Surah Al-‘Asr is a very small surah of the Quran, translated into english as The Time. Although it is a very small surah of the Quran, yet it is among the most important surah in the Quran. Imam Syafie, a very renowned imam used to say with the approximate meaning; in case this surah is the only surah revealed by Allah to men and men practice what is told in this surah, it will be sufficient for men to attain success in this world and the hereafter. Such a great iman, who dare to speak such words to the entire mankind, must have such a profound knowledge and understanding of the Quran. Allah must have given him the knowledge of the understanding of the Quran which is not given to others during his time. Many Muslims particularly in Malaysia follows mazhab of imam Syafie, a great scholar of Islam. Imam Syafie was the only imam with the opinion that ‘doa qunut’ must be read daily in fajar prayers, because he believes that the Muslims ummah is constantly in calamities after the Prophet Muhammad saw passed away. Muslims of other mazhab will read doa qunut in fajar prayers only at times of calamities. What is the meaning of this surah? Allah says in the approximate meaning; I swear by time all men are at lost, except those who believe and do good actions, who frequently reminding each other about the truth and reminding each other with patient. Many Muslims scholars understand this surah as all men will be at lost except those who have the four main qualities mention in the surah. According to many Muslims scholars, the four main qualities mention in the surah are; iman, good actions (amal soleh), reminding each others about the truth and reminding each others with patient. According to many Muslims scholars all the four qualities mention in the surah must be acquired by all men if they want to become successful in this world and the hereafter. However, most scholars failed to explain to Muslims in their lectures on how to obtain the four qualities, because they themselves do not possess those four qualities. So, how to acquire those four qualities?
Only in this surah of the Quran, it is mentioned that men need to have four qualities in order to attain success in this world and the hereafter, while in all other surah of the Quran only two qualities are required in order to become successful in this world and the hereafter and the two qualities are iman (believe) and good actions (amal soleh). All verses of the Quran should be complementing each other because they come from the same source that is from Allah. It is not possible that verses of Quran are contradicting with each other. So the interpretation that we need to have four qualities in order to become successful in this world and the hereafter must be wrong. The truth is in order to become successful in this world and the hereafter we need to have only two qualities; that is we need to become those whom Allah call as believers (those who have the minimum level of iman required by Allah) and we need to have good actions (known as amal soleh). Iman will be asked in the grave and good actions will be asked in the field of mashar. The last two points mention in the surah are not qualities to be acquired but the work need to be done and method in doing the work in order to acquire the first two qualities, iman and amal soleh. What is the work need to be done in order to acquire those two qualities? The work that needs to be done is the work of reminding each others about the truth and in what way the work need to be done? The work needs to be done with patient. What is the truth mention in the surah? The truth mention in the surah is the Great Kalimah; there is no God except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Whoever among Muslims who wants to acquire the two qualities, iman and amal soleh must do the work of reminding Muslims about the meaning and the right of the Great Kalimah and the work of reminding the non-Muslims to recite the Great Kalimah. The right of the Great Kalimah is the work of enjoining Good and forbidding the Evils (amar makruf nahi mungkar). By the grace of Allah, I have explained and showed both theoretically and practically on how to do the work of enjoining good and forbidding the evils in this blog at Dakwah category and also in Youtube under my credential, Prof Dr Nasoha.
How the work of reminding Muslims about the meaning and the right of the Great Kalimah and the non-Muslims to recite the Great Kalimah should be done? The work needs to be done with patient. What is the meaning of patient mention in this surah? It means; when we do the work of reminding the peoples about the truth we will meet peoples who will give us difficulties and we are ordered by Allah that we must continue to remind them about the truth with love and affection even to those peoples who had given us difficulties. In other words, patient means to constantly do the work of reminding about the Great Kalimah even to those who gives us difficulties. In other verses of the Quran Allah says with the approximate meaning; truly good is not the same as evils, repay evils with good, until your enemies become your friends, verily this is hard to do except to those who have been given patient, and whoever has been given patient has indeed been given a great bounties (Fussilat 34-35). The work of reminding peoples about the truth must be done with patient or in other word the work must be done daily with steadfastness (Fussilat 30). When we do the work of reminding the truth and in the way Prophet Muhammad SAW did, with the intention only to please Allah until Allah is pleased, Allah promise us that He will gives us the correct level of iman and the correct actions or amal. Once we obtain the minimum level of iman that Allah wants, Allah will call us a believer and the actions done with the correct level of iman are call the correct actions or amal soleh. We will not obtain the correct actions or amal soleh without having the required level of iman. With the required level of iman, we will be able to do all our actions with correct knowledge, hikmah, ikhlas, ihsan and ihtisab. When our actions are done with iman, ilmu, hikmah, ikhlas, ihsan and ihtisab, our actions are called the correct actions or amal soleh. A person who has iman and amal soleh is the person who is successful in this world and the hereafter as mention in the surah.
