103. Al-‘Asr (The Age)
This sūrah of three verses, revealed in Makkah, takes its name from the word al-‘asr (The Age or time heavy with events) in the first verse. As pointed out by all interpreters of the Qur’ān and linguists, this short sūrah contains the basic teachings of the Qur’ān in a compacted form. It is because of this that Imam Shāfi‘ī said: “If no other sūrahs had been revealed, this short one would have been enough for the happiness of people in both worlds” (Yazır). When the Companions joined in a gathering, they did not usually leave there without reciting this sūrah (al-Bayhaqī, “Shu‘ab al-Īmān,” 6: 501). This shows their deep understanding of the Qur’ān.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate
1. By Time (especially the last part of it, heavy with events),1
2. Most certainly, human is in loss,
3. Except those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, and exhort one another to truth, and exhort one another to steadfast patience (in the face of misfortunes, and suffering in God’s way, and in doing good deeds, and not committing sins).2
1. Al-‘Asr has various meanings, such as time, day and night together, the afternoon, the last part of time, etc. It also implies being full of things and ready to be emptied. Our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, says that he is the Prophet of al-‘asr, meaning the afternoon (al-Bukhārī, “İjārah,” 8, 9). If we consider all these meanings and the whole of the sūrah, we can say that by al-‘asr, the sūrah is referring to time from the beginning to end, as far as the events it contains are concerned; and it draws attention in particular to the last part, during which God’s Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was sent with the last, universal Message of God. It also implies the latest period of this part – from modern times until the Last Day – when extremely important events do and will take place.
2. See also sūrah 95: 4–6, note 2.