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Qur’anic Oath: By the Fleeting Passage of Time!

October 21, 2008


In the Qur’an, Allah ta’ala swears by many things, which is known as a “qasm” in Arabic–showing the importance and honor of the object. Here is a previous bayyinah gem on qasm. (Assignment for the readers: mention some things that Allah ta’ala swears by in the Qur’an! Hint: there are a lot in Juz ‘Amma) For a qasm (oath) to take place, there has to be four things:

  • One who is making the qasm (oath).
  • Harf Qasm, a letter that shows there is an oath being taken. For example, we may say “wallahi” (و الله) “by Allah!”, which is: wa + Allah, the letter wow here is a harf qasm. Other letters in Arabic that signify that an oath is being taken is taa and laam.
  • Maqsoom alayh, meaning the one whom the oath is being taken on. When we say “wallahi”, we are swearing by Allah–so Allah is the maqsoom alayh.
  • Jawaab qasm, the response to the qasm. When someone swears, there is a reason for swearing, so “wallahi, I did this and that!” or “wallahi, I didn’t lie!”, so the jawaab qasm is, “I did this and that”, or “I didn’t lie”.

The traditional opinion of qasm is that whatever Allah ta’ala swears by has been elevated and honored. Imam ibnul Qayyim wrote a monumental work on aqsaam (plural of qasm) in the Qur’an and he mentioned that there is a reason for the oaths that are mentioned in one surah, and not in another, because if the maqsoom ilayh was honored then it could be transferred to another surah without changing the meaning–but this is not the case. There has to be a relationship between the maqsoom ilayh and what followsin the surah. He mentions that aqsaam:
a) begin the surah in a powerful way; a powerful introduction to the subject and how the whole surah is tied to the oath.
b) every oath is an evidence, worldly or religious, that one could see if they reflect upon it.

One chilling example is from Suratul Asr.

Suratul ‘Asr begins with qasm. In this seemingly short surah, Allah ta’ala sends to us a heavy message:

And by the fleeting passage of time! We usually read the translation: ‘by the time’, why is the translation I wrote more detailed? Because (as usual) there is a huge aspect missing from the translation that is very clear in the Arabic…

Allah ta’ala swore by ‘Asr, which doesn’t only mean “time” because the word for “time” in Arabic is “dahr” (دهر – like suratul Insaan). What’s the difference? ‘Asr is the time that has run out or is about to run out. Think about ‘asr prayer: we pray ‘asr when the day is JUST about over, the last portion of the day is almost done.

this ayah, وَالْعَصْرِ , is creating a sense of urgency, a state of emergency.

Furthermore, when Allah ta’ala uses a qasm (oath), He uses what He swears by (in this surah, ‘asr) as a witness and a proof.

Allah ta’ala continues after this strong oath:

إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
No doubt, the human being is in an utter state of bankruptcy and doom!

In this life, people run after what they think is success…they get the salary, get the spouse, get the car, get the house…THAT is their success, and they left this earth and FAILED. This cycle has been continuing since the dawn of man, and their followers did not learn the lesson from their mistakes.

So now we see how al-’asr is a witness and proof: Time is seeing this over and over again, time is a proof that men and women are in loss.
The thing that we all lose is time: it’s the one thing we have in common, every last human, we all share it, young, old, women, man, ALL.

The best way to reflect upon man’s loss is looking at the time….the fleeting passage of time that Allah ta’ala swore by.

again, every oath in the Qur’an shows us two things:
1- There is a powerful introduction to a subject–the whole surah is tied to the oath.
2- Every oath is an evidence; worldly or religious, that anyone can see and understand if they reflect.

So this is a small taste of the irony of people reading this surah to quickly finish their salah….may Allah ta’ala make us companions of the Qur’an, and save us from being amongst the losers, Ameen.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2008 11:25 pm

    To my readers: please let me know if you need further explanation of any grammatical terms, I know how overwhelming it can be and I ask you to please over look my shortcomings!

    For anyone who is ambitious: state the 4 traits of this qasm from suratul Asr:
    1- Who is taking the qasm (a given inshaAllah :))
    2- the harf qasm
    3- the maqsoom ilayh
    4- the jawaab qasm

    Allahu ta’ala a’alam!

  2. enduringthoughts permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:57 pm

    Some things that Allah ta’ala swears by in the Qur’an:

    Saad: wal-qur’ani dhi dhikr (by the Qur’an containing reminder)
    Ad-Dukhan: al-kitaab al-mubeen (the clear book)
    Al-Qiyaamah: yawm al-qiyamah (the day of standing)
    Al-Buruj: wa samaa’i dhaatil buruj (the sky containing great stars)
    Al-Balad: bi hadhal balad (by this city – Makkah)

    Four traits of the qasm from Suratul Asr:
    1- Allah
    2- wa
    3- al asr
    4 – innal insaana la fee khusr (indeed mankind is in loss)

    Jazakillahu khair for sharing all of this with us (and all of the previous posts, too).

  3. October 22, 2008 10:35 pm

    Alhamdulillah! wa iyyaki ukhtee, and jazaki Allahu khayran for answering the questions! Awesome job mashaAllah.

    InshaAllah the next Qur’anic Characteristic I will share will be Mubeen, which you mentioned from Surah Dukhaan and also many other surahs.

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