[Taken from a conversation with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus]
How do we find time for Dhikr as we get older and have children?
"I always like to set the frame properly when we get into discussions like these. I think this is a classic example of how practical our deen really is and how relevant our deen really is. As we say regularly, this whole notion that somehow Islam is not relevant to our daily lives is really, utterly ridiculous.
If you just think about the five daily prayers, which we're talking about routine, we're talking about wird (routine of dhikr), there is no greater wird than the five daily prayers.
Think about the skills that you get, the traits that you develop as a result of praying consistently for five times a day, every single day of your life. Think about how that will help you in every aspect of your life; maintaining a job, paying your bills, dealing with relationships and so forth and so on.
It's amazing how much practical guidance we have in the sunnah of our Prophet ﷺ, they relate to all of these matters. If we don't conceive of it as such, we have to first and foremost set the frame properly so that we can understand we don't necessarily need to go out and buy one of these self-help books or a book that is on the verge of being almost like pseudo spirituality and extract meanings from it and islamicize them. We have so many of them within our deen. So that's really like where I like to always start.
From there we just realize from the very beginning, routine is essential and there are so many different aspects of our deen that teach us the importance of routine, that teach us of the importance of how to relate to time, how to relate to the natural movements of the sun, of the moon.
Think about the month of Ramadan. How do we determined that it enters? It's the moon. Think about the five daily prayers, is how do we determine that? It is the sun. In traditional societies, and increasingly with artificial light, this is becoming more and more difficult. But people's lives were regulated with the movements of the sun, and naturally, because of their not being enough light, they would then calm down. They would be a little bit more stillness and so forth and so on.
We have such a vast, incredible reservoir of wisdom that we can benefit from and of the world. I think this really is the starting point for me, is to really appreciate that and understand this incredible reservoir that we have as believers.
And then we can start getting down to what are the specifics of what it is that we do and we don't do."
"The best of all actions are the most consistent, even if they are few."
Shaykh Yahya continues, "There's so many different things that we have to do in one day in the work schedules and the commutes and the family obligations, all these other things. It's overwhelming. And I think what's really important for us is to recognize, despite all of that, yes, absolutely. There are things that we can do. There are times that we can do certain things, but we have to get over thinking that it's all or nothing. Usually people are fully engaged or they're fully disengaged.
If we're going to talk about routine, we have to talk about characteristics of the nafs (the lower self). The nafs, either wants all of something or doesn't want anything to do with anything. It's very hard for the nafs when it wants something but it can't receive exactly what it is that it wants to do what it can.
That requires spiritual training. The famous Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ is "The best of all actions are the most consistent, even if they are few."
You would be surprised if you spent just a little bit of time, one minute when you wake up, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the evening, 5 minutes before you go to bed at night, 30 seconds when you first get into your car, and you pray your five daily prayers and maybe add a few things here and there, and increase that a little bit. On the day of Jummu'ah, and give Ramadan a little bit that more of an increase as well. You would have everything that you need in that small amount of time that I was mentioned. So not only sustain your faith, but to cause it to grow."
Can you tell us about the nafs?
Shaykh Yahya emphasizes, "The nafs hates routine.
Why is it more difficult for us to pray obligatory prayers as opposed to supererogatory prayers? If you know you have to pray one month of qada (missed) prayers how heavy that is, even if it's the same amount of what you would otherwise be praying as nafila (non-obligatory) prayers.
Why is it so much heavier on you? Because it's imposed upon you. You have to do it. Why is nafila so much lighter? Because it's not an imposition upon you.
So there is no conversation of routine without a in-depth understanding of the nafs. The nafs is like the hawa, it's volatile. It wants to do what it wants to do when it wants to do it, how it wants to do it. It doesn't like routine.
So this is another example of how we can approach the topics of routine in time management and all of these other things from our own unique perspective, which this is what's missing in a lot of these self-help books. This is what's missing in a lot of these modern books, a detailed knowledge of the ego, of the nafs, and the way that it works and how it relates to hawa and so forth and so on. So we have so much in our tradition. If I now start to fill in some of those details, I just mentioned a very short period of time throughout the day.
What is the greatest dhikr?
So let's just first establish, as we've already mentioned, that the greatest wird of all, the greatest routine we can establish of all is the routine of the five daily prayers.
And ideally, we will make our day revolve around the five daily prayers. The decisions we make when we take breaks, when we go on lunch, when we leave somewhere or go out somewhere, whether we are at work or with our family or whether we are alone, we want to make the decisions we make about when we leave, when we go, to the extent possible, revolve around the five day prayers.
A believer's internal clock should tick according to when it is that they need to pray for the sake of Allah ﷻ. So after that, that first minute, once you wake up in the morning, this is a minute of doing a few things.
