Some Reflections on Surah Al-Asr by S N Smith, Ottawa

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Some reflections on Surah Al-Asr by S N Smith
Surah Al-Asr, the 103rd chapter of the Quran, consisting of only three
short verses, mentions four qualities that if a person does not
possess they are in loss. Imam Shafi (may Allah grant him mercy) has
very rightly said that if the people only considered this Surah well,
it alone would suffice them for their guidance. Abdullah bin Hisn
ad-Darimi Abu Madinah, stated that whenever any two of the companions
met they would not part company until they had recited Surah Al-Asr to
each other.

Allah says:

وَٱلۡعَصۡرِ (١) إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسۡرٍ (٢) إِلَّا
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ
بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ (٣)

“I swear by the Time, Man is in a state of loss indeed, Except those
who believed and did righteous deeds, and exhorted each other to
follow truth, and exhorted each other to observe patience.”

So the four qualities are:

1) Belief (Iman) (see also: Al-Hujurat: 15; Ha Mim As-Sajdah:30;
AI-Anfal:2; AI-Baqarah:165; An-Nisa’: 65 and an-Nisa:136) The
embracement of Tawheed, Akhira and Risalah are essential.

2) Doing righteous deeds (salihat), which is based on faith and it is
performed in obedience to the guidance given by Allah and His
Messenger (pbuh). Notice in the Quran that faith (iman) precedes the
committal of good deeds. One must have faith for the deed to be
accepted by Allah. Faith and righteous deeds must be together and not
be separate.

3) Exhorting other to follow the truth. In other words, we must not
merely think of ourselves, but of others also and not merely live as
isolated individuals. We do not possess the right to be indifferent.
Failure to live up to this duty leads to individual and societal
corruption. In Surah Al-Ma’idah, Allah says: “Those who adopted the
way of disbelief among the children of Israel were cursed by the
tongue of David and of Jesus, son of Mary, because they had grown
rebellious and become transgressors: they would not forbid one another
to do the wrong deeds they committed.” (vv 78-79). And in Surah
Al-A`raf, Allah says: “When the children of Israel totally forgot the
teachings (of observing the Sabbath), We seized with a severe scourge
all those who were transgressors, and We saved those who used to
forbid evil” (v. 165); and in Surah Al-Anfal, Allah says: “And guard
against that mischief which will not bring punishment in particular to
the mischief-makers alone from among you.” (v. 25) That is why to
enjoin what is good and to forbid what is evil, has been enjoined on
the Muslim community as a duty (See Al-`Imran 104) and the community
which performs this duty has been declared to be the best community
(see Al-`Imran: 110).

4) Exhorting others to practice patience. The Arabic word is sabr
which means much more than patience. To have sabr means to be
steadfast in one’s obligations, to prevent oneself from committing
sins and to endure hardship with patience. Not only should we do this
ourselves, but we should encourage others to do it also. We need each
other for support if we are to remain strong, and this means building
up a community in which we encourage and strengthen one another.
Without this we remain weak, both individually and communally.

S N Smith lives in Ottawa and can be reached via email at:
shawnsmith1964@gmail.com

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