Multitasking for (Islamic) Productivity

multitaskingMultitasking; doing multiple tasks at one time, is a rather new concept and that which can be a blessing or a curse depending upon the way it is approached. Since time is one of the biggest scarce resources of this era and productivity is one of the biggest demands, multitasking is an obvious solution. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) warned us about the importance of time by saying;

Narrated by Ibn Abbas:
The Prophet said, ‘There are two blessings which many people lose: Health and free time for doing good”
[Al- Bukhari 76:421]

This hadith is basically saying that time is of the utmost importance in the life of a believer and that it should not be wasted at all. Today, a majority of the Muslims follow the idea of multitasking but unfortunately they follow the wrong approach. What do I mean by the wrong or the non-productive approach? Here is an example.

A person stands to pray the Maghrib Salah behind the Imam. The Imam is reciting the Quran and all the followers are listening. But this person is also thinking about what he is going to after salah and he is looking at his wristwatch and scratching his head repeatedly, In fact, this person is multitasking during salah. But this is the non productive and, in fact, wrong approach of multitasking. Multitasking should result in more productivity, not eat up the productivity (rewards) you were gaining. By constantly diverting his mind and body from prayer during the prayer, the person is losing on the rewards that Allah had decreed for him. Allah says in the Quran:

“Be ever mindful of prayers, and of praying in the most excellent way; and stand before Allah in devout obedience.” Surah Baqarah 238

Now consider this example of the right kind of multitasking. A person goes to gym and knows that he would be spending an hour lifting weights so he takes along his ipod that is full of Islamic lectures and Quran recitations. He starts working out, starts an Islamic lecture in the ipod and starts gaining best of the both worlds; good health and good Eman. By the time he is done with the exercise, his knowledge, understanding and eman have increased. He was practically working out with the scholars, the sheikhs or the imams on his side (Just imagine, going on a 2 mile run with Imam-e-Kaba). This is an example of a beautiful and productive multitasking on behalf of a believer.

Another example of productive multitasking can be seen during driving. If you find yourself traveling a lot, you could benefit from the time and resources you have during your travel. If you are the driver, you could listen to Islamic audios or recite the Quran yourself or do something else that would not divert attention from the road. If some one else is driving for you (like in a bus, train, plane) you could read a beneficial book, do zikr or use that time to make dua for other believers. Why did I specifically mention dua? Because we know form the hadith that dua of a traveler has more chance of being accepted.

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said; Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveler. [al-Bayhaqi, at-Tirmidhi – Sahih]

So how do we differentiate between productive multitasking and non-productive multitasking? There are a few points we should remember when we decide to multitask or not multitask any of our deeds.

When to Multitask?

  • Multitask if there is no verse or hadith prohibiting any multitasking. For example, there are ahadith that prohibit moving unnecessarily or doing non-prayer-related actions during the Salah. Therefore Multitasking during prayer (for example, eating during salah) is not allowed.
  • Multitask if doing more actions at one time will not divert you from the main action that you were doing. For example, you should multitask by listening to audio or doing zikr while driving only if you know that doing so wont divert you from your main action; driving.
  • Multitask if more productive gains are anticipated. After all, there is no point to multitasking if you cannot achieve more productivity (more rewards). For example, if you are attending an Islamic lecture and reading a book at the same time, you are not really gaining the optimum productivity level at either of the actions that you are involved into and therefore multitasking is not advised.

Multi-Intentional Deeds

The above examples and discussion showed that deeds could be multitasked to improve productivity in rewards gaining. But in Islam we know that the proper intention is also a reward worthy action by itself, so can we apply the concept of multitasking to intentions? Kind of like saying, Multi-intentional deed?

Lets explore multi-intentional deeds by an example.

Ahmed wants to do an optional fast and picks Friday for that purpose. But then you come up to Ahmed and tell him that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays and therefore it is Sunnah to fast on those days. Ahmed decides to fast on Thursday with the intention of following the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) example. This way Ahmed has multiple intentions both of which are reward worthy; he is fasting to please Allah Subhano Watalah and has picked Thursday because of the Prophets’ (Peace be upon him) example.

One extremely important point for multiple intentions is that all the intentions must be made in order to please Allah Subhano Watalah. That is, Ahmed should not have the intention of fasting on Thursday to show off to people that he is a righteous person who follows the example of the Prophet. But, his intention should be solely for the sake of pleasing Allah. So, basically his multiple intentions should not violate the two golden rules of any deeds acceptance.

  1. The deed must be done purely for the sake of Allah
  2. The deed must be done exactly as per the example or guidance of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)

Any multitasking or multiple intentions or any deed in general, whether big or small, should not violate these golden and extremely critical rules.

If anything I have said in this article is wrong or shortsighted then I ask Allah to forgive me and correct it for me. If there is any benefit in this, then that is purely from Allah. May Allah accept our good deeds and forgive our bad ones.

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