Running late


Saudi Gazette

You schedule an appointment or a meeting at 11 am, and you expect everyone to arrive a few minutes earlier and that the meeting will actually start at exactly 11 am. But that doesn’t really happen, does it?

It has become so widespread in our culture to be late, that it is no longer limited to only social gatherings or a couple friends meeting for coffee, but it is apparent in professional settings as well.

When it comes to social gatherings, some people intentionally arrive late. Contrary to the excuses that we have invented, that it is fashionable to be late and to attend the party after almost everyone has already arrived, it is actually inconsiderate to the host of the party. You are making it difficult and awkward for the people who invited you. With some guests showing up early and others still running late, the host does not know when to serve the food or when the entertainment should begin. The party or social gathering is going to stretch longer than your host may have anticipated which could inconvenience her and her family.

How about the good old excuse, “Well none is going to be there at exactly 7 pm, so I can arrive a few minutes late,”? First of all, that is a groundless excuse, because if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you? And if so many people are doing something wrong, does that make it right, just because everybody else is doing it? More importantly, I should be behaving and interacting with others based on my principles and based on the teachings of Islam, and I should not use what everyone else is doing as my standard for my conduct.

Why make such a big deal over a simple matter? Try to look at it from the other person’s perspective. Running late can affect the entire day of the other person you made an appointment with.

Take my story as an example. I had scheduled an important appointment with a professional. I calculated the time it would take me to get there with traffic at that time. I also knew that after the appointment, I had to take my older daughter to a workshop she was attending for school. Both my daughters had just arrived from school, and I didn’t have much time to sit and talk with them, and I wanted to rush out the door.

The younger one looks at me with a long face, “Why are you leaving now? Your appointment isn’t until later?”

“It will take me at least 25 minutes to get there because of the rush hour, and I have to be there a few minutes before the appointment. An appointment is like a promise, you have to keep your promises,” I say, peck a kiss on her cheek and run out.

Pleased with myself that I arrived a little early, I fill in all the paper work and I’m directed to the waiting room. I start getting a little fidgety after waiting for ten minutes. I look around; there are no crowds of other people.

I tell the receptionist that I had scheduled an appointment, and she warily looks at me and says, “Oh, sorry, he is on his way.”

The professional finally arrives, half an hour late, and does not even apologize for keeping me waiting for thirty minutes. Maybe for him, it is not much, but for me, I could have spent that half hour with my little girl, asking her how her day at school was, or sharing a snack of milk and cookies with her. To make matters worse, since he arrived late, I would return home late to pick up my older daughter and take her to the workshop, and she would be late. The teachers were not very happy that she showed up late.

Running late for appointments, meetings, and events is disrespectful to the other people involved. Being late means you do not respect the other person’s time and that their time is unimportant. Some unavoidable situations do arise and it is normal to be late once or twice, but consistently being late makes you unreliable. It implies that you are rude and that you lack consideration and respect for the other person as well as for the commitment you made.

Punctuality is essential, and it is also part of the teachings of the religion of Islam. I should follow the instructions of my religion to be punctual, just as I follow other instructions of my religion, such as not cursing, not backbiting, not eavesdropping, not cheating.

Honestly, with all the technology and the apps we have today to calculate exactly how much time it will take me to reach my desired destination, we are able to make it to our appointments on time. We cannot blame traffic for running late.

An appointment is a promise; it is a promise that you made to someone else to show up and meet with him/her at a certain time. You must fulfill your appointment just like you must keep your promises.

Allah describes the characteristics of the believers in the Holy Qur’an, and among the qualities that good believers have, is keeping their promises.

“And those who are to their trusts and promises attentive.” (Holy Qur’an 70:32)

This same exact verse is also repeated in another chapter of the Holy Qur’an, in the Chapter of the Believers, Al-Mu’minun.

Another verse in the Holy Qur’an also addresses our promises and commitments.

Allah says, “And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” (Holy Qur’an 17:34)

Always breaking promises is the sign of being a hypocrite.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Three traits single out a hypocrite, even if he prays or fasts and claims to be Muslim: If he speaks, he lies. If he makes a promise, he does not keep it. If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Giving more attention to punctuality at work, school, home, and with friends will help our days flow more smoothly and can reduce the level of stress in our daily lives.

More importantly, we would all like to be among those faithful believers whom Allah described in the Qur’an as keeping their promises, covenants, and commitments.