SURA 103. Asr, or Time through the Ages
1. By [the Token of] Time [through the ages], 2. Verily Man is in loss,
3. Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and [join together] in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
1. This very short sūrah outlines a complete system for human life based on the Islamic viewpoint. In a few words the whole Islamic constitution is covered.
2. This sūrah affirms throughout the history of mankind there has been one worthwhile and trustworthy path. All other ways lead only to loss and ruin. As it says in outline, this way means first the adoption of faith, followed by good deeds and exhortation to follow the truth and to persevere in the face of adversity.
3. Faith is the foundation of all goodness in human life. It is from faith that all forms of goodness spring and to which all its fruits are due. Faith is the characteristic by which man, a small creature with a life of short duration in a limited world, attains closeness to the Absolute and Everlasting Originator of the universe and all that exists in it.
4. Following the path ordained by God, with steadfastness and clarity of vision, is the next quality of the community of believers. This must be maintained so that goodness does not come about casually, incidentally or without deliberation but rather springs from definite motives and heads towards certain aims
5. Purity of motivation is yet another quality of the dignified humanity established by faith. The believer feels the awesome presence of God in his innermost consciousness and his awareness makes him tremble. He, therefore, resorts to self-purification and spiritual cleansing. A refined moral sense is the natural fruit of faith in God who is just, kind, compassionate, generous and forbearing and who abhors evil, loves goodness, knows every furtive look and every secret thought.
6. The final quality is man’s elevation above greed for worldly gains, preferring degradation, even though it may not say so openly. Instead God’s richer, everlasting reward for which all people should strive, as the Qur’ān directs them to do.
7. Such striving for all that is good results in spiritual elevation, purification and cleansing. Of immense help in this regard is the fact that a believer has a broad scope for action: between this life and the next and between the heavens and the earth.
8. Man’s elevation lessens his anxiety about the results and fruits of his actions. He does what is good only because it is good and because God requires it. It is never his concern whether it leads to further goodness in his own short life. God, for whom he performs the good, neither dies, forgets nor ignores anyone’s deeds. The reward is not to be received here, for this life is not the last. Thus, a believer acquires the power to continue to perform good deeds without waiting for immediate results. He is sustained in his determination to do good deeds by his unshakable belief in God. This is what guarantees that doing good becomes a carefully chosen way of life, not a casual incident or motiveless event.
9. Consequently, whenever two Companions of God’s Messenger were about to depart from each other, they would read this sūrah, after which they would shake hands. This was indicative of a pledge to accept this doctrine fully, to preserve this faith, piety and a willingness to counsel each other to follow the truth and to persevere in the face of adversity. It was a mutual compact to remain good elements in an Islamic society established according to that doctrine and to preserve the foundation of this society.