â€œOh my God. I am running late, again! Well, itâ€™s all good. No one is going to be there on time anyway.â€
How many times have you heard this and similar phrases in the Muslim community? Perhaps you are guilty of uttering them yourself as a habit.
Sadly, starting off late, arriving late, and delaying our programs has become a norm for many of us.
Itâ€™s gotten so bad that we no longer even feel guilty about arriving late to a class, function, meeting, Jumah prayer or appointment. Many donâ€™t even bother to apologize. We fail to realize how much time and resources of others we waste due to our own insensitivity and indifference.
I remember arriving at a wedding last summer about two hours late (due to a pre-planned legitimate reason), only to find over half the wedding hall full of non-Muslim guests still waiting for the bride and groom and their families to arrive. The most heartrending scene was of a group of non-Muslim friends laying on the ground asleep. It turned out they were out-of-town guests who had arrived a couple of hours prior to the â€œofficialâ€™ start time.
Of course the blame goes both to the organizers of the events and the attendees. Itâ€™s easy to criticize the organizers, but we have to do our part of making the program or meeting professional. It begins with arriving on time and respecting everyone elseâ€™s time.
As Muslims, every time we arrive late we lose respect in the sight of others. Imam al-Ghazali, in his commentary to a Hadith describing the characteristics of hypocrites, states that the trait â€œwhen he makes a promise, he never fufills itâ€ includes specially those who consistently say â€˜In-sha-Allahâ€™ and arrive late.
I know of a great contemporary Muslim scholar who, when he used to enter a conference, meeting, or dinner, the audience or members would match and reset their watches to the minute he was supposed to arrive at because he was reputed to be strict with time-management.
What can you and your family do and how can you prepare to arrive on time at any event:
- Get the directions to where you are going in advance. The common excuse for arriving late we often present is â€œgot lostâ€ or â€œI didnâ€™t have correct directions.â€
- Arrange your ride at least two days in advance. Call around and find out who can give you a ride. Always have a backup plan for rides. â€œI didnâ€™t get a rideâ€ is one excuse given, to which I ask: did you ask around early enough? Donâ€™t wait for others to offer you a ride.
- Start getting ready at least 30-45 min. before leaving home. Donâ€™t run into the shower, squeeze in three Rakâ€™at of Maghrib, or iron your clothes just three minutes before you are supposed to step out!
- Have a realistic estimate of travel time. If you know it takes 25 minutes to get to a place, you have to leave your home at least 35 minutes before arrival time.
- Consider weather and traffic conditions. Listen to the local news or watch the weather report before getting behind the wheel.
- The 10-minute Rule works! No matter what the occasion, always aim to get to the destination 10 minutes ahead of time. This allows you to accommodate any last-minute uncertainties: â€œOh, I forgot my wallet at home,â€ â€œâ€Man, I have to pick Brother x on the way,â€ â€œOops! I have to pray my â€˜Asr before I get toâ€¦.â€ etc.
- If it helps you, set your personal watch, cellphone or car time five minutes ahead.
- â€œWell itâ€™s a typical Muslim party or conference! There is no way they will start on time!â€ Well, guess what, if we ALL adopt this attitude, no one would ever arrive on time and let the program start on time. We have to change this thinking and make a point to arrive on time. Being people of principle, we must remain consistent in all circumstances.
- Be honest! Be honest to yourself and others. If you know you are going to be late to a party or Halaqa, clearly set that expectation with your host, coordinator or meeting leader. What does it take to drop a message or call to let the other person know that you will be 10 to 15 minutes late (whether itâ€™s due to expected or unexpected reasons).
- Donâ€™t succumb to the â€œIn-sha-Allah Syndrome.â€ Use In-sha-Allah only when you know you mean it.