بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ لِلَّهِ ,نَحْمَدُهُ ,وَنَسْتَعِينُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُهُ , وَنَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ شُرُورِ أَنْفُسِنَا وَمِنْسَيِّئَاتِ أَعْمَالِنَا ,مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللهُ فَلَا مُضِلَّ لَهُ , وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَا هَادِيَ لَهُ , وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ
Verily, all praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His assistance and we ask for His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Him from the evils of our selves. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. Whoever He misguides, none can guide. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.
أعوذُ بِٱللَّهِ مِنَ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ ٱلرَّجِيم
Seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled.
بِسْ مِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
Today’s topic and what I wanted to discuss is surah Al-‘Asr (Quran 103). One of the interesting parts of the study of the Quran is something called Al-Munasibat, which is the connection between the order of the surahs. When you study a surah you see where it is located within the Quran. What is the surah before it? What is the surah after it? In the case of surah Al-‘Asr, the surah before it is surah At-Takathur (Quran 102). أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ – Alhakumu-takathur – asks us this question: what is it that we are spending our life doing? What is it that we are spending our lives competing in? That kind of competition is the competition that keeps Jeff and Satya and Zuckerberg happy. Who has the better house? The better car? The competition to see if you have more than your brother or your sister. It’s distracted you from the reality of this world. That is the summary of surah At-Takathur.
Surah At-Takathur reminds us of the reality of this world and what we are actually trying to be productive for. It makes us ask ourselves: How can I increase my productivity? How can I increase my business’ productivity? How can I increase my department’s productivity? Where does it all eventually lead to? That’s surah At-Takathur.
The next surah, surah Al-‘Asr, on the other hand, is talking about the reality of and our understanding of time.
It starts with وَالْعَصْرِ. Allah (swt) swears (Quran 103:1):
I swear by time.
وَ is the little Kasam – the oath. When Allah (swt) swears by something, this is a type of speech in the Arabic language. In the classical Arabic language, you swear by something to bring attention to it, to emphasize it. So have you really thought deeply about time? How you spend it, what it’s worth, what its value is. And then in particular, the word al-asr – there are many words for time.
There’s ‘dahr‘, which means all of time. There’s waqt, which is a specific time. “I’ll meet you at this time. I’ll meet you in the masjid. I’ll meet you at work at this time. The meeting is at this time.” Then there’s asr, and usually when you hear asr, you think of salatul Asr?
What is salatul Asr? It is the last salah of the day. Maghrib begins the night, but Asr is the salah of the ending of the day.
The modern word in Arabic for juice is ‘aseer. You squeeze the orange or the lemon or whatever fruit, and you get the juice out. So your day is squeezed, and the end of that squeeze is Asr – the declining of the day.
It’s the last chance to get your final sale, the time to file your spreadsheets. You got to get this in quickly before dark, you got to get out before dark, you want to get home while it’s still light outside – something people in the past said a lot, before electricity. “I need to get home before dark, because I won’t be able to see where I’m going.”
So asr refers to the past and all the time that has passed in our lives that Allah (swt) will judge us for. Asr also refers to the swift nature of time, and how fast it goes. As your lifespan increases, so to does your time. It feels like it’s moving faster and faster. It’s going day by day and each day goes into that account of Allah (swt) that he will hold us accountable for. وَالْعَصْرِ – I swear by time – Allah says. Now, what comes after? (Quran 103:2):
إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
Indeed. Mankind is at loss.
At a loss when it comes to – what? When it comes to time. The majority of mankind is at a loss, and not using that time in the way they should be. If we look at our day, how do we spend our time? Do we make some time for our deen? Do we make some time for the Quran? You spend an hour scrolling through your feed – the news or politics or YouTube or Facebook. What if we took 10 minutes of that hour for the Quran? Someone might say, “What’s the point? I don’t get much out of it,” or “I don’t know what to do,” or “I don’t know how to read,” or “I forgot“.
It’s okay. Read a translation. Listen to something about the Quran or do something that you are comfortable with and build yourself up slowly to say, “This is my time for the Quran.” You might say, “I have children and I am busy.” Well, find a time where everyone else is sleeping. Whether it’s early in the day or after bedtime, what are those 10 minutes where it’s just you and a lesson? Where are those 10 minutes where it’s you and Allah (swt), where you are making dua? Where are those 10 minutes where you are reading the Quran and spending that time learning, experiencing, gaining, so that you don’t fall into this category إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ (mankind is in loss)?
There’s a positive take to this as well. Of course, time is like this double edged sword. You can use it for good. You can use it to defend yourself. You can use it for something positive, but it can also harm you because of the other edge. The interesting thing is that this life is so temporary and the next life is so eternal. The next life is so eternal. So one little small act of good here leads to many lifetimes of bliss in the Hereafter. One small act of good here can keep going into the Hereafter.
It multiplies itself so that there will be people on the Day of Judgment, who when raised, will say, “Ya Allah , where did all these deeds come from?” Allah (swt) will say, “You put it out into the world. You taught someone a good word. You spread knowledge. You did something, which had a multiplying effect.” So that one little good deed that you thought was so insignificant and small – the teaching of your child, the advising of your friend, that small act of good that you thought wouldn’t be so significant in the grand scheme – actually turned into something enormous.
So that’s the positive nature as well. That this life is temporary, yes, but its effects and results are eternal. Its results are for the Hereafter. They are forever.
