In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسۡرٍ
إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ
By Al-‘Asr (the time). Verily! The human is in loss; except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, enjoin one another to the truth and enjoin one another to patience.
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “If all the people pondered upon this Surah, it would have sufficed them”. The clarification of this affair is that the fulfillment of four affairs – (mentioned) in this Surah- will lead a person to attain the highest level of human perfection. The first affair is acquaintance with truth, the second is to act upon truth, the third is to teach truth to the one who does not know and the fourth affair is to exercise patience whilst learning the truth, acting upon it and teaching. Allaah mentioned these four levels in this Surah and made an oath by Time – that everyone is in a state of loss except those who believe and perform righteous deeds, and they are those who act upon the truth they know, enjoin one another to the truth whilst exercising patience in the path and being steadfast. This is pinnacle of human perfection, because indeed perfection necessitates that a person attains perfection himself and enables others to attain it. This is attained through rectification of the strength of one’s knowledge and action- rectification of the strength of one’s knowledge is attained by way of Eemaan and rectification of the strength of one’s actions is attained through righteous deeds; then enabling others to attain this perfection (i.e. by the will of Allaah) through teaching, exercising patience upon this path and enjoining one another to exercise patience in the path of knowledge and righteous action. This Surah, despite its shortness, is one of the most comprehensive Suras of the Qur’aan that gathers good in its entirety, and all praise and thanks is due to Allaah Who revealed and assured that His Book is sufficient besides everything else – a cure for every disease and a guide to every good. (1)
It is not enough that they know the truth and exercise patience, rather they have to command, guide and urge one another to act upon it. And when it is the fact that others besides these people are losers, it is well known that disobedience and sins blinds the sound discernment (or perception, foresight) of the hearts, so they do not understand the truth as it should be and their strength of determination is weakened due to not exercising patience; rather indeed the heart is exposed to haphazard thoughts until its understanding goes the opposite way and likewise the person’s conduct, so he perceives falsehood as truth and truth as falsehood, good as evil and evil as good. His conduct goes the opposite way- turns away from his journey towards attaining the Pleasure of Allaah and the home of the afterlife (i.e paradise) and proceeds towards the residence of the futile souls that are pleased with the worldly life, satisfied with it, heedless of Allaah and His signs (revelation, lessons etc), and abandons preparing to meet Allaah (i.e. by way of upright believe and righteous deeds). (I) Had there not been any other punishment due to one’s sins other than this, it would have been (enough as a) demand that one abandons this path and distance from it. And Allaah’s Aid sought! (2)
Footnote (I): The Imaam also stated in Al-Fawaa’id pages 137-137: if a person prefers what is deficient and will eventually cease to exist, then that is either because the virtue of (the afterlife) is not manifested to him or due to a lack of desiring what is more virtuous. Both these two states are an indication of weakness in Eemaan, intellect and clear-sightedness, because indeed the one who desires the Dunyah- the one who gives it precedence and is eager for it, either he testifies that there is what is more virtuous and everlasting, or he does not testify. If he does not testify (i.e. that the Aakhirah is more virtuous and everlasting), he is completely devoid of Eemaan; however if he testifies (i.e. that the Aakhirah is more virtuous and everlasting) but does not give it precedence, then his intellect is corrupt and he has made an evil choice for himself. These two (testimonies) are inevitable and a servant cannot escape them, because giving precedence to the Dunyah over the Aakhirah is either due to corruption in Eemaan or due to corruption of one’s intellect, and in many cases both of them are combined together (in a person).
Indeed, Allaah placed humans in two categories – the loser and the gainer. The gainer is the one who sincerely exhorts himself with Eemaan and righteous deeds; sincerely exhorts the people by enjoining truth, which incudes teaching the truth and guiding to it; and enjoining patience, which also includes that he himself exercises patience. The Surah comprises of the two sincere exhortations, two characteristics of human perfection and the highest level of two types of strengths, expressed in the shortest, the most concise and clearest wording, the best preamble and the best precision in the suitable place (or subject matter).
As for the two sincere exhortations, they are the person’s sincere exhortation of himself and his brother in Islam by enjoining truth and exercising patience upon the path. As for the two characteristics of human perfection, they are the person’s self-perfection and enabling others to attain self-perfection (i.e. by help of Allaah). As for perfection of the two strengths, the soul has two strengths and they are: the strength of knowledge and sound observation, and these two affairs are perfected through Eemaan; the strength of sound intent, love (for everything praiseworthy, especially love for Allaah) and knowledge, and these affairs are perfected through righteous deeds (i.e. deeds carried out sincerely for the sake of Allaah and in conformity with the authentic Sunnah), and this cannot be accomplished except through patience.
