بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Gracious
Indeed mankind is in a state of loss.
Except for those who believe, work righteous deeds, assist each other towards the truth and assist each other in being steadfast. (Qurʾān 103:1-3)
This is a brief reflection on Sūrat al-ʿAṣr from a Self Help perspective. It is not a Tafsīr or an interpretation of the Sūrah. Just a reflection on some lessons I thought about while reflecting on this Sūrah. Here are seven self-help lessons that came to mind when pondering over Sūrat al-ʿAṣr.
1. Time is the most important resource
My first self-help book was focused on time management. This is because time is our most valuable resource. Allāh takes an oath on time, to show its importance in attaining our goals. Every moment lost is a moment we will never get back. You cannot go back in time and make up for your teenage years or your early twenties. They are gone, and all that is left to use the time remains wisely. Time Management is essential for success. Wasting time is extremely foolish.
2. Losing is the default setting
In this life and the next, people lose is they don’t take action. If you don’t work, you fail at earning your sustenance. If you don’t study, you fail your exams. And if you don’t live a righteous life, you can fail the test of life itself. Failure is easy. All that is required is doing nothing, and wasting time. Success (whether worldly or afterworldly) requires effort and hard work. This is why so few people are successful, because we aren’t willing to put in the effort to get things done.
3. Belief before action
In Islam, our beliefs are more important than our actions. Some wrong beliefs are so major that they nullify the rewards of any actions that we do. This is why the Qurʾān always mentions believing before doing righteous deeds. Correct belief is the condition for the acceptance of any deed.
The same applies to worldly goals. If you believe you are going to fail, you will. You need to believe that you can achieve a goal first, then only will you have the motivation and drive to actually work to success. So whether it comes to religion or worldly goals, believing is essential to success.
4. But action is also required
However, belief itself is not enough to achieve our goals. In order to attain Paradise, the believer must have the correct beliefs and work righteous deeds. Similarly, in order to achieve our worldly goals, believing is not enough, we need to take action and work hard. There is no replacement for hard work when pursuing a worthy goal.
5. We can accomplish more together
Twice in this Sūrah, the Arabic word for ‘assist each other‘ is mentioned as a condition for success. This is because everything worth achieving requires teamwork. It is very difficult to achieve any important goal on your own. Interdependence is necessary. To get to Paradise, we must assist each other in recognizing the truth and being patient upon it. Similarly, to achieve a worldly goal we must work together by utilizing each person’s strengths and talents.
6. Truth should never be ignored
People often fail because they choose to ignore or hide the truth. We see this in how people react to religious truths. When someone recognizes the truth but is not willing to submit to it, they may hide it, ignore it, or twist it. But, in the end, they only hurt themselves because the truth remains the truth and rejecting it can only lead to pain.
Likewise, in business and work, there are many people who choose to ignore facts that conflict with their egos. Perhaps someone else is more suited to a job. Maybe another person’s idea is better. Whatever the cause, ignoring the truth in these issues guarantees the failure of the project. Embracing the truth is essential for success.
7. Patience is everything
The Arabic word used in this verse is ṣabr which can be translated as patience, resiliency, restraint, perseverance, or persistence. All of these means are relevant here. A believer cannot get to Paradise without being patience through trials, resilient in the face of adversity, resistant to temptation, and persistent in doing good deeds. It is from the miraculous nature of the Qurʾān that one word contains so many messages.
Success at any worldly goal requires all of these qualities as well. On the path to achieving your goals, you will need to be patient with obstacles, resilient in the face of adversity, resistant to short-cuts and illegal routes, and persistent in working towards that goal. Success, in both this world and the next, is dependent on ṣabr.
To learn more Tafsīr of the Qurʾān, check out my eBook ‘Themes of The Quran’ available here.