Surah Asr In Arabic
إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ ﴿2﴾
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ ﴿3﴾
Surah Asr in English
Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem
- Wal ‘asr
- Innal insaana lafee khusr
- Illal lazeena aamanoo wa ‘amilus saalihaati wa tawaasaw bilhaqqi wa tawaasaw bissabr
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
- (I swear) by the Time,
- man is in a state of loss indeed,
- except those who believed and did righteous deeds, and exhorted each other to follow truth, and exhorted each other to observe patience.
Virtue of [ Studying ] Surah al-` Asr
Sayyidna ` Ubaidullah Ibn Hisn (رض) reports that whenever two Companions of the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیه وآله وسلم) met, they would not part company until one of them had recited Surah Al-` Asr in its entirety to the other. [ Transmitted by At-Tabarni ]. Imam Shafi` i (رح) says that if people thought about Surah Al-` Asr carefully, it would be enough for their guidance. It is a concise but comprehensive Surah, which in three verses, outlines a complete way of human life based on the Islamic worldview.
In this Surah, Allah swears an oath by the ‘Time’ and says that mankind is in a state of loss; exception, however, is made of people who are characterized by four qualities: [ 1] faith; [ 2] righteous deeds; [ 3] advising each other for Truth; and [ 4] advising each other for patience. This is the only path to salvation in this world, as well as in the next world. The Qur’anic prescription comprises, as we have just seen, of four elements. The first two of them relate to man’s own personal betterment, and the other two relate to other people’s guidance and reform. [ Ibn Kathir ].
Relationship between ‘Time’ and ‘Human Loss’
The first point we need to analyze here is the relationship between the ‘oath of time’ and ‘its subject’ because there needs to be a relationship between an ‘oath’ and its ‘subject’ The commentators, generally, state that all conditions of man, his growth and development, his movements, his actions and morality – all take place within the space of ‘Time’. Man will lose the capital of his existence. Hours, days, months, and years of life pass quickly, spiritual and material potentialities decline, and abilities fade. Man is like a person who possesses great capital and, without his permission and will, every day, a portion of that capital is taken away. This is the nature of life in this world; the nature of continual loss. How well this has been put poetically:
حَیَاتُک اَنفَاسُ تُعَدُّ فَکُلَّمَا مَضیٰ نَفَسٌ مِنھَا انتَقَصتَ بِه جُزءًا.
“Your life comprises a few breaths that can be counted; when one of them is sent out, a part of your life has diminished.”
Allah has granted man the invaluable capital of his life, so that he may invest it in profitable business venture. If he invests his capital of life sensibly in good works, there will be no limit to the profitable returns; but if he invests it unwisely in evil works, then, let alone attracting profitable returns, he will even lose his capital, and. In addition, he will incur the dreadful scourge of committing numerous sins. If however a person did not invest his life-capital in good deeds or in evil deeds, then he, at least, loses both the profit. as well as the capital. This is not merely a poetic imagery, but is supported by a Prophetic Hadith, according to which the Messenger of Allah k is reported to have said:
کُلٌ يّغدُو فَبَائعٌ نَفْسَه، فَمُعتِقُها أَو مُوبِقُها.
“When a person wakes up in the morning, he invests his soul or life in a business enterprise: some of the investors free or save the capital from loss and others destroy it.”
The Qur’an itself has used the word tijarah in relation to ‘faith’ and ‘righteous deed’, thus:
هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَارَةٍ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ “…shall I tell you about a trade that saves you from a painful punishment? [ 61:10] “
Since ‘Time’ is man’s capital of life, the man himself is the trader. Under normal circumstances, his capital is not a frozen thing that may be kept for a while and used up later when the need arises. The capital is fluid or flowing all the time, every minute and every second. The man who invests it needs to be very wise, intelligent and agile, so that he is able to swiftly and readily reap the profit from a flowing capital. One of the old scholars said that he had learnt the meaning of this verse from an ice-seller whose trade required utmost diligence, and if he were neglectful for a moment, his entire capital would melt away. That is why this verse has sworn an oath by the ‘time’ to indicate that it is a melting capital, and the only way to escape loss is to take every moment of his life as valuable, and use it for the four acts mentioned in the Surah.