Therefore, there are three affairs carried out by the person and then he enjoins them on others- perfection of the strength of knowledge through Eemaan, perfection of the strength of action through righteous deeds, being consistent upon that with patience and commanding others with it. And by way of these three affairs, he becomes a participant and one attributed to them, teaching and calling to them. This is the absolute gain, and in estimation of whatever he misses of this gain, he incurs some loss the like thereof. And Allaah’s Aid is sought and to Him we entrust all affairs! (3)
The majority of the Qur’aan commentators hold that Al-Asr (Time) is Ad-Dahr (the time period in this world) and this is the statement that is carries more weight based on the sound evidences.
Allaah made an oath by Al-Asr (Time) due to it being the period in which moral lessons and signs occur, for indeed the passing of night and day is under the Decree of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing (Allaah)- organized to serve the welfare of the universe (and its inhabitants) based on the most perfect order and organization; alternating with one another, sometimes not much difference between them and at other times one takes from the hours of the other; the difference between the light, the darkness, the heat and the cold; the different time periods divided into generations, years, months, days, hours and what is lesser than that! These are all signs (creations) of the Lord [The Exalted] and a Burhaan [i.e. proof that clarify and distinguish between truth and falsehood in everything] from the Baraaheen [proofs] regarding Allaah’s All-Encompassing Perfect Ability and Wisdom (free from all imperfections, faults, deficiencies, shortcomings).
Allaah made an oath by Time and that is the period within which human beings perform deeds for which one will either receive punishment or a good recompense. He gave a notification about Time, which is the Mab’da [i.e. the beginning within which humans perform deeds] and notified the performers of deeds about the Ma’aad [the Hereafter], and that just as He was not unable to initiate the beginning, likewise He is not unable to establish the Hereafter; and that His Wisdom, which necessitated the creation of Time, the performers of deeds and their deeds, and categorized them into good and bad deeds, (i.e. deeds chosen by the person after being given free will and shown guidance through the Messengers) establishes the fact that the people are not equal, and it cannot be that the good doer will not receive a good recompense and that the evil doer will not be recompensed for his evil, and it cannot be that there will not be two groups- the gainers and the losers; but rather the human being in essence is a loser, except the one whom Allaah shows mercy, guides, blesses him with Eemaan, the ability to perform righteous deeds himself and the ability to command others. The opposite of this person is the other one who is reduced to the lowest of the low, except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds, then they shall have a reward without end (Paradise). (4)
[وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ – and do righteous good deeds, enjoin one another to the truth and enjoin one another to patience]. This leads to the station of upright leadership and strength in the religion, just as Allaah said:
[وَجَعَلۡنَا مِنۡہُمۡ أَٮِٕمَّةً۬ يَہۡدُونَ بِأَمۡرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُواْۖ وَڪَانُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ – And We made from among them (Children of Israel), leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.)]. [Surah As-Sajdah. Verse 24] So, through patience and certainty upright leadership in religion is attained.
Patience is two types:
Patience when facing what has decreed, such as calamities. Patience when fulfilling the divine legislated acts of worship and has two aspects- commands and prohibitions. The fulfilment of commands is related to patience in intent and action (i.e. persevere whilst fulfilling commands) and the second is related patience in keeping away from what one intends and wants to do (i.e. persevere whilst keeping away from evil).
