He was few minutes late for the meeting, but not so late as to be unacceptable. After the meeting was over, Adam went to his office. He had a lot of things to do: a report was due in two weeks, there was to be a presentation for a project he had just finished, a proposal for a new project, and a bunch of minor office tasks. However, he did not feel like doing any of them at the moment; moreover, they all could wait a few minutes. He was curious about the up-coming election, so he decided to read the news online. Then he felt the need to look up on the latest technology news. Without noticing, he spent nearly an hour reading the news.
Adam then felt compelled to start preparing his presentation. He was intelligent and the project was innovative; now was the time to prepare the best possible presentation. He outlined the presentation in his mind and started working on the first slide. He spent quite a bit of time on the first slide, but he could not get it right; every time he tried something, he saw that it was not perfect and started again from scratch. Finally, he exhausted his energy and motivation and decided that preparing the presentation for this project was too difficult and postponed working on it later that day.
He decided to move to the report task, but first he needed a break. It was around 1 p.m. and it was time for the noon prayer, but this was not urgent, he thought; he could do it later. He decided to take a break and check his emails. He quickly checked his three email accounts to see if he had any unread messages-there was a message in one of the accounts. It was from his high school friend asking how he was doing. He was busy right now, and decided that he did not have the time to answer; he signed out. Finally, he started writing something for the report. Even though he had planned to work on the report last week, he had not been able to do it, not because he did not have enough time, but because it had not been due and he decided that it could wait. He started working on the report, but he noticed that the software he was using to write the report was notifying him of a feature update. Because he did not feel like working on the report, he went ahead and downloaded the update. Installing it took some time. Even though it was completely unnecessary at that moment, he convinced himself that it was worthwhile, at least for the future.
He jotted down some notes for the report. While he was working on it, his friend from the next office came and asked him if he could join them to play basketball at the weekend. He told him that even though he would very much like to join them, he was very busy and had no time nowadays. The time for the noon prayer was nearly over. He hurried up and performed the obligatory part of the prayer quickly. As for the voluntary prayers, he had no time for them right now.
After the prayer he remembered that he still needed to write the proposal for next week. He was planning to work on it this week, but, because he had not worked on the report last week, he had to work on that now instead of the proposal.
Without having realized it, it was nearly 6 p.m. already. He was married, so he did not want to stay in the office. After all, he could work on the report at home, he thought. He went back home, had dinner with his wife; his wife mentioned that it had been a long time since they had seen a movie together and wondered if they could go and see one. He told his wife that even though he would very much like to, he was too busy this week; perhaps they could go next week. He remembered that he said the same thing last week; he had worked well last week so he would have time this week. He knew that he was not working very efficiently, and he was not able to do so, even though he wanted to. He condemned himself of being lazy and not a very good husband.
Weeks passed. Adam continued the same style of lethargic life; he was carrying out all his duties (his job, volunteering tasks, duties as a husband, etc.) at the bare minimum; he was neither satisfied nor completely unhappy. However, his wife was not happy with the whole process; every time she asked something from Adam, he would promise to do it later; however this would almost always be delayed indefinitely. Once at the weekend she asked Adam whether they could go out. Adam said that he was very busy; perhaps they could go out later that day or next week. This time, his wife told Adam that she no longer had confidence in him. He was shocked; he had not expected such a response. He tried to explain himself to his wife by saying that every promise he had made was with sincere intentions, but his wife did not believe even this explanation. He said he was sorry, but his wife did not accept his apology as this was the hundredth time he had apologized. Adam felt that the most important thing between a husband and a wife was trust; losing this meant losing everything. He felt terrible; he tried to explain everything, but nothing pleased his wife. He felt exhausted; he blamed his wife not being more understanding and left.
Adam spent hours thinking about what had gone wrong. Indeed, his wife was right; every time she asked for something, he would promise to do it and even though he was sincere in his promise, he would put it off indefinitely. He felt awful about the whole situation, but he was not able to rectify it. Then he thought about all the promises that he had made to God, almost all of which he had broken. Then, he shivered with the thought of “what if God also says that He does not trust me anymore?” And what if God told him that He had given Adam enough chances and that he had used them all up, that he had none left and therefore, there is no need for him to be alive any longer? That would be a horrible end indeed.
It was time for the afternoon prayer. After the prayer, he made the following supplication over and over again: “Should He not know what He created? And He is the Subtle, the Aware” (Mulk 67:14). Thus, he asked for help from the One Who is aware of everything, Who is the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful, and the All-Powerful.
This time, he was determined to solve the lethargy problem. First, he contemplated about what were the causes of being lethargic.
Indeed, Adam was very lethargic and there were many reasons for it. It was not that he wanted to be a lazy person; on the contrary, he wanted to succeed; he could be smart and successful when he put his energy into a task. However, he was very disorganized; because he did not assign tasks to different time slots, he could easily spend those times on tasks that seemed necessary but actually were unnecessary, such as spending long minutes or even hours reading the news, installing feature updates, etc. He was a perfectionist; he wanted to make the final product (report, presentation, etc.) perfect; this is a good habit to have. However, being a perfectionist made him overcritical of himself, and this dampened his desire to work. He procrastinated; procrastination made his tasks pile higher and deeper; delaying one task caused delays to others. The constant thought of piled-up tasks constantly preoccupied him and as a result he had no time to reply to his emails, no time for the optional prayers, no time for sports, no time for entertainment, and no time to read books, etc. However, had he set aside some time to do sports; however to support hard work he would have to have a healthier body and mind, he needed to set aside an hour for relaxation, and not spend long hours on the web surfing while thinking “I should not be doing this right now” at the back of his mind, yet at the same time he had to be able to relax and start the next day with a fresh mind.
To solve these problems, he would have to eliminate the causes; however, most importantly, he needed energy and determination. He had neither. Then, he remembered: “My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer” (Furqan 25:77). Indeed, he was too weak to depend on himself alone, but he had learned that if he depended on God he could be the most powerful person in the world. He remembered all the things he had read and learned... The importance of “In the Name of God,” the need to put his trust in God, the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a prayer for almost every occasion, that it is very important not to sleep at dawn, that one should perform their daily prayers as early as one can, that one should eat, sleep and talk less, and that eating much meant sleeping much, that our Prophet used to go to bed after the night prayer, the importance of lawful earning and legitimate food, that the work between two prayers is counted as worship, that he should not leave today’s task for tomorrow, that he should know the value of free time before he became too busy, and so on. He felt that he could not do all of these; but once again, he remembered the verse above. However, he did not know where to start. Then, he recited: “Should He not know what He created? And He is the Subtle, the Aware” (Mulk 67:14) and while making the prayer, he knew that God knew everything about him and that Adam had to extricate himself from this problem but he was not successful. He asked for help; he asked for solutions to all his problems, dilemmas, troubles and obstacles.
He thought of starting a new life-style tomorrow morning, but then he remembered that it was Satan who was whispering him to start “tomorrow”; he needed to put an end to this miserable life right now. He went back home; dinner was waiting. He thought “what a patient wife I have; we had a quarrel, yet she still prepared dinner for me.” The food was very good, but he did not eat much. First of all, he was not feeling well, but he also wanted to practice the “eat less” principle. When it was time for the night prayer, he immediately rushed to his prayer rug; he knew that if he does not pray now, he will delay it at least two hours. After the prayer, he went to bed.
He woke up early in the morning; he was able to wake up early because he had not slept with a full stomach, and he had gone to bed early. He made the supplication “All praise belongs to God; He gave me life after my death; we shall return to Him. There is no god but God. O God; increase my knowledge. Do not let me go astray after you have guided me to the straight path. Grant me mercy. Indeed You are the Bestower.” He thanked God for giving him another chance.
He performed the morning prayer and he thought about some of the wisdoms inherent in the morning prayer: By nature man is extremely weak, yet everything touches him, saddens and grieves him. Also, he is utterly lacking in power, yet the calamities and enemies that afflict him are extremely numerous. Also, he is extremely wanting, yet his needs are indeed many. Also, he is lazy and incapable, yet the responsibilities of life are most burdensome. Also, his humanity has connected him to the rest of the universe, yet the decline and disappearance of the things he loves and with which he is familiar continually pains him. Also, his reason shows him exalted aims and lasting fruits, yet his reach is short, his life brief, his power slight, and his patience little. Thus, it can be clearly understood how essential it is for a spirit in this state to have recourse to and present a petition to the Court of an All-Powerful One of Glory, an All-Compassionate All-Beauteous One at the time of prayer in the early morning through prayer and supplication, to seek success and help from Him; this is an essential support so that one can face the things that will happen to them in the coming day and bear the duties that will be loaded on them. He then sought refuge in God from laziness. He was feeling energetic, but still very deep in thoughts of all the things that had happened yesterday.
He felt very sleepy, but he resisted going to bed; in order to wake himself up, he took a shower. After the shower, he recited a few pages from the Qur'an. He was feeling very ashamed every moment he felt he was in the presence of God, but interestingly, he was also feeling very close to God.
After having a light breakfast, Adam left for the office. It was pretty early in the morning. When he arrived at work, he made a list of the things he needed to do. Then, he divided his day into five, according to the five daily prayers; he put the prayers down on his list first. He was determined to perform them as early as he could. Then, he arranged the other tasks between the prayers.
Now, it was the time to start the first task. It was a new project and it was always difficult to take the first step. He pushed himself to start the task, but he could not start. He was about to give up; then, he remembered the power and the treasures hidden inside “bismillah” (in the name of God).” He recited it and he also recited “O God, make it easy for me, not difficult. O God, finish it with a good and beneficial end.” Adam felt a little better; he recited the words a few more times. He was able to take the first step and the rest just followed.
When he tired of one task, he said “All Praise belongs to God, Alhamdulillah” for each task, and he moved onto the next with bismillah. But, after about two hours, he felt very tired. He was inclined to read the news, to relax; but he resisted. He asked himself “What purpose does reading the news serve right now? Relaxation? I don’t remember ever being relaxed after reading news. Being up to date about current events? Well, I'll do that towards the end of the day when my mind is more tired.” He then went outside to get some fresh air. After a 10-minute break, he returned and realized that he could complete one more task before the prayer. He started the task with bismillah and before he knew it, it was time for the prayer and the task had been complete.
Now it was time for the noon prayer. This was the moment he had been waiting for. Adam thought about some of the wisdom of the noon prayer: the time of noon prayer, just past midday is the time of the day's zenith and the start of its decline; the time when daily labors approach their achievement, the time of a short rest from the pressure of work, when the spirit needs a pause from the heedlessness and insensibility caused by toil, and a time when Divine bounties are manifest. Everyone can then understand how fine and agreeable, how necessary and appropriate it is to perform the midday prayer for the human spirit, as it is a means to be released from the pressure, to shake off the heedlessness, and leave behind those meaningless, transient things, clasping one’s hands at the Court of the True Bestower of Bounties, the Eternally Self-Subsistent One, offering praise and thanks for all His gifts, and seeking help from Him; through bowing one display one's impotence before His Glory and Tremendousness, and prostrates and proclaims one's wonder, love, and humility. He performed his prayer with great humility and submission. He was able to refresh himself with the prayer; he reminded himself of the source of the power and he reminded himself that the work between two prayers counted as a type of worship. While praying, Adam forgot all about work and his mind was rested. He made a supplication at the end of the prayer, thanking God for all the things He had given him and thanking Him for the work he had been able to complete in the morning; he also asked for help for the rest of the day and the rest of his life.
After the noon prayer, Adam continued his tasks that had not been finished in the morning. When he became tired, he took a book out of his bag and spent some time reading it as a break and then he returned back to work. When it was time for the final task on his list for that day, he remembered that the task was not due for another week, so he thought about delaying it. However, he remembered that he should not leave today’s tasks for tomorrow.
The day passed. It was a very productive day; he felt that time had expanded. Maybe, it had expanded because he had recited prayers in the morning, maybe it had expanded because he had not remained asleep at dawn, or perhaps there was some other reason. Whatever the reason was, it was a bounty from God and he thanked Him for it. Adam once again felt a great humility in front of God.
A few days passed like this. Adam would perform the night prayer on time and he would go to bed after the prayer, making supplications when he woke up; he would not sleep after the morning prayer, but rather recited supplications before he left for work. He was very happy throughout this time, but it was not easy. He felt that he did not have the same motivation or energy that he had had at the beginning. He was about to lapse again. He knew that to remain on this track would not be easy. From all his experience he knew that every time he made a resolution to adopt a new style of life, it would only last a few days. But, this time, Adam was more determined than ever. First of all, he was sick of being lethargic and all the results of this lethargy. It was destroying his life; his time was passing unused and he was not fulfilling his promises to his wife or those to God. He really wanted to put an end to all of this and he was successful for a few days. Adam was now afraid that he would revert to his former life-style. Then, he prayed: “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from You; for You are the Grantor of bounties without measure.”
He finally decided to talk to his wife about the situation. He explained things to her, he discussed the lethargy and that he had constantly been fighting it for so long, but that he had not been successful. It was the cause behind all the broken promises. But, this time, he was very determined; he was constantly praying and he was also looking for different sources of information to solve the problem. He also told his wife that solving this problem would not be easy and it was possible that he would revert to his old habits on occasion, more frequently in the beginning than towards the end. He asked for her help in the entire process; he asked for her encouragement and he asked her to support him lest he stumbled. His wife felt the great pain that her husband was experiencing and she also felt the great determination he had. Additionally, she had witnessed very positive changes within the last few days. She said she would always be with him. Adam also talked about the process that he was going through with his best friend and he asked for help from him as well.
Things got better with every passing day; he was stumbling every now and then, but the frequency of such events was decreasing. He was very happy about all the goodness that had emerged from the “good work and determination” and he was very grateful to God for this blessing.
Finally, this manner of life became the norm, and his earlier life-style now seemed quite unnatural. In fact, Adam started wondering why he had led such a life. He repented all those lost days and hours. He decided to help his friends who were struggling with the same problem.
He knew that merely relating his journey to his friends would not help them much. They needed to find the causes, they need to be determined, etc., but most importantly of all, they needed to take action. However, he also knew from experience that taking action and continuing it for a long time was the most difficult part and that his friends might be too weak to do so. Well, they were human beings and this is the way things are; they were meant to feel weak without the help of God, for what value is anything if we do not have prayer?
And, as a first step in helping his friends, Adam changed the tone of his prayers; the “me” was replaced with “us” and he felt his friends’ pain in his supplications. He then remembered “O you who believe! If you will help (the cause of) God, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly.” (Muhammad 47:7).