Productivity

Ibn al-Haytham and the productive usage of time when stuck at home

Ibn al-Haytham and the productive usage of time when stuck at home

With the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe, the idea of being stuck at home for weeks is becoming a reality for many people. This may prove challenging for those who are accustomed to spending most of their time in public. They may find it difficult to remain calm, focused and productive while working from home during a pandemic. To assist in dealing with this, let’s look at a case study from the past in which greatness was achieved while someone was stuck at home. That person was the great scientist al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham.

Short Biography

Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) was a famous Muslim scholar who contributed greatly to the fields of optics, astronomy, mathematics, meteorology, visual perception and the scientific method. He was born in 965 CE during the Islamic Golden Age in Iraq. He received an excellent education under the scholars of Baghdad and become a famous scientist at a very young age.

The Incident

As his fame grew, Ibn Al-Haytham found himself invited to lead various projects. The Fatimid King of Egypt at that time, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, invited him to Egypt to build a dam across the River Nile. Upon reviewing the plans, Ibn al-Haytham realized it was not feasible and the technology to complete the project did not exist yet. The king was not happy with Ibn al-Haytham’s conclusion and placed him under house arrest for ten years. (There is a difference of opinion on exactly what occurred between the king and Ibn al-Haytham)

The Discovery

Ibn al-Haytham did not waste these ten years at all. He spent his time reading, researching, experimenting, and journalling as he explored various scientific concepts. Finally, he had a breakthrough. Ibn al-Haytham made one of the most important discoveries related to optics during this period. Based on that discovery, he wrote his Book Of Optics which became the most influential book in that field. This discovery by Ibn al-Haytham helped people understand how eyes function. It also helped him develop an early model of the camera. His discovery led the way for the eventual invention of eyeglasses. Finally, during this process, he developed the scientific method which is still used today. All of this was accomplished while under house arrest.

The Lesson

It is highly unlikely that any of us will have to face something as severe as ten years of house arrest. Yet it is very likely we may face a few weeks of being stuck at home at some point in our lives or another. Ibn al-Haytham’s example teaches us the importance of not wasting time when stuck at home. It is possible to remain productive and beneficial to the rest of the world even when you are confined to the four walls of your house. This is even easier today with the existence of technology and the internet. Through this story, we learn never to waste time or blame our circumstances for our own lack of productivity. No matter what situation a person is in, it is almost always possible to find a way to use your time wisely and maximize the benefit from that time.

How to maximize benefit from time at home

If you ever find yourself stuck at home and unable to find ways to use your time productively, try the following:
1. Read some books
2. Study some online courses
3. Write a book or journal
4. Engage in extra acts of worship
5. Spend time in contemplation and reflection
6. Spend quality time with your family
7. Work on those ideas that you have been holding back because you were too busy

Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6049)

During this health scare, let us waste neither and maximize the usage of our time.

To learn more productivity lessons from the heroes of Islamic History, join our Muslim Golden Ages Online Course or read my latest book Productivity Principles of Umar II.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 2 comments
How Having Fun Affects Productivity

How Having Fun Affects Productivity

Is having fun a good or bad thing? This is a question I struggled with during my youth. Over the years, I have met many people who ignore their own need for fun because they see it as a distraction from work or worship. But is it really a distraction? Isn’t there a way to have fun and remain productive? When trying to improve our productivity, we sometimes forget that we need to live a well-rounded life. We get so caught up in one aspect of our lives or another that we neglect others. When this happens, having fun is often the first victim. (The next is family but that’s a topic for another article)

You may be wondering what fun has to do with productivity. Is it really necessary to have fun? Shouldn’t every hour of the day be used for work and worship? Isn’t that what productivity is all about? Well no, not really. Productivity is about doing your best work, not overworking yourself to death. The truth is that every human (except perhaps the exceptionally pious) needs to have fun in order to recharge, relax, and perform at their best. In this article, we will discuss three topics related to having fun; the Fiqh ruling on Having Fun, the psychological benefits of Halal fun, and how to have fun in a way that keeps us productive.

