Tafseer of Surah Asr

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ ألرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

وَالْعَصْرِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوْا وَعَمِلُوْا الصّٰلِحٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بالصَّبْرِ ‎﴿٣﴾‏

By the oath of time; indeed man is in loss, except those who have believed and done righteous deeds and they encouraged each other towards the truth and encouraged each other towards perseverance (and steadfastness in refraining from sins).

وَالْعَصْرِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ ‎﴿٢﴾

By the oath of time; indeed man is in loss

This surah is a short surah, but contains an extremely important message for man. The great importance of its message can be gauged by the fact that there were two Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) who had an arrangement between themselves that whenever they would meet, they would not separate until they recited this surah to one another so that they could remind each other of its important message.

Hazrat Imaam Shaafi (rahimahullah) is reported to have said that the contents of this surah are so dynamic and comprehensive that had nothing else (of the Quraan Majeed) been revealed, this surah alone would have been sufficient for the guidance of the entire Ummah.

If we examine the oath with which this surah commences, and the contents of this surah which follow, we will find that there is a very close relationship between them.

First Allah Ta’ala takes an oath on time, and then Allah Ta‘ala speaks about man being in a loss. Hence, Allah Ta‘ala impresses upon us that man can only protect himself from loss and acquire success if he values and safeguards his time – which in reality is the capital of his life.

The one who values and appreciates time, his life will become profitable and he will gain excellent returns for his capital. Conversely, the one who wastes his time, he is wasting his capital, thus he is in a genuine loss.

The very distinct and outstanding difference between the capital of time and other forms of capital is that if any other capital is lost, it can be regained. However, once time is lost, it can never be regained.

Whatever one wishes to accomplish, for the present or the future, has to be done within the confines of time. Yet, time in its very nature never waits, rather it is ever-moving. Hence, if one wishes to be successful, he should value every moment of his life.

وَالْعَصْر‎﴿١﴾‏ اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ‎﴿٢﴾

By the oath of time; indeed man is in loss

The Hadith says that every person gets up in the morning and sells himself to aqcuire either good or evil. In other words, he either invests his time in doing good works to earn the reward of Allah Ta‘ala and Jannah in the Hereafter, or he invests his time in carrying out evil actions to earn the punishment of Allah Ta‘ala in this world and Jahannum in the Hereafter.[1]

Thus, it is left to the individual to decide what he wants for himself – the goodness of this world and the hereafter, or the difficulty of this world and the hereafter.

Time is not a commodity or asset that a person can preserve in his vaults. Wealth such as gold, silver etc. can be preserved, but time is like a melting block of ice on a hot day which cannot be preserved or set aside for another occasion. Therefore, the message this surah conveys to man is to appreciate his time and utilize it properly and fruitfully.

The dying person also asks for additional time and extention in his life. When he begins to see the culmination of all his life’s efforts, then he desires that he be granted extra time so that he may be able to do good deeds. However, he will not be granted any additional time in the world. Hence, man should appreciate every moment of his life, and he should not allow any moment of his life to go wasted without doing good deeds and preparing for the life of the Hereafter.

 اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوْا وَعَمِلُوْا الصّٰلِحٰتِ

Indeed man is in loss, except those who have believed and done righteous deeds

In this Surah, Allah Ta‘ala explains that those who have not believed in Allah Ta‘ala are in a loss. In other words, they have destroyed the capital (time) of their lives and hence, they are unsuccessful.

Now the critical question arises that how can one earn maximum good through the limited life he has in this world.

Allah Ta’ala speaks about four works that a person needs to invest his time in for him to gain maximum benefit from his time in the world. If one invests his time correctly in these four works, then he will make the most of his time – the capital of his life.

These four works are:

(1) to invest in imaan

(2) to carry out righteous actions and refrain from sins

(3) to encourage one another towards righteousness and piety

(4) to assist and encourage one another to refrain from sins and evil.

 اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوْا

Indeed man is in loss, except those who have believed

The First Work

The first thing that one needs to invest in is Imaan. The one who acquires Imaan can be resembled to one who has acquired a plot of open land. In this land, he will be able to grow fruit-bearing trees and cultivate crops, thereby earning a fortune for himself. Without possessing the land, one will not be able to plant any trees or cultivate any crops.

Even if a disbeliever carries out abundant good works in his life, such as showing kindness to people, spending in charity, etc. then since he does not possess Imaan, his good works will be worthless and rejected in the Hereafter.

For whatever good works a disbeliever carries out in this world, he will be repaid in this world and will not receive any reward or any good in the Hereafter. Thus, Imaan is the greatest bounty of Allah Ta‘ala and is the key to all progress. Therefore, the first thing that one needs to invest in is acquiring Imaan and then making effort on his Imaan.

