Explanation of Surah Al Asr
I had a chance to attend an Urdu majlis by Maulana Ghlulam Raza Roohani of Karachi in Austin, Texas. It was such a wonderful speech that I felt it obligatory to share the excerpts with you.
His subject was Surah Al-Asr. He started with why Allah is swearing by Asr or time. When someone swears he swears for two reasons:
a. To defend himself against a blame. Such as I swear by Allah I did not do it. Obviously in Allah’s case it does not apply
b. To underscore the importance of a subject someone is going to talk about.
So in this surah “b” applies. Now when someone swears he swears by something or someone very important to him. Such as we swear by Allah or Qur’an or by our children or by our parents and so on. Allah is swearing by “time”. That indicates the importance of “time”. As we know time is extremely important as a resource. Today will never come back. We have been given a certain amount of time in this world and every second our allocation is decreasing. Every year we celebrate birthdays whereas a birthday in truth means now we have less time left. Allah is emphasizing the importance of time.
So Allah is saying that He is going to talk about something very important in this surah.
1. The first verse says, “all human beings are at a loss”. He does not say Muslims; he says all human beings. Then Maulana gave an example of an escalator in a mall. One escalator is going up and the other is going down. He said that all human beings are riding a down-going escalator. Basically they are losers.
Then Allah follows up with a prescription how to avoid being at a loss.
2. The second verse says, “except those who believe”. So this is the first condition. We have to believe in Him and other things He wants us to believe in.
3. However, just believing does not suffice. The third verse says, “and perform good deeds”.
At this point Maulana gave an example of making tea. Tea requires certain ingredients — water, tea bag, milk and sugar. If any of the four ingredients are missing, tea will not be good. However, even if you have all these ingredients and you mix them up will you have a good cup of tea? No, you need heat. Eeman is the heat. Believing in Allah, His justice, the Prophet, the Imams and Qiyamat is the heat.
We may think that now we are done. We have belief and we have done good deeds so we should be home free.
4. No, next verse says that you have to spread the truth. This is what Imam Hussain went to Karbala for. He was doing a wonderful job with verses #1 and #2 but it was not enough for him. At this point Maulana gave a great example. He said that in the West there is a lot of emphasis on individuality that one should keep his affairs to himself and should not interfere in others’ affairs. In other words Amr Bil Maroof and Nahi Anil Munkar should be avoided. His example was as follows.
Suppose you have a friend who has low income and lives in a small apartment. Then one day he invites you for a dinner at his new house that he just bought. You go to his house and are astonished that it is a huge mansion with a large number of rooms, swimming pool, a large lot and so on. You ask him how he got such a house. He tells you that there was a big sale on 10-12 of such mansions with 99% discount. The house was worth $5M but he got it for $50,000. Will you not get angry with him that he knew about such a sale and there were more houses available but he did not tell you about it so you could also have purchased it?
Maulana said that such is the case with us knowing about Ahlul Bayt and not spreading the word. On the day of Qiyama people are going to ask us why we did not tell them about such a good deal. They are going to ask why we did not tell them about the fazeelat of going to sleep at night with w the case with us knowing about Ahlul Bayt and not spreading the word. On the day of Qiyama people are going to
ask us why we did not tell them about such a good deal. They are going to ask why we did not tell them about the fazeelat of going to sleep at night with wudhu so they could also have benefited from it.
5. The last verse talks about sabr. We need to be patient with spreading the truth as it is not easy. And the trick is to develop a team. You will be discouraged by many people who will not listen to you. Your wife or sister or daughter is going to refuse wearing hijab and you will have to be patient. You cannot use force; you just have to be patient and slowly build a team who will encourage you on such disappointments.
Then Maulana related it to Karbala. What Bibi Zainab went through. The sabr she showed at Karbala, Kufa, Syria, Madina and back to Syria.
This was the first time I heard Surah Al-Asr explained in such a beautiful manner. I always used to wonder why this Surah is recited at so many occasions and today I came to find out the answer that
this surah carries principles for success in the next world in a beautiful and concise manner.
I pray that others would benefit from these excerpts as much as I did from the speech.