The way to salvation in the light of Suratul Al - ‘ASR Part I
Friday, June 08, 2012
In the name of Allah, most Gracious, Most Merciful.
1.By (the token of) time (through the ages)
2.Verily Men are in a state of loss
3.Except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.
Surah Al – ‘ASR is one of the shortest Surahs of the Quran.The words used in this Surah are also commonly used in Urdu and are familiar to those who have a fair knowledge of this language.This is why a sketchy meaning of the Surah is grasped without much difficulty by every Urdu-knowing individual.But studied and pondered over at a deeper level, this Surah opens up a treasure house of knowledge and wisdom.
As a matter of fact, there is a striking analogy between this Surah and SurahAl – lKhlas. Surah Al – ‘Asr sums up in a few concise words the way and practical guidance that leads to eternal success and salvation just as Surah Al – lkhlas delineates in a few words the nature and unity of Godhood in Islam.
Though very short and compact, both of these Surahs are extremely rich in meaning relating to their respective themes.Maulana Hamid-ud – Din farahi has categorized Surah Al – ‘Asr as an ephorism of great wisdom, whereas Imam Al – sha’ fii maintained that a deep and thoughtful study of this Surah alone provides adequate guidance for attaining one’s salvation.
This Surah is composed of three verses.The second verse is of central importance in meaning and significance.This verse expressed the painful and tragic state of man generally, state of loss and deprivation.The evidence for this is presented in the first verse, in the form of an oath or adjuration.The third verse of the Surah carves out an exception from the general condition of man laid down in second verse.
In this way, this Surah is clearly divided into two parts, its first part ‘by fleeting time, verily man is doomed (or destined) to loss and ruin – consists of a statement and its proof and as such is of utmost practical importance, giving the essential requirements and conditions of a successful life, a precise but nevertheless complete and comprehensive elucidation of the ‘right path’.
It is not my aim to write down, in the following pages, an exegetical explanation of this Surah, firstly because this venture calls for greater scholarship and deeper insight than I can claim and, secondly, because in my opinion Maulana hameed-ud-Dinfarahi has already done full justice to the elucidation and exposition of the profound meaning of this Surah in the following discussion an attempt has been made merely at explaining some general principals of the Surah and in particular, some crucial points of its second part so that a detailed and synoptic view of the obligations and duties that Islam enjoins upon us as put in bold relief.
If we look at this Surah as a whole, we realize that the note of warning and admonition is much more pronounced than the conditions for hope given at the end.Firstly, its very opening statement produces a big impact on the reader.The words ‘By the token of) time, verily man is in a state of loss’ even if considered only in their vocal arousing the listener from his slumber. A full realization of its meaning must produce a still more potent effect.
Secondly; the statement, ‘verily man is doomed to failure’, has been laid down as an all-compassing and categorical assertion on the other hand, the verse starting with the words, ‘except those who have faith… grants an exception to the general statement.This is tantamount to saying that whereas the loss or doom of man is almost a universal truth, salvation is an exception to be achieved by only a few.
A statement very similar to this has been in Surah at – leen (XCV).The verse of this Surah, “then we reduced him to the lowest of the low “described the depraved condition mankind as a whole, while the next part of this verse ‘save those who believe and do good deeds’ marks out the persons saved from the state of depravity.
But in Surah At – teen, two optimistic points have been made
to lighten the note of warning.One, priors to; then we reduce him to the lowest of the low “a
re-assurance of the primordial goodness of man has been given in these
words.“Surely we created man in
the best of moulds”.
immediately after the words “save those who believe and do good deeds”, a
heart-warming promise of eternal salvation has been made in the same verse and
there is a reward unfailing. In Surah Al- ‘Asr, on the contrary, not only there
is no reassurance of man’s creation ‘in the best of moulds, but also it lacks a
positive promise of an unfailing reward’.
It ends with a mere statement of the possibility of deliverance from loss and ruin. Further where in Surah Al- teen, only two conditions have been laid that exempt one from falling into a depraved state i.e., belief and good deeds, Surah Al-Asr demands for the exemption from universal ruin, in addition to faith and good deeds, two stringent requirements of faith-exhorting one another to endurance.
Author: Muhammed Lamin Ceesay