Free Time

Allahumma Salli ala Muhammad, wa aali Muhammad.

Hasbunallahu ni'mal wakeel, ni'mul mawla wa ni'mun naseer (3:173 & 8:40). A'udhu billahi min al-Shaytan, al-la'een, al-rajim, Bismillah, al-Rahman, al-Rahim. Al-hamdulillah Rabbi 'l-alameen, wa as-salat wa assalam 'ala asharaf al-anbiya'i wa'l-mursalin, sayyidina wa mawlana Abil Qasim Muhammad, wa a'laa alihi, at-tayyibin, at-tahireen, al-ma'sumeen. Seeyu ma baqeeyat Allah al-A'dham. Ruhi wa arwahul a'lameen al-hulfida. Rabbi shahri sadri wa yassirli amri wa lul ukdatum millisaani yafkahu kawli (20:25-28).

Thank you for joining us. Today's topic, "Free time." We all want free time and when we get it, we don't know what to do with it. Free time is something that we are always after, trying to dream off and plan for. Whenever we get free time, we want to do things that we always wanted to do. But when we do get the free time, we see that a lot of people just get bored. They just don't know what to do with all the time that they have.

In fact, they get into trouble when they have free time. It has been shown in many places, wherever there's free time, people get in trouble; and that's what's happening nowadays. We have a lot of free time on our hand and a lot of people don't know what to do with it, how to utilize it. And as a believer, we need to find out what is the advice of Qur'an and Ahlul Bayt regarding free time. What is the meaning of it? Why do we have it? What is the purpose behind it?

So let me get into that, first of all, by speaking about it from the Qur'an itself. Allah, in Suraht ul-Inshirah, speaks about free time; He says to the Prophet in the last two Ayaat - Fa Idha Farughta Fansub Wa illah rabbika farghab (94:7). It says that when you are done, what your responsibility, when you get free time and you get free of your responsibility, then go forward to the next one, to the next responsibility, to the next obligation that you have.

In other words, Allah describes free time as the time between two obligations, two responsibilities. You have a responsibility that you're doing and when that is finished, a chore that you were doing, when that is finished, a task that you were doing and when that is finished; so you got free time, and this free time is just to get to the next obligation that you have.

This free time has certain ideas behind it and we need to see what is it? Because when you look at it, most of our time is dictated by responsibilities. Responsibilities towards ourselves, our family, obligation to our society, work, livelihood, other things that we need to accomplish just to live; and so the works of life dictate most of the time that we have and most of the things that we do, it occupies most of our time.

So now when we are able to get through that, when we are able to accomplish our tasks for the day. So what happens is that we will have a time when there is nothing dictating us, there's nothing telling us what to do; here this time where we can do whatever we want to do without being forced to do something, without being compelled to do something by some outer reason; this time is called free time; and we all want it, we all wish for it; here, we call it the weekend.

So when weekend comes, when free time comes, when we don't have any obligations or task or chores or other things that we have to do in our life, what do we do in those places?

So Allah, at first advises the Prophet; tells him that when you are free of your obligation, of any obligation, whether it is one, two, three, whatever you want to do; your prayers or some other obligation that you were doing, some other responsibility that you were doing, then you have a free time. Now, you go and try to choose another one.

Basically when you look at Islam, this free time has been described as a time between obligations and responsibilities.

Now, when we look at mankind, our progress, technological progress and whatever advancements we have made, you see that the main purpose of it was to save time from being spent in things that have to do with routine life.

We work, so advancements in technology reduce the time of work by making things efficient. We did chores; for example, man used to hunt for food; now he goes to the grocery store and buys the food and better yet, he can call Uber Eats or Door Dash. Either way, you save time. Technology is helping us to save time. For what? For more work? Of course not.

The reason that we have this time is so that we can save it as free time to do what we want to do; and this free time is where we can. This free time is precious. The reason it is precious is because other times we are doing for example, you go to work eight hours a day you're working, you're driving there; let's say that the whole work time takes 10 hours.

Other than that, you pray, it is wajib on you. You are a believer, so you pray. So that takes away time from your day. These are things that you're obligated to do. You have responsibility of doing. When you come back home, there's chores to do in the house, do your taxes or look over your bills, or take care of your accounts, or spend time with your wife and children or with your spouse, or meet your relatives, your friends; all of these take up time and they are occupying your time.

