it is common practice for us to complain that the weather is bad when it is raining – how much more mistaken can we be?
there are plenty of more opportunities you can think of when you ponder and reflect on the blessings allah has bestowed us all with. indeed, in everything there is a reason, for everything there is a season…
our vertical proximity with our lord is partially determined by our horizontal proximity with one another
“you shall never attain true piety unless you spend on others out of that which you cherish; and whatever you spend - verily, god has full knowledge thereof”
we live in a country in which the government gives us money even when we temporarily do not have a job! the concept of being poor is redefined according to time and place. a person can be technically ‘poor’, but live a luxurious life or at least a life that is far better than in developing countries – this is the time and place we live in. we also live in an area in which the currency we use has far more value than the rest of the muslim world. therefore, the ways in which one can be charitable and gain a great reward is much easier. there are so many things one can do to help the poor and needy that would have been in the past exclusive to only a certain part of society, whom allah had blessed with enough wealth. by the grace of allah, most of us living in the developed world have been afforded the opportunity to gain great rewards through giving in charity.
for example, to make a well, would have been impossible for many of us if we lived in a less developed land. our higher standard of living and strength of our currency means that by just saving for a few months we can easily build a well. this in itself is perhaps one of the best ways one can gain reward as the reasons for needing water are literally countless and so the associated reward for facilitating its use is even greater. that well will not only bring life to an impoverished community, it will nourish, provide clean sanitation, the ability to make ablution, help irrigate their crops and importantly, for us, is a source of immense reward.
when we read about the virtues of taking care of the widows, poor and orphans, how can we not try to help them? "one who cares for widows and the poor is like those who fight in the way of allah or those who spend their days fasting and their nights praying." the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said, "would you like that your heart becomes soft and that you acquire what you need? be merciful with the orphan, pat his head and feed him from what you eat. this will soften your heart, and enable you to get what you need." our lord has bestowed us the blessing of wealth in a time when millions around the world are suffering in poverty and adversity. these orphans and widows do not have a father or a husband to take care of their needs, so imagine the reward of the one who takes them under their wings. when we will be begging for help from our closest relative for just one hasanah on the day of judgement, ponder over how much hasanat there is in helping those who are in great need now. the messenger of allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, allah will remove from him one of the grief’s of the day of judgement." who does not want their grief to be removed on the day of judgement? moreover, who can guarantee their place in paradise, the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: "i and the caretaker of the orphan will enter paradise together like this, raising (by way of illustration) his forefinger and middle finger jointly, leaving no space in between." some of us would scramble for the opportunity to get an autograph from a sporting celebrity, how about walking into paradise with the greatest man to have set foot on this earth?
the blessing of having been given more wealth than many others provides many avenues for us to gain reward. indeed, often we struggle to perfect our own worship, either because we are physically unable or even just lacking enough concentration. while providing basic necessities is highly rewarding, the facilitation of another person’s worship, gets you a similar reward to that person without even doing that act. for example building mosques in developing countries, again something well within our means; or buying and distributing the qur’an; or sponsoring scholars or students of knowledge, so they can spread and teach islam to whole villages; and many more such projects. imagine, every person that prays in the mosque you built, each time each one of them prays you get a reward similar to their prayer! on the day of judgement when you are begging for just one hasanah, you find a mountain of hasanat from each letter that was recited from that qur’an you had purchased for others to use. now imagine the reward that can be gained by sponsoring someone to become a hafidh of qur’an or become a scholar. they will be leading tarawih and qiyam al-lail prayers every year, being at the service of their communities and helping them all stay on the straight path. reward the weight of a lifetime or even lifetimes for just a few pounds.
however, it is important that we do not rely on the good reward that we can gain as a result of helping others while neglecting developing our own selves. .just fifty years ago, travelling to perform hajj and umrah was an act usually done once in a lifetime, the cost and the risks involved were great for the majority of the muslim world. nowadays, with the advent of better communications and travel, going on umrah is not only easy but an affordable holiday each year. if there is an annual holiday worth having each year, what better holiday is there than a spiritually rejuvenating visit to the most sacred places in the world? many of us travel to other countries for our annual breaks, often spending much more than we would if we were to go on umrah. travelling on holiday to other countries is permissible although remember for all the permissible acts that we do in this life, they do not ultimately count for anything on the day we are judged.
modern technology has certainly got its perks and dose of problems too. everything seemed so much simpler living in a village with a horse and cart. but actually the global village we now live in has many benefits for the muslim ummah too. we live in a time and place in which information about the affairs of the muslims is readily accessible. within minutes we can be informed of the plight or a disaster that may have afflicted them over a thousand miles away. at least, we can raise our hands to the sky and immediately make du’a for them. indeed, how can we not, when the messenger of allah (peace and blessings of allah be upon him) said: “there is no believing servant who supplicates for his brother in his absence where the angels do not say, ‘the same be for you.’”
as i hope to have demonstrated in this short article, rewards are easily attained. we just need to have the ambition and motivation to achieve them. i would like to mention though one last action that really is amazing. the reward of it would be greater than anyone who had done so in the past. it will make history and its fruits are eternal and best of all, it is attainable by each and every one of us. how can that be possible you may ask yourself?
“whoever seeks forgiveness for the believing men and believing women, allah will write for him a good deed for each believing man and believing woman.”
how many believers have died since the beginning of time and how many are alive today?! may allah forgive the believing men and believing women, those who have passed away and those how are alive! this is your opportunity to make history – grab it!
do not squander the opportunities that lie in abundance in front of us. islam, the divinely ordained way of life, has provided us opportunities, in every time and in every place, to raise our ranks in the eyes of our lord. i can think of few better words than to end with the motivational words of our beloved prophet muhammad (peace and blessings of allah be upon him):
"take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth, before you become old; and your health, before you fall sick; and your richness, before you become poor; and your free time before you become busy; and your life, before your death.'' 
qur’an, al-sharh (the opening) (94:6) – translation of the meaning
sahih bukhari and sahih muslim
sahih bukhari and sahih muslim
sunan abu dawood and at-tabarani
sunan abu dawood and sunan an-nisaai’
sunan abu dawood classed as sahih by al-hakim
jamal krafess, pg330 the influence of the muslim religion on humanitarian aid – international review red cross
quran, al-e-imran (the family of imran) (3:92) – translation of the meaning
sahih bukhari and sahih muslim
at-tabarani – classed as sahih by al-albani
at-tabarani – classed as hasan by al-albani
 al-hakim classed as sahih