Shaykh ʿAbdullāh ibn Muḥammed ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (d.1242 AH) was asked about the interpretation of Sūrah al-ʿAsr (The Declining Day). He responded;

The speech regarding this is lengthy but we are going to mention to you what the people of knowledge have mentioned by way of summarisation. They have mentioned that al-ʿAsr is a time period, which Allāh ﷻ created, and He swears by that which He Wills from His creation, as for the creation it is forbidden for them to swear except by Allāh.

The Prophet ﷺ mentioned and the translation of the meaning is: “Whoever was to swear then he should swear by Allāh or remain silent”. The answer of this oath is that: “Verily! Mankind is in loss”, Mankind meaning all the children of Adam, then He (Allāh ﷻ) made an exception by saying “Except those who believe”, meaning those who believe in Allāh, His Messengers, His Books, the Last Day, and having certainty about that belief in the heart and also they believe that which Allāh ﷻ informed them of in His Book, and upon the tongues of His Messengers that is the truth that which there is no doubt concerning it.

Then He says: “and do righteous deeds”, meaning acting upon that which He has legislated in His Book and upon the tongue and the actions of the limbs of the Prophet ﷺ. It is a must that righteous actions fulfil two conditions: 1- That your actions are sincerely for Allāh ﷻ seeking his face alone 2- That your actions be according to what the Prophet ﷺ has legislated. Allāh says:

۞ قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ  رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا

So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” (Q 18:110)

When Allāh ﷻ says: “and do righteous good deeds”, this refers to the legislated actions and his saying: “and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord”, this is referring to sincerity seeking Allāh’s face. This has two levels:

  1. Believing in Allāh ﷻ and his Messenger.
  2. Doing righteous good deeds, this is the knowledge that Allāh has revealed and acting upon it.

If a person comes to know that which Allāh ﷻ has revealed then upon him is to act upon it, if he was to do a righteous good deed then upon him is the third level (to recommend to the truth), which is to recommend other than him to follow the truth and teach the ignorant ones that which Allāh has taught him contrary to those that Allāh has mentioned:

۞إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَشْتَرُونَ بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۙ أُولَـٰئِكَ مَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ إِلَّا النَّارَ

“Verily, those who conceal what Allāh has sent down of the Book, and purchase a small gain therewith, they eat into their bellies nothing but fire.” (Q 2: 174)

If the believer was to do that which Allāh ﷻ has ordered him from recommending to the truth and command the good which Allāh has ordered with, and forbidding the evil which Allāh has prohibited from, upon him is the fourth stage which is having patience upon the harms of the creation and having patience upon their oppression like the way the prophets, messengers of Allāh ﷺ and the people of knowledge from his creation remained patient upon these harms. If one were to act upon these four levels he will be from the friends of Allāh ﷻ those that fear him and be with His successful party.

We ask Allāh ﷻ to give us and our brothers understanding, of this chapter and to act upon it, Allāh ﷻ mentioned the four stages in this small chapter, small in terms of its wording but vast in its meaning like Imām al-Shāfiʿī mentioned: “If mankind was to act upon this chapter it would be sufficient for them.”