Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Muslims have a habit of being late to everything. What are the rules governing punctuality and being late?
Answer: Wa Alaykum Assalam wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu,
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful & Compassionate
Agreeing to be somewhere at a given time is akin to a promise and the fiqh of promises therefore applies to it. It is improper to make a promise without firm resolve and reasonable surety of fulfilling it. However, it is not sinful if it is due to secondary issues that may arise and prevent one from fulfilling it.
However, contractual matters such as jobs, classes, and appointments are different. Allah says: “Oh you who believe, fulfill your contracts”. The scholars have explained that “contracts” here refers to every type of commitment. It is obligatory (fard) to be on time if this is the expectation. Even being a little late is at least improper, and is unbecoming of a Muslim. Undue delay is otherwise sinful. Slight delays that are customarily overlooked are not.
The believers should uphold themselves to the most excellent of character. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “The closest of you to me on the Day of Judgment are those best of character.”
Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish mentions that when the Shariah is distant from society, such as in our times, we are ambassadors of Islam and must act in order to uphold a favorable impression of Islam. This entails:
1. upholding commitments with excellence
2. being easy-going without being lax.
And Allah Most High knows best.