Taking Advantage of Life

My brothers and sisters, he who deserves the vagaries and vicissitudes of time will take heed; for indeed what happened to others serves as lesson for us. The cradle of the child connotes the reality of the grave. The gust of the end of life breaks apart the clouds of hope [to live long]; if youth be the fruit of life then old age is the garment of doom. If the days of youth could be purchased we would have spent the most precious of wealth for their sake. Upon the onset of grey hair the star of the self’s desires declines, and when a person knocks the door of his forties, then he is in reality asking permission to enter the house of ruins. And he who reaches his sixties exhibits self-denial, and he who reaches the age of seventy will start receiving emissaries of his approaching death.

O you whose youth has been wrapped up and put aside, whose castle is torn apart, whose sailing ship has reached the shore of its destination, it is time for you to stand on the hill of farewell. You have only a few more moments to enjoy before your grey hair cuts of the necklace of life, so pick up the falling beads and give up on foolish hopes, for it is time to work hard to mend some of the falling beads. Your life melts away like snow melts, and you laziness and indifference is even colder than ice.

You wish to stay but it is not in your hands; for indeed the wish of the rider may differ from the wish of his ride; indeed if the rider were to dismount, his animal would fall asleep. A sensible and wise person is he who prepares for contingencies, so how could a person neglect what is known to happen with certainty! The time if irresoluteness is brief, so there should be no hesitation or postponement. I wonder at a person whose life may be in risk of destitution even if he had surplus possessions, so how would it be if furthermore he was an idle layabout? I wonder at a person who publishes his lost possessions in the hope of finding them, while he himself is lost, and I wonder at a person who is frugal in spending his wealth, although his whole life is wasted.

The ice-seller’s only source of income was selling ice, and one day, when he had not sold all his ice, he started calling out for customers: have mercy on a person whose capital is melting away!

Your poverty in terms of good deeds is due to your laziness, because whenever a poor person is indolent he shall never become rich. If you had a distaste for slackness, you would have not accepted humiliation. You have traded night prayers for an extra mouthful of food, and you have drunk from the cup of drowsiness, due to which you missed the company of those who “arise from their beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and aspiration, and from what We have provided them, they spend.” (al-Sajdah 32:16)

You have filled your belly with food, then as if the creditor of the bed came to collect from you his debt of sleep, so he put a veil over your ears until you slept as deeply as the seven sleepers. However, as you have been intoxicated by the wine of sleepiness you drank, the watcher caught you and punished you by preventing you from the night prayers. And soon thereafter the story of the night you spent ended with the onset of Fajr, and you were among “They were satisfied to be with those who stay behind, and their hearts were sealed over, so they do not understand.” (al-Taubah 9:87) By Allah, if you sold one moment of solitary worship of Allah for the entire lifespan of Nuh, peace be upon him, with the wealth of Qarun, you would have lost the bargain. No, in reality, even if you got everything in the heavens in return for that moment, it would not be a profitable sale. And those who have experienced this can attest to its truth.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 91-93