As for the first type of patience (i.e. patience when facing the calamities decreed by Allaah), it is shared by both a believer and a disbeliever, a righteous person and a wicked sinner, and one is not rewarded if it is not connected to Eemaan [i.e sound belief] and Ikhtiyaar [i.e. the person willingly chooses to exercise patience as an act of worship devoted to Allaah]. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said about his daughter (whose son was on his death bed), “She should be patient and hope for Allah’s reward.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree. Number 1284]
Allaah [The Exalted] said: [ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ لَهُم مَّغۡفِرَةٌ۬ وَأَجۡرٌ۬ ڪَبِيرٌ۬ – Except those who show patience and do righteous good deeds, those: theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward (Paradise)]. [Surah Hud. Verse 11]
Allaah [The Exalted] said: [بَلَىٰٓۚ إِن تَصۡبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ – Yes, if you hold on to patience and piety]. [Surah Aal Imran. Verse 125] [a] Allaah said: [وَإِن تَصۡبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ – But if you remain patient and hold on piety]. [Surah Aal Imran. Verse 120] [b]
Patience without sound belief and piety is like a bodily strength that is devoid of sound belief and piety. So the level of one’s certainty in what has been divinely legislated determines the level of patience when facing calamities decreed by Allaah (i.e. a person will return to what Allaah has legislated in the divine revelation regarding how to deal with calamities). [c]
Abdullah: Allaah [The Exalted] said: [فَٱصۡبِرۡ إِنَّ وَعۡدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ۬ۖ وَلَا يَسۡتَخِفَّنَّكَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ – So be patient (O Muhammad). Verily, the Promise of Allah is true, and let not those who have no certainty of faith, discourage you from conveying Allah’s Message (which you are obliged to convey)]. [Surah Ar-Rum. Verse 60]
Allaah commanded the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] to exercise patience and not to be like those who do not have certainty due to lack of patience, because indeed their lack of certainty is due to their lack of patience, and they fear and frighten their people. Had they attained certainty and truth, they would have exercised patience – neither fear nor frighten others. So, the one whose certainty is little, his patience will be little, and the whose patience is little will fear and frighten others. The person who has certainty and patient is self-possessed because he has intelligence and common sense, and the one who neither has certainty nor patience is lightheaded, so desires and lust flings him here and there just as the wind does with something light. And Allaah’s Aid is sought! [d] (5)
Footnote a: The full verse: [بَلَىٰٓۚ إِن تَصۡبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ وَيَأۡتُوكُم مِّن فَوۡرِهِمۡ هَـٰذَا يُمۡدِدۡكُمۡ رَبُّكُم بِخَمۡسَةِ ءَالَـٰفٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ مُسَوِّمِينَ -Yes, if you hold on to patience and piety, and the enemy comes rushing at you; your Lord will help you with five thousand angels having marks (of distinction). [Surah Aal Imran Verse 125]
Footnote b: The full verse:
إِن تَمۡسَسۡكُمۡ حَسَنَةٌ۬ تَسُؤۡهُمۡ وَإِن تُصِبۡكُمۡ سَيِّئَةٌ۬ يَفۡرَحُواْ بِهَاۖ وَإِن تَصۡبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ لَا يَضُرُّڪُمۡ كَيۡدُهُمۡ شَيۡـًٔاۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِمَا يَعۡمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ۬
If a good befalls you, it grieves them, but if some evil overtakes you, they rejoice at it. But if you remain patient and become pious, not the least harm will their cunning do to you. Surely, Allah surrounds all that they do. [Surah Aal Imran. Verse 120]
Footnote c: Sa’eed Bin Jubayr [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Patience is the person’s acknowledgment that what has afflicted him is from Allaah, seeking for reward from Allaah and hoping for Allaah’s good recompense. Indeed, a man maybe in a state of distress whilst he is being whipped, but you see nothing from him except patience”. [As-Sabr Wath-Thawaab Alayhi. By Ibn Abee Dunya page 113]
Regarding the statement “Patience is the person’s acknowledgement that what has afflicted him is from Allaah”, Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “It is as if this statement is an explanation of the statement “Innaa lil laah – to Allaah we belong”. So, the person acknowledges that he belongs to Allaah and his owner does whatever He wants with him.
Regarding the statement “Seeking for reward from Allaah”, Imaam Ibnul Qayyim said, “It is as if this statement is an explanation of the statement “Wa Innaa Ilayhi Raaji’oon – and to Him (i.e. Allaah) we shall return”, meaning we shall return to You, so that you reward us due to our patience and the reward for being patient during calamity will not be lost”.
