How scholars define Asr?
Ibn Abbas (ra) says that “Asr” refers to the different ages of different nations. Allah (swt) is talking about human history as a proof that human beings are in loss. Ibn Kisan says that “Asr” refers to the night and the day. Hasan Al Basri says this is the time from late day to sunset, signifying the end of an era; we should know that we are on the verge of death. Qatada says it’s the last part of the day. Another Mufassir says that it means the time of Asr prayer; the busiest time of the day. Asr refers to time; all of it.
Be the change to bring a change!
The time you’re supposed to change for the better, this is implied in Asr. A lot of your days are exactly the same. If you can change one part of your day, you’ve transformed your life. We change at the death of a person, or in Ramadan; but then we go back to our old ways. For example, you know you have to reach your workplace at 9 a.m, no matter what, no negotiation; you’ll do it, or you’ll lose your job. Similarly, if you are convinced that certain behaviours will lead to loss, changing your life becomes easy. This is why the first thing that is mentioned is “belief”. If your boss comes into the office and says, “Every single employee over here is in trouble, I swear to you!” Will you take it casually? In this world, there must be a sense of urgency.
Choice is NOT yours – It’s all or none!
Sometimes, the boss gives you tasks you’re really good at. Sometimes you get tasks you don’t like doing. If you decide to do only two out of four, decide not to even touch the other two tasks, thinking that the first two being done excellently will compensate for the other two not being done, what do you think the boss’s reaction will be? So when Allah (swt) sets out four conditions, and we say, “we should work on our faith, do some good deeds, this other stuff is not for me, it’s for the speakers and Dawah workers.” If you’re picking and choosing, you are also in loss. It’s all or nothing.
You don’t need to memorize the whole Quran to change your life. Just start with Surah Asr!
Humankind is in loss
“Inna” is used to talk to people who are in doubt about what you are saying. Rhetorically, it is used to remove doubt; the doubt already exists. You’d think this was addressed to disbelievers; but Allah (swt) has addressed all humanity, “Illa” at the end conveys that it includes all humanity.
“Insan” comes from “Nisyan” i.e. “forgetfulness”. The word “Insan” is used here to refer to our forgetfulness, and also to refer to each of us as individuals. If someone specifies a person individually, that person pays more attention.
This is a noun-based sentence “Jumla Ismiya”, which is stronger than a verb-based sentence. The word “Insan” is presented as “Al-Insan” i.e. with emphasis. It is not “the human being is a loser” or “has lost”, it is “in loss”. He is immersed in loss. Someone being a loser is one thing, but by using the preposition “Fi” the meaning of constantly being in that state is given. The translation doesn’t even begin to cover the rage and the terror embedded in this verse.
Truth and patience cure doubts and temptations
There is the meaning of “delusion” in “Khusr” i.e. humans are deceiving themselves. “La fi Khusr” means that mankind sets itself up for a vicious end, the kind of end people don’t want. Ibn Taimiyyah comments, “Humanity is kept from accepting the truth of this Deen by two obstacles, doubts and temptations.” When you ask someone to accept Islam, you’re asking them to give up a lot of things. Someone says, “I can’t give up the life of partying.” He can’t give up his temptation, even though he has no doubts. Most people are caught in temptations, even if they give the excuse that they are in doubt. They cover up their desires by making intellectual arguments. Truth and patience mentioned in this Surah are the cures for doubts and temptations.
Humans are so preoccupied with their personal problems that they fail to see the larger picture. They fail to see the problems lying ahead. They think they are in loss in this world, but that is nothing compared to the loss that is coming. They fail to see the signs in the creation of Allah (swt). Financial and health problems are nothing compared to the problem of faith. That’s a much bigger problem.
Breakthrough anxiety, fear and despair
Human beings have more suffering than animals. In addition to physical suffering, we also have psychological suffering. In this Surah, Allah (swt) doesn’t just give us relief from the loss of the hereafter, but from the loss of this world; freedom from anxiety, depression, fear and despair.
You should remember that the entire Surah is linguistically one statement.
The entire society has headed to the way of loss. The ones, who are not the losers, are considered strange because they practice Islam.
United we stand, divided we fall!
When Allah (swt) mentions the loss of the human being, the human being is being addressed singularly. This is because when the time comes to face the consequences of your actions, you will be all alone. However, when Allah (swt) mentions the four exceptions, He uses the plural. This means that the ones who are successful, find success in teamwork, good company, counsel, reminder, Salah (prayer) and Jamaa (congregation).
Do you know the taste of faith?
In this verse, Allah (swt) doesn’t mention any qualifications of faith. How are you supposed to know what faith tastes like? The fruit of faith is tranquility. If you have faith, you know that this world is temporary, and compared to what Allah (swt) has in the hereafter, is nothing. You are at peace with your life whether you are old or young, healthy or ill.
The word “Assaalihaat” (good) is an adjective, which requires a noun. The Arabic says just “good”, not “good deeds”, but it is implied. The form of the adjective is such that it conveys the doing of a few, countable good deeds. The main obligations are few. Then there are things that embellish your life as a Muslim; the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). There are a few things that you should definitely do, and there are a few things that you should not do. Everyone knows those things.