Once a person has understood that Imaan is the key to all progress and is the greatest favour of Allah Ta‘ala upon a person, then one should value and safeguard his Imaan.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) warned us that a time would come when a person would lose his Imaan in one night or one day. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “A man will start the day with Imaan, and will lose his Imaan by the evening, and a man will commence the evening with Imaan, and will lose his Imaan by the morning. He will sell his Deen for a meagre price of the dunya.” (Saheeh Muslim #118)

The way a person will lose his Imaan is through getting involved in haraam and sinful deeds, or joining the wrong company, involving himself in drinking wine and gambling, or looking at haraam on TV, internet, etc. When a person gets exposed to all these evils, his Imaan becomes weak and gradually he becomes more distant from deen and more attracted to the ways of the disbelievers. Then there is great fear that such a person will embrace the religion of the disbelievers and then leave the fold of Islam.

 اِنَّ الْاِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوْا وَعَمِلُوْا الصّٰلِحٰتِ

Indeed man is in loss, except those who have believed and done righteous deeds

The Second Work

The second thing that one needs to invest his time in, is carrying out righteous works. Though Imaan is the greatest wealth, Imaan will only show its full effect when it is coupled with righteous works. The righteous works which a person carries out will keep him firm on the path of imaan and allow him to progress in Imaan.

In the Qur’aan Majeed, at the commencement of Surah Mu’min, Allah Ta‘ala describes the people of Jannah saying, “Indeed, the people of Imaan are successful.” Thereafter, Allah Ta‘ala describes the people of Imaan by explaining the righteous works that they carry out in their lives such as being punctual and devoted in their salaah, refraining from futile actions and speech, discharging their zakaat, guarding their private parts from sin, and fulfilling their promises and pledges with people.

At the end of the verses, Allah Ta‘ala says that these are the people who will be worthy of gaining entry into Jannat-ul-Firdaus – the highest stage in Jannah.

In the Blessed Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “When a woman is punctual on her five daily salaah, fasts during the month of Ramadhaan, protects her chastity and is obedient to her husband, she may enter through whichever door of Jannah she wishes.” (Majma’uz Zawaa’id #7634)

In another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned, “There is no day in which the sun rises except that the day announces saying, ‘The one who is able to carry out good deeds (today) should do so, as once I leave, I will never return again.” (Shua’bul Imaan #3558)

Hence, a person should endeavor to carry out good deeds throughout his life and refrain from sins. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The one who recites the kalimah Laa ilaaha illallaah with ikhlaas (sincerity) will enter Jannah.” The Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) asked, “What is the sign of ikhlaas (sincerity) when reciting the kalimah?” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The sign of his sincerity when reciting the kalimah is that the kalimah will prevent him from everything that Allah Ta‘ala has prohibited and declared impermissible.” (Mu’jam Awsat #1235)

وَتَوَاصَوْا بالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بالصَّبْرِ ‎﴿٣﴾‏

And they encouraged each other towards the truth and encouraged each other towards perseverance (and steadfastness in refraining from sins).

The Third and Fourth Works

The third and fourth works are to encourage one another towards righteousness and piety, and to encourage one another to refrain from sin at all times.

If a person is firm on deen and he constantly holds onto righteousness and refrains from sin making this the main theme and focus of his life, then such a person will also be concerned about encouraging others towards the same.

Thus, in this aayah, Allah Ta‘ala speaks about fulfilling two great obligations in dealing with people. The first obligation is to encourage people towards the truth and piety, and the second obligation is to prevent people from sin and evil. This, in actual fact, refers to the obligation of amr bil ma’roof and nahi anil munkar (commanding with good and forbidding from evil).

In other words, for one to gain complete success, he should not only be concerned about his own progress, but should also be concerned about the progress of others as well.

In today’s time, we find that most people are only concerned about their personal righteousness and progress, but are not concerned about the progress of others.

Hence, in this verse, Allah Ta‘ala impresses upon us that just as we should be concerned about our own progress, we should also be concerned about the progress of the ummah at large.


[1]  عن أبي مالك الأشعري، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: الوضوء شطر الإيمان، والحمد لله تملأ الميزان، وسبحان الله والحمد لله تملآن أو تملأ ما بين السموات والأرض، والصلاة نور، والصدقة برهان، والصبر ضياء، والقرآن حجة لك أو عليك، كل الناس يغدو فبائع نفسه فمعتقها أو موبقها. هذا حديث صحيح (سنن االترمذي، الرقم: 3517)

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