Having Fun The Halal Way

The first book I ever wrote, all the way back in 2009, was titled Having Fun The Halal Way: Entertainment in Islam. I wrote this book because at that time I was struggling with understanding the role of fun in Islam. I was studying Islam back then under an ultra-conservative set of teachers who considered all forms of fun Haram and a waste of time. I was struggling to stay productive without any fun in my life, and it began to affect my mood, my happiness, and my health. In my frustration, I began researching what Islam really had to say about having fun, and this book was the result of my research.

To summarize the core message of the book; everything is permissible unless proven prohibited. This includes the majority of recreational activities. Recreational activities only become prohibited if they are directly mentioned in the Quran or Hadith, contain prohibited elements, or distract one from one’s duties. Beyond this, there is no harm in enjoying the good things of this world. In fact, Allah created good things for the enjoyment of the believers, as stated in the Quran.

Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of [from] Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good things of provision? Say: They are for those who believe during worldly life [but] exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection. Thus do We detail the verses for a people who know. Say: My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.

Qur’an 7: 32-33

This verse is very clear. The good things in the world were created for our enjoyment. Therefore, a believer should not experience any guilt, nor be shamed, for enjoying some halal entertainment in moderation. This is what Islam teaches about having fun, its a simple practical and balanced approach to the topic that ties in with the psychological and productivity perspectives on the topic. Although, it has been a decade since I wrote the book, and many of my opinions have changed on specific issues in the book. The general message remains the same; the majority of recreational acts are permissible in moderation. Moderation really is the key, especially when it comes to productivity.

The Psychology of Having Fun

Having fun in moderation is very beneficial, both physically and mentally. Some of the benefits of having fun include reduction of stress, the release of Serotonin, and improved concentration, performance and memory. The health benefits of having fun also include an increase in positive thoughts and better sleep. The three key points I want to focus on here are the release of Serotonin, improved concentration, and improved performance.

Serotonin is a very important chemical in the bodies. It is sometimes called “the happy chemical” because it is a primary source of human happiness. Serotonin affects our mood, sleep, energy levels, productivity, and overall happiness. Doing activities that release Serotonin is crucial for remaining productive and mentally well. This includes doing work that matters, exercising, eating healthy and having fun. As Serotonin is necessary for productivity, this makes having fun necessary for remaining productive too.

The link between fun and concentration is very important. When a person has difficulty concentrating at work or studies, the first reaction tends to be to try harder which can lead to further difficulty and may even cause a headache. Try this instead. Take a five-minute break and do something fun for just five minutes. You will find an immediate spike in your concentration level when you do so. The key is to balance your work with moderate fun sessions to keep your concentration high all day long. I prefer to work in 45-to-90-minute intensive sessions followed by a short break doing something fun in order to recharge. This helps me maintain high levels of concentration throughout the day.

Just as fun is necessary for boosting concentration, it also assists in improving overall performance at a task. This can occur in two ways; by having fun before a difficult task or by finding a way to make the task fun. When we take time to relax and enjoy some Halal fun before doing a difficult task, we increase our chances of performing optimally. Alternatively, if we can find ways to make tasks more fun, this also increases our performance. I use this method with my daily writing. A lot of people find writing strenuous and difficult. However, I enjoy writing, and one of the reasons why is that I set up my writing hour is a way that makes it fun and exciting. I look forward to writing every day because I get as much joy out of it as I do when I am relaxing. This allows me to write more productively and to produce higher quality work. Take a task that you find difficult and find a way to make it more fun, this will increase both your concentration and overall performance at that task.

Having Fun The Productive Way

There is a fine line to walk here though. For many people, having fun is the main obstacle between them and productivity. Addiction and wasting time in entertainment often results in having less time for doing great work. The key here is to find balance. Balance doesn’t mean equal time for both, but rather the right amount of time for both. Self-discipline is necessary for turning fun from a distraction into a productivity tool.

