Transcribed from the Bayyinah podcast Tafseer series by Iqra Asad.
“By Al-Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss, Except those who believe (in Islâmic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Ma’ruf) which Allâh has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar) which Allâh has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allâh’s Cause during preaching His religion of Islâmic Monotheism or Jihâd).”
Don’t wait to do good- It is now or never!
Many times, when you have to give advice, you hesitate. You wait for a better time. You keep waiting and that better time will never come. The sense of urgency is in the word “Tawasi”. “Wasiya” is also when you bequeath someone with property. What you are to offer someone is literally of value. When you give someone good advice, they reply with, “But I’ve seen you do this, what about you?” Most of us are reactive when we receive advice. When you are on the side of giving advice, you take the good of it and leave the bad.
“Tawasi bil Haq”
First, it is mentioned generally to do good deeds. Then one specific good deed is mentioned i.e. patience. Allah (swt) puts patience at the end and “Haq” first, to emphasize the nobility of good.
This Surah challenges us to change our definitions of success and failure.
The true essence of faith
A lot of people consider faith to be just a declaration. You could claim it as a lack of knowledge but in reality it’s an attitude; the assumption that we have faith, and the assumption that faith alone is enough. What does it mean to have faith? From a legal point of view, anyone who declares the Shahadah has faith. Legally speaking, anyone who claims to be a Muslim, is a Muslim. Then there is the matter of the distinction that Allah (swt) Himself makes in Surah Hujurat.
He says, “The bedouins say: ‘We believe.’ Say: You believe not but you only say, We have surrendered (in Islâm), for Faith has not yet entered your hearts.” (Al-Hujurat 49:14)
What people assume to be “Iman” (faith) is actually just the declaration of Islam. Faith is in the heart. The first thing inside the heart is faith, the second is revelation. If you memorize the Quran, it resides in your heart. The third thing, among others, associated most with the heart is Dhikr (remembrance). These three things are inter-connected.
In Surah Al-Anfal, “The believers are only those who, when Allâh is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Qurân) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith” (Al-Anfal 8:2)
The easiest gauge of faith is your Salah (prayer); “Allah would not be one to waste your faith.”(Al-Baqarah 2:143) This verse refers to prayers as “faith”. So where goes the statement, “I don’t pray, but I still have faith”? The second misconception that once you have faith, you don’t need deeds is crushed in this Surah. What kind of faith is this that you don’t have action? If we internalize this, we know that our faith will not survive, unless we have action.
A Believer vs. Those who believe!
The difference between two commonly used terms in the Quran, “believers” (Muminoon) and “those who believe” (Allazeena Aamanu): one of them is verbal (those who believe), the other (believers) is a noun. In Arabic, a verb is temporary, it is not stable, but a noun is fixed. “Believers” is used for people of mature faith. It is always used in a positive aspect. However, with “those who believe”, you may not find nice things. You find Allah (swt) saying to them, “those of you who believe, believe!” Become true believers. “Those who believe!”—category of those who are not necessarily doing well. “Believers”—mature faith who have already attained success.
The three core pillars of faith: “faith in Allah (swt)”, “faith in the Message” (the Book and the Messenger), and “faith in the Afterlife”. Sometimes people take one or two of these and say their faith is complete. If you do that, you will fall into a serious psychological imbalance.
Faith in the Messenger of Allah (swt)
Sometimes you can say something about the Messenger (sa) that can waste your Iman. On one hand, you have people who love him so much that they end up giving him a status beyond a human being. On the other hand, you have pseudo-intellectuals who treat him as just another historical figure. “It’s just a Hadeeth.” “It’s not even in the Quran.” The Surah Muhammad, Fath, and Hujurat discuss faith in the Messenger. When Allah (swt) mentions the Prophet (sa) in the Quran, He doesn’t use his name, and if He does, He says “RasulAllah” next to it. In the Quran, “O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet (sa), nor speak aloud to him in talk as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds may be rendered fruitless while you perceive not.” (Al-Hujurat 49:2) In order for good deeds to count, you must have faith.
Fruits of faith
Tranquility: you come to terms with the fact that all deeds are rewarded.
Iman: a treasure that you get to keep when you do good deeds. But what kind of person would you be if by feeding a hungry person, you would get more food back, but you still wouldn’t do it?
This statement is very empathetic because both the preposition and the verb have been repeated.
Haq: “truthfulness” means that you convey the advice in a truthful and sincere manner, holding nothing back. “With truth”, refers to Quran, that you counsel each other with Quran. Someone’s losing hope, how do you do “Tawasi bil Haq”? Through Quran, quote Quran to them: “My slaves who have violated against their own selves, don’t lose hope in Allah’s Mercy!”(Az-Zumar 39:53)
It’s easy to sit behind a microphone and talk about these things to strangers. It requires courage to do this with family. It requires patience.
What does “Sabr” mean? Patience, perseverance, commitment, constancy.
“It is to have the same level of obedience to Allah (swt) whether in ease or in difficulty.”(Ibn Taimiyyah)
Fidelity and forbearance is the key
Good people, who are working for Islam, may lose heart at all the criticism they receive. You must do “Tawasi bil Sabr” with them; tell them to be patient, no matter how difficult things get. They will appreciate it. Those who do work for this Deen; whether you are doing work for Islam inside your house or outside it, are under direct attack of the Shaytan. You must have patience and obedience to Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) speaks to us and He knows what kinds of lives we lead. There are brothers and sisters who are active in spreading Islam, but they have some very bad habits. They need someone to do Tawasi bil Sabr with them, to tell them to hang on.
These statements are in the past tense. Why not mention it in the present tense? It implies that these people spent their entire lives doing Tawasi bil Haq and Tawasi bil Sabr. You can never stop until death.
They are encouraging each other with patience. The way you deliver it requires patience, and what you are recommending them to do is patience.
These four things are connected to each other. If someone loses Sabr, they will not be able to do Tawasi bil Haq.
This is the shortest Surah, but also the heaviest Surah. It will change your attitude towards success and failure. Your time to get serious about faith, action, Tawasi bil Haq and Tawasi bil Sabr is short. May Allah (swt) make us of those who successfully fulfill the conditions of Surah Asr. Ameen.