In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent the most Merciful.
1. By time.
2. Verily! Man is in loss,
3. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.
After years of listening to Dr Murtadha Alidina’s Friday sermons, one would have the above translation engrained in their mind. More importantly, one would understand that the relevance of this Surah is timeless. It was applicable since humans came into being and will be so till the last day. However, what is its relevance to the Imam of our time? And what lessons are we supposed to derive from this tiny, yet magnanimous chapter of the Qur’an?
Obviously, the verse begins with the Almighty swearing upon time. This highlights the significance of time. Who knows how much of it we have? We are busy planning a future that will exist ten years from now but we ignore death which we could encounter tomorrow. We are occupied in planning a vacation a year from now but who knows if we will have the ability to keep to that plan. Uncertain, that is the best word to describe our lives. Yet why do we seem so certain about tomorrow? Allah (SWT) swears by time to warn us of taking time for granted. And so, what would be the ideal way to utilize this time? With respect to the personality of Imam Al-Asr, one of the best ways to use our time is to learn more about our Imam, get closer to him, know his attributes and strive to achieve a certain degree of those attributes. The prophet of Allah(SWT) is known to have said, “Whosoever dies without recognising the Imam of his age dies the death of a pagan.” Know your Imam before it’s too late, you are not guaranteed tomorrow. Take the initiative and get closer to him while you can.
And what if we do not make any effort to know our Imam? What if we are so occupied with our lives that we become distant from the Imam? The answer is simple. “Verily, Man is in a state of Loss.” If we ignore our leader, and engross ourselves in the material world, then it is we who lose. And some claim, that this loss refers to the punishment of Allah(SWT). And this is true, but the loss is not limited to the azaab. The loss we will incur by neglecting our Imam includes a worldly loss. Unjust, is probably the best way to describe the state of the world today. Take any example: the rich-poor divide, economic giants enforcing stringent trade conditions on developing countries, wars, racism, discrimination, you name it. This is the world today. If we do not turn to our Imam, who is a representative of the Most Just, will we ever get to taste true justice? Will we ever get to experience the pleasure of true peace? As long as we distance ourselves from the Imam, the world is where our heart will lie, and we will build an attachment to injustice. And that is one of many losses we will encounter. “Surely, Man is in a state of Loss.”
But not everyone forgets their Imam. There are some who remember him consciously, recite supplications for his safety and reappearance, act upon his teachings. And then there are those who mimic his actions without knowing him at all. Notice the last verse, in several parts of the Qur’an, a believer is associated with prayer, zakah, and the other Furu-e-Deen, not in this verse. Allah(SWT) says, that people who do righteous good deeds and recommend each other to the truth will be exempt from the ‘loss’. In my opinion (and this may be up for debate), every person on this Earth, with good morals and character falls into this category, regardless of what religion he follows. Allah(SWT) clearly says, for those who perform the righteous deeds, whether it is giving charity or respecting parents, whether it is serving the community or speaking out against oppression, a good deed is a good deed regardless of who performs it. And the Almighty prevents the performer of a good act from the ‘loss’ described in this Surah. In this sense, every good person, every man, woman or child who fights against injustice is preparing for the coming of the Imam, even if it is unknowingly so. And these are the people who will truly be guided by him. Just because we label ourselves Muslims, won’t mean that we will get an auto-pass into the Imam’s circle, we will have to earn it. And SubhanAllah the Almighty provides a way to earn it in this last verse. “Recommend one another to the truth, and to patience.” The road towards our Imam will not be easy. There will be temptations, distractions of the world and other dangers. Allah(SWT) asks us to constantly remind ourselves and others of the truth, of our cause (loyalty and closeness to our Imam). He(SWT) also asks us to advise each other to practice patience. Hardships will be present on this path, it could be the reaction of the unjust world to the arrival of justice, it could be the sacrifices one will have to give for the cause – time, family, wealth, health and so forth. Allah(SWT) asks us to be patient, and advise one another to be patient, for surely if we practice Sabr, we will truly avoid the ‘loss’ of being negligent towards the Imam, and will be able to taste the fruits of his presence in our lives.
As Dr Alidina says, “when enough numbers of people who see the truth, recognize it, accept it, act upon it, live for it and are willing to die for it, that is when the awaited savior will make is reappearance.” Time is upon us, insha’Allah He will grant us the ability and the wisdom to recognize our true priorities and hopefully adapt these priorities so that we can serve our Imam.