‘Asr

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]
  • Fasting
  • 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.

A good video about Surah ‘Asr, by Nouman Ali Khan. I would certainly recommend viewing his lectures on YouTube, if you are looking to (more deeply) explore the Qur’an and its contents.

May we all have a fruitful week, dear reader. And may we all have a fruitful Dunya-based life. Āmeen.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021

Notes on the Qur’an: Surah Fatihah

 

All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. 

The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. 

Owner of the Day of Judgement.

You (alone) we worship, and You we ask for help. 

Guide us to the straight path, 

The way of those on whom You have bestowed your grace, 

Not the way of those who have earned your anger, nor of those who have gone astray. 

Ameen.

 

Surah Fatihah. ‘The Opening’ Surah. Root letters: Fa, Ta, Ha. Elsewhere in the Qur’an, these root letters are conjugated to indicate decision-making, too. Another word that stems from them is the Arabic word for ‘key’ — Miftaah.

The word ‘Allah’ has been retained throughout the translation, since there is no corresponding word in English. The word ‘Allah’ has neither feminine linguistic form, nor plural. It has never been used to refer to anything but the unimaginable Supreme Being. The word ‘Ilah’, however, means ‘God’ in the general sense of the word. 

This Surah is otherwise known as Umm-a-tul-Qur’an, the Mother of the Qur’an. It aptly summarises the Holy Book’s essence.

All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds

Now, we must remember that point about how all translations of the Qur’an happen to be, by nature, reductive. As aforementioned, the Arabic language – and, more so, Fus’ha Arabic – is an unbelievably rich and vast one. The words that have been selected, from English, to represent what the Arabic says are only the best possible options.

The word that has been translated into “Praise”, here, for example – Hamd – is actually quite an encompassing word. It encompasses the meanings of “praise”, “thanks” ⁠— all praise, and all thanks.

Second, ‘Lord’ of the Worlds: the word used is ‘Rabb’. This is another ‘encompassing word’. Lord, Sustainer, Maker, Cherisher, the Most Supreme Being, all wrapped up into one concise word. Rabb. 

Lord of the Worlds, of the ”Aalameen’. Root letters: ‘Ayn, Laam, Meem. These can be conjugated to mean things to do with knowledge, and things to do with different worlds. Essentially, Allah (SWT) is the Lord of all knowledge, all that we can gain via experience, all that can possibly be known; all that exists.

Owner of the Day of Judgement

The word ‘Malik’ is used for ‘owner’. This means owner, as well as one who has power over something. Sovereignty.

The Day of Judgement: ‘Yawm-ul-Qiyamah’. It is interesting to note that the word ‘Yawm’ does not necessarily refer to a ‘day’ as we know it here on Earth, i.e. consisting of twenty-four hours. It refers to a given period of time, a stage. For example, the Universe had not been created in seven days per se, but in seven differing stages.

We need to remember that we will die, and that we will be resurrected. There will come a day on which our deeds – good and bad, and their degrees – will be measured and presented before us. We will exit from temporality, and we will enter into eternity.

You (alone) we worship, and You we ask for help.

As Muslims, we should worship God, and God alone. We should not worship Jesus, as the Christians do. We should not worship our own desires, either. And nor should we worship any of these false Gods that modernity has given birth to, after the rise of Existentialism.

It is Allah – our Rabb – whom we ought to ask for help. He is the ultimate provider, and the sustainer. We always need Him, even if we think we do not.

Guide us to the straight path

Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem: the straight path, variously translated as being the path of middles. [If anybody knows what the root letters of ‘Mustaqeem’ are, please do let me know…]

All life is a thing of acquisitions. We choose things; we acquire good, and/or evil, and thereby choose our paths. There is Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem, on which we are bestowed with Divine grace, if we walk upon it. And there is the path of the astray, the ones who have earned God’s anger. The Christians, for example, went astray after redirecting their worship from God to one of His Prophets. The Jews earned Allah’s anger by altering His words to befit their own desires.

 

So, this is the opening Surah of the Qur’an. One down, 113 to go. This Surah summarises the essence of the Book. It encapsulates themes such as our belief in and reliance on God, and God alone. It tells us about life, and how we choose the path(s) we walk upon. And, ultimately, we shall be judged. There will come a ‘Yawm’ of judgement, of Divine decisions.


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020