How Can I Find Balance in Religious Practice?
Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I find practicing religion overwhelming after coming to know the importance of time. I read that wasting time is forbidden and I will have to account for it to Allah. It is very tough to pass a whole day only thinking about religion. I feel scared to meet my friends since most of them discuss only worldly affairs. How can I find a balance?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question. May Allah reward you for wanting to take the religion seriously and with devotion.
The key in all matters is moderation. The Prophet ﷺ advised us that, ‘Religion is easy, and no one overburdens himself in his religion but he will be unable to continue in that way. So do not be extremists, but try to be near perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded. Gain strength by worshipping in the mornings and afternoons and during the last hours of the night.’ [al Bukhari, Muslim].
From this hadith it becomes obvious that a Muslim is not meant to be engrossed in worship at all hours of the day, as this is the life of a hermit. Rather, set aside some time in the day and evening for worship that is sustainable, otherwise one will burn out. Also, as we’ll see, worshiping God can take on many forms.
Balancing After life and worldly affairs
Allah Most High tells us, ‘But seek, amidst that which God has given thee, the Last Abode, and forget not thy portion of the present world.’ [28:77]. So one should not forget that one has a portion of this world that contains one’s livelihood, human relationships, and happiness. This world is a means to the next world, and part of human engagement with the world is enjoying some of the permissible avenues of provision and pleasure that it offers, within moderation.
This is why, when ‘A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ asking how the Prophet worshipped, and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, “Where are we from the Prophet as his past and future sins have been forgiven.” Then one of them said, “I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.” The other said, “I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.” The third said, “I will keep away from women and will never marry.”
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ came to them and said, “Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me.’ [Al-Bukhari]
There is no one more god-fearing or devoted to God than the Prophet ﷺ, and he ﷺ commanded us to be moderate in our religious devotion and worldly affairs. Ai’sha (May Allah be pleased with her) was once asked, ‘What did the Prophet use to do in his house?” She replied, ‘He used to keep himself busy serving his family, and when it was time for prayer he would go out for it.’ [Al-Bukhari].
We can see that the Prophet ﷺ did not lock himself away in a room praying to Allah, reciting Quran, or teaching, but rather he gave everything and everyone their due, and participated in everyday life.
Worship doesn’t just have to be praying, reading Qu’ran, fasting, and lectures. Not everything has to be overtly religious. The Prophet ﷺ has said, ‘Be avid for that which benefits you’ and this benefit encompasses any form of benefit, whether religious, social, health, and in both worlds.
Rather, everything we do, from helping others at home or outside, doing our duties and obligations to others, studying and working to get a good job, spending quality time with family and friends, exercise and sports, cooking, and even reading or watching beneficial and permissible articles and documentaries etc., can all be a form of benefit and reward from Allah Most High, if one makes the right intention.
Right intentions can be to fulfil duties to others, earn a halal living, strengthening the ties of kinship and brotherly bonds, strengthening one’s body so one can worship Allah better, increasing in faith and gratitude to Allah through reflecting on the world and Allah’s creation, helping others and making things easy for them through housework and assistance, and many more noble intentions for even the most mundane matters.
There is nothing wrong with socialising in moderation and meeting with friends. In fact, it is needed. We all need to have diversity in our lives in order to continue doing what we do. So socialising, hobbies and interests are good ways to revitalise us and continue with all our affairs, as well as a source encouragement to each other.
Its mentioned in al Bukhari that ‘The companions used to play with one another by throwing watermelon skins at each other, but when it was time for seriousness, they were real men’. Abu Salamah said, describing the Companions, ‘The Companions never exaggerated in seriousness, nor were they heedless; they used to recite poetry in their gatherings and mention some incidents which took place during their pre-Islamic period and laugh, but if they saw any action against Islam, they would become furious.’ [Ibn Abu Shaybah]
The moderation that the Sahaba had with the religion is that everything had its place and time, and part of this was socialising and being able to have fun or relax when it was appropriate.
The Prophet ﷺ was asked once, ‘Do you joke with us? He ﷺ replied, ‘I do, but I only say that which is true’ [Al Bukhari]. Again, we see the permissibility of being light hearted in the company of others without necessarily having to bring a profound or religious aspect to all our conversations, as long the conversations stay within certain limits.
It is important to timetable one’s daily routines so one makes the most of each day and night, and this is where time management is important. The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘The best deed in the sight of Allah is that which is done regularly.” [Ahmad].
Therefore, timetable your daily routine, incorporating time for different types of worship in the morning and night that is maintainable and will not tire you out. It is a trick of the devil to make yourself burn out until you find the religion overwhelming and unbearable, in the hope you will start to detest the religion and abandon it.
Do a little daily that is manageable, and not for long periods. If it ever feels too much, half the time put aside for religious devotion, or even less, until you feel it is easy, and then stay on that for a while until you want to do more, then increase very gradually. ‘God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear. [2:286]
Ensure that your timetable includes time to spend with family and good friends (and relax with them!), and others things you need to do or like to do. Take it easy and give everything it’s due, including yourself.
May Allah grant you to every good.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.