What does it means when Allah says a person is successful? A successful person according to the Quran is a person who is saved from hellfire and able to enter paradise. A person who is successful in this world is a person who has good life, peace of mind and soul and blessing (berkah) in earning. A person who after death enters hellfire is an unsuccessful person. A muslim who had bad actions more than good actions will first enter the hellfire and only after sometimes he or she can enter paradise is still regarded as a person at loss or unsuccessful. Only those who are totally saved from hellfire and enter paradise are regarded as successful. A person is said to have good actions only after he or she has attained the minimum level of iman as required by Allah. As long as he or she has not attained the minimum level of iman required by Allah, all his or her actions are not regarded as good action. As long as a person has not attained the minimum level of iman as required by Allah and has not attained the good actions, that person is still regarded as at loss or unsuccessful. A person who has no iman will have no amal and he is sinful in the eyes of Allah. Those who have iman but the level of iman has not reached the level required by Allah will have amals but the amals are devoid of sincerity or the amals are coloured with pride or riak (amal to show others). In both situations, those either having no iman or having iman but not reaching the level that Allah wants are all at loss. It is not sufficient only to have iman but it is important to have the minimum level of iman as required by Allah. We cannot attain the minimum level of iman as required by Allah only by making doa’, but we have to do both making doa’ and making an effort (work). The work to gain iman is the work of reminding men about the truth and to remind them about the truth with patient. All those who have no iman or having iman but not reaching the level that Allah wants are all at lost. The one who is not at lost is only those who have attained the minimum level of iman as required by Allah and who have good actions or amal soleh. In this surah Allah proclaim; verily all men are at lost except those with iman and amal soleh.
In this surah, Allah swear, verily with time, all men are at lost, which mean all men are at lost because all men except few have wrongly use their time. Time is more precious than anything in this world. Without having time, everything else has no value. We have time because we are alive in this world. When we die, we do not have time anymore and all the worldly things that we have become invaluable and we can no longer do any actions that can either bring good or bad to us. When we die, we lose time. Time is extremely very valuable and because of that Allah swears in this surah, Verily with time, all men are at lost. Allah gives us the time to live in this world and the reason why Allah has given us the time is for us to obtain the qualities that Allah wants, which is the minimum level of iman and the correct actions or amal soleh. Allah has given us time in this world in order to obtain the love of Allah and to die longing to meet Allah. Allah will only love us, when we obey all the commandments of Allah, in the way shown by our Prophet Muhammad SAW, with the intention to please Allah until Allah is pleased with us. Except for very few men, most men use the time given to them by Allah in obtaining things that men like and doing things which men enjoy to do with. Most men fail to realize the purpose of their lifes in this world and instead of doing things that Allah likes and obtaining qualities that Allah wants, most men are busy obtaining only worldly things and doing things that they like. At the end of the day all men will die without bringing anything that Allah loves. All men who die bringing nothing of that which Allah loves will enter hellfire and therefore are at loss. Men are at loss because they use the capital that Allah has given them which is the time wrongly. In order to become successful, men need to use the time the way Allah wants. When men use the time given to them in obtaining the level of iman that Allah wants and performing the correct actions or amal soleh that Allah wants, men will become successful. Men do not need material wealth or power in order to become successful but men need only times and to use the time correctly to obtain the correct iman and correct actions.
Prof. Dr. Nasoha Saabin
Dean of Faculty of Optometry
International University College of Technology Twintech
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia