"I understood the meaning of Surah AI-`Asr from an ice-seller, who was calling aloud for the attention of the people repeatedly in the bazar: 'Have mercy on the one whose wealth is melting away!' Hearing what he was crying I said to myself: this then is the meaning of 'I swear by the time".
Am I good person? Is he a good person? Questions like these puzzle many people for an extremely long time. Many people have found 'reasons' to prove that they are good. Many people keep on hopping between 'goodness' and 'badness' in their own 'evaluation'. On the other hand people are so good to label others as 'good' or 'bad': 'Oh he's such a good person', 'I don't consider him to be a good person'.
There are lots of reasons for this 'confusion'. The basic reason is 'quick evaluation'. Be it in case of others or one's own-self. People are very quick and eager to apply some label. If they find a single good 'quality' in some one they'll label him as good. If they find a single flaw they'll label him as bad. Same goes for one's own self, a little bite from the conscious makes one feel that he's not a good person, and a little sense of achievement makes you good. So many people have found ideals in actors, actresses, cricketers, politicians and other celebrities. We don't realize that that being a good cricketer, a good actor, a good politician or a cool musician doesn't make you a good person. You become a good person when you pass the minimum success level in all your mandatory and choice roles.
So, question remain, how to know whether someone is good or not? How to scrutinize my own-self in detail and reach a conclusion whether I'm eligible of being called as good or not. The answer lies in these divine wordings:
I swear by the time, Most surely man is in loss, except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience. (Surah Al Asr 103)
This small Surah of the Holy Quran which in actual a single sentence has the solution to the problem. The mystery which seems to confuse many can be easily solved if we ponder over this sentence. This Surah 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. In it, in a clear and plain way it has been stated what is the way to true success for man and what is the way to ruin and destruction for him. It clearly states what will make you good and what will make you bad. Imam Shafi has very rightly said that if the people only considered this Surah well, it alone would suffice them for their guidance.
Allah has taken an oath by the swiftly passing time that every man is in grave error, every person is in sheer loss except for those who have the four qualities: (1) Faith, (2) righteous deeds, (3) exhorting one another to Truth, and (4) exhorting one another to patience.
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. Allah has sworn by the time to make us value the importance of time as well as the thing mentioned after the oath.
Imam Razi has cited a scholar as saying: "I understood the meaning of Surah AI-`Asr from an ice-seller, who was calling aloud for the attention of the people repeatedly in the bazar: 'Have mercy on the one whose wealth is melting away!' Hearing what he was crying I said to myself: this then is the meaning of 'I swear by the time". The age-limit that man has been allotted is passing quickly" like the melting away of ice. If it is wasted, or expended in wrong pursuits, it will be sheer loss to man. Thus, swearing an oath by the Time what has been said in this Surah, means that the fast passing Time is witness that devoid of these four qualities in whatever occupation and work man is expending his limited span of life, he is engaged in bad bargains; only such people are engaged in good bargains, who work in the world, characterized by the four qualities. It would be just like calling attention of the candidate, who was expending the time allotted for solving the question paper in some other pursuit, to the wall clock in the examination hall, to tell him that the passing time bore witness that he was causing loss to himself; the candidate benefiting by the Time was he who was using every moment of the allotted time in solving the paper.
I would not go in to the complete commentary of the Surah. Scholars have spent years understanding the Surah. Many have written books on this single sentence. Every one who wishes to achieve success should dive into the meanings of this Surah. Having understood this Surah you'll be in a position to clearly define a path for yourself. The whole world would change, once we start evaluating people in light of this surah. These four criterions will help us filter the good and the bad.
- I have posted the complete commentary of the Surah by Mawdudi here.
- Further more you can find the explanation of the Surah by Dr Israr here. (Urdu Text)
- Explanation of the Surah from Dr Israr's Muntakhab Nisab here. (Urdu Audio)
- Explanation of the Surah from Dr Israr's Muntakhab Nisab here. (English Audio)
I would like to end with the conclusive remark of Imam Razi :
In this Ayat a very strong warning is given. Allah has given the verdict of the destruction of entire humanity except those who fulfill these four conditions: (1) Faith, (2) Righteous Deeds, (3) Exhortation to Truth and (4) Exhortation to Patience. It means that redemption is dependent on these four collectively. And just as a person is responsible for his own faith and deeds, similarly, he's also accountable for few social obligations like: Preaching Deen, exhortation (to truth) and enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
Author : Muhammad Awais Tahir
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