By Babatunde Jose
By (the Token of) Time (through the Ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. (Quran 103:1-3)
According to Sayyid Maududi, this Surah, Al-Asr (one of the shortest in the Quran), is a matchless specimen of comprehensiveness and brevity. A whole world of meaning has been compressed into its few brief words, which is too vast in content to be fully expressed even in a book. It was the ‘Thought for Today’ at last Sunday’s monthly meeting of the Crescent Bearers. In a clear and plain way it has declared the way to true success for man and what is the way to ruin and destruction for him. It conveys a brilliant source of Guidance; thereby directing individuals, communities, nations and successive generations to the Right Path. We are reminded that a purposeless life without ideals is a waste; that material property, scientific progress and technological advancement cannot in themselves save humanity. History reveals to us that science on its own cannot drive civilization. The developments in science are used by political man to different ends. An example is the decision to use the Atom Bomb, which brought the 2nd World War to a final end. Man’s salvation lies in having a pure ideology, a practical philosophy, positive action and purposeful lives. The flight of Time provides the testimony that only those who do not waste the opportunity of doing good and being righteous that ultimately reap benefits of existence.
There are four principles for salvation contained in this surah and they constitute a truly comprehensive program. Let us consider each of these parts separately in order to understand the meaning fully. The oath by Time signifies that Time is witness to the truth that man is in sheer loss except for the people who possess four qualities 1) Faith,
(2) Righteous deeds, (3) Exhorting one another to Truth, and(4) Exhorting one another to patience.
Muhammad Shafi said the Struggle of the human being is like the one who is trying to sell ice. It is melting away and he needs to sell it quickly and make as much sales before the end of the day comes. Otherwise – all his valuables’ and efforts will go to waste.
The first quality is Iman (Faith) of which there are 362 verses in the Quran. The Faith which the Qur’an regards as true Faith has been explained in the following verses: Quran 49: 15; Quran 41: 30; Quran 8:2; Quran 2:165 and Quran 4: 65.
Some verses are even more explicit as they make distinction between verbal affirmation of Faith and true Faith; it says that what is actually desirable is true Faith and not mere verbal affirmation of the Faith; see Quran 4: 136.
As for the question, what has one to believe in, in order to have true faith? This also has been answered and explained in the Quran. First, one has to believe in Allah, not merely in His Being but in the sense that He alone is God; no one else is an associate in His Godhead; He alone is worthy that man should worship, serve and obey Him; He alone can make or mar destinies; man should invoke Him alone and have trust in Him alone; He alone can enjoin things and forbid things; man is under obligation to obey Him and refrain from what he forbids; He sees everything and hears everything; not to speak of any act of man, even his motives and intentions with which he has done an act, are not hidden from Him.
Secondly, one has to believe in the Messenger which also includes faith in the angels, the Prophets, the Divine Books and in the Qur’an itself, for this forms part of the teachings which the Messenger of Allah has given.
Thirdly, one has to believe in the Hereafter: Because, in the end we would all have to account. This provides a firm basis for morality and character, upon which can be built the edifice of a pure life, whereas the truth is that without such Faith, the life of man, however beautiful and pleasing outwardly, is like a ship without an anchor, which is at the mercy of the waves wherever they may take it.
After Faith the second quality required to save man from loss is to perform righteous deeds which comprehends all kinds of virtuous and good deeds. The relationship between Faith and righteous deed is of the seed and the tree. Unless the seed is sown in the soil no tree can grow out of it.
Perhaps we might ask ourselves, as a people, have we sown any seed that would warrant us reaping the good life? Do we have leaders who are righteous in their deeds? Our leaders must embrace righteousness lest they lead us into wanton loss. We are being led by unrighteous men who have sold their souls and are in the process of leading us into the abyss. How can we account for the state of the nation today? How can we as a people have leaders who came in as tenants from 2 bedroom tenements and end up owing 50-Room mansions? How come salaried men on retirement from service become the richest men in our society? They must give account. This is the evening of our life on Earth, Judgment is coming. Those who have not embraced faith, righteousness, truth and patience will be at a loss. See Quran 2:62; 3:114 and 10:4.
The Surah mentions two further qualities, which a man must have in order to be saved from loss. They are that the people who believe and do good deeds must exhort one another to truth and to patience. This is the spirit that can ensure security of a society against moral degeneration and decay. If a society becomes devoid of this spirit, it cannot remain secure from loss.
I concur with Shah Waliullah when he said: Wa-al ‘Asr – We will remember the special Days of Allah. The Days when; Allah created the human being (Adam), the Day He revealed the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad, the Day Allah drowned the disbelievers of Prophet Nuh, the Day Allah destroyed Pharaoh and saved Moses, the Day of Badr, the Day when Allah spoke to Musa/Moses. The Day of Judgment, the Day the believers will see Allah. By saying al ‘Asr – we will remember these Days so we will not want to be in loss.
May Allah teach us to remember the Days, and save us from loss, Amin!
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend; Amin!