Another possible reason for swearing by ‘Time’ may be that the ‘Time’ (in the sense of history) bears testimony to the fact mentioned in the Surah. If one thinks on the causes of the rise and decline of individuals and nations, he would certainly believe that it is only these four acts (mentioned in the forthcoming verses) that may ensure the real success and betterment of mankind. Whoever has ever abandoned them has suffered a great loss, as is evident from numerous events recorded by history.
Let us now study the ‘four principles’ mentioned in the Surah. As pointed out earlier, faith and righteous deeds are related to man’s moral and spiritual growth and development. They are not in need of elaboration. However, the last two principles [‘advising each other for truth’] and [‘advising each other for patience’] require some elaboration.
The infinitive tawasi is derived from wasiyyah which means ‘to advise somebody strongly and effectively about the best thing to do in a particular situation’. The term wasiyyah also refers to a ‘will or testament’ where a testator advises his executor regarding the disposal of his estate on his death.
The two parts are in fact two chapters of the same testament: [ 1] advice to truth; and [ 2] advice to patience and fortitude. These two concepts may be explained in different ways. One way to explain them is that haqq (‘truth’ ) refers to the package of ‘correct faith’ and ‘good deeds’, and sabr (‘patience’ ) refers to abstinence from all sins and evil deeds. Thus the first concept refers to ‘enjoining good actions’ and the second concept refers to ‘forbidding evil actions’. The cumulative sense of the Surah is that believers have been enjoined not only to adopt right faith and good deeds themselves, but to advise others strongly and effectively to adopt them, and thus help in the creation of a healthy atmosphere around them.
It is also possible to interpret ‘Truth’ as referring to articles of faith, and to interpret ‘patience’ as referring to all good actions and abstinence from evil deeds. The word sabr, originally meaning ‘to withhold oneself and to bind oneself ‘, encompasses binding oneself down to the performance of righteous deeds and abstaining from sins.
Hafiz Ibn Taimiyyah has stated in one of his monographs that there are normally two factors that restrain a person from faith and righteous deeds: The first cause is some doubts about the true faith. When such doubts arise in the mind of people, it destroys their faith and leaves them confused and confounded. As a result, it adversely affects their righteous deeds. The second cause is the selfish desires that stop man from doing good, and involve him in evil deeds. In this situation, he theoretically believes that he should do good and abstain from sins, but his selfish desires lead him to stray from the right path.
The current verse indicates to remove both causes of one’s distraction. By stressing upon ‘advice of truth’ it has catered to the first cause, and that it should be removed by reforming others on theoretical and academic level, and by emphasizing on ‘advice of patience’ it has taken care of the second cause by enjoining upon the Muslims to advise others to give up the base desires and remain firm against their evil demands. Put differently, ‘enjoining the truth’ means ‘improving the knowledge of Muslims or their intellectual development’ and ‘enjoining patience’ means ‘improving the practical life of Muslims’.
Need to Salvage the Entire Muslim Society
This Surah lays down the important principle of guidance for the Muslims that inviting other Muslims to keep to the true faith and good deeds is as much necessary as their own submission to the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. Without sincere efforts, to the best of one’s ability, to invite others to the right path, one’s own good deeds are not enough to one’s salvation.
Especially, if a person does not take care of the spiritual and moral welfare of his wife, children and family and turns a blind eye to their unrighteous deeds, he is blocking his way to salvation – no matter how pious he himself might be. Therefore, the Qur’an and the Sunnah make it obligatory upon every Muslim to do his best to invite others to the good deeds, and warn them against the evil acts. Unfortunately, let alone the general public, many learned people are lax in this matter. They think it is sufficient for them to be concerned about their own moral and spiritual well-being. They are not concerned about the well-being of their family and children. May Allah grant us the ability to act upon this verse.
[From Ma’ariful Quran English by Mufti Taqi Uthmani]
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