Since many of us are either taking exams this summer or working on different projects, I thought it apt to focus this tarbiya on something that plagues many (and unfortunately myself); that is laziness and procrastination.
Why is it that often we are surrounded by commitments and deadlines yet we are unable to fulfil them because of our laziness? We know there are matters and duties we must perform but sometimes we end up procrastinating and leaving them to the last minute, busying ourselves in anything and everything but the most vital. Often, we have the urge to bury our heads in the sand shirking our responsibilities; as ‘they’ say ignorance is bliss.
For example, during exam time you witness the whole student body suddenly exerting themselves, studying at full capacity trying to achieve that 2.1, even though many had slacked off for most of the year; but why is this so? Psychologically, it is because the exams have become a reality, something tangible that you are forced to face up to, but if you can surmount your laziness before reality sets in, we would place ourselves in a far better position; the students who come out with firsts are almost always the ones who have consistently worked hard and striven throughout the year. But what does Islam have to say about laziness? What should be our perspective, and how should we combat it?
What does Islam say about laziness?
Laziness is viewed as something that we should constantly guard ourselves against, it is a sign of weakness and as is seen in the dua below is grouped with other negative traits such as fear and repression:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ
O Allah I seek refuge in you from the depression and grief and I seek refuge in you from helplessness and laziness and I seek refuge in you from cowardice and miserliness and I see refuge in you from the overpowering of debts and the wrath of people!
(Sunan Abu Daud)
Allahumma inni a`udhu bika min al-`ajzi wa al-kasal wa al-jubni wa al-bukhl wa a`udhu bika min munkarati al-akhlaqi wa al-ahwa’(O Allah! I seek refuge in You from feeling of helplessness, laziness, cowardice and niggardliness; I also seek refuge in You from all despicable traits and whims).
Sometimes we are inactive because of fear, i.e. what if I exert myself fully but I don’t get the desired result *that would be embarassing*, but there is no need for such negative patterns of thought. We should fear only Allah, for success comes inshAllah when we work hard and put our trust in Allah.
A man came to the Prophet (saw) and said, “I will not tie my camel and trust in Allah” The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Tie it and trust in Allah.’ (Tirmidhi)
And when someone says, “I can’t do that,” the Prophet (sal Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ) would seek protection from such negative speech by adding: “and I seek your protection (Oh Allaah) from ‘alkasl’- which is translated as laziness.”
If we think of the prophet (saw) and other pious predecessors, like us they were also allocated twenty four hours in a day yet they were able to accomplish such great feats. At the start of his mission the prophet (saw) had few means and few followers, yet by the end, by the will of Allah he had conquered Arabia and beyond.
Since our lives revolve around attaining closeness with Allah, every act we do should be a form of ibadah (worship) in some way or another. We are told Allah loves those who excel and strive in His way. These traits are the polar opposite of both laziness and procrastination. As Muslims we want to be of those whom Allah loves and if Allah loves those who work hard, whenever we feel the urge to be lazy we should try to overcome this for the love of Allah, even if the task at hand is unglamorous.
Another tip is to always keep ourselves busy; when we are freed from one task, there is always something else we could be working on; it could be learning more about the deen (religion) or starting early on another project. For Allah states:
Did We not relieve your heart for you [Prophet], and remove the burden that weighed so heavily on your back, and raise your reputation high? So truly where there is hardship there is also ease; truly where there is hardship there is also ease. The moment you are freed [of one task] work on, and turn to your Lord for everything. (Ash-Sharh: 94)
Once our intention is sincere and we follow it up with consistent action, trusting in Allah, success is guaranteed inshAllah. Allah says: “But We shall be sure to guide to Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause: God is with those who do good” (Al- Ankaboot: 69).
Of course we should reserve periods of time for rest and enjoyment but we must never forget our responsibilities. Whenever we are feeling lazy, whenever we feel we want to put something off till the last minute; it may be our prayers or a piece of work, lets exert ourselves even more, solely for the pleasure of Allah and usually we find the task is not as arduous as perceived inshAllah.
All good is from Allah and anything wrong is from myself.