Al-Asr is the time in which the movements of the Children of Adam occur, whether good or evil. Malik narrated from Zayd bin Aslam that he said, “It is the evening.” However, the first view is the popular opinion. Thus, Allah swears by this, that man is in Khusr, which means in loss and destruction.
وَالْعَصْرِ- إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ
“By Al-`Asr. Verily, man is in loss.”
Though the word, ‘man’ has been used in singular it applies to all human beings collectively. The mankind is pre-occupied with worldly things. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins this Surah by a stern warning that no matter what you gain in dunya, you are actually in loss. He then makes an exception:
إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّـلِحَـتِ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبْرِ
“Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and enjoin each other to the truth and enjoin each other to the patience.”
So, He begins the Surah with a warning and then immediately specifies what can save the mankind from being the recipients of the torment of the Hereafter. The things that can save us are emaan, righteous deeds, enjoining each other to the truth and enjoining each other to the patience.
So, what is this emaan that has been spoken about here? We will have to seek the help of Qur’an itself to answer this question. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an:
– “In fact, true believers are those who believed in Allah and His Messenger, then entertained no doubt.” [Surah al-Hujurat : 15]
– “Those who said, ‘Allah is our Lord’ and then stood steadfast by it.” [Surah Fussilat : 30]
– “The believers are those who hearts tremble with awe, whenever Allah is mentioned to them.” [Surah al-Anfal : 2]
– “But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” [Surah al-Baqarah : 165]
– “Nay, (O Prophet), by your Lord, they can never become believers until they accept you as judge for the decision of the disputes between them, and then surrender to your decision with entire submission without the least resentment in their hearts.” [Surah an-Nisa : 65]
The Distinction between Verbal Affirmation of Faith and True Faith:
“O you who profess to have believed, believe sincerely in Allah and His Messenger.” [Surah an-Nisa : 136]
Believing in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala implies that we do not only acknowledge His existence, but also accept Him as the only God; not sharing His Kingdom with any other partner or associate. He alone is worthy of worship, servitude and obedience. Knowing that He write our destinies, He is the Provider and Sustainer, He should be trusted and He alone should be invoked by mankind.
Secondly, part of our emaan is believing in the Last Messenger Prophet Muhammad salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. In the sense that he is our guide and leader appointed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Whatever he has taught us is from Allah, the Rabbul Alameen. It is based on truth and we acknowledge and accept it.
After Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His Messengers, we also believe in the angels, the Books revealed before Qur’an and of course the Qur’an itself. Our emaan is then completed by believing in the Hereafter; that whatever we do in dunya we will be held accountable for it one day. We will stand before our Creator and give an account of whatever good or evil we have been doing in dunya. This provides a firm basis for morality and character. Without this article of faith, the life of man no matter how beautiful and pleasing it may seem, is like a ship without an anchor at the mercy of the waves wherever they may take it.
After Faith the second quality required to save man from loss is performance of righteous deeds. According to the Qur’an, no act can be a good act unless it is based on Faith and it is performed in obedience to the guidance given by Allah and His Messenger. That is why in the Qur’an exhortation to perform good deeds is preceded everywhere by Faith, and in this Surah too it has been mentioned after the Faith.
Nowhere in the Qur’an has a deed without Faith been called a good deed, nor any reward promised for a deed performed without Faith. The relationship between Faith and righteous deed is of the seed and the tree. Unless the seed is sown in the soil no tree can grow out of it. But if the seed is in the soil and no tree is growing out of it, it would mean that the seed is lost in the soil.
On this very basis whatever good news has been given in the Qur’an, has been given to the people who believe and do good deeds and the same has been reiterated in this Surah. What man requires to do after the Faith in order to remain secure from loss is to perform righteous deeds.
Emaan and good deeds are two qualities that must be possessed by every single individual.
The Surah then mentions two further qualities, which a man must have in order to be saved from loss. They are that the people who believe and do good deeds must exhort one another to truth and to patience. This means that in the first place, the believing and righteous people should not live as individuals but should create a believing and righteous society by their combination. Second, that every individual of this society must feel his responsibility in not letting the society degenerate. Thus, all its members are duty bound to exhort one another to truth and to patience.
Truth here means joining one another in what is right and standing up for justice. It means that the society of the believers should not be so insensitive that falsehood may thrive and injustice may spread while people are silently watching everything go wrong.
The upholders of truth should rise up against oppression looking after not just one’s own rights but respecting others’ rights as well and calling other members of the society to join them in good. Such a spirit can protect a society from moral degeneration and decay. If a society becomes devoid of this spirit, it cannot remain secure from loss, and eventually even those people also are affected by the loss who might in their own way be adhering to the truth, but were insensitive to violation of the truth in their society.
Besides exhorting to the truth, the other thing which has been declared as a necessary condition for keeping the believers and their society secure from loss is that the members of the society should enjoin patience upon one another. That is, they should enjoin upon one another to bear with fortitude and steadfastness the difficulties, hardships, trials, losses and deprivations which befall the one who adheres to the truth and supports it. Each one of them should encourage the other to bear up against adversity steadfastly.