From the time man is born on this earth, his age begins to decrease gradually. This means that each day that falls away from his age, is detached from the calendar of his life like the pages that fall down one by one until the time which the tree of his growth will be stripped out of its last leaves.
Indeed, our age decreases, not increases, as, in our estimation, it apparently seems to do. The burning hours of age are like a candle dropping its melted tears. What burns of it, warns of the approach of its end till it reaches the moment at which it emits its last breath.
What is Age?
Age looks like a temporal vessel, containing the days of our life. Its quality and the way it is filled is in our hands, not in the hands of others. People differ; some fill it up with honey, others fill it with poison, still others mix these together while yet others, leave it empty.
We doubt in this. Even our free days spent in amusement and vanity fill the age vessel with sighs, sorrows, and regrets in a Day called by Allah, the Almighty, "The Day of Sorrow and Regret." It is a day in which all people are gathered in the presence of the Lord of the Worlds - from Adam up to the last creature - in order to be judged on how they spent "their lives" which is entrusted as a deposit with them.
Did they spend it with seriousness, striving, and performing righteous and good deeds? Or did they spend it by doing vicious and bad actions that caused long and permanent sorrows and regrets? Or did they mix a good deed with an evil deed and in their actions, were they among the losers, like a businessman who spends all his life in trading and at the end, finds himself bankrupt?!
The Importance of Time:
If we look for the best one who evaluates time for us, do we see other than the maker of time, Himself, and is it not Allah, Exalted and Glory be He?!
Indeed, this delicate division of moments, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years, is just like a cultivated field and the farmer is me or you. According to the endeavor of each farmer, the harvest will be yielded. And it is during the time of harvest that an active and diligent farmer will be pleased, and a lazy and inactive farmer will be driven away.
How beautifully Imam Ali (a.s.) describes it: "This world is the plantation for the Hereafter." Whoever grows an apple, he will surely harvest an apple. And whoever grows an onion, he will surely harvest an onion. And whoever grows a flower, he will surely harvest a flower. And whoever grows a thorn, he will surely harvest a thorn. And whoever grows laziness, he will surely harvest regret.
Verily, Allah, the Almighty is the One Who divides the dawn, afternoon, day and night in order to draw our attention to the thing divided, is of great importance. These numerous expressions regarding the measurement of time are nothing but small vessels within the great vessel of age. Perhaps, the moment you are presently in, will say farewell to you, and enter in the list of your account a reserved action and maybe it leaves you a loan from that account. And who knows that one day will come, for any of us, in which the chief of the bank will reject us and we will leave, disappointed, because there is nothing in our account book!
On that day, it is impossible to start again from the beginning because it is too late and we missed the opportunity. Shall we be pleased to return bankrupt and blame ourselves? Or shall we see working in order to add another fund and act according to the slogan which says: "Save your white piaster for your black (difficult) day", which means: Keep your righteous deeds for a Day in which wealth will not avail, nor sons, save him who comes to Allah with a sound heart.
Surely we will not find in the Qur'an an expression more eloquent than the following saying of Allah: "So, he who does an atom-weight of good shall see it. And he who does an atom-weight of evil shall see it." Holy Qur'an (99: 7-8)
Men will be shown their deeds in the Resurrection by being made to taste of their fruits, but they can also see the good or evil of their actions in this life. Good and evil, when practiced on a large scale, bring their reward or requital in this life, as well. Note that the words here are "he who does", and thus, include both the Muslim and the non-Muslim. Even a non-Muslim who does an atom's weight of good will have his reward, and a Muslim who does an atom's weight of evil will be requited for it.
Then, some one may ask us: How much is an atom's weight on the scale of time? Is it a moment or less than that? However it is considered, it is a unit of measure in its utmost smallness, and this means that even the littlest deed of good to which one does not pay attention to, will be fruitful during the time in which a flood will overcome the people, and the smallest deed of evil, will be destructive but the good doers are saved from it.
Surely, time is Allah's grace blessed on all people. It is the white papers on which they record our deeds, be it good or evil, and people are responsible for it on the Resurrection Day. In this regard, Allah's Apostle, Muhammad (s.a.w.) says: "Not a foot of a servant (of Allah) on the Resurrection Day, will move before he is asked about five things: 'His age and how he spent it, his youth and how he wore it out, his wealth and how he earned it and on what he spent it and about his love towards us, Ahlul-Bait (the Prophet's household).'"
He (s.a.w.), also, says: "Seize the opportunity of five things before you lose these five: Your youth before your old age; your health before your illness; your leisure before your occupation; your life before your death and your riches before your poverty." It is worthy of observation that the question of age is repeated twice regarding age, in general, and about youth, in particular, due to the importance of the stage of youth, as well as it being the stage of striving, sacrificing and offering.
For instance, when a student surely knows that a question will come on the next examination, he will prepare himself for answering it, otherwise, he will lose a precious opportunity which cannot be substituted, with anything else.
The question is about Resurrection Day - clear and obvious - and the examination will certainly come: What is your age and how did you spend it, and what was your youth and how did you wear it out? The question remains to be answered by each of us.
Wasted Time and Useful Time:
If we look at the amount of time we spend uselessly and try to make a simple calculation as to how many long hours go in vain either in nonsense chatter or in loitering along the streets, or wandering in front of commercial shops or participating in parties which have no limit and without knowing that we are committing "the crimes of futility" against ourselves with the most precious of what Allah has blessed us with, what will be the total?.
Just think of these images, in which we live, and, which occur perhaps daily:
- A young man may take his car or his father's car, sometimes, accompanied by his friends, to drive around the streets, squares, and roads without any aim and destination.
- A girl or girls may wander for long hours - perhaps other than shopping - in front of shop windows in hopes of desire.
- Young men may play football for hours on end and even though eventually they quit, they repeat playing once, twice and perhaps three times.
- Young men sit in coffee houses smoking, chattering, backbiting and laughing loud.
- Others may stand in long lines waiting to buy their needs or waiting for buses while casting their naive looks here and there.
- Others who stay up at night may play cards, or chess, or sit before computers for unlimited periods or use the Internet to the extent of addiction without caring for the time which they waste in this regard.
Is Play Forbidden? Who says this?
The subject, here, does not concern the forbidding of a thing or its lawfulness. It may be a thing lawful, but because it exceeds its proper bounds it is disliked and dispraised. As Allah, Glory and Exalted be He, created all things of great significance, it is essential that every thing in our life have a specific time, otherwise, excessiveness, instead, can be invested in the affairs which are important and useful. Therefore, it is said:
"What a difference there is between two kinds of actions. An act whose pleasure passes away, but its distressful consequence remains, and the act whose hardship passes away, but its reward stays." Then, try for one day only to count your wasted time and, surely, you will be surprised at the results.
While we read the bewildering results, let us consider, for example, that there are prisoners who wish to return to their free life to fill up every moment of their life with science and action, and it is nothing but the feeling that their free time passed away in vain.
And let us, also, consider that there are some people who wish that their days were more than 24 hours and, if they could, would borrow time from those who do not care for time.
Such people - the owners of useful time -have times in which they rest, and, at the same time, they renew their activity in order to continue their work, again, with a high spirit and prosperity.
We can make use of this opinion and consider that time takes its longevity or brevity from what we fill it up with of deeds. A quick glance at the life of great men and their success, reveals an important secret of their prosperity. That is the investment of their time in the best way. Rarely will we find among them those who waste their time in vain. The well-known inventor of electricity, 'Edison', is said to have never endured time, but, he used to swallow it up. He used to work, constantly, as if he wanted to achieve in an hour what others achieved in 10 hours. He disliked being absent in solving one such practical question but, it caused him to waste one week in the problem and was eventually futile.
It is known about various great scholars that they used not to sleep at night, except a few hours, for the purpose of making use of additional hours of their days. These people are they who always remember the saying of the poet:
"The beating of man's heart tells him that life is but minutes and moments, therefore, keep these memories for yourself after your death. Surely, memories, for man, are but the lifetime of a moment."