The main step is to schedule your fun for specific times of the day and to stick to those times. If you plan to have a five-minute break, stick to five-minutes. My schedule generally includes the following times for fun; five minutes every hour, half an hour after lunch, two hours in the evening. Altogether, that equals less than three hours a day which is a very small portion of the day and doesn’t impact my work negatively. Instead, it keeps me productive, healthy and performing optimally throughout the day. Additionally, I take a day off every week to spend time with family, and at least one week of vacation every year. The goal in both cases is to recharge so that I can work optimally. When we approach having fun in this manner, it becomes a crucial productivity tool, rather than an obstacle to productivity.

There are several other steps for turning fun time into a productivity tool. This includes selecting hobbies that are mentally stimulating and beneficial. It also includes avoiding immoral forms of entertainment, avoiding things we find addictive, sticking to our times and schedule, and knowing when to get back to work. When we approach the concept of having fun from this angle, it becomes a tool of productivity and does not become an obstacle. The key is self-discipline. If you can be disciplined about the usage of your time, then having fun becomes an important part of your productive daily routine and you will feel no guilt in having halal fun.

Summary

In this article, we learned that the majority of recreational activities are halal and a believer shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying some halal fun as part of a balanced day. There are several health benefits to including fun in your day. These include better sleep, higher levels of concentration and performance, reduction of stress, the release of serotonin, and improved memory. When scheduled around work and moderated, recreational activities become productivity boosters aiding us in achieving peak performance. Self-discipline and scheduling are necessary for keeping our fun time productive and beneficial.

Want to learn more Productivity Principles? Check out my latest book which covers fifteen Productivity Principles, exploring each of them in detail.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 3 comments

Shūrā as a Productivity Principle

This is an extract from my latest book Productivity Principles of ʿUmar II. You can learn more about the book here.

The Shūrā Committee of ʿUmar II

When ʿUmar II was governor of Medina, he surrounded himself with a panel of pious and experienced consultants. When he became king, he maintained this system, and once again put together a team of experts to consult with on every major decision.

The practice of consulting experts has always been a recommended practice for Muslims. In the Quran, there is an entire chapter titled the Chapter of Shūrā (Consultation) which includes the verse, “And their affairs are decided through consultation among themselves,”[1]

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “If your brother requests your consultation, let him give counsel.”[2] It was also the practice of the Rightly Guided Caliphs to have a committee of consultants to discuss all important issues. In Islam, such committees are called shūrā committees and are very important for success in any project.

ʿUmar II wanted to emulate the leadership style of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Based on their example, he set up shūrā committees to consult whenever he was in a position of power. He first established such a committee when he was governor of Medina. His committee at that time included ten of Medina’s leading scholars. This included ʿUrwa b. al-Zubayr, ʿUbaydullāh b. ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUtbah, Abū Bakr b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, and many other leading scholars from the second and third generation of Muslims.[3]

This council was given several tasks, which included giving ʿUmar their opinion on any action he planned to take, informing him of any misconduct in his region, and advising him on matters of policy. Based on the advice of this council, he made several improvements to the social structure of Medina. This resulted in a large number of people migrating to Medina during his short reign.[4]

When he was appointed caliph of the Muslim world, ʿUmar again set in place a shūrā council to guide his decisions. This committee included leading scholars from across the Muslim world including Sālim b. ʿAbdullāh, Muhammad al-Qurṭubī, Rajāʾ b. Ḥaywa and Yazīd b. al-Muhallab.[5]

Surrounded by such exemplary individuals, and in contact with various others throughout the Muslim Empire via letters, ʿUmar’s policies and decisions were guided by sincere advice, experience, and piety. This led to some of the most important decisions that shaped the history of the Muslim world.

Because of the wise and righteous advice of these consultants, ʿUmar II was able to set up various long-term projects that benefited the Muslim community for centuries.

Some of the decisions that resulted from consultation include the removal of various unjust taxes, increasing the salaries of religious scholars, sending scholars to teach Islam to the newly conquered regions, and the compilation of hadith into books. Each of these decisions played an important role in improving the lives of the Muslim community.

ʿUmar II’s High Regard for Consultation

ʿUmar II once said, “Nobody is entitled to be a judge unless he has five qualities. He must be chaste, gentle and patient, knowledgeable of the past, accustomed to seeking the consultation of others, and indifferent to criticism from others.”[6]

Among the five most crucial qualities of a judge, ʿUmar II included seeking consultation. A judge cannot always rely on his own opinion or view of a matter, and neither can he always trust his own ability to remain unbiased. A just judge will seek the opinion of righteous experts before making a decision.

ʿUmar II advised his governors, judges, and contemporary scholars to seek consultation on every important issue.

He once wrote to ʿUrwah a letter in which he mentioned, “You have written to me asking about the practice of issuing legal rulings and settling people’s dispute. That heart of the judicial practice is adherence to what you find in the Book of God, the issuing of rulings based on the example set by the Messenger of God as well as the judgments handed down by the Rightly-Guided leaders, and consultation with the learned whose points of view can be trusted.”[7]

In these two quotations, we can see the high status ʿUmar II gave to consultation. He considered it among the most important sources of decision making, policy making, deduction of laws, and application of principles. He would not make any major decisions without consulting experts on the topic, and he advised others to do the same.

Consultation is one of those principles that ʿUmar both practiced and preached, and it is one of the most important principles that led to his success in various fields.

The Benefits of Consultation

There are many benefits of seeking the counsel of experts. Ahmad al-Raysuni, in his book al-Shūrā, lists ten major benefits of consultation.

These are:

  1. Choosing the most correct opinion
  2. Protecting the decision from bias and desire
  3. Preventing tyranny
  4. Promoting humility
  5. Giving people their due
  6. Promoting an atmosphere of freedom
  7. Improving one’s thinking and planning capabilities
  8. Building support structures
  9. Promoting unity and goodwill
  10. Increasing the ability to deal with unwanted consequences.[8]

Each of these is important for achieving maximum productivity from one’s goals. When we consult others, we increase the chance of arriving at the correct opinion and therefore increase our chances of succeeding at our goals.

Sometimes when we make decisions on our own, these decisions are clouded by bias or desire. Seeking the counsel of someone unbiased helps us see past these distortions and helps us arrive at a better conclusion. In doing so, we also protect ourselves and others from any unintentional tyranny that our biased opinions may cause.

It takes humility to seek the counsel of others. This makes consultation an act that strengthens humility and reduces arrogance. This increases the chance of success, as humble people are far more likely to excel than the arrogant.

Consultation with specialists actively demonstrates appreciation and respect for the experts. This is a way of giving people their dues, promoting an atmosphere of freedom and discussion, as well as promoting unity and goodwill among people.

The more we discuss our ideas with others, our thinking and planning capabilities grow accordingly. Each discussion teaches us a new way of looking at things and refines our thinking process.

Finally, consultation is a team task. When you consult others, they become invested in your outcome, which gives you a stronger support structure and an increased ability to deal with any obstacles or problems that may arise.

These are just ten benefits of consultation.

To continue reading this chapter, and to access the full eBook, hit the ‘Get It Now’ button and follow the instructions that pop up:

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[1] Quran 42:38

[2] Ibn Mājah 3747

[3] As-Sallabi, ʿUmar Bin ʿAbd al- ʿAzīz, pp. 77-78

[4] Ibid. pp. 78-81

[5] Ibid. pp. 115-118

[6] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, vol. 15, p. 50

[7] Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm, vol. 2, p. 30

[8] Al-Raysuni, al-Shura, pp.24-40

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments
4 Reasons Why I Love Mondays

4 Reasons Why I Love Mondays

I look forward to Mondays. I know that may seem strange and contrary to popular opinion, but I really do love Mondays. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy spending weekends with my family, relaxing and having fun. But at the same time, I often find myself planning my week, thinking up work ideas and gaining excitement to get back to work on Monday.

Why? Well here are a few reasons. Who knows. Maybe, by the end of this, I will convince you to love Mondays too.

1. Mondays are Productive

Mondays are often when I am at my peak creatively. Having rested and enjoyed the weekend, my mind is refreshed, recharged and full of ideas. My mind can’t wait to get started with work. As a result, I get a lot of work done on Mondays, and these tasks end up being of exceptionally high quality. So that is the first reason that I look forward to Mondays. By spending the weekend, resting and recharging, I am recharged and ready to do my best on Monday morning.

