Imam Zijad’s Corner: AL ‘ASR: THE TIME

Imam Zijad’s Corner:   AL ‘ASR: THE TIME

Allah informs us in the Qur’an: “By the Time! Insan (human being) is indeed in loss, except those who believed and did good deeds, exhorted one another to Truth, and exhorted one another to patience and constancy.”                    {Al ‘Asr 1-3}

This short Surah of the Qur’an sums up all the elements of individual and social success in life. Human being has been created in the best mold and equipped with all abilities and faculties necessary for achieving this success. But it is up to him/her to utilize these tools properly and wisely.

How important this Surah was in the sight of the companions of the Rasul (SAWS) can be judged from the tradition that says whenever any two of them met, they would not part company until they had recited this Surah to each other. Imam Shafi’I has said if the people only considered this Syrah well, it alone would be enough for their guidance.

The Surah opens with a reference to the Time, which is presented here to show that human being is a loser if he fails to realize the real significance of the time given to him before he is called back to his Lord. The message of the Surah is very clear: “Man’s single greatest asset in life is the time at his disposal.”

Whatever man achieves during his short sojourn upon the Earth is crucial for his future in the life to come. In short life of Duniya, he can achieve eternal bliss and peace, if he would use it wisely and in accordance with the laws laid down for him by his Creator. A misuse or neglect of this opportunity, on the other hand, can lead man to disaster and unhappiness.

The word time is used for the past as well as for the passing time in which the present, in fact, does not signify any long stretch of time. Every moment, when it has passed, becomes past, and every moment of the future, when it is passing, becomes present, and when it has passed, becomes past. Here, since the oath has been sworn by time absolute, both kinds of time are included in its meaning.

The oath by the time means that human history testifies that the people who were without these qualities eventually incurred loss, and in order to understand the significance of the oath by the passing time, one should understand that the time which is now passing is, in fact, the time which has been given to every single individual and every single nation to work in the world and better the world.

Bur man has no control whatsoever over the time itself. It goes away, and there is no way we can stop its flight. Man can learn a lot from the past and one has to look back into the past for the lesson and ask himself about the day (s) which passed: ‘What he did in it? What he left in it and was supposed to accomplish? Why has he done so? The Qur’an confirms it: “There have been examples that have been passed away before you (such as an example of the ancient people of ‘Ad, Thamud, the people of the Prophet Nuh), so travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected the Truth.”         {Ali ‘Imran 137}

But it is only the present time that we can usefully for the betterment of Duniya and Akhirah. Today, the present is our real hope and opportunity. Our success or our failure depends on how well we utilize it or how foolishly we waste it.

How one can utilize the asset of time properly and wisely? What does it take to succeed? In just a few words, this Surah outlines the formula of success. It gives the man the road map he must have in order to move forward and make progress.

Everyone is in loss except those who a) believe (the principles of Islam), b) do good deeds (salihat). Man’s actions are the outward expression of his belief. The light of faith shows in a believer’s deeds – in his moral character. Belief and deeds go together, and one cannot be valid in the absence of the other. A belief that fails to induce a believer to act is defective (weak) – a worthless seed that gives no produce. Like a dead seed, it cannot grow into a plant or tree.  For this reason, some commentators say that the good deeds are here mentioned as an extension of belief, a logical result that flows from belief. Good deeds are faith in action. This part of Surah deals with man’s individual life, but in the second part, we are given the rest of the formula that ensures ultimate success and salvation.

The words: Exhort one another to Truth and Patience (constancy) mention two main elements of success in social life: a) collective struggle for the establishment of the Truth, and b) patience and constancy in the difficult struggle against the forces of evil. This means that a believing and righteous people should not live as individuals but should establish a believing and righteous society by their combination and that every individual of the society must feel his/her responsibility not to let the society degenerate. Thus all its members – both men and women – are duty bound to exhort one another to Truth and patience (constancy).

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam! No matter how much we are good as individuals, if we do not serve the community, we would fail. Here is the formula which can help us save ourselves, our families and our community…and consequently the world: Believe in Allah by Ikhlas for good deeds help develop man’s physical, moral and spiritual potentials, do good deeds (salihat) in the name of Almighty Allah, join together in mutual teaching of truth – encourage your brother/sister towards this great feature that of  all prophets (‘alayhimussalam) practiced and encouraged others to do, and  encourage one another to be patient (sabirin).                                Allahumma Amin!