A Life of Balance

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) established a bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu Darda’ (may Allah be pleased with them both).

Salman paid a visit to Abu ad-Darda’ and found Um Ad-Darda’ dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied, “Your brother, Abu Ad-Darda’ is not interested in the luxuries of this world.”

In the meantime Abu Ad-Darda’ came and prepared a meal for him (Salman), and said to him, “(Please) eat for I am fasting.” Salman said, “I am not going to eat unless you eat.”So Abu Ad-Darda’ ate.

When it was night, Abu Ad-Darda’ got up for the night prayer. Salman said to him, “Sleep,” and he slept. Again Abu- Ad-Darda’ got up for the prayer, and Salman said to him, “Sleep.” When it was the last part of the night, Salman said to him, “Get up now (for the prayer).”

So both of them offered their prayers and Salman said to Abu Ad-Darda’,”Your Lord has a right on you; and your soul has a right on you; and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who have a right on you).

Later on Abu Ad-Darda’ visited the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and mentioned that to him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), said, “Salman has spoken the truth.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Reflect on your priorities in life and make a detailed list. Take care not to confuse priorities with things that are merely claiming your attention with urgency because someone else imposes those things on you. Once you have identified your priorities in life–those things that you cannot neglect in either the short-term or the long-term–think about how you can best balance them.

Balance does not necessarily mean giving each priority equal time. Rather, it means that we give each priority what is due to it, and that we do so in the best manner possible. As such, each priority may require different amounts of time at different periods of your life in order to ensure that the balance in maintained.

If one falls ill, for instance, balance would mean spending more time on regaining health and less time on activities that may affect recovery–even if those other things are also within your priorities–such as earning an honest living. Paying less attention to recovery on the justification that work is also a priority could possibly lead to both work as well as health suffering in the long term.

As Muslims, our main priority is to prepare for our inevitable death and meeting with Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). This priority is addressed in multiple ways.

Islam does not endorse cutting one’s self off from society or the demands of modern living and simply performing ritual worship in seclusion. Rather, worship is anything that is undertaken for the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), including the specific rituals that He has prescribed for us.

However, Islam does warn us about not getting too engrossed in one thing at the expense of another.

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تُلۡهِكُمۡ أَمۡوَٲلُكُمۡ وَلَآ أَوۡلَـٰدُڪُمۡ عَن ذِڪۡرِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ وَمَن يَفۡعَلۡ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡخَـٰسِرُونَ (٩)

“O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that – then those are the losers.” [Qur’an; 63:9]

The rights of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) over us cannot be negotiated. We must be diligent and conscious of at least the obligatory deeds. With regard to obeying Allah, not even one’s parents have the authority to prevent such obedience. This is despite the high regard that Islam carries towards parents.

Being obedient to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) entails maintaining a balance because He expects us to take care of our bodies and relationships along with earning an honest living and being engaged in ritual worship.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asking how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) worshipped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, “Where are we from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as his past and future sins have been forgiven.”

Then one of them said, “I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.” The other said, “I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.” The third said, “I will keep away from the women and will not marry forever.”

Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to them and said, “Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers). [Bukhari]

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said, “I stand up to lead salah (prayer) with the intention of prolonging it. Then I hear the crying of an infant and I shorten the salah lest I should make it burdensome for his mother”. [Bukhari]

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: The news of my daily fasting and praying every night throughout the night reached the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). So he sent for me and I met him, and he said, “I have been informed that you fast everyday and pray every night (all the night). Fast (for some days) and give up fasting (for some days); pray and sleep, for your eyes have a right on you, and your body and your family (i.e. wife) have a right on you.” I replied, “I have more power than that (fasting).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Then fast like the fasts of (the Prophet) David”. I said, “How?” He replied, “He used to fast on alternate days, and he used not to flee on meeting the enemy.” I said, “From where can I get that chance?” (`Ata’ said, “I do not know how the expression of fasting daily throughout the life occurred.”) So, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) aid, twice, “Whoever fasts daily throughout his life is just as the one who does not fast at all.” [Bukhari]

With regard to interacting with people, we are required to treat everyone well in general. However, there may be situations where one is unable to help two parties at the same time. In such situations, the following order of importance and obligation may be useful to know.

Four Degrees of Relationships

Families are the building blocks of society. When families function well, society functions well. Likewise, the breakdown of families reverberates through society too. Every person in the family has mutual rights as well as obligations. Familial bonds are given high priority in Islam, and this is irrespective of individual religious beliefs. We see in the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that they would treat their kith and kin well and fulfill obligations even towards non-believing family members.

The basis for all family relationships in Islam is compassion and mercy. Maintaining balance within family life includes the financial and spiritual aspects.

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amir (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband’s house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man’s slave is a shepherd in charge of his master’s property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.” [Abu Dawud]

“The hand which gives is the upper hand. Start with those for whom you are responsible; your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, then the next closest, and the next closest.” [Sunan An-Nasa’i]

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq who used to provide for Mistah some financial aid because of his relation to him, said, “By Allah, I will never give anything (in charity) to Mistah after what he has said about Aisha.” Then Allah revealed, “And let not those among you who are good and are wealthy swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kins men….” [Quran; 24:22] On that, Abu Bakr said, “Yes, by Allah, I like that Allah should forgive me,” and then resumed giving Mistah the aid he used to give him and said, “By Allah! I will never withhold it from him.” [Bukhari]

“A man’s spending on his family is a deed of charity.” [Bukhari]

The financial aspect of family life is not only limited to financial obligations but also voluntary acts of kindness such as giving gifts.

On the spiritual side, it is part of good disposition towards others to have sincere concern for their life in the present world as well as in the Hereafter.

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَأَهۡلِيكُمۡ نَارً۬ا … (٦)

“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire…” [Qur’an; 66:6]

We cannot take direct responsibility for another’s safety and salvation, but we can encourage one another (with wisdom and compassion) to be educated and aware of beneficial knowledge with regard to this life as well as the hereafter and know the rights towards Allah, ourselves, and each other, and thereafter to encourage one another to act upon that knowledge through gentle reminders at appropriate times.