2. It sets the tone for the rest of the week

Getting into a state of flow can be tricky, but once you are in it, you can get a lot done in record time. That state of flow can then continue to flow into the next day and the day after. When people begrudgingly start work on Monday in a state of anger, it may take a few days to get into a state of flow. They may only enter this state by Wednesday or Thursday and as a result half the week is lost, every single week. That’s half the year wasting being in the wrong state of mind.

But if someone starts their Monday with excitement and enthusiasm, they can enter a state of flow on Monday. This can then flow throughout the entire week, causing them to be productive every single day until the weekend. Setting the tone for the rest of the week begins with getting high-quality work done on Monday. Do that, and the rest of the week will build upon it.

3. I am grateful for having sources of income

I am grateful that my Creator has blessed me with multiple streams of income. As an expression of that gratitude, I approach my work-week with excitement, love, and happiness. I am happy to work because I appreciate having work to do. I love Mondays because a busy Monday means I am generating income. And I am excited at the possibilities that the week can bring if I begin it in a state of happiness, love, excitement, and gratitude.

4. I love my work

I enjoy the work I do. I love teaching, writing, coaching, counseling and managing people. Every source of income that I have is based on something I genuinely enjoy doing. As a result, I look forward to work, and I am excited to get started every Monday. This makes all the difference in the world. When you love your work, you look forward to work-days. This, in turn, produces high-quality work and opens the doors to even better opportunities. When you find work that you love, you have to love Mondays because you spend it doing something you love.

Conclusion

These are four of the many reasons why I love Mondays. Mondays are productive. They set the tone for the rest of the week. I am grateful to have work to do, and I love my work. These reasons are enough to look forward to Mondays.

If you look forward to Mondays too, post a comment explaining why. If you don’t, I hope this article will inspire you to find a reason to love it.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments
How to spot a celebrity Muslim Con Artist

How to spot a celebrity Muslim Con Artist

In light of recent events which I won’t mention (Cough* insta-celebrity fraud, theft, lying *Cough) here are a few simple rules for being able to spot the fake celebrities who plague our social media sites.

1. All the cringy happy pics

If your favorite Instagramer/Tweeter/Facebooker/YouTuber is posting all kinds of ‘my life is so happy’ pictures and videos. And shows no signs of real human emotion, tests, and feelings, then they probably lying about how happy and perfect their lives really are. Real people have good days and bad days, struggles and victories, and don’t feel the need to prove the world how happy they are on social media all the time.

2. They get too personal

Islam teaches us to keep certain aspects of our lives private. In the age of social media, we just don’t seem to get that. So let me spell it out in plain simple English: “Don’t post overly personal and private pictures and videos all over the internet.” and don’t follow the accounts of people who do. Stick to that which is beneficial, and you will be safe.

3. They ask for money…often and never show where it goes

There are genuine social media accounts that raise funds for great causes. No doubt about it. These accounts and transparent and will show you exactly where your money is going. Then there are random Insta-couples asking for donations for ‘charity’. That’s a red flag. Never give money to anyone who can’t show you where the money is going.

4. They are obsessed with being liked

Riya – the Hidden Shirk. Showing off is a major sin and a minor Shirk. So if someone is obsessed with likes, followers and subscribers, and not so much with truth especially when it is not popular, then run away. They are not worth following.

5. They have no qualifications in what they do

Qualifications aren’t everything. Sometimes people become experts through experience and private study. But I doubt a young twenty-something has enough experience and private study to suddenly be an expert in whatever Islamic field he/she claims to be an expert in. Take your knowledge from qualified Islamic teachers, and not random ‘celebrity YouTubers’.

So that’s it, folks. Pretty straightforward. Stick to people of knowledge, avoid the glitz and glamour of unqualified social media stars, and don’t give money away to strangers. Do this and you won’t be conned by any fakers out there in shaa Allah.

If you benefited from this article and want to learn more, check out our full range of online courses here: https://courses.islamicselfhelp.com

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments