Divisions of a Day – A Reconstructed Narration

One of the most famous traditions in both Shī‘ī and Sunni books is the ḥadīth of dividing one’s day into multiple parts and allocating a certain portion of it for specific tasks. This narration is found in dozens of primary and secondary sources, with various different chains of transmission, attributed to the Prophet (p) and as well as a number of Imams (a).

Though one problem that becomes very clear for anyone reading all these traditions is the numerous slight – or even at times significant – variances in the text of the narration. This is obviously nothing unusual in the ḥadīth corpus and scholars usually attempt to reconcile such variances and conflicts in different ways all the time [there is a whole section within legal theory dedicated to just this], but given the advisory nature of this tradition, it has always been difficult to decide which version of the narration should be shared – the ones that advise a Muslim to divide their day into three portions, or the ones that advise them to divide their day into four portions.

A number of scholars have attempted to reconcile between these two sets of traditions, but recently I came across a novel attempt by a scholar[1] which I do not recall anyone doing in contemporary times, though it was a practice that was occasionally done by the classical scholars of ḥadīth. This reconciliation attempt in fact combines all the traditions together, constructing, in essence, a new tradition, after which it can be attributed to the infallibles in general (without ascribing it to one specific infallible).

What follows below is this rendition, where all well-known versions of the ḥadīth from Shī‘ī works have been considered and combined into one text, which may allow one to relook at the tradition in a new light. Needless to say, this reconciliation is indeed the ijtihād of a scholar and should be treated as such. The narration being used as the basis for this rendition is the one from Uṣūl al-Kāfī, as it has the most reliable and authoritative chain of transmission and parenthesis include the texts from the other versions of the tradition:

Reconstructed Narration

ان في حكمة آل داود ینبغي للمسلم العاقل ان لا يرى ظاعنا الا في ثلاث: مرمة لمعاش او تزود لمعاد [خطوة في معاد] او لذة في غير ذات محرم. [اجتهدوا في ان يكون زمانكم اربع ساعات] ينبغي للمسلم العاقل [ما لم يكن مغلوبا على عقله]

١. ان يكون له ساعة يفضي بها الى عمله فيما بينه و بين الله عز و جل [فساعة يناجي فيها ربه و ساعة يحاسب فيها نفسه] [فيما قدم و اخر] [و يتفكر فيما صنع الله عز و جل اليه]

٢. [و ساعة لامر المعاش و يرم معاشه].

٣. و ساعة يلاقي اخوانه الذين يفاو‎ضهم و يفاوضونه في امر آخرته [و ساعة لمعاشرة الاخوان و الثقات الذين يعرفونكم عيوبكم و يخلصون لكم في الباطن] [و يصدقونه عن نفسه] [و ساعة ياتي اهل العلم الذين يبصرونه امر دينه و ينصحونه] [و ينصرون امر دينه].

٤. و ساعة يخلي بين نفسه و لذاتها في ‎غير محرم [بحاجته من الحلال في المطعم و المشرب] [فيما يحل و يجمل] فانها عون على تلك الساعتين [و استجمام للقلوب و توزيع لها] [تفريع لها] [و على العاقل ان يكون بصيرا بزمانه مقبلا على شأنه حافظا للسانه فان من حسب كلامه من عمله قل كلامه الا فيما يعنيه] [ثم قال من احب الحياة ذل] [و بهذه الساعة تقدرون على الثلاث ساعات لاتحدثوا انفسكم بفقر و لا بطول عمر فانه من حدث نفسه بالفقر بخل و من حدثها بطول العمر يحرص ا‎جعلوا لانفسكم حظا من الدنيا باعطائها ما تشتهي من الحلال و ما لا يثلم المروة و ما لا سرف فيه و استعينوا بذالك على امور الدين فانه روي ليس منا من ترك دنياه لدينه او ترك دينه لدنياه]

[تفقهوا في دين الله فانه اروي من لم يتفقه في دينه ما يخطئ اكثر مما يصيب، ان الفقه مفتاح البصيرة و تمام العبادة و السبب الى المنازل الرفيعة و خاص المرء بالمرتبة الجليلة في الدين و الدنيا و فضل الفقيه على العباد كفضل الشمس على الكواكب و من لم يتفقه في دينه لم يزك الله له عملا]

From the wisdom of the family of Dāwūd is that an intelligent Muslim does not find himself outside of three states: either he is 1) rectifying his livelihood, or 2) preparing provisions for the hereafter [proceeding towards it], or 3) seeking pleasures from the non-prohibited things.

[Strive to ensure your time is divided into four parts], it is expected that an intelligent Muslim – [as long as his intellect is not overpowered]:

1) Dedicates a portion of the day for acts that are between him and Allah (azwj), [so there is a portion in which he whispers to his Lord and a portion in which he takes account of himself] [as to what he has done and what he will do], [and to contemplate over the creation of Allah (azwj)].

2) [Dedicates a portion for his livelihood and for its rectification].

3) Dedicates a portion where he meets his brothers who benefit from his presence, and he benefits from their presence, especially in the matter of his hereafter, [and it is a portion where one engages with his brothers and reliable individuals who identify your deficiencies for you and are sincere towards you], [maintain righteous conduct with you], [and it is a portion where he visits the people of knowledge who have insight regarding his religion and will counsel him], [and aid him in his religion].

4) Dedicates a portion for himself and the non-prohibited pleasures, [such as the permissible foods and drinks due to necessity], [or that which is pleasant and beautiful]. These are your aid for the other portions of the day, [a source of relaxation and recreation for the hearts], [an amusement for it]. [An intelligent person should be insightful regarding his time and considerate of his affairs, protective of his tongue. One who considers his speech as part of his acts will speak little, and only in matters which concern him]. [Then he said: one who loves this life is humiliated], [and with this final portion you can commit yourself to the other three portions. Do not occupy your thoughts with fear of poverty, and do not be hopeful of a very long life – one who constantly thinks of poverty will become stingy and one who constantly thinks life is very long will become desirous. Allocate for yourselves a portion of this world by providing it with that which it desires from the permissible things, as long as they do not harm one’s etiquettes nor result in extravagance so that you can seek assistance within the matters of religion. It has been relayed that one who completely abandons the world for religion or abandons religion for his world is not from us].

[Gain deep knowledge of the religion of Allah, because the one who does not gain deep knowledge of the religion of Allah, he will make more mistaken decisions than right ones. Deep knowledge is the key to insight, all of worship, and it is the cause for reaching higher stations, and the exclusive way for an individual to acquire important ranks in his religion and the world. The superiority of one with deep knowledge over the worshipers is like the superiority of the sun over the stars. One who does not gain deep knowledge in his religion, Allah will not purify for him his deeds].


Based on the above rendition of the tradition, it appears there are three overarching states one should ideally be in throughout their day: 1) rectification of one’s livelihood, 2) worship of Allah (swt), and 3) leisure time.

These three general states are then broken down into four parts of one’s day – note that in the aforementioned traditions, there is no chronological order given for these acts:

1) Working and earning for the sake of one’s livelihood, which corresponds to the first state.

2) Worshiping Allah (swt) individually, which corresponds to the second state.

3) Worshiping Allah (swt) congregationally and interacting with the community, which is a type of worship and corresponds to the second state.

4) Enjoying the permissible pleasures of this world in moderation, which corresponds to the third state.


[1] Shaykh Muḥammad Hidāyatī in his paper Barrasī Akhlāqī Riwāyāt-i Taqsīm-i Awqāt-i Rūzāneh. I first got acquainted with Shaykh Hidāyatī a few years ago, when I came across his book Munāsibāt-i Fiqh wa Akhlāq. He is a professor at the University of Islamic Sciences in Qom.