Name: The Surah takes its name from the word, ‘Al-Asr’ occurring in the first ayah.
Period of Revelation:
It subject matter testifies that it must have been sent down in the earliest stages of Islam at Makkah. This was the time when the message of Islam was being presented in brief but highly impressive sentences so that the listeners who heard them once could not forget them even if they wanted to, for they were automatically committed to memory.
Theme and Subject Matter:
This Surah is a matchless specimen of comprehensiveness and brevity. A whole world of meaning has been compressed into its few brief words. In clear words it has been stated what is the way to true success for man and what is the way to ruin and destruction for him.
Imam Shafi has rightly said that if the people only considered this Surah well, it alone would suffice them for their guidance. How important this Surah was in the sight of the Companions can be judged from the tradition cited from Abdullah bin Hisn ad-Darimi Abu Madina, according to which whenever any two of them met they would not part company until they had recited Surah Al-Asr to each other. (Tabarani)
How Amr bin Al-As was Aware of the Quran’s Miracle due to this Surah
They have mentioned that `Amr bin Al-`As radhiAllahu ‘anhu went to visit Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab after the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was commissioned (as a Prophet) and before `Amr had accepted Islam. Upon his arrival, Musaylimah said to him, “What has been revealed to your friend (Muhammad ) during this time?” `Amr said, “A short and concise Surah has been revealed to him.” Musaylimah then said, “What is it?” `Amr replied;
وَالْعَصْرِ – إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ – إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّـلِحَـتِ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبْرِ
“By Al-`Asr. Verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.”
So Musaylimah thought for a while. Then he said, “Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me.” `Amr asked him, “What is it?” He replied, “O Wabr (a small, furry mammal; hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.” Then he said, “What do you think, O `Amr?” So `Amr said to him, “By Allah! Verily, you know that I know you are lying.”
I saw that Abu Bakr Al-Khara’iti mentioned a chain of narration for part of this story, or what was close to its meaning, in volume two of his famous book Masawi’ ul-Akhlaq. The Wabr is a small animal that resembles a cat, and the largest thing on it is its ears and its torso, while the rest of it is ugly. Musaylimah intended by the composition of these nonsensical verses to produce something which would oppose the Qur’an. Yet, it was not even convincing to the idol worshiper of that time.