Surah Asr

Surah Asr

Surah Asr or Surah Wal Asr as it is also known is the 103rd chapter of the Quran. It speaks of the fact that all human beings are in a loss unless they believe in God and do good deeds. Losing time, oneself and the passing of age is something that all human beings experience and we must use this time well if we want to reap the rewards of this life in the Hereafter.

Some Facts about Surah Asr

The 103rd chapter of the Quran, known as Surah Asr, focuses on the fact that all of humankind is in a loss. The only people who are exempt from this loss are those who believe in God and perform good deeds. This chapter begins with an oath on time which, according to commentators, can have different meanings which are discussed in the article.

103 Surah no.

Juz’ 30 Place

Makki Makki/Madani

13 Order of revelation

3 No. of verses

14 No. of words

73 No. of letters


Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Asr


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful

وَالْعَصْرِ ﴿1﴾

By Time!

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ ﴿2﴾

Man is indeed in loss,

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ ﴿3﴾

Except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to [follow] the truth, and enjoin one another to patience. 1

This article covers the following topics:

Benefits of Reciting Surah Asr

Regarding this chapter it has been narrated by the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household):

Whoever recites this Chapter will have his deeds sealed with patience and will be on the Day of Judgment on the right track.

It has also been narrated by Ja‘far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him):

Whoever recites this Sura in his optional prayers will be resurrected with a smiling face, his eyes being cooled, till he enters Paradise. 2

Interesting Fact about Surah Asr

In early Islam, when the Muslims would say good-bye and separate from one another they would recite Surah Asr. 3

Surah Asr: An Oath on Time

وَالْعَصْرِ ﴿1﴾

By Time!

As with many other chapters of the Quran, Surah Asr also begins with an oath too.

Considering this verse in accordance with the verses that come after it, it seems the most suitable meaning of the word ‘asr’ (عصر) would be the age of emergence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household) which is the dawn of Islam and the manifestation of truth and its victory over falsehood. 4

Other Possible Meanings for the Word ‘Asr’

Some commentators have mentioned other possible meanings for this word too; some of which are as follows:

  • It refers to the late afternoon; i.e. the end of the day
  • It refers to the afternoon prayer
  • It refers to age (i.e. in terms of history)
  • In some narrations it refers to the time of the reappearance of al-Mahdi (peace be upon him) when truth will be completely victorious over falsehood. 5

Man’s Loss according to Surah Asr

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ ﴿2﴾

Man is indeed in loss,

In this verse, man refers to people in general, i.e. the human species and ‘khusr’ (خسر) refers to deficit of capital.

Lexically, the latter word applies both to man, as well his actions. In the verse, it is used in indefinite form in order to explain that man is in a great loss or it alternatively mean that he is in a particular kind of loss; not economical or related to honor, but rather to his essence as is indicated in the following:

…قُلْ إِنَّ الْخَاسِرِينَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَهْلِيهِمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ أَلَا ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿15﴾

Say, ‘The losers are those who ruin themselves and their families on the Day of Resurrection.’ Indeed, that is a manifest loss! 6

The loss of money can be compensated; however, the loss of oneself and humanity cannot. 7

The Passing of Life in Surah Asr

The loss mentioned in Surah Asr could also refer to the passing of life which is man’s capital and every time one loses his capital and he didn’t use it for obedience it would be a loss for him; as there is no loss greater than being entitled to eternal punishment. 8

Exemption from Loss in Surah Asr

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ ﴿3﴾

Except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to [follow] the truth, and enjoin one another to patience.

The last verse of Surah Asr exempt a particular group of people from the loss mentioned in the previous verse.

Believers and Good-Doers in Surah Asr

Those who are exempt from loss are the believers, i.e. those who believe in God and all the righteous beliefs and those who do good deeds. The good-doers who perform all the good deeds are the real instances of those saved from loss and the believers who are sinful are only partly exempted from loss. 9

Advising to Truth in Surah Asr

The word ‘tawasi’ (تواصی) is to enjoin one thing to another and vice versa. Enjoining each other to righteousness is to enjoin and advice one another to follow the truth, persevere and persist in it. Therefore, the true religion is nothing but following the truth in actions and beliefs and enjoining others to do the same.

