In our minds, we live most of our lives in the future.
But thinking too much about the future is like buying furniture for a house that has not yet been built. Then when the furniture is in our possession, we have no place to put it, and it crowds our life in the present.
In other words, we fill our days with thought, concern, anticipation and anxiety with a tomorrow we may never see.
We Rush to the Future for the Good it may Hold
As children, we are eager to be older so that we can be one of the “big kids”. As teenagers, we cannot wait to be adults and free from our parents’ restrictions. As adults, we dream about retirement when we will be able to enjoy all our free time.
As human beings, we have a tendency to rush to the future for the good we perceive to be there. But we are not guaranteed tomorrow, nor are we guaranteed anything from it.
When we place too much hope in tomorrow, we risk dangerous outcomes. We can start to feel entitled to a certain future that may not come. We can become bitter when the future we hoped for does not happen. And we can miss out on enjoying the blessings in the here and now.
Allah tells us in the Quran very clearly that:
The command of Allah is coming, so be not impatient for it. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him. (16:1)
This verse reminds us about the unknown nature of the Last Day, but we can also apply it to our everyday lives. What is to come will come. So don’t be impatient for it to happen.
If we must live our lives thinking and hoping for the future, we can do so by remembering we will receive good in the next life for the good we do in this life. However, we can only meet with the delights of the hereafter by taking action in the present. So let’s hope for Allah’s mercy and leave the future of this life to Allah’s will.
We Fear the Future for the Evil it may Hold
On the other side of the coin, as human beings, we spend a lot of our time worrying about what bad things may come.
As children, we worry about bedtime and the monsters that might be waiting for us in the dark. As teenagers, we stress over what our career should be and if we will ever get married. As adults, we worry about poverty, illness and on and on.
Worrying about the future is something nearly everyone does. We are so predictable in our worry that there is even an entire industry built around it. But no matter how much insurance we buy to protect ourselves against what may come, we cannot change Allah’s will for the future.
Even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) could not know his future or change it. Allah says in the Quran:
Say (O Muhammad), “I have no power to benefit myself, or harm myself. Only what God wills happens to me. If I knew the future, I would have increased my wealth, and no harm would have afflicted me. I am no more than a warner, and a bearer of good news for those who believe. (7:188)
Satan Uses Our Worry against Us
Like Prophet Muhammad, we have no power over what happens in the future. When we burden our minds with tomorrow, we fall prey to one of the tricks of Satan. Allah tells us in the Quran:
Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (2:268)
Often, this is an effective trick. How many have done haram because they fear poverty, all the while missing out on the opportunity to trust in Allah?
How many have become miserly because they fear calamity, all the while missing out on the chance to be reimbursed many times for giving in charity?
How many have become frustrated and disillusioned by trying to force a future outcome that was not written, all the while missing out on present blessings? We underestimate Allah’s wisdom and ability to provide for us when we stress over the future.
But if we must worry about a future, the Day of Judgment is the only future we know for certain and it is one that is worthy of our anxieties. However, we can only prevent an evil outcome on that day if we take action now. Fear Allah’s punishment and leave the future of this life to Allah’s will.
All We can Do is Prepare and Leave it Alone
This is not to say that we shouldn’t seek the means.
Seeking the means is part of life. As we see in this hadith:
“One day Prophet Muhammad noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin:
Why don’t you tie down your camel?
The Bedouin answered:
“I put my trust in Allah.”
The Prophet then said:
Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah. (At-Tirmidhi)
We have to seek the means to facilitate our lives. Leaving the future alone does not mean that we shouldn’t plan, that we shouldn’t protect ourselves against the harm of losing “the camel”. But it also doesn’t mean that we have to “tie our camel” and preoccupy our minds and actions with the future good or bad that may come from it.
When we preoccupy our minds with the future, we forget Allah’s wisdom and ultimate capability; we miss the blessings of the present; we waste our time; and we miss the chance to prepare for the hereafter.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)