It is often said that the Japanese are the epitome of punctuality. While the Swiss may be renowned for their skills in designing and producing clockworks, it is the Japanese whose lives and society functions and run like clockwork.

The punctuality of the Japanese is perhaps best witnessed in their railway system. The Japanese railway is the backbone of their public transport system, and there is such a demand for trains in Japan that out of the 51 busiest train stations in the world – 45 are found in Japan.

Interestingly enough, despite the large number of passengers, the average delay of a Japanese train is generally just a few seconds. In the extremely rare event of the train being delayed by 5 minutes or more, one will actually be issued a special certificate by the railway company to present to one’s employer explaining that the train was delayed. Such is the reputation of the trains for punctuality that without this certificate, the employer will simply not believe that the train was late.

How is this punctuality made possible? – through using the latest technology, employing multiple supervisors, installing failsafes and adhering to rigorous protocols and procedures. Yet, despite all the technology, failsafes, supervision, protocols and procedures, there are STILL occasions when the train will be delayed. After all, there will ALWAYS be certain elements that are beyond human control. One such example was when the alarm was raised over a train being 5 minutes behind schedule. On investigation, it was discovered that the reason for the delay was that the driver had an urgent need to use the bathroom.

In contrast to the Japanese trains, which are among the most punctual and reliable technologies of man, is the sun. The sun is ancient and outdates all technology. It does not undergo any maintenance or receive any upgrades. Yet, for centuries, the sun has been perfectly and precisely punctual.

From our childhood until the present day, can we remember even a single instance where the sun was late or delayed? How is it that even the best-designed train system will experience occasional delays, but the sun remains rigidly on schedule at all times?

Astronomers will perhaps explain that the sun is kept on its route due to some type of gravitational pull between the sun and the other planets. However, the question will again arise as to what is it that keeps the sun locked into gravity? After all, trains are also locked onto their tracks, yet trains are sometimes derailed by unforeseen circumstances. Why has the sun never been derailed from its orbit?

After pondering over the question, one will realise that there is only one possible answer. The answer is that Allah Ta‘ala is the One Who causes the sun to rise on time and set on time. When the rising and setting of the sun is under the direct control and supervision of Allah Ta‘ala, and He wishes it to rise and set on time, then it will be absolutely perfect in its punctuality. Never will it go ahead of schedule, nor will it ever lag behind.  

In the Quraan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala makes mention of the cycle of night and day, and how each seamlessly integrates into the other, with perfect punctuality, never overlapping or intruding on the other. Allah Ta‘ala says:

لَا الشَّمْسُ يَنبَغِي لَهَا أَن تُدْرِكَ الْقَمَرَ وَلَا اللَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ ۚ وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ

It is not for the sun to catch up to the moon, nor for the night to overtake the day – each (i.e. the sun and the moon) is moving in (its own) orbit. (Surah Yaaseen v40)

This is among the signs of the greatness of Allah Ta‘ala through which one may recognize Him as the Creator and Controller of the universe and acquire His special proximity.

May Allah Ta‘ala illuminate our hearts with His recognition, aameen.