So now when you are done with that, then you have this free time, this free time that you have is where you can actually choose what to do without being compelled to do it.

This free time is the God giving time, that Allah is giving you, to practice your free will and choice the way you want to; and this is the beauty about it. When you look at it, you will see, it is this free time where we are able to practice or we are able to actually do our own thing.

When I get free time, I'm thinking, what shall I do? and I can do whatever I want to do; and this is very important, it's very important to know that and to to give importance to that, and to regard it as precious, because all the other time you're just being compelled to do something; and in this time, you can choose and you can practice free will at this moment and at the time that you have.

Some people have less of it, some people have more of it. But whatever you have, you are choosing what you want to do. This free time is God given. It is from Allah. He gives it to you just like He gave rizq to you. Just like all the other Allah's gifts and bounties, free time is a bounty and a gift Allah gives.

Let me read this from Imam Sajjad, alayhi assalam. Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, the book of his Duas, dua number 11; you can go there and check it out. Here, he speaks about free time. It's at the beginning of the dua as you read it, he tells Allah, "Fa in qadhartalana faraghan min shughulin" - "and if You ordain for us free time," meaning Allah, You wrote it in my destiny, You write it, You have written it down and decreed it and ordained it that I got this free time. So, this is a destiny that Allah has written for you so that you have free time.

And why is He giving us that? It's really important. But let me read this dua for you that Imam is saying, two lines, but it's important because he speaks about free time and I will get into that also. He says, what is this free time? He makes a dua to Allah that - Allah since You are giving me this free time and You are writing it for me in my destiny, that I'm going to get this free time so "faj alhu faraagha salaamatin." He says, make this free time, a time of safety. Make it safe for me. Don't make it harmful for me.

In other words, there is an underlying factor that whenever you have idle time, whenever you have free time, there's an underlying factor of harm, that you can drop into harm because when you are doing something then you don't have time to do something or to do mischief, to do wrong, to play around, to do games. You are doing something that's wajib that is obligatory and you're working or doing something; but once you get idle time, free time, that's when you have a tendency, people have a tendency to fall in difficulties.

We have hadith regarding this from Imam Ali, alayhi assalaam, who says that "free time, free time is dangerous because of the fact that a person who has free time can easily fall into following lusts and pleasures." And truly, this is where a person can become bad. Well, bad people when they face that; they say that "Idle time is the devil's workshop," that's what it is; when you're idle, that's when you are up to no good.

So free time, Imam is saying, underlining, there is harm in that. So the dua that Imam is making that "Allah make this time, a safe time for me," and then, he says that "a time where I do not have ill consequences or weariness that befalls me," meaning that this time shouldn't be such that I don't do anything in that time where something bad is going to happen to me.

And then two things he says. He says (one), so that the angels who write down the evil deeds can go back with an empty page. If I can get through this free time that you have ordained in such a way that the angels who have come down to write the evil deeds, if they can go back with an empty page and the angels who have come to write down the good deeds can go back happy, having written good deeds on that page, then Allah, that is a dua that I am seeking, that is what I am asking.

Truly, free time is dangerous, and we need to make dua to Allah, that Allah I have this free time now, help me, protect me, keep me safe from harm, keep me away from wrongdoing and keep me strong on good things. So two ways we can go when it comes to free time and dealing with free time.

Let me go forward and here, we understand this. There are two times in a person's life where he or she can see their true self. If you want to see your true self, they are two times in your life where you can see it. One is in difficult times, in hardship. When you go through difficult times, you can actually see who you are, what you are made up of, your true self. And the second time is when you are free; that's when you can see who you actually are, what you are made up of, what kind of character do you have?

Other times you cannot see that because you are doing what is routine, what is habitual, what you're supposed to do. It is in these times, where we see that your true self is clear and you can actually look at yourself and see who you really are, what you're about. So whenever Allah gives you free time, the first thing to note in that, is to look at yourself and see what am I doing in this? How do I deal with the free time?

And how do you deal with it? What you are doing is going to determine what kind of character do you have? Are you a good person or are you a bad person? Is your character righteous or is your character evil? And this is where one needs to find out what he does.

