The Story of An Expert and His Rocks - A Motivational Story of What Is Important in Life

This motivational story appeared at the under the 'Life and People' column for this week


As Salaamu 'alaykum and Peace to all,

The Story of An Expert and His Rocks

I was writing up one of the chapters for my supervisor when my mobile rang. I picked it up and it was my close friend on the other end of the line.

‘It has been a long time!’ I said to her.

‘Yup, sorry dear, I was too busy. My days are packed and I have literally no time to spare’ she said.

According to her, she was a little bit bogged down with pending matters for the past few weeks, handling issues and solving problems from both personal and work. Things kept on popping up and it seemed that almost everything needed her urgent attention. ‘I only have two legs and two hands, you know’ was the cute remarks from her, venting out her frustrations. I chuckled and said that I was glad she called.

As we spoke, she asked about the updates from my side. So, as usual, I told her about my study and the final stages I was in at that moment. I talked about my work and how it has taken over much of my life and of course, not forgetting, my progress on the books which I am currently writing, Insya’Allaah.

I also let her know excitedly, about the most recent publications of my work. And how, writing, being my longtime passion has suddenly began to take over significantly much of my spare time, both during day and night.

Being a person who appreciates literature herself, she commented..

‘Lucky you, you have the time’

I just smiled on the other end. ‘Well, Alhamdulillaah’

That statement she made had me thinking. I have the time. Hmm… I really think that it is not really accurate. Do I really have the time to write, to pursue my passion? I started reflecting on how I spend my days. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I know that I always have many things to do. Just look at my daily planner if you don’t believe me. And no, I am not going to upload it here just to prove it to you!

I know that I have been very busy so much so that my 4-year old nephew (who obviously missed me) asked me to move closer to his home so that he can just walk over whenever he wants to see me instead of hoping endlessly that I drop by! Better still, he said I should just take along my laptop and move into his home. Obviously, his alert and curious mind had observed that I sit day and night with my laptop on my lap and think that it could be very well one of my body parts! How cute and observant for a 4-year old…

First of all, I thank Allaah for giving me such a wonderful life that is fully occupied doing the things I love most, having it surrounded with people who love me and demand attention from me, giving me good health that allows me to move around freely and energetically and giving me enough work that by the end of the day, I am sometimes literally left with just enough energy to make my way to the bed before I passed out!

But, hey, who’s complaining? Alhamdulillaah. Being occupied is good. But, I have a burning question here, thanks to my friend.

Are we really busy? Seriously. If I say that I am busy, I must have something to show at the end of the day to prove my business, right? But, do I? When I am getting ready for my sweet sugary sleep at night, have I accomplished anything valuable that day to justify my tired legs, my heavy eyes and my aching headache? Or was I just doing some routine chores that filled up my time which do not contribute anything in my life as a servant of Allaah.

I remember Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) reminder to us…

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are two blessings which many people do not make the most of and thus lose out: good health and free time.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6412.

So, free time is a blessing, Masya’Allaah. It makes me ponder. If it’s a blessing, then, aren’t we lucky when we do have the free time. But, many of us do not make the most out of the leisure time we have. Well, that’s what the Prophet said. And ain’t He is right? Without doubt, of course.

What do we do during the spare time that we have? Hanging around aimlessly in the mall? Playing the latest play station? Watching the reruns? Chatting on the computer? Gossiping about others? Adding to the hours of sleeping marathon? Making butt print on the sofa? (pardon the lingo)… Hmm.. no wonder He said that most of us did not make the most of it and lose out. Lose out? Yikes! That is one word I would rather not have in my life… Na’uzubillaah..

Coming back to my earlier train of thoughts, reading this hadeeth reminds me of the many business billionaires around the world whose biographies I have read. All of them seem to have a commonality on a few things. Among them is their value of time. They are very time conscious. You don’t believe me? Check them out. They wake up when people are asleep. They sleep only for 3-4 hours per day. Time is very precious to them. They have no time for gossips, for chatting, for lazing around, for doing nothing.

I have the opportunity to meet and learn from a few millionaires myself, both Muslims and non-Muslims (honest!) and I find that they do not know most of the happenings around them. One of them was totally amused when he found out that his mobile phone model was of a ‘dinosaur’ era. As long as I can make phone calls, who cares if I cannot see the face of the other person, he said.

Another doesn’t even bother to watch the TV and he hates it so much that he literally asked everyone to throw the TV out of the house. It is an income reducer, he claimed. One person I met does not know the latest craze that has swept the country for months. Another, does not know who married who in the entertainment business. And they are all millionaires. What does that say to us? Think about it…

Let us now flip to the other side of the coin. Let us now look at those people who have successfully memorized the Quran. 30 chapters, 6346 verses. Masya’Allaah. I always wonder how they are able to memorize The Words of Allaah and not me? What about the non-Arabs who can speak Arabic fluently? If I could learn English when I was born, surely I sure can learn Arabic, can’t I? What about the people who have the time to lecture, write, do volunteer work, have families, l pursue knowledge and at the same time run successful business? What about these people? They amazed me…

I asked myself. So, what is the difference then between these people, the ones who seem to be able to have time to do everything they wanted (which are beneficial), and us, who seem to be in loss and cheated of our time?

I believe that the trick is prioritization in all their affairs. They seem to know what is important in their life. They focus on only doing beneficial things. All the other time wasting activities do not even have the opportunity to traverse their brain.

I wonder, as Muslim, how critical it is that my spare time is filled with doing good and beneficial things…

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it." (Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari)

This hadeeth really hits my core. I cannot imagine that even when the next second is the end of time, I am still advised to plant those trees. Who is going to eat it, anyway, right? Wrong! It shows that we should always fill our time with a worthy cause even if death comes knocking before our eyes. Subhanallaah…

Let me share with you a story I once read about time and the importance of prioritizing and doing the important things in our lives…
One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.
As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said,
"Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."

The time management expert replied, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered.
"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"
"You have got a point there. But, there is another lesson which is much more significant to learn here," the speaker replied, "The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.
Masya’Allaah, What a great story! Big rocks must be put in first before the smaller ones. I cannot help but to agree that if we all try to put the big rocks in first, Insya’Allaah, the smaller ones will come in easily too.

Now, I have to think of what are the big rocks in my life? I should think that the big rocks are things like my duties to Allaah such as prayers, taking care of my faith, my family, my ambition, my study, pursuing relentlessly my goals and passion in life and uncompromisingly preparing myself for my life in the Hereafter. Wow… those are really really big rocks and just writing them down had already scared the heck out of me.

And once I got my big rocks into the jar, maybe I can get some of the smaller rocks into it. Maybe watch one favourite show a day, talk to a few more friends, have a run with the playstation, sleep a little bit longer… Hmm..that sounds good to me..:))

What do you think my friends? What about you my friends? Have you figured out what your big rocks are? If you do, great. If not, why not we start listing now? Here, let me give you a pen. Need a paper too? :)

Sis Zabrina
~ Your Source for Islamic Motivational and Inspirational Stories ~

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Anonymous said…
What a wonderful post, and a great story :) Instead of writing a long comment, I am going to go do something productive :)

Ya Haqq!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for that great post. It is really motivational and a great insight into life. Gonna bookmark this excellent blog of yours. Keep up the good work
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu alaykum and peace to all,

Brother Irving, as always i can count on you for some comments. That comment itself is a great feedback on my content! Jazakallaah kheyr.

Sis Zabrina
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu 'alaykum brother Nagasyari,

I am so glad to know that you find my humble blog worthy to be bookmarked. It means a lot to know that. Thank you for dropping by and please do come back a few times a months for i update it frequently, Insha Allaah.

Sis Zabrina
Anonymous said…
assalamualikum sister,

wonderful post.really motivating.

Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu 'alaykum Sis Safia,

Thank you so much for your sweet comment *hugs* I am so glad that you find it motivating sis. Please do come back for new stories. Insha Allaah i will 'see' you again!

Sis Zabrina
Anonymous said…
I knew the story of the rocks before, but your post was very touching and I enjoyed it. very good writing, mashaAllah.
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu 'alaykum Shaz *hugs*

I am glad you liked it. Actually, most of the stories here are readily available in the internet, ah, well, unless i mentioned that i wrote it! :)

It is how we interpret and look at the story from our own unique perspectives would make the difference. You know half full or half empty. Actually, i have written a piece on perspectives and Insha 'Allaah will post it soon. It is a very exciting story! Do come back! See you at you know where! *wink*

Sis Zabrina
Anonymous said…
Salam alaykom,
hahah no thanks - the pen is enough :) I loved it - as usual. Subhanallah.. exactly what I needed! You have no idea how many hasanat you're getting for this - may Allah reward you with the best!
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salamau 'alaykum dear sis Arwa,

Lol. Wa eyyakum my dear darling sis. Ameen to your prayers. I am glad you dont need the paper coz i have actually already run out of them writing my list down! lolz I sure do have lots of rocks, gravel, sand and water to consider. Hows your list coming? :)

Sis Zabrina
Anonymous said…

The story of an expert and his rocks really grabbed my attention; so much so that i have to leave a comment or two.

"The importance of time". Heard it alot but never read something soooo well-put and graphic. It makes one feels that he can do a lot of things and move towards his goals - FASTER!

By the way, i copy a small part of the story and blast it to my collegues and the url link to few muslim collegues.

Good things are to be shared :)
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu 'alaykum and Peace to all,

Andy! Great to see you are reading my blog! Clearly accidentally bumping into you while shopping with my friends has been laid out by Allaah the AlMighty for reasons as you nicely put it- Good things has to be shared. Now, go and do that thing you do and excel in your life, achieve all that you ever wanted and i shall the the proud ones watching you soar to the sky :)) Ameen...

Drop by again,yeah? :))
Sis Zabrina