Understanding what it means to live life to its fullest from an Islamic lens.
Diane Ackerman, a poet, essayist and naturalist, once said, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
Life has a plethora of unanswerable questions, and I have my fair share of questions on life- mainly the classic “How do we live life to its full potential?” Since an unconventionally early age, my mind has always revolved around different variations of this very question: “What am I doing with my life?”, “Am I living what is considered a well-lived life?”, “Am I happy with the way I’m living?”
I’ve also had this small part of my brain programmed to constantly remind me that my time, our time, on this planet is short, and that what we have is going to end. One of my favorite ayahs from the Quran is the reminder that Allah swt gives us: “Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as a trial; and to Us you will be returned.” (21:35). And that, to me, is the first step towards living our best life: capturing its essence and truly appreciating it, and working towards the kind of life that authors want to write about, the kind that filmmakers want to make movies about, the kind that other people aspire to live, and most importantly, the kind that makes Allah swt pleased and happy.
Think about yourself for a moment. Did you know that the odds of you being born were one in four trillion? That’s an unfathomably huge number! But here you are- a miracle. Knowing this unbelievable piece of statistic automatically motivates me to make something out of this life that has been given to me against all odds. Appreciate life by observing the marvelous creations of Allah, even the smallest of details- how every day when I look outside the window during sunset there are different shades of blue, orange, pink and purple painting the horizon, or how beautiful the view is when you wake up in the morning to see the ground covered in a blanket of pure, white, pristine snow on which beams of sunlight dance upon, or the sight of a wraith silver disc hanging in the pitch-black midnight sky turning the waters below into a melted platinum glow. Doesn’t that make you swell and sigh- all the beauty of this world and life? But guess what? All the beauty in this world is no more than a shadow, an image. It is like the shadow of an object compared with the blessings in Paradise. So once you start to appreciate life, and capture its essence and importance, it’s time to make the most of it.
Allah swt describes this life as a ‘brief passing enjoyment’- and the only way to make it long is to know how to use it wisely. Remember that there are only 1,440 minutes in a day. Time will not stop but it is a tool- it can be manipulated, shared, divided and saved.
If you understand that, you can map out a plan for using them wisely. Place the times of prayers as guild lines and sort out your daily schedule accordingly, because once you give yourself a goal and direction to head towards and tasks to complete, you’ll be more motivated to do it, and at the end of the day, satisfied to check off all the productive things you’ll have accomplished. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found myself coming back to reality after having spent hours on social media and other irrelevant activities that are in no way beneficial or will get me anywhere in life, and it is regretful moments like these that are my wakeup calls to change my lifestyle, one small step at a time.
Make the most of those 1,440 minutes of your day, and then work on making the most of your life. Have the drive and ambition to become a successful person that will one day create a positive impact towards society. Read about the lives of leaders like Nelson Mandela, philanthropists like Mother Theresa, businessmen like Bill Gates, the Prophets of Allah, the companions of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and how they’ve helped shaped our world into what it is today. Aspire to be like them. Extract all their good qualities and implement them into your life.
Create lasting memories that will last a lifetime, and my favorite way of doing this is by travelling and satisfying my wanderlust. I’ve seen the skyscrapers of Dubai, to the beauty of Masjid-Al-Nabawi in Madinah, to the intricate architecture of old churches in Munich, to the nightlife of Karachi- all which has given me experience, and knowledge, and exposure to the world, and a gist of the diversity of our life. And while my list of cities that I want to visit continues to grow, travelling is an act that can only be done a couple times a year, so a daily activity that I’ve adapted into my life is practicing at least 30 minutes of nawafil each day. In Surat Al-Sharh, Allah swt says, “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah, hearts are assured.” So, we should learn from this that in our free time, we should turn back to Allah swt to show our devotion and go the extra mile.
Now, there are things in life which you can choose to do, like appreciating it and making the best use of the 1,440 minutes given to you, however other things are in the hands of Allah and Allah only. In Surah Al Baqarah (2:15), Allah says ‘ And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” This indicates, that surely all believes will be faced with trials, but Allah also provides the following ayats: “Verily, after every difficulty, there is ease” (94:5) and “We do not burden any soul more than it can bear” (2:286). These ayahs of hope provide a sense of satisfaction and empowerment in our hearts to face every battle knowing that it has been given by Allah, and that we also have the innate ability to overcome it.
Hardship, trial and difficulty is something that is universally understood and there is hope and empowerment in all kinds of religions and teachings. Similar to the Quran, the Bible says “God can calm the storm in your life.” Psalm 107:29. Buddha once said, “Every experience, no matter how bad it may seem, holds within it, some kind of blessing. The goal is to find it.” How can we expect to appreciate the good times unless you’ve been faced with trials?
In the end, you have to put together all the elements to create the perfect mix of life because time is our greatest enemy, our biological clocks are ticking, and the sand in the hourglass has almost reached the bottom half. Finding the meaning of life is a journey, knowing how to use our time wisely is a skill we have to acquire, and we need to experience in order to appreciate. We should be thankful to have valuable resources around us like the Quran, and the Hadeeth that that the Prophet has left for us, and make our best efforts to implement the teachings of our religion into our life, and balance the equation of deen and dunya. Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in life. Most people just exist.” Currently, most of us are going through life, not growing through life.
Our 1,440 minutes are spent in a monotonous, blurry pattern, which down the road, when we look back to these days, all we will remember is waking up groggy-eyed after five hours of sleep, resentfully going to school or work, spending our days stressed out and complaining, using our free time trapped in our phones, and in the end, finding that we overlooked the small things in life that bring us happiness. I hope that we all use this as our wake up call to appreciate our daily 1,440 minutes, truly live those 1,440 minutes to their fullest, and have hope in Allah because every minute of those 1,440 that you spent dealing with trial and suffering will one day, God willing, be made up for with a thousand good ones.