Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speed and Slow


"Speed is from satan." (Tirmidhi)

"The Last Day will not be established until …time will pass quickly." (Bukhari)

"The Last Hour will not come before time contracts, a year being like a month, a month like a week, a week like a day, a day like an hour, and an hour like the kindling of a fire." (Tirmidhi)


We live in an era of productivity, and the name of the game of productivity is speed. The faster you can get things done, the more you can do, and the more you can do, the more successful you'll be. 

Technology has played an important role in this game. Communication is instantaneous. Transportation is rapid. Food can be warmed in a minute. Information is at one's finger tips. Shopping can be done with a few clicks. 

Technology fuels speed. Speed boosts productivity.

I've also been on board with the fast-paced ride. It feels good to get things done, be efficient, and make progress. Productivity is good. Speed is good. But there's a problem. 

The problem is that speed has become an addiction. People, including I, want the fastest computer, the quickest service, the most exhilarating video games, that magic weight-loss pill. People want results now. Otherwise, in the absence of speed, people can enter fits of rage, fury, and irrational behavior - when that website doesn't appear immediately, when the line is moving slowly, when the dinner order is taking too long, or when the car ahead is following the speed limit. 

People are living their life as if it were one big emergency.

Moreover, this addiction to speed has led people to become slaves to time, working for the economy rather than having the economy work for them, as Carl Honoré mentions in his In Praise of Slow.  And it has triggered a series of problems, including deteriorating relationships, poor health, traffic accidents, exploitation of resources, lack of quality control, environmental catastrophe.

The warning of the Prophet, "Speed is from satan", and his prophecies on time passing quickly during the last days, has never been so apparent.

Amidst the chaos erupting from this speed-centric culture, Carl Honoré describes an emerging global trend of slowing down, and sheds light on the benefits of doing things slowly. He says that fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, stressed, and impatient, whereas slow is calm, careful, intuitive, unhurried, and patient. 

‘Slow’ focuses on quality, rather than quantity. A task that is performed slowly is more thorough, quality-controlled, detail-oriented, authentic. For example, handmade items are more beautiful and have more value than cheap machine-made items. Slow food production is organic, empty of preservatives, and humane. Mass food production is… not. Food eaten slowly, rather than chugged down, is more enjoyable, and better for the body. Strong relationships are developed through slow, quality time, rather than hurried, scattered interactions.

This concept of slowness is also critical in Islam, for the Prophet said, “Calmness and deliberation are from Allah.” (Tirmidhi) Our prayers are meant to be done 'slowly', so that, in each posture, our joints are at rest. The Qur'an is to be recited slowly, so that the rules of tajweed are respected. Dhikr should be performed slowly, with reflection. Duas should be made slowly with sincerity. Worship in general, should not be rushed. 

When we create or embellish something, we should do it with beauty, for "Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty" (Muslim), and beauty requires slowness. When we speak, we should speak slowly, for our beloved Prophet's speech "was not quick and continuous... he spoke clearly, word for word." (Tirmidhi). And when he listened, "He would turn his whole body, giving full attention to the one addressing him." (Tirmidhi)  In general, “Allah loves that when you do something, you do it with excellence (ihsan)” (Bayhaqi), and again, excellence requires slowness.


Speed is not always bad nor is slow always good, but each has its place. But we should slow down first and deliberate over which of the two is more appropriate for a given situation.

[My apologies for sending this post so late. Responsibilities are mounting, and therefore I plan on updating this blog less often.]

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