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Surah ‘Asr – Surah Humazah
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


Both these surahs form a pair with regard to their subject-matter. The first surah verifies the law of retribution of the Almighty, while the second surah, with reference to this law, warns the leadership of the Quraysh of dire consequences. Both surahs are directed at the leadership of the Quraysh. It is evident from their subject-matter that like the previous surahs they were also revealed in Makkah a little before the Prophet Muhammad’s (sws) migration to Madinah in the phase of itmam al-hujjah of his preaching mission.

The theme of Surah al-‘Asr is to validate the law of retribution which the Quraysh would now encounter in accordance with the verdict delivered by the divine court of justice.

The theme of Surah al-Humazah is to warn, with reference to this law, the leadership of the Quraysh of their fate. These leaders were inflicted with the conceit of their wealth and were adamant on showing a rebellious, slanderous and contemptuous attitude towards the Prophet (sws).




Surah ‘Asr

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

وَالْعَصْرِ (١) إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ (٢) إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ (٣)

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

Time bears witness1 that these people2 shall definitely be in a state of loss. Yes,3 except those who believed,4 did righteous deeds5 and urged one another to the truth and urged one another to remain steadfast [on the truth].6 (1-3)



Surah Humazah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

وَيْلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ (١) الَّذِي جَمَعَ مَالًا وَعَدَّدَهُ (٢) يَحْسَبُ أَنَّ مَالَهُ أَخْلَدَهُ (٣)

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

Woe to every person who gestures [at you] and slanders [you O Prophet!]7 He who has amassed riches and counted them over.8 He thinks that his wealth has rendered him immortal.9 (1-3)



كَلَّا لَيُنبَذَنَّ فِي الْحُطَمَةِ (٤) وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ (٥) نَارُ اللَّهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ (٦) الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ (٧) إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِم مُّؤْصَدَةٌ (٨) فِي عَمَدٍ مُّمَدَّدَةٍ (٩)

By no means! He shall surely be flung into that which crushes into pieces. And what do you imagine what that which crushes is? A fire kindled by God10 which will rise up to the hearts. These [rebellious people] will be enshrouded in it, [fastened and fettered] to high columns. (4-9)



Kuala Lumpur

14th March 2010

(Translated from Al-Bayan by Dr Shehzad Saleem)



1. Ie., the complete period of prophethood from Adam (sws) to Muhammad (sws) bears witness. In this period, that the court of justice was set up on the earth for the immediate addressees of the messengers of God and the rebellious among them were punished in this very world. All this can also be stated in another way as: history bears witness. Viewed thus, this word is the name of all the accounts mentioned in the Qur’an that validate the Day of Judgement. The Qur’an has presented evidence from the accounts of ‘Ad, the Thamud, the people of Noah (sws), Lot (sws) and Shu‘ayb (sws) and other similar ones. This evidence is presented here in one word. In fact, this is the evidence of the lesser days of judgement on the greater Day of Judgement. These lesser days of judgement were brought about to validate the greater day to the extent scientific facts are experimentally validated in a laboratory. Besides the evidence found in the world in and around man to substantiate the Day of Judgement, this is the evidence from history on this day.

2. The word الْإِنسَانَ is not generic in nature. The alif lam affixed to it defines it and the reference is to the addressees of Muhammad (sws) to whom the truth was conclusively communicated and in spite of this they persisted in their arrogance. Loss here refers to loss both in this world and the next. In other words, they will be punished in this world like the other foremost addressees of other messengers of God were, and a great torment awaits them in the Hereafter. They have their eyes fixed on high status, power and the wealth of this world. They think that opposing the Prophet (sws) is earning them a lucrative deal. In reality, they are facing the law of retribution and will soon reach their fate. Hence, they should remain aware that if they persist with this attitude they will end up in loss.

3. In the coming verse, it is categorically stated how a person can secure himself from loss. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… Though this approach is pointed out in a few words, however such is the judiciousness and comprehensiveness of style adopted that if a person deliberates on it, he will come to know the individual and collective obligations which are imposed on him and his eternal salvation depends on discharging them.

A little deliberation shows that the real purpose of the Qur’an is to guide man to this straight path and to organize the individual and collective lives of a person in order to achieve success in the Hereafter. In other words, the message which is conveyed by one hundred and fourteen surahs of the Qur’an has been succinctly put forth in three verses of this surah. It is to this very fact that Imam Shafi‘i has pointed by saying that if people only read Surah al-‘Asr while reflecting on its contents, it will suffice for them. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 530) 

4. Īman (faith) is an ancient religious term. The root امن is also found in Hebrew and means considering something to be true and relying on it. The word آمين (amen) is made from this word and through it we corroborate something. In the Qur’an, iman has been used in this meaning. Thus if something is accepted with the certitude of the heart, then this is called iman. The foundation of this word is iman (faith) in God. If a person accepts the Almighty such that he submits his heart and mind to Him to the utmost, then in the terminology of the Qur’an, he is a mu’min (believer).