For most people, as is mentioned in the hadith, for most people, when free time comes or when they get idle time for themselves, all they are thinking about is fulfilling pleasures and lusts. In diminutive activities, frivolous activities that are just useless for them. They get into these things, for example, like watching sports. Now, sports is okay, there's nothing wrong with that, it's not haraam, but excessively and going crazy about these things, this is what's wrong when someone goes out of their way and goes crazy about sports and that's all they think about, then this is harmful. And most people you see when they get free time, they want to indulge themselves in these sorts of activities.

Islam is not against pleasure, in fact, pleasure is the reason for our existence. Allah wants to give us pleasure, but Islam is against the pleasure that becomes an obstacle for greater pleasure, for higher good. Islam is against those type of pleasures. We are meant to have great pleasures, Allah wants us to reach the height of pleasure. But if there is a pleasure, if there is a passion, if there is an activity that is preventing us from reaching there, then Islam stands against that and says, do not indulge in that.

You know why gambling is prohibited in Islam, is forbidden in Islam, reason why gambling is haram? It is an evil deed. The hadith regarding it are very strong in how ugly it is in its nature. And when you look at the reasons why it's haraam, one of the main reasons for it being forbidden is that when a person gambles on a sport or an activity, then he becomes so engrossed in it, that he loses the balance of knowing that I need to detach myself from this; he is connected and attached to that sport in such a way, why? Because his money is on the line. His money is on the line and you see that he now is someone who gets himself into that. He loses his intelligence, his ability.

Imam Ali says "lum yakkil man wallaha bill'ab". He says that a person cannot be intelligent who is crazy about sports. Someone who is crazy about sports is not an intelligent person. Truly because he is fixated on it, once he gambles, he's fixated on it. So Islam wants you to do these things to an extent where it is fruitful for you, it's helpful for you, not when it's harmful for you. And when it does become harmful, then most people indulge themselves in these sort of things.

So the way for us to understand what to indulge in, in those times, is to know that any pleasure that we are indulging in, and it's good to indulge in pleasure, but any pleasure that we are indulging in, make sure that it has two things: It doesn't prevent you from greater pleasures; and number two, it doesn't prevent you from lasting pleasures.

For example, if you do an activity where you're going to harm yourself from doing something that is long lasting, then this is really highly unintelligent for us to get ourselves involved in those type of things; for example, drugs.

If someone takes drugs and they hurt their long-lasting health and ability to do other things, then that pleasure wasn't pleasure; you wouldn't regard it as pleasure; you would regard that as very unintelligent and that's what Imam Ali meant, that whenever you involve yourself in activities like that and are crazy about it and go head over heels over it and are fixated to it, it is harmful for you.

So now, free time can be dangerous. Imam Sadiq, alayhi assalaam, a hadith from him, he says "if a person doesn't make use of free time with useful things, he will get involved in harmful things through boredom." Yes, if you don't know what you need to do in your free time and if you're not doing anything useful, you are going to be so bored that you indulge in harmful things; this is where the danger of free time comes in.

We have a lot of free time right now, and if we don't involve ourselves in things that are useful, that are helpful to us, that are building us up, then we end up doing what? We end up doing harmful things through boredom that is going to harm us and our character and our future.

An advice regarding spending time from Imam Musa Al Kadhim, alayhi assalam; he says when you have time on your hands, what should you do? He gives us four advice in regards to how to spend your time usefully whenever you have this time; look at it. He says "Ishtahiddu fi ayyakuna zamaanikum arba'a saa atin." He says, divide your time into four parts, meaning that, do four things and do them equally; I mean, go out there and do them equally as much as you can.

He says four things you should do and divide your time in. Number one, where should you spend your free time? He says "Li munajaati Allah" - You should spend your time with Allah.

People look for free time. Most people who pray and fast and read Qur'an, they always are looking and saying you know what? If I had the time to do this, I would really want to just take my time to pray. I really want to take my time to read Qur'an. I really want to. I wish I had time. They are always wishing for time. And when they do get time, then this should be the ideal occasion for us to do the things that we always wished for.