Enjoining others to the truth has a wider scope than that of ‘Amr bil Ma‘rouf and Nahi anil Munkar’ (أمر بالمعروف و نهي عن المنکر), i.e. enjoining to good and forbidding from evil; since this latter concept does not include beliefs or absolute encouragement towards good actions. However, tawasi includes both. 10

Advising to Patience in Surah Asr

Enjoining to patience is mentioned in the absolute sense and the verse does not indicate in what instances patience is recommended.

As a result, this patience includes patience in obeying God, patience against sinning, and patience in times of hardships. 11

General and Particular

Even though enjoining to truth and patience are part of good deeds; however, they have been mentioned separately in Surah Wal Asr because of their importance. Similarly, patience is part of truth but it has been mentioned separately because of its importance. 12

The World is a Marketplace

In a narration, Ali bin Muhammad al-Hadi (peace be upon him) says:

The world is a market where some people gain and others lose.

When we glance at the verses of the Quran, we see that they are all pointing to an essential matter which is that the world is a marketplace where people are all presenting their life, abilities and capabilities and this marketplace selling goods is incumbent. Each person is necessarily losing his life every minute and we cannot stop the passing of time. Therefore, what is important in this marketplace is choosing the right buyer. 13

Trading with God

Some people do trade with God and are sincere towards Him in whatever they have; they act for His pleasure and in His path. These people have turned the passing and finite world into something infinite and surviving and have traded the world for Heaven and Divine pleasure. These people are the real winners. 14

The Real Winners

They are the real winners for the following reasons:

  • Their buyer is God from who all of existence originates
  • He even buys insignificant things as indicated in the following verse: So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. 15
  • He buys expensive and His price is eternal Heaven: to remain in them [forever]. 16
  • If we sought to do good deeds but were not successful, he will still reward us: nothing belongs to man except what he strives for. 17
  • He rewards multiple-fold. 18

The Losers

However, in this market-place there are some people that sell their lives to their own base desires or that of others and do not think of God’s pleasure. This group is in a great loss and the following are some of the expressions the Quran uses to describe them:

  • Evil is that for which they have sold their souls. 19
  • So their trade did not profit them. 20
  • They have certainly ruined their souls. 21
  • A manifest loss. 22
  • Indeed in loss. 23

The Clever Ones

According to the second group, i.e. the losers in this world and the next, a clever person is one who can achieve a life of comfort for themselves, be it through the right means or the wrong ones and to be beloved and popular in the society. Anyone who does not has lost, is unfortunate and backward.

However, according to Islamic culture, a clever person is one who takes account of his soul and does not abandon it; who works for the eternal life and everyday of his is better than the one before. He is not heedless of death and instead of indecency, greed and oppression he seeks piety, contentment and justice. 24

Summary of Surah Asr

Surah Asr begins with an oath on the word ‘asr’ which could have multiple meanings according to commentators; one of which is that it refers to the age of the emergence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household). The chapter then goes on to speak of man’s loss and this loss can refer to the passing of time where man is losing time which has not been well used or the loss of his essence and humanity; this applies to all except those who believe in God and perform good deeds.


References

  1. Qarai translation
  2. Al-Islam
  3. Qaraati, M. Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Asr
  4. Tabatabai, M. H. (1374 AP). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Transl. by Seyed Muhammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. Vol. 20, p. 608
  5. Ibid. p. 609
  6. [39: 15]. Qarai translation
  7. Qaraati, M. Ibid.
  8. Tabarsi, F. (1360). Majma‘ al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran. Translated by a group of translators. Farahani Publications. Vol. 27, p. 263
  9. Qarashi, A. A. (1377). Tafsir-i Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Publications. Vol. 12, p. 346
  10. Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. pp. 611-612
  11. Ibid. p. 612
  12. Qaraati, M. Ibid.
  13. Qaraati, M. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. [99: 7]. Qarai translation
  16. [3: 15]. Qarai translation
  17. [53: 39]. Qarai translation
  18. Qaraati, M. Ibid.
  19. [2: 90]. Qarai translation
  20. [2: 16]. Qarai translation
  21. [7: 53]. Qarai translation
  22. [4:119]. Qarai translation
  23. [103: 2]. Qarai translation.
  24. Qaraati, M. Ibid.

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