Once you wake up in the morning, do these few things:
One, thanking Allah ﷻ, reciting the du'a (supplication) that our Prophet ﷺ taught us when you wake up.
Secondly, making intention to spend your entire day in the obedience of Allah ﷻ. Making your intention to avoid all wrong and to do every possible good action that you can do.
And then bringing to heart trust in Allah ﷻ to help you through everything that is that you're going to do that day.
And then if you have time, reciting the last verses of Surah Ale' Imran, which is the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.
That can take, if you add the verses it can be a little bit longer, one minute.
And then the only other thing that I forgot to mention are the the different prayers that you say, supplications when you do various things throughout the day. But that's happening so quickly you don't even need to a lot time for that because you're doing the thing. You just make the intention when you wear your clothes, when you leave the house, when you get into your car and so forth and so on.
Ten minutes in the morning, I would look at the Al-Adhkar by Imam an-Nawawi. Choose which you can recite from the Prophetic du'as of the morning in the evening.
Why did our Prophet ﷺ teach us to say these in the morning and in the evening? Precisely because he ﷺ realizes these are times that we can do consistent works in. There are narrations that indicate if you give a little bit of a day in the morning and in the evening to Allah ﷻ, he will suffice you what happens between them.
There are a number of hadith like this; praying in congregation, Fajr and in 'Isha, and the protection that comes from 'Isha until Fajr and then from Fajr until the next 'Isha. We have so many mechanisms like this in the Sharia.
If you don't want to choose them yourself from the Al-Adhkar by Imam an-Nawawi, you can recite a beautiful compilation like that of the Wird Latif of Imam al-Haddad, which will take you about 10 to 11 minutes once you get used to reciting it.
Then ten minutes in the evening you do those same supplications you did in the morning, you do them in the evening.
Five minutes before bed, this is where you do a few other things. This is a time of repentance. This is a time of reflecting upon your mortality. Death, you're going to return to Allah ﷻ. This is a time of muraqabah (bringing to mind that Allah ﷻ sees you) and muhasabah (taking yourself to account for everything that happened during the day.)
This is also a time to show gratitude to Allah ﷻ and list as many blessings as you can. All of that you can do in 5 minutes.
If you're consistent in these things, day in and day out, yes, there's a long list of other things that I could add, a wird of Qur'an, a wird of salawat on the Prophet ﷺ, but we want to start with something that everybody can do.
What if I'm really busy?
I don't care how busy you are. Someone told me one time they had 120 hour workweek. I don't know how that's even possible, but let's say that that actually was the case. Even that person can do this. What I just mentioned, everybody can do.
It's a starting point, and if you add to that, obviously you're going to be praying Salat ul-Jummu'ah, you're going to be giving Jummu'ah a little bit more time. And then you're doing what happens on a yearly basis, i.e. giving Ramadan. It's right, you'll be fine.
It's sufficient to return to Allah ﷻ safely. It will sustain your faith and even be a means to grow it. And then when you start adding to it, if you want to become beloved to Allah ﷻ that's something else. So always remember that Hadith Qudsi- 'And My servant will continue to do recommended acts, supererogatory acts.'
So if you want to become beloved to Allah ﷻ, you have to do a little bit more.
When we talk about doing more, it's in relation to our time. Allah ﷻ knows our circumstances. He knows how little blessing there is in time. He knows how hard it is for us just to have a career, just to maintain a family, and everything else that we need to do. Allah ﷻ knows all of this. So a little bit in our time, goes a long way.
One of the most amazing Hadith is the Hadith that our Prophet ﷺ said, "Whoever says when he enters into a souq, which is a marketplace"- Which think how this applies now. You could be saying this when you drive down the street, you could say this at the corner store that you go to, or the strip mall or wherever you go to buy your groceries, or whatever else. Online- it's a marketplace. You could say this du'a all over the place, which is a whole other nuance.
But our Prophet ﷺ said that “Whoever enters the marketplace and says
لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَهُوَ حَيٌّ لَا يَمُوتُ بِيَدِهِ الْخَيْرُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٍ
La ilaha illal lahu wahdahu la sharika lahu
lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu
yuhyee wa yumeetu
wa huwal hayyu la yamootu
bi yadi hil khair,
wa huwa ‘ala kulli shai’in qadeer
He will receive 1 million good deeds. Then will be removed from him 1 million bad deeds, and he will be raised 1 million degrees," all by just saying that blessed supplication.
So my point is, it's not about quantity. We live in a time where people think that quantity reigns over quality. No.
In those moments, the only prerequisite is to be present with Allah ﷻ and be consistent, and it will change your life, guaranteed.