How I Am Achieving Work-Life Balance In 2019 As A Muslimah

Am I the only one who feels like 2018 just fffffff-lew?

It seems like it was just yesterday we were welcoming 2018 and scribbling down the goals we wanted to achieve for the year (I’ll skip the part where I ask you “Were you able to achieve any of them?…”..hehe). The next thing one could notice, 2019 calendars and diaries were out, silently but forcefully pushing 2018 out of the way. And Boom! here we are today; 2019. And oh yes, how can I can forget; please tell me you were not a part of 2019’s first guests to scribble 2018 instead of 2019 on that form (or whatever it was) you were filing at work. Please!!! (haha).

On a lighter note though, I honestly didn’t begin my 2018 really scribbling down goals I wanted to achieve, though I had an idea of what I wanted. I knew for instance that I wanted to be better at my ability to communicate properly, volunteer more, work to combat my lateness attitude, as well as work on my spiritual life.Truth be told, some of my goals were ambushed (yep, exactly ambushed) by circumstances I didn’t expect. A couple of them were able to make it through alive…and mehn!, there were some experiences I never dreamt of encountering. In retrospect however, 2018 opened me to a deeper understanding of a theory of living I had kept (and probably, you have too) on ‘autopilot’ for a long while.

Let me ask you though…after spending about close to three months grinding on that project at work, have you had time for a check-up? When was the last time you spent quality time with your family members; external and nuclear? How much energy have you left to take care of ‘You’ after you have worked your head off for others? How much help have you given yourself after your spending loads of hours cheering your friends up? Is it the case that you care more about your own needs than others? Communalist or Individualist?

Go on, there’s no right or wrong answer. They’re somewhat rhetorical questions for you to tadab’bur (reflect) on.

During the last few months of 2018, I fell extremely ill. Rushed to the hospital one early morning, I was diagnosed with three different illnesses (creepy!). I was rewarded with a bucketful of medication and advised to watch aggressively my eating habits(which I now do religiously…once bitten, twice shy you know). To top it all, I had developed a cavity in one of my molars, which earned me a date with the dentist for a ‘Deep Canal Root’ treatment (don’t worry, I can still give you a broad 32-teeth smile…hehe). But this is not the point.

Thing is, I had sensed the weird sensation in my tooth about three months earlier. There were times when my body was giving me silent signals that all was not well inside me. But I was too busy for the right reasons; busy volunteering to speak at events in Tamale and Accra most especially, or to help a group with a social project they were working on and needed some guidance. At home, I would stay indoors from morning reading for hours at the expense of food and time with my mother, friends and communal activities. I remember how my mother in particular would occasionally complain about how much I was putting myself out there and having very little time home and very little rest.

The problem, in hindsight, was not that I was giving and doing too much. The problem was that I was doing that all, the wrong way.

I’m positive you know of the famous narration of the Prophet(peace be upon him) in which he advised one of his close companions, Abdullah Ibn Amr when he heard he would fast everyday and stand in prayer all night. This is what our beloved Rasul said to him; Do not do that. Fast, as well as, eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as, sleep. This is because your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Our Rasul was teaching him the importance of Tawaz’zun…Balance.

Interestingly, this concept was so central in the living of the Prophet. Take for instance, when his companions would comment on the length of the sermons and prayer of the Prophet. Jabir ibn Samurah is reported to have said: “I was praying with the Messenger of Allah, (peace and blessings be upon him), and his prayer was of moderate length and his sermon was of moderate length.” There are also narrations from Nana Aisha (blessings of God be upon her) on how the Prophet had time for everything important; family, rest, exercise, fun, prayer and for spreading the message of Islam.

Tawaz’zun is key in the life of a Muslim. It’s about having a balanced lifestyle and remembering that the life of a Muslim goes beyond being absorbed in one section of life. For starters, you are broad and complex. You are made of a mind, body and soul. You can’t feed one at the expense of the others. The consequences will catch up with you sooner than you know it. The world around you is equally is broad, interconnected and complex. You live alone, but yet again, you don’t live alone. You were born into a family which is a subset of a bigger family tree, found in a community linked with other communities. Tawaz’zun is about the “Yin Yang” of life; being in equilibrium with your individual/personal obligations, and your family/communal/social obligations, as well as having equilibrium exist between your mind, body and soul.

That means having QUALITY time for yourself, for your loved ones, for your immediate close society, for Allah, for your friends, for your health, for work, for fun, for exercise, for reflection, for those who look up to you and need your help (and that is not all, really. It’s a loooong list). Not easy, right? Exactly.It’s tough to practice balance in today’s living realities. Circumstances, our passions, work, or society forces us to be either extremely A or B; to be extremely communalistic or extremely individualistic, or to be extremely materialistic at the expense of spirituality (or the reverse).  In simple terms, one must suffer at the expense of the other. But that’s where the concept of true struggle (Jihad) comes in; struggling to keep that balance in the midst of all life’s “pushes & pulls”. It’s what Allah expects us to be. Its who We are, as He tells us in Qur’an 2:143: Thus, We have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.

Alhamdulilah, as I got better, I worked on attaining balance. I learnt (and still learning) to spend more time with my mother even though my mind was craving to finish up a chapter I was reading from Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow”. If I’m far off, I’d call often instead of obsess with work. I realised beneath her complains was a mother’s natural yearning to be with her daughter to talk and laugh over the things of life.I’m learning to keep in touch with dad and my extended family.I learnt (and still learning) to handle very few speaking events and say no to “back-to-back” speaking events. Instead, I’d share those opportunities with my mentees so I could focus “qualitatively” on the few speaking gigs I had and most of all, focus on my family, health, personal growth and spirituality. Most fulfilling for me was when I went to help with the “mass cooking” (Dagomba style…haha) at a very good friend’s wedding in my area. It had been a long time I was that communal. I again was itching to stay back home and read, but I had to eat that urge and give some time to being available for a communal activity. Trust me, I ain’t saying I’ve got a hand over this concept of balance, but one thing I know for sure, is that it ain’t on ‘Autopilot’ in 2019.

Take charge of your life of balance. Don’t autopilot it. I know of a friend and sister who didn’t leave hers on autopilot…till her last breath.

Zaara was my sister in Islam whom I stayed in the same hall with. She was a junior to me, but she was hearty. She was loving. She was humble. Though she offered one of the toughest programmes on campus, she had time for Muslim activities in the hall and activities at her department. We prayed at the Akuafo Mosque together. We worked together to serve the Muslim community and she would serve to the best of her ability. It was only last Tuesday at her prayer ceremony (Adua)that I really realised how much Zaara had lived this concept to the best of her ability. My tears were chocked between my eyes and throat as I sat calmly trying to come to terms with the reality that Zaara was now 6 feet beneath the soles of my shoes (and by Allah, as I type this, my eyes struggle to stay dry). For a young sister like her, her gathering was heavy and so the personalities who came, and the donations that came in. Even the Senior Tutor of the Hall despite hearing the news very late made it to the prayer ceremony. It was obvious; my Zaara had lived for herself (educated herself till the Masters level), she had lived for the community (served wherever she found herself), and she lived for Allah (worshipped to the best of her ability).

Struggle to attain tawaz’zun in your life when you still have the chance. It’ll be worth your every breath. And may I kindly implore of you to say a prayer for my dear Zaara? She’d appreciate your kind gesture…Smiles.

Khadijah Abdul-Samed

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