We couldn't do amaal because yesterday we had work. we couldn't do any of these things; if you are like one of those people, then this is the time for you to indulge in spending time with Allah, doing duas, whatever it is that you wished for. It is a time, the best time when Allah gives you that free time. So that's number one.

Number two: he says, the second place we should do is, spend time in regards to your livelihood, "Li Amril Ma'aash" for your livelihood. When you have time, spend it to do research, to find out, to grow, to educate yourself, to find another trade or build your trade or build your expertise in whatever field you are. Take time to do that.

When you have free time, for example, when you're at work, you always wish, "you know what, my colleague knows about this program and I don't. I wish I had the time to learn it." So this is the time right now, the occasion right now for you to go and educate yourself and to build yourself and to build your talents. This is the best time for you to do that instead of, for example, watching every useless reality show on Netflix; maybe it's time for us to go and do something to build ourselves so that when we do get back to work, we get back with new talents and skills, so that it will help us in our work and our livelihood. So that's number two.

Then Imam said that the third place you should spend your time in, is spending it with mu'min brothers, believing brothers, meaning in the masjid, wherever you have brothers with two qualities. He says, spend time with your brothers in faith who will tell your defects to you; number one, they are such brothers that they will tell you about your defect; they will not stop from saying it; they will say it to your face, "hey, listen, you have this problem here," that's the brother that you want to spend time with. That's One.

And number two, they will help you clean your inner self. If there's problems in you, if there's akhlaqi issues that you have, if there's ideological issues you have, then they will help you to cleanse yourself of it. If you have brothers like that, then spend your time with them. Go there, sit with them so you can learn something. You can be helped. This is another way you're building yourself.

And the fourth thing that the Imam mentioned; he says that the fourth place where you should spend your time is that "takhluna fi haal idh-dhaatikum fi ghayri muharram." He says that spend time doing the things that you enjoy, that Allah has made halal for you, enjoying what Allah has made halal for you. Yes, enjoyment. You should spend some time in enjoying also things that are halal for you, but divide the time. Not that, for example, someone is playing games all day long, all the time they're awake, they're playing games or doing Nintendo or just watching movies; this is harmful for us. This is really what makes us lose the precious bounty that Allah has given us. A precious bounty that Allah has given us, it makes us lose that.

So four places Imam Kadhim has said we should spend our time. First is with Allah and doing the things that we always wanted to do with Allah; talk to Him, make duas to Him, read a dua, worship, read Qur'an; whatever you wanted to do. Number one, with Allah.

Number two is about your livelihood and your work. Improve yourself, improve your skills when it comes to your work or other trades that you want to learn and you haven't learned.

Number three is to spend time with believers who will help you to build yourself, your character and your akhlaqh and your ideology and your Islam; spend time with them.

And the fourth thing is enjoying the things that have been made halal for you.

Free time, my friends, is a blessing from Allah. It is a blessing for us to really hone ourselves and fine tune ourselves to become better people and better beings; this is what we need to be doing and it is said that it is not good, Imam Ali said this, it is not good for a person to have time on his hand without any activity.

Really, free time is a blessing, but ruining that by not doing anything is harmful, and Imam Ali says, "do not be like that person, that you have free time and you have nothing planned for it." The idea behind it, as Allah says in this Ayat "wa idha farraghta fansab (94:7); when you are done with something, then plan for the next thing. This free time that you have is for you to get ready for your next stage.

When you get through one test in your life, then plan for the next test in your life. Use this free time that you have in between to get ready for the next stage. This is the best opportunity where a person has to make great leaps and bounds in helping himself. Free time, a blessing from Allah, use it wisely.

We have a lot of free time right now for all of us to take advantage of and use it. Month of Ramadhan is here and a lot of free time that we have. Most of you are not working. You are staying at home quarantined. So this is the time for you to now look at what needs to be done in your life, where you need to improve, make your plans and go forward. On one hand you have the time, on the other hand, it is the month of Ramadhan and Allah is helping you. So we end it over here. Thank you again.

Wa assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. Wa akhr ad-dawana anil hamdulillahi rabbil a'lameen. Please recite a Surah al-Fatiha for your marhumeen and the Shuhada of Islam.

Allahumma Salli ala Muhammad, wa aali Muhammad.