And then Allah says (Quran 103:3):
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
Illa-lathina aamanu wa’amilus-saalihatu watawasawbil-haqqi watawasawbil-sabri
It’s a very simple surah, a very short surah. What is it – third shortest? Al-Ikhlas, Al-Kawthar, and Al-‘Asr are the three shortest surahs in the Quran. But Imam ul-Shafi’ said that if people were just to reflect on surah Al-Asr, that would be enough – qa-fahun – that would be sufficient for them.
And it’s just three lines. “I swear by the time all of mankind is at loss, except for those who believe.” A lot of times people think of Imaan as black or white – either you have it, or you don’t. But Allah (swt) tells us that Imaan is actually a spectrum. That’s why he says الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا – allathina-aminu. What an interesting verse! It says, “Oh, you who believe, believe!” You say you believe, believe more.
The word آمَنُو – aamanu – is also used in the Quran for security وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ – wa-amanahum min khawf. Allah gave the Quraysh the security and peace, because Imaan is this thing that brings about peace. Allah (swt) gives us security through Imaan. He gives us peace through Imaan. The world isn’t this chaotic thing that came about through chance. There’s a creator, and there’s a unity in the creation. There is a unifying force in the creation. There is a direction and a purpose.
This is peace. This is security. That’s the effect of Imaan.
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ
They believe and they do righteous deeds.
So first the Imaan comes, then the righteous deeds come. If the Imaan is claimed, but the righteous deeds don’t follow, there’s something wrong. It’s like the tree that is not prospering and the branches are not growing. There’s something wrong, either in how it was planted or with the food that is being given, or with the sun, the soil. Something needs to be corrected. So the righteous deeds must follow that Imaan. We claim to believe, but what are the righteous deeds that follow through? What are the righteous deeds that emanate from that Imaan?
When was the last time we thought of someone besides ourselves? A family besides our own family? When was the last time we did something for someone? Maybe for some of us, it was just this morning. Maybe for some of us, it’s been a long time and that’s the world we live in. Isn’t it nafsi-nafsi / myself-myself. What’s in it for me?
The righteous deeds, they emanate from Imaan.
Now this is an interesting verse. The Lord says those who believe, and those who do good deeds, they are not at loss. And the third thing, if you understand this verse, you understand your life’s obligation. If you understand this verse, you believe you do good deeds. Is that enough? They advise each other with truth بِالْحَقِّ . It doesn’t say they advise each other with Imaan and good deeds. They advise each other with truth. You advise each other with truth, not with deception, or fake news. You advise each other with truth. You verify, and Imaan is true and good. Deeds are true. That’s all part of بِالْحَقِّ . And everything that is true is everything that is wanted and desired. Truth is something that people want.
Nobody wants to be deceived. Nobody wants deception. Nobody wants lies. Everyone wants truth. So become a spreader of truth, but you know what happens when you spread the truth? There’s pushback from the people of lies. There’s pushback from those who don’t want the truth to get out. And that’s where that last part comes into play:
And they advise each other to have patience.
A lot of times we have the wrong idea of what patience is. Patience is not saying, “Well, this is in the news and there’s nothing I can do. I just have to sit and wait for the election or sit and wait for the next election or sit and wait for whatever else to happen.” All the time, we have this idea that patience is something weak. “I can’t do it. It’s out of my control. I can’t do anything else. So I should just wait.” That’s not what sabr is. Allah says:
وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ
Those who are patient through illness and adversity, calamity, and at the time of war.
Now tell me, can you wait in a time of war? Can you wait? You cannot keep saying, “I’m just going to wait until it ends.” When you are in a time of war, you’re trying to get an advantage at every step. You’re trying to figure out what’s next. You’re persevering. You’re literally in the trenches trying to persevere, trying to push through because once you have the advantage, the war will finally be over.
So tell me, is that, is that the kind of patients that we understand from the word الصَّبْر? Do we say, “Let’s just wait for that to happen“? Sabr is strength. It is courage in the face of falsehood, and in the face of anything that goes against the truth.
So we ask Allah to help us be amongst those that make use of our time. And amongst those who believe and do righteous deeds and advise each other towards truth and it’s patience and towards sabr. Ameen.
أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say what you have heard and I seek forgiveness from Allah for me and you from every sin.
In conclusion, my brothers and sisters, the Quran is full of these kinds of gems, this kind of wisdom, that we find in surah Al-‘Asr, even though it is such a short surah.
There we are at today. Will you reflect on where we are today and what we could do more of? Reflect on what those things we can do are. Ask yourself, how can I work on my Imaan? What’s one thing I can do to work on my Imaan?
What is that prayer that I want to make? What is that dua I want to make? What is that charity I want to give? What is that thing that will increase my Imaan? Not tomorrow, but today, what is something that we can do today? What is that good deed that will reverberate that will just keep going and going? Something we will find it in the Hereafter.
What is some advice that we can give someone who is in need? Maybe someone we know is really in trouble. We’ve been ignoring it, hoping it goes away. The problem goes away by itself. Well, who’s that person we can reach out to and be amongst those who وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ, even if we’ve told them before, we can try again.
So I ask Allah (swt) that He helps us to act on that. I ask Allah (swt) that He fulfils the needs of those in need and who are sick. And those that have passed, may Allah (swt) have mercy on them and give their families patience. May Allah (swt) enter them into the highest levels of paradise and reunite them with their beloved family members and with the prophets and the shuhada and the salihin.
And I ask Allah (swt) that He makes our last words لا إله إلا الله, that he accepts our good deeds, and makes the Quran a part of our lives and gives the Quran a place in our hearts and in our actions, in our deeds and our words. Ameen.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters. And, establish the prayer.