It is this very essence of faith on account of which the Qur’an demands from a person that besides substantiation from the heart, his words and deeds should also testify to it. Thus it calls every act of virtue emanating from iman and an essential quality of a believer. The mention of righteous deeds after faith is a kind of elucidation. It is like co-ordinating something specific and general. Imam al-Farahi writes:

… Thus the conviction which exists with all the conditions and corollaries of humility, trust and acknowledgment is called faith. And a person who professes faith in God, in His signs, in His directives, submits all that he has to Him and is happy on all His decisions is called a mu’min. (Al-Farahi, Majmu‘ah tafasir, 347)

No doubt, in the eyes of the law, every person who professes faith in Islam with his tongue is a Muslim. The extent of his faith can also not be ascertained as far as the law is concerned; however, as far as true faith is concerned, it is never static. A person grows stronger in faith when he remembers God and hears His revelations and witnesses His signs in the world within him and in that around him. The Qur’an (14:24) has compared faith to a tree whose roots are deep in the soil and branches spread in the vastness of the sky.

Same is the case of one’s faith growing weaker. Thus if a person instead of making it stronger through sound knowledge and righteous deeds does acts which are against the requirements of faith, it grows weaker, and in some cases is totally wiped out. Some verses such as (١٦٧:٣)  هُمْ لِلْكُفْرِ يَوْمَئِذٍ أَقْرَبُ مِنْهُمْ لِلإِيمَانِ (on that day, they were closer to disbelief than belief, (3:167)) point to this aspect.

It is evident from this that both faith and righteous deeds are essential to one another. Thus just as righteous deeds are necessary for faith, similarly faith is necessary for righteous deeds. At all places, the Qur’an has stated professing faith to be the very first condition for salvation. In Surah al-Nur (24:39), the deeds of people who are devoid of the treasure of faith are compared to the mirage found in a desolate desert which is a mere eye-wash. A thirsty person jumps towards it thinking it to be water but when he draws near, he comes to know that what he thought as waves of water were actually grains of shining sand.

This faith consists of five things:

1. Belief in God

2. Belief in the Angels

3. Belief in the Prophets

4. Belief in Divine Books

5. Belief in the Day of Judgement

5. In the terminology of the Qur’an, it refers to every deed which is in accordance with God’s wisdom on which the universe has been created and according to which He governs it. All its bases are found in the norms of intellect and human nature and the shari‘ah of God has been revealed to guide mankind towards these righteous deeds.

6. This is the obligation of preaching which the Qur’an has imposed on all its followers. This is because man does not merely live in isolation; he is also a member of a family or a citizen of a society. This is a very natural aspect of his existence. He requires the existence of a family not only for this material life but also for his moral and spiritual life. Thus on this basis he is directed here to not remain negligent of the betterment of his surroundings.

This obligation is mentioned as a part of righteous deeds as their explanation because this is a natural requirement of one’s love for the truth. A person very vehemently wants people to love what he himself loves.

The way this obligation is mentioned shows that it is from among the basic requirements of faith. If a believer does righteous deeds and also fulfils this requirement of faith, then these verses guarantee him security from any loss in the Hereafter and he will gain the eternal kingdom of Paradise.

The words حَقٌّ (haqq) and صَبْرٌ (sabr) mentioned in the verse need deliberation. The Almighty did not say: “they urged others to righteous deeds.” On the contrary, His words are: “they urged one another to the truth and urged one another to remain steadfast on it.” What is the reason for this? Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… This style has not only included in it what is found in the first part, it has also made very important additions to it: iman is included to the utmost in al-haqq because it is the right of God and in fact the greatest right of God. Similarly, righteous deeds either relate to the rights towards God or rights towards human beings; hence righteous deeds are also included in haqq. It is evident from this discussion that believers do all these things as an obligation, urge others to adopt them and also counsel others that discharging these obligations is no easy a task; it requires patience and forbearance. Those who do not have this characteristic will find it very difficult to carry out these obligations. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 536)

The word تَوَاصَوْا also needs consideration. It is evident from this that the circle of this preaching is one’s own immediate surroundings and relationships. Thus the preacher and the preached are not distinct from one another. Every person at all times acts as a preacher as well as an addressee to this preaching. At some instances, the Qur’an has also called it amar bi al-ma‘ruf and nahi ‘an al-munkar. In other words, what is ma‘ruf according to nature and intellect as well as religion and shari‘ah should be urged upon those who live in our immediate surroundings and people should be stopped from what is regarded by these as munkar.

7. The first of these relates to gestures and actions and the second to the tongue. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… Making evil gestures and slandering others are two aspects of the same character. When the purpose is to make fun of others and to degrade and ridicule them, both are employed. At times, ridiculing and demeaning others through gestures can prove sharper and more effective than the tongue, and perhaps this is the reason for placing هُمَزَةٍ before لُّمَزَةٍ. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 548)

A little deliberation shows that this way of making fun of others and demeaning them through gestures is the same as what can even be witnessed today in caricatures and cartoons depicted in the newspapers of today as well as in the statements of leaders.

8. This is a very comprehensive picture. If a person is inclined towards stinginess he becomes greedy for wealth and then remains involved in ardently counting it. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

It is a person’s attitude towards life and not what he says which gives an indication of his inner self. The life of a person who considers this world as his final destination is totally different from that of a person for whom the next world is the ultimate destination, towards which this life leads. It is not possible that a person who believes in the Hereafter greedily hoard his wealth. Such a person, as the Prophet Jesus (sws) said, keeps his account with God: “Keep your wealth with God, because your heart is wherever your wealth is.” (Matthew, 6:21-22). (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 549)

9. This is a depiction of his inner-self. If a person regards his life and wealth to be mortal and transient, he would never adopt this attitude.

10. Ie., it will reach their hearts which are devoid of the fear of God, indifferent to the rights of the needy and deeply engrossed in the love of wealth. The favourite food of this fire will be these hearts. Hence, first of all, it will attack them.

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