Surah ‘Asr. There are, in total, 114 chapters in Al-Qur’an-il-Kareem: the Noble Qur’an. Each of these Surahs are of varying lengths, and explore different topics.
Surah ‘Asr is one of the shorter Surahs. Composed of three Ayahs (meaning verses, and otherwise translatable as ‘signs’) in contrast with Surah Baqarah’s 286, Surah ‘Asr is succinct, yet strong. Small and mighty, hard-hitting and enlightening.
As with many words in the Arabic language, so it would seem: the word ‘Asr has a number of contemporaneous meanings. ‘Asr (عصر) means Time. A period of time, whether this be a century, a season, a day, or a night. Another meaning this triliteral root word has is one that is related to the action of pressing. Squeezing, wringing, things out. Extracting the juice from a fruit. Indeed, one cognate form of the word ‘Asr is ‘Aseer (عصير) which means ‘juice‘.
We Muslims also refer to one of our five daily prayers as the ‘Asr prayer. It occurs right before the end of the day: when the sun begins to wane. The day loses its vitality, its عصير.
Classical (Qur’anic) Arabic is so fascinating, Subhan Allah. I love, love, love it.
Surah ‘Asr, then [an English translation]:
By [the passage of] Time. (1) Indeed, mankind is [certainly] in loss. (2) Except those who believe/have trust (have Īmān) and carry out righteous deeds/actions/work, enjoin [with one another] in Truth, and enjoin [with one another] in Patience (3)
Time. Like when you go to juice a fruit. You begin with a complete fruit: full and ‘youthful’. The juice gets squeezed out, until there is but a carcass form of the fruit left. Human beings. What do we have? Our wealth, our main concern, is Time. It is being wrung, juiced, out. Every second that elapses is another second
Lost. Another drip of juice, extracted from the fruit.
When it comes to Time – this wealth that each of us has been bestowed with… Are we spending it fruitfully?
[I much prefer the word ‘fruitful’ over the word ‘productive’ when it comes to reflecting upon whether or not we are using our time well. ‘Productivity’ as a value implies that time is spent well – or, best – when something is being produced. But that is not all we are: we are not merely, solely ‘producers’. I mean, I could spend all my time constructing… a toothpaste factory model. That, for instance, would be time spent ‘productively’, but not necessarily…
Fruitfully. The imagery of a fruit being juiced. Gradually, perhaps, but truly and undeniably, still. Drip, drip, drip.]
You know life: it is hard. It is ups and downs and squiggles and jagged lines. It is loss and gain; pleasure and pain. It is necessarily challenging. And, as Muslims, we know:
We begin with Īmān. Faith, recognition of our Creator. Next:
Righteous deeds and works. These may include, according to Qur’an and Hadith [I am just going to list some that I know of, off the top of my head…]
- Offering our five daily Salah, with due attention and respect
- Doing Dhikr (active remembrance of God)
- Smiling [It counts as Sadaqah!]
- Making Du’a
- Helping someone in need
- Saying “Assalamu ‘alaikum” to people
- Seeking forgiveness from Allah
- Reciting Qur’an
- Expressing gratitude to Allah
- Seeking beneficial knowledge
- Passing on beneficial knowledge
- Being good to one’s neighbour
- Reconnecting with family members with whom the ties of kinship had been cut
- Walking on the Earth in a humble manner
- Responding to ignorance with words of peace
- Maintaining good personal and spatial hygiene
- Restraining anger
- Being good to animals [e.g. an example from a Hadith: giving water to a thirsty dog]
- Visiting people who are unwell
- Accepting invitations to others’ houses; inviting them to your house, too, and being a good host [post-Corona, Insha Allah]
- Planting a tree [even if it does not end up growing]
- Serving our parents
- Can you think of any more examples of good works ( الأعمال الصالحة)? Please do drop them in the comments section, below!
Finally: Truth and Patience. Being bonded with others, in Truth (and encouraging one another toward it, and toward remembering Him). And, encouraging one another toward, engaging in, Patience: Sabr – which is otherwise translatable as: discipline, self-restraint, steadfastness, perseverance. Because life is a thing of struggle.
So, the four things that render our ‘spending’ of Time fruitful, and not, ultimately, a grave loss:
Belief. Good actions. Enjoining in Truth. Enjoining in Patience.
May we all have a fruitful week, dear reader. And may we all have a fruitful Dunya-based life. Āmeen.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021