Regarding the statement “Indeed, a man maybe in a state of distress whilst he is being whipped, but you do not see from him except patience”, Imaam Ibnul Qayyim said, “Patience is not that one bears the whip, rather it is to restrain the heart from getting angry with Allaah’s decree and to restrain the tongue from complaining about Allaah. Whoever is whipped and his heart is displeased with Allaah, then he is not one who is patient”. [Iddat As-Saabireen pages 183-184]
Footnote d: Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: A man asked Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] and said, “What would be better – that one is granted strength and the authority to establish the path of Allaah and His Messengers without any hindrance from those who belie or oppose Allaah and His Messengers, or face trials [at first]?’’ So, Ash- Shaafi’ee said to him, “One will not be given strength and the authority to follow the path of Allaah without any hindrance from those who belie or oppose Allaah and His Messengers until after facing trials; for indeed Allaah tried Nooh, Ibraaheem, Moosaa, Eesaa and Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon them] and after they exercised patience, they were granted authority and strength to establish the path of Allaah without hindrance’’. Therefore, one should never think that he will escape pain. [Al-Fawaa’id’ pages 293-300]
He also said, “The person who has no certainty in faith [or lacks certainty] does not remain firm, rather he acts carelessly, whereas certainty is that firm Eemaan in the heart based on [sound] knowledge and action. And it maybe that a person has sound knowledge but does not exercise patience during calamities; rather he is swayed by emotion. Al-Hasan Al-Basri [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: If you wish to see someone with insight but has no patience, you will see him; and if you wish to see someone who has patience but not insight, you will see him; but if you see a person who had insight as well as patience, then he is the one mentioned by Allaah in the Aayah: [وَجَعَلۡنَا مِنۡہُمۡ أَٮِٕمَّةً۬ يَہۡدُونَ بِأَمۡرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُواْۖ وَڪَانُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ – And We made from among them (Children of Israel), leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.)]. [Surah As-Sajdah’ Aayah 24] [Al-Fawaa’id’ pages 293-300]
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said regarding the statement of Allaah:
[فَٱصۡبِرۡ إِنَّ وَعۡدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ۬ۖ وَلَا يَسۡتَخِفَّنَّكَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ – So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allaah is true. And let not those who have no certainty of faith, discourage you from conveying Allah’s Message (which you are obliged to convey)]. [Surah Rum’ Aayah 60]
[فَٱصۡبِرۡ – So be patient]- Meaning, upon that which you have been commanded and in calling them to the [path of] Allaah; even if you see them turning away that should not turn you away from the call. [إِنَّ وَعۡدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ۬ۖ – Indeed, the promise of Allaah is true]- Meaning, there is no doubt about that. And this is from that which aids a person to exercise patience, because when a servant know that his deeds will not be in vain and will find a full reward for it [in the afterlife], then what he faces of hardship will become minor, and it will become much easy for him to bear every difficulty.
[وَلَا يَسۡتَخِفَّنَّكَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ – And let not those who have no certainty of faith, discourage you]- Meaning, their Imaan is weak and their certainty is little, so their forbearance becomes lacking as result of that and their patience is little. So, beware out of fear of being discouraged by these people, because unless you are not careful about their affair, they will discourage you and lead you to not being firm in holding fast to the commands and prohibitions, and the soul may assist them in this affair and seek to be similar and to be in agreement with them. [An Excerpt from Tafseer as-Sadi]
A Practice of The Companions – By Imaam Al-Albaanee [may Allaah have mercy upon him]
“When two men among the Prophet’s companions met, they would not depart from one another, except after one of them recited to the other:[إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسۡرٍ ][ وَٱلۡعَصۡرِ] – (By Al-‘Asr (the time). Verily! The human is in loss….(i.e. the full Surah)]. Thereafter one would give Salaam to the other].
After quoting few other narrations and then graded their authenticity, Imaam Al-Albaanee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: In these narrations is that one gives Salaam when departing (i.e. one of gives Salaams to the other when departing after meeting). The other affair we benefit (from this report) is that the companions held onto this deed and that is the recitation of Surah Al-Asr (i.e. before departing after meeting, one recites Surah Al-Asr to the other and then gives Salaam), because we (firmly) believe that they were far removed from initiating – in the religion – a newly invented act of worship as a means of getting close to Allaah by way of it; rather the only reason they did this was due to something established through Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] – either by way of a statement of his, deed or tacit approval. (6)
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from Miftaah Daarus Sa’aadah page 61. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from Al-Jawaab Al-Kaafi 135-136. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 3: Al-Kalaam Alaa Mas’alah As-Samaa 404. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 4: An Excerpt from At-Tibyaan Fee Aqsaam Al-Qur’aan 83-88. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 5: At-Tibyaan Fee Aqsaamil Qur’aan 83-88. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 6: Silsilah Al-Hadeeth As-Saheehah. Number 2648. Vol 6. pages 307-309]