1- Two Possible Interpretations of the Sūrah: General and Specific
Those with a good command over the discourse of great orators can easily appreciate that when the words bear the possibilities of two distinct interpretations, general and specific. The specific meaning is concluded in the light of the context of situation and the textual context.
In this case it contains references to a nation or a given state of a people. The general implication too is not negated and dispensed with. It indeed confirms the specific meaning. In such a situation the experts give two interpretations to the text so that the text remains relevant to the situation in which it is uttered and at the same time its relevance is kept alive for the universal times and also that it remains referring to situations which it is not necessary to mention for the sake of brevity or other reasons. This is the basic principle which the exegetes and the experts in the principles of interpretation have clung to. I have explained these issues in my book Usūl al-Ta’wīl.
It needs to be appreciated that Sūrah al-‘Aṣr is the most prominent example of the compact and brief discourse. It too has a general extended and a specific direct meaning. I will first explain its direct and specific meaning. This interpretation is more clearly and profoundly related to the preceding Sūrah. The extended general meaning too binds both the sūrahs coherently as you shall learn.
2- Brief and Compact Interpretation of the Sūrah and its Interrelation of the Sūrah with the Previous One
The previous sūrah says that the seekers of the world riches engross themselves in amassing wealth devoting their whole life in the endeavor. Thus they fall in the worst possible loss. This theme has been put elsewhere in the Qur’ān in the following words:
Those whose efforts (i.e. endeavors to amass wealth) have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works? (i.e. they have been competing for the worldly riches and pleasures of their selves considering it work of great wisdom and scoffing at those who worked good seeking their betterment in the afterlife.) They are those who deny the signs of their Lord (i.e. signs leading to resurrection and the Last Judgment) and the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter): vain will be their works, (this is indeed the great loss) nor shall We, on the Day of Judgment, give them any weight. That is their reward, Hell, because they rejected Faith, and took My Signs and My Messengers by way of jest. (Q 18:103:106)
These verses discuss the wealthy among the rejecters and scoffers of the Messengers of God who mocked the sings of God and the idea that they are going to meet Him one day.
In contrast the first part of sūrah al-‘aṣr identifies the loss of these people in very clear terms. Then it goes on to lead the listens/readers to the path of success. It lays out for them the ways to obtain the greatest success and maximum share of blessings from this short life so that they can exhaust their efforts in doing what promises prosperity and avoid sleeping into game and indifference to the real test they are facing before confronting the failure and remorse as has been explained in the following verse of the Holy Qur’ān:
….till the time when one among them faced death, he said: My Lord, return me to the (i.e. life of the world) so that I may work good deeds through what I have left behind (of my wealth). Never. (They will not be returned). There wish is only a word of their mouth. (If they are returned they will again fail to fulfill this promise. They will therefore not be granted the wish). Between them (and this world) would lie barzakh (i.e. a perfect barrier between them and what they left behind them) till the day of resurrection. When the trumpet will be blown there will remain no relation between them and they will not be able to ask help from each other. (After death they will not be able to make use of their wealth left in the world and their strong ties and influential relations. The only thing of value on that day would be the good deeds). The ones whose good works will be heavy (outweighing the evil ones) he will have obtained the everlasting good, (reward of the good deeds) they will be among the successful ones. (On the contrary) those whose scale (of good deeds) will be lighter (for they failed to do good deeds and wasted their time in the wrong of the world and sought its riches) they have lost themselves (this is the consummate loss) finding themselves in Hell for ever. (Q. 20:99-103)
What a bad everlasting life have they earned and what great treasure did they waste!
It is clear in the light of the verses we have quoted above, that man is in the loss only because the last accountability. It is based on the fact that man is accountable by His for his treatment of the blessings God has bestowed upon him. From this we learn that in these verses the fundamental principle is the fact that the last judgment is a sure truth. The sūrah leads to the necessity of the last judgment. It also leads to that in wasting the greatest of all the blessings of God, the duration of lifetime granted, a man in this life, which has no parallel, lies the greatest and consummate loss of man. The sūrah also explains the way to success and prosperity. All these things have been mentioned precisely and forcefully. This we will learn in the following discussions.
3- Signification of the Word al-‘aṣr
The word al-‘aṣr is a noun signifying time as it elapses and passes. Contrarily the word al-dahr (another word for time) signifies time in general. That is why the word al-‘aṣr is often used to signify the past time. Says Imr al-Qays:
Wa hal yun‘imna man kāna fī al-uṣūr al-khālī
Can they benefit the ones who lived in the past?
Ubayd b. al-Abraṣ says:
Fadhāka al-‘aṣr wa qad arānī
Taḥmilunī nahdatu sarḥūb
That was the time (al-‘aṣr)! I would find myself riding a smart female horse.
He means to say when I would find myself in such a state all the times.
‘araftu li-asḥāb al-najā'ib jidda
Idha ‘arafū lī fī al-‘uṣūr al-'awāil
I appreciate the richness of the noble people. Just as the people did acknowledge mine in the bygone times (al-'uṣūr al-'awāil).
Al-Quṭṭāmī who too was not a jāhilī poet says:
Annā ihtadayta litaslīmin ‘alā dimanin
Bi'l-ghamri ghayyarahunna al-a'ṣur al-uwalū
I stood to greet on the remains of al-Ghamr which were totally ruined by the time.
From this shade of the word developed another slightly different meaning as has been used in the following verse from the Dīwān of Durīd b. Al-Ṣummah:
Fa 'in lā tatrukī ‘azlī safāhā
Talammuki ‘alayhi nafsiki ghayra ‘aṣrī
If you would not stop from isolating me out of ignorance your inner self would continue reprimand you after a while.
ghayra ‘aṣrī: not long from now.
Developing further the word came to be used for winds to point to the aspect of their passing and travel. Similarly they use the expression: ‘aṣr al-mā': flow of a liquid. The al-‘aṣr is used for the last part of the day for it signifies the passing away of the day and its setting. Also ‘aṣr al-shay is its passing.
Thus the word al-‘aṣr therefore reminded the Arabs of their past. It brought their mind to the fleetingness and lastingness of the time. In the sense that it moves away and works, for Arabs, as a reminder to what God did to the people in the past in recompense to their deeds. The former sense of the word would encourage them to earn what they could in the short fleeting time, to do something useful. For the time is quickly passing and must act.
The literature of the Arabs shows that the wise among them would refer to these facts in their courses. Those possessed of great wisdom among them have stated this in their poetry and prose. Says al-Muthaqqab al-‘Abdī:
Inna al-'mūr idhā istaqbaltahā ishtabahat
Wa fī tadabburihā al-tibyān wa al-'ibar
When we face the issue they are ambiguous and defeat understanding. However, when we ponder over them afterwards they clearly tell us great lessons. 
Qus b. Sa'idah says:
Fī al-dhāhibīn al-awwalīn
Min al-qurūn lanā basūa'ir
In the past centuries we have great lessons.
By baṣā'ir he means lessons and also the fact that God is the only true provider. This is clear from the context in which he used this verse. He said:
Woe to the ones who are heedless to the past history and the affairs of the bygone nations. O assembly of Ayād, where are the fathers and grandfathers? Where are the sick and the attendants? Where are the Pharaohs and the strict rulers? Where are the engineers who built and strengthened the buildings, who embellished and adorned them, blinded by their children and wealth? Where are the ones who rebelled and transgressed? Who collected and amassed wealth? Those who said: I am your supreme lord. Were they not wealthier than you? Did not they enjoy longer life spans? The earth ground them under its chest. It assailed and tore them into pieces. There lie their spent bones. There lie the ruins of their buildings, inhabited now by bloody wolfs. No. Never. Only He alone is the deity.
This is indeed a beautiful speech. It however has a defect. The speaker has not mentioned the law of retribution and the reason why the mentioned people were destroyed. Contrarily the Qur’ān, in its account of the bygone nation and their destruction, mentions the fact that the basic principle in this regard it the divine justice. For example at one place it says:
There are their houses lying upside down because they had transgressed. (Q 27:52)
Qus b. Sā'id was about to hit the point when he said: "who rebelled and transgressed". However he failed to mention the just recompense to this transgression. He could not go beyond mentioning the loss of the blessings. The Qur’ān variously pleads to what happened to the people of the past in its case for retribution and judgment. Similarly the earlier scriptures too refer to the stories of the nations to prove the necessity of last accountability.
As for the mention of the time and its fleetingness and that it cannot be escaped the Arabs frequently mention this in their poetry and prose.
The best verse in this regards is that of 'Adī b. Zayd:
'a ‘ādhil mā yudrīk anna maniyyatī
ilā sa‘atin fi al-yawm aw fī ḍuḥā al-ghad?
O rebuker, you cannot know when will death approach me, today or tomorrow.
'a 'ādhil inna al-jahla min ladhdhati al-fatā
Wa inna al-manāyā li al-rijāli bimarṣad
O reproacher, impetuousness is a pleasure of the youth. Death always lies in ambush.
Kafā zājiran li'lmar'i ayyāmu dahrihī
Tarūḥu bihī bi'lwā'iẓāti wa taghtadī
Days of time suffice as warners to man. Every morning and evening turns a new page of great lesson.
One wonders how beautifully a point of great wisdom has been divulged. However, there is no mention of the accountability and the last judgment.
4- Oath by al-‘Aṣr
God has sworn by the time to refresh the memories of the addressees of the Qur’ān regarding what they already knew about the sunnah of God about the bygone nations. The earlier nations were blessed or punished in accordance to their behavior. Those who went corrupt were punished. The straight people were blessed. This served to prove to the addressees of the Book that they too will be dealt with accordingly. They too will face accountability one day.
Similarly the Almighty has presented time, the only asset and source for humans in this world, to prove that man is in loss. Time is the most fleeting thing. Man on does not pay heed to this fact and relies on it. He is mostly not conscious of that he is going to die and meet his Lord and face accountability. His example is that of a trader dealing in ice. He is expected to sell off the ice and procure money. But he keeps it with him engrossed in watching its shining beauty and cold. There is no doubt in that this trader will, after a while, find the real treasure gone and nothing to get him money. He will find himself worrying in vain.
Same is the case of the man who does not value time and fails to do good deeds. He keeps on going his way till end of his appointed time. This aspect of loss (khusrān) is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’ān. God says:
Lost indeed are they who treat it as a falsehood that they must meet Allah,- until on a sudden the hour is on them, and they say: "Ah! woe unto us that we took no thought of it"; for they bear their burdens on their backs, and evil indeed are the burdens that they bear? What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the home in the hereafter, for those who are righteous. Will ye not then understand? (Q 31-2)
Some of the scholars of the Qur’ānic tafsīr including Qasṭalānī have expressed the same concerning the meaning of the expression wa al-‘aṣ̣r: God has sworn by the time because it carries extraordinary events and great lessons.
Reference to the time does not imply loss alone. In the passing of the time there is also a glad tiding. It also helps us inculcate patience. It is in this short time that we have the opportunity to earn great treasures (of good deeds) which is lasting and power that does not exhaust. Time does not only cause harm to the one who remains engrossed in the pleasures of the flesh it also provides an opportunity to the wise to take benefit from it. It allows him to take help from it and learn patience and taqwā (God-consciousness) and restrain the self for a short time. The latter sees this worldly life as a dream of the awakening and quick lightening. He sticks to the truth, hidden and external and avoids the untruth, apparent and mortal.
We learned that time is not only a sign and an example. It is truth (al-ḥaq) and a decisive proof of the accountability and also on the loss (of those who fail to take heed). It offers us help to obtain patience and nourish taqwā. How beautifully and tersely has the Qur’ān provided us with a picture of the loss and the success!
5- Mutual Exhortation on Truth and Perseverance Implies Khilafat and Obedience to the Rulers
After a mention of the clear loss of the men in general the Qur’ān indicates the path of success for those who intend to take benefit. It guides to the path of those who buy through this short fleeting life span success and flourish. These people are the people of faith (īmān), virtuous deeds ('amal al-ṣāliḥ) and mutual exhortation (tawāsī). These three qualities indeed cover all the good and virtues. The grandeur of this divine saying has been appreciated by all those who have deliberated upon its terseness implying vast meanings. It has not left any good untouched. Īmān is the hub of all beliefs, good deeds ('amal al-ṣāliḥ) cover all the religious rulings governing ones action and mutual exhortation (tawāṣī) is something through which the divine blessings were perfected not on this ummah specifically but all the nations blessed with the divine revelation. God obliged the ummah to command good to each other, stop each other from evil and help in virtuous deeds. The ummah continued to flourish as long as it upheld this principle. This can be seen from the fact that the Muslim nation was firm in the beginning of the khilāfah till the time they remained united.
God has clearly explained this principle in the following verses of the Qur’ān:
Believers! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except being Muslims (i.e. eagerly obeying). And hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favor on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the pit of fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make His verses clear to you: That you may be guided. Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain prosperity. Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving clear message: [….] You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. (Q 3:102-10)
This shows that it (tawāṣī) was the most fundamental obligations upon this ummah. There are other verses to this effect too.
There is no doubt in that God has put this responsibility of commanding good and stopping from evil on the heads of the nation and their representatives. This can be understood from the words: "there should be a party among yourselves". Yet however the duty to exhort each other on the good is a general command.
These verses lead us to a matter of original import. The believers cannot be said to have fulfilled their duties until and unless they do good, exhort and help each other on fulfilling their obligations and to correct each other on errors. The rights of the Almighty and the humans cannot be systematically fulfilled unless there is a state system and a central government. This latter entity requires obedience from the believers for its stability. To explain this point we need to study the words al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr.
6- Al-Ḥaq and Al-Ṣabr
The Arabs used the word ḥaq in a general sense also. We will deal with this in the discussion on a more general interpretation of the sūrah. In this context it also has specific sense which corresponds to the immediate structure of the text and its context. The word means good dealing of the ones who deserve it. This implies that the mercifulness is a necessary duty of the ummah. They must discharge this duty perpetually. Rabī 'ah b. Maqrūm says:
Yuhīnūna fī al-ḥaqqi amwālahum
Idha alladhabātu intaḥayna al-musīmā
They hold their wealth (camels) cheaper in hard times.
The implication is they slaughter their camels in drought and feed the hungry.
Suwaid b. Abū Kāhil al-Yashkurī says:
Min unāsin laysa min akhlāqihim
'ājil al-faḥsh walā sū' al-jaz'
'urufun lilḥaqqi mā nu'iyā bihī
'inda murri al-amri mā fīnā khar'
We are a people whose morality does not permit them to be swift in uttering indecency nor do they suffer from the malady of fearfulness. We recognize rights (al-ḥaq). When we are required to fulfill such a duty we do not fail to respond to the call. In hard times we do not show slackness.
Fain taqbalū al-ma'rūfa naṣbir liḥaqqikum
Wa lan ya'dima al-ma'rūfu khuffan wa mansimā
If you follow the ma'rūf (customary) we will show patience [considering it] your right (ḥaq). The ma'rūf (customary) will not be abandoned openly nor secretly. 
There are many such examples in the Arabic literature proving that ḥaq has the sense of mercifulness. It entails that tawāṣaw bi al-ḥaq wa tawāṣaw bi al-ṣabr (they exhort each other on al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr gives exactly the same meaning as the verse tawāṣaw bi al-ṣabr wa tawāṣaw bi al-marḥamah (they exhort each other on al-ḥaq and mercifulness (marḥamah)). (Q 90:17) The latter verse actually explains the former.
We need to appreciate that the Qur’ān has mentioned a virtue which is foundation of all virtues. It is only mercifulness which binds the hearts of people and makes them a single issue. All become bountiful and generous. We know that in the previous sūrah (Sūrah al-Takāthur) God mentioned their craving for amassing more and more wealth. That is actually the genesis of all their moral ailments which has been treated by prescribing marḥamah (mercifulness) in this sūrah. This has then been further fortified by the mention of exhorting each other on al-ṣabr. This is because mercifulness cannot be exercised until and unless one bears the troubles from others and forgives them generously. God Almighty says:
[….] and the patient and the forgiving ones. These are indeed acts of great courage. (Q 42:43)
In this verse we see that forgiveness has been mentioned alongside mercifulness. These two seem to be twins. Rather they are ends of the same chord as can be seen in the last few verses of Sūrah Āl-i ‘imrān:
Believers! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other. (Q 3:200)
This verse establishes firmly the ground of unity and the ummah has been tied together through patience and the means of cohesion. The message of this verse has also been mentioned in the following verse:
Not so do those who show patience and constancy, and work righteousness. (Q 11:11)
Thus by mentioning al-ṣabr and al-ḥaq in the sūrah under discussion God has led us to two foundational virtues.
We have explained in the commentary on Sūrah al-Mā'ūn and Sūrah al-Kawthar that love for God and the fellow creatures is the foremost article of faith (īmān). It is this very reality that is expressed by ṣalāh and zakāh or the similar expressions in the Book. Consider the following verse:
And seek help through steadfastness and ṣalāh. (Q 2:45)
Also consider the verse:
Enjoin prayer (ṣalāḥ) on thy people, and be constant therein. (Q 20:132
In these two verses unite al-ṣabr and al-ṣalāh.
We need to appreciate that in the Arab culture of the time of the revelation of the Qur’an al-ṣabr did not include the sense of submissiveness and excessive humility. To the Arabs a patient man was not like the one oppressed and tyrannized or crippled and incapacitated. Contrarily it stemmed from power, courage and firm resolve. There are numerous example of the use of this word in this sense in the pre-Islamic Arabic literature. Ḥātim al-Ṭā'ī says:
Wa ghamrati mawtin laysa fīhā huwādatun
Yakūnu ṣudūra al-mashrafiyi jusūruhā
Ṣabarnā lahū fī nahkihā wa muṣābihā
Bi asyāfinā ḥattā yabūkha sa'īruhā
And many are the rivers of death and disaster over which there are bridges of swords.
We showed perseverance with our swords against all the calamities and disasters until they subsided.
Yā ibna jaḥājiḥati al-madārih
Wa al-ṣābirīna 'ala al-makārih
O children of noble chiefs and the ones who face difficulties bravely.
Zuhair Ibn Abi Salmah says:
Qūd al-jayyādi wa iṣhāru al-mulūki wa ṣabr
Fī mawāṭina law kānū bihā sa'imū
Riding the horses of pure breed, relative of emperors, showing perseverance in such positions where others would have given up.
The Qur’ān too indicates the true meaning of al-ṣabr. God says:
And those who show perseverance in difficulties and hardships and during the war. (Q 2:177)
In the preceding verse the Almighty has mentioned three occasions of the deed: destituteness, illness and war. A little deliberation shows that these are the real sources of all sorts of difficulties. Similarly the book mentions al-ṣabr in response to the pangs one feels on being tortured by the people as has been stated in the verse which we already quoted above:
[….] and the patient and the forgiving ones. These are indeed acts of great courage. (Q 42:43)
By putting together mercifulness and patience the Qur’ān teaches us to the highest state of moral self, that which combines kindness and determination. This issue will be detailed in section twelve. How beautifully this sūrah describes this and how compact moral teaching does it offer! It seems to be the key to all blessed treasures. It is like a lamp lightening the way to all virtuous deeds. It is in fact the remedy to a miser heart and check/curb on the temptation of the recalcitrant nafs. Due to these meanings the sūrah serves as a connection between Sūrah al-Takāthur and Sūrah al-Ḥumazah, both of which discuss the evil of the people of greed and pride, conceited by the wealth of an ephemeral world.
This far, we have discussed a particular and specific meaning of the sūrah. However, as we mentioned in the beginning it also has a more general and extended meaning. Now we will discuss that.
7- Extended Signification of the Sūrah and its Comprehensiveness
It is not superfluous activity to treat the shorter sūrahs in this way explaining their vast and extended meanings. This exercise is necessary because God:
1. has made them a single complete sūrah
2. I have explained in the book Tarīkh al-Qur’ān (History of the Qur’ān) that why the principles were taught earlier through compact comprehensive statements, to be detailed afterwards.
3. God himself has led us to this principle. He says: (This is) a Book, with verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning), further explained in detail,- from One Who is Wise and Well-acquainted (with all things) (Q 11:1)
4. even a careful study of the words used in these short sūrahs itself leads to the fact that they are pregnant with deeper, vaster, and extended meanings. They are comprehensive statements containing sublime themes and points of great wisdom.
5. What has been reported from the righteous ancestors contains what corresponds and strengthens my view. Imam Shāfi'ī has been reported to have said concerning this sūrah: If the people would ponder over this sūrah alone that would suffice them as a guide.
Now we take you to ponder over it. We will explain the meanings of imān, al-'amal al-ṣālih (righteous deeds), exhorting each other (tawāsī) on good (al-ḥaq) and patience (al-ṣabr) and highlight the interconnection between these all.
8- Meaning of Īmān and Related Discussions
The route of the word īmān is A M N. Literally the word īmān is used to convey a number of meanings. We say: āmanahū to mean A gave B peace. An example is the verse: wa āmanahum min khawf: He gave them peace from fear. (Q 105:4) Another sense gives the meaning of believing in someone. They says: āmana lahū to mean: A affirmed in and relied on B. Āmana bihī means A believed in B. The word has been used in the Qur’ān in all these senses. One of the attributive names of God Almighty is: al-Mu'min. It means He is the one who grants his servants, who return to Him, peace.
Īmān is an old religious term in Hebrew. In this language, A M N is used for faithfulness, trueheartedness and reliance. Transitively the verb derived from A M N means belief in, confirmation and affirmation. The word 'amen' is derivative of the root. It is expressive of confirmation. Īmān is basically true faith and belief in (God) with all its necessary qualities including fear, reliance, and surrender before His commands. The mu'min is the one who believes in God, in His diverse bounties and signs of Him, surrenders before His commands, submits all of his self before Him, and is fully content with what God decided about him.
Just as īmān is for 'aql guidance and light, it is for the heart correction and purification. Thus it fills one's viewpoints and intentions to the brim at the same time. It covers knowledge and deeds both. Finally, as the Qur’ānic terms: A mu'min is the worshipper of God, while he has established his servitude with faith in his signs and surrendered before His commands, out of love and satisfaction.
It is one of the sunnah of God that he raises the humans to the highest heights according to their endeavors. Thus God helps the nafs progress through the stages of nearness to its Lord. Nafs has two steps (on this path): A, from the aspect of 'aqal and view and B, from the point of heart and intentions. That is why every step in terms of knowledge and action becomes a means to progress to guidance and taqwā. God says:
Those who adopted guidance (i.e. acted what they knew and believed), He increases them in guidance (knowledge), and bestows on them their taqwā (i.e. correctness of their intentions for taqwā is the hub of the righteous deeds). (Q 47:17)
Every profitable knowledge and righteous deeds brings guidance and taqwā and becomes a means of further knowledge and good deeds because of blessing of God. This understanding of mine can be established by a number of verses from the Qur’ān.
Faith (īmān) has not yet has entered your hearts. (Q 49:14)
The implication is your īmān has not grown perfect for it does not yet bind your knowledge and intention together. Your sayings are not yet your actions. Another verse that proves my point follows:
For such He has written īmān in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. (Q 58:22)
This He says after a mention of their mutual love. By this He referred to the fact that īmān relates to the heart (qalb) and creates love. God says:
Those who have faith [in God] are the strongest in love for God. (Q 2:165)
Another proof is found in the following verse:
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (true) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction. (Q 4:65)
It means the one who does not surrender his complete person and dies bit adapt his actions to the will of the Almighty and His commands he does not become a true believer. Īmān is a whole, a completeness. The above mentioned man only brought a part of it. Another pertinent verse follows:
For, believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put all their trust in their Lord; who establish regular prayers and spend freely out of the gifts We have given them for sustenance: such in truth are the believers. (Q 8: 2-4)
This verse identifies the believers for us. God has mentioned their attributes. Fear is created in their hearts at the mention of Allah. Their faith grows when they hear the verses of God's revelations. They rely on their Lord totally. They establish ṣalāh and do their alms. God says that people with these qualities are the true believers.
Elsewhere God Almighty says:
Only those are believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the cause of Allah: Such are the sincere ones. (Q 49:15)
Another similar verse reads:
Is then the man who believes no better than the man who is rebellious and wicked? Not equal are they. (Q 32:18)
It needs to be appreciated how clearly God puts in contrast the believers and the profligate. He says that they can never be equal.
The above discussion suffices as explanation of the Qur’ānic practice of putting righteous deeds after a mention of īmān. This phenomenon is actually explanation and elaboration. A general thing, īmān, has been clarified further by what it entails, good deeds. It is called putting specific example after a general principle (‘aṭaf al-khāṣ ‘ala al-‘āmm). A parallel example of this kind of ordering things is found in the Qur’ānic mention of the obligation of obeying God followed by a mention of obeying the Messenger. In this second kind of verses a general comprehensive command is further detailed by a part. Similarly at many occasions the order is reversed by putting particular before a general. Some parts of speech imply meanings which can be left unnoticed. It calls for a little explication which is offered. That īmān should be explicated is clearly understandable for the locale of īmān is the secrets of the hearts and it relates to intellectual realm. This happens that a man thinks he is a believer while he is not. By doing so he does not only deceive others but himself too. This required that there are two witnesses to īmān of a person, statement and action corroborating it. Statement can at times be untrue. That is why it has been explained that mere statement does not render on a true believer and that one should do in practice what the statement implies. This way God made righteous deeds a corroborator and affirmation of the claim of one's faith which is a secret thing. This fact explains the divine statement: Believers, believe. (Q 4:136) It means: O people who have claimed to have believed do affirm your statement with corresponding deeds.
A similar Qur’ānic statement reads:
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. (Q 29:2-3)
Therefore, the best interpretation of all the expressions implying "'amal al-ṣāliḥ" when mentioned following īmān is to take them as explanation of the preceding mention of īmān. However, it is not possible if we consider both in bond of complementarity. Since then īmān would give the meaning of perfection of conviction. Both (as in āmanū wa 'amilū al-ṣāliḥāt) considered together would give a definition of the true believer.
To conclude īmān:
1. is a psychological state and a spiritual thing
2. rules over beliefs as well as actions
3. increases by knowledge just as it increases with righteous deeds
4. has two pillars: knowledge and action. It collapses by the fall of either of the two.
Someone who keeps on following a sinful life in spite of knowing and believing that Allah is the Lord of the worlds and having known religious commands has no share in the true īmān acceptable to God. His status is identical to that of Iblīs who knew and believed in God yet he is not a believer. There is no weight and significance in his faith. On the contrary his knowledge is a proof against his own behavior. His apparent faith actually continues removing him farther and farther from God and will add to God's wrath for him. Another identical example is that of Pharaoh and his people who knew God for sure yet did not believe truly. God says:
But when Our signs came to them, that should have opened their eyes, they said: "This is sorcery manifest!" And they rejected those signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof. (Q 27:13-4)
The implication is clear. Indeed knowledge (of something) and intention (to do corresponding steps) are different things. They do not co-exist necessarily. A detailed discussion on knowledge is afforded in the previous sūrah.
9- Political Signification of the Term īmān
Īmān has a specific meaning that is “to be convinced of something” and a political meaning. It has another even more specific meaning. That is īqān (to be totally convinced of something). The Qur’ān uses the verb derived from īmān in this sense in a context where the related indicators too are given. God says:
The Messenger has been convinced (of the veracity) of what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so have the believers (in the first sense above); they all have believed in God and His angels and His books and His messengers. (They confess,) ‘We make no difference between any of His messengers.” And they say (with true conviction), “We have heard and obeyed.(Q 2:286)
This sense of the word led some of the people to believe that īqān is the perfect īmān, considerable to God Almighty. They believe it is mere intention. Then how can it decrease or increase? They say. And how can deeds be a part of īmān? For to them intention and action are two different things. The upholders of this view thought that this is the view of Abū Ḥanīfa concerning īmān and deeds. Supported by this they stuck to what they thought. Having believed this they were led to wrongly interpret clear Qur’ānic assertions whereas the issue is clear.
I believe that Abū Ḥanīfa saw the issue from the viewpoint of a jurist and a judge. This approach to issues like laws of inheritance, nikāḥ (marriage), kharāj, jizyah, and other matters studies and sees things from a different angle. In this legal sense every such person is mu'min who declares that he is one of the believers and participates with the believers in their religious rituals. He observes things they observe. In this sense there is no difference between a true believer and a hypocrite and between a righteous man and a profligate. In this matter the īmān of all is equal. There is no difference between their statuses as believers. It entails that this īmān does not increase or decrease. For the political view of things does not deal with what lies between man and his Lord. This last issue will be opened up and brought to observation on the Last Day. The following verses from Sūrah al-Ḥadīd discuss this issue. I have explained parts of the verses in the parenthesis.
One Day shall you see the believing men and the believing women- how their light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (We will say): "Good news for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! to dwell therein for aye! This is indeed the highest Achievement!" One Day will the Hypocrites- men and women - say to the believers (the believers in the first sense given above): "Wait for us! Let us borrow (a light) from your light!" It will be said: "Turn you back to your rear! then seek a light!" (When they will have done that and departed from the believers) a wall will be put up between them, with a gate therein. Within it will be mercy throughout, and without it, all alongside, will be punishment! Those without will call out, "Were we not with you? (i.e. in the worldly life)" The others will reply, "True! but you led yourselves into temptation; you kept waiting; you doubted; and your desires deceived you; until there issued the command of Allah. And the deceiver (Satan) deceived you in respect of Allah. "This Day shall no ransom be accepted of you, nor of those who rejected Allah (in clear terms)." Your abode is the Fire: that is the proper place to claim you: and an evil refuge it is!" (Q 57: 12-15)
This verse tells us that a group of people is included among the believing people in this worldly life. On the Last Day they will be separated from the believers. They will be included in the party of the clear rejecters. This is only possible if the political set up of the Islamic state gives both the true believers and the imposters the same degree of acknowledgement only because the imposters claimed to be among the believers.
Abū Ḥanīfa, in this discussion, did not refer to the specific meaning of īmān that is īqān. Rather he considered the sense of affirmation and expression. The problem before him was this: is īmān inclusive of statement and corresponding actions or merely a statement of the faith. The disputed issue was not that: does īmān include both knowledge and practice. It is obvious that a judge or someone looking from his view, when validly takes īmān to mean statement of the faith, he does not make it subject to increase or decrease. This makes it clear that Abū Ḥanīfa did not consider but only in the sense of legal īmān which is operative on legal status of the believers and the laws ruling them. The fact that the Qur’ān clearly mentions that that īmān increases was not under discussion. We know that the Qur’ān expresses in the most clear and concrete terms and also reason establishes plainly that īqān and action are two different things. They both increase and decrease as explained in the previous chapter.
10- Righteous Deeds are a Source of Correction, Betterment and Perfection of the Created Things
The words "amilū al-ṣ̣āliḥāt" is a comprehensive statement. It covers all types of righteous deeds. This much is obvious. However, the words used signify a great wisdom. When we ponder over the fact that God called the righteous deeds ṣāliḥāt we learn that it must imply betterment in man's condition, establishment for his economics, future, individually and collectively, his body, intellect and heart. The righteous deed is the one which brings nourishment to human life to the measure of what God implanted in his nature and to the limits of his ability. In it is achieved the objective of his existence and ultimate perfection, which is called fiṭrah of man. As has been said in Sūrah al-Tīn:
We created man in the best of moulds. (Q 95:4)
The same perfection is identified in 'ibādah in another verse:
I have created man and jinn only in order that worship me. (Q 51:56)
The implication is that I created them so that they obey Me. By 'ibādah and itā'ah is achieved correction of the man himself and all the other creations. Man is part of the whole universe. His ṣāliḥ actions and deeds are the ones which are in accordance to the wisdom God has implanted in his creations and effective participation of it in the entire system of the universe. God has not created a single creation in vain not as sport. The struggle and confrontation that we see in the universe, where one party is lost in the struggle and other is victorious, is actually a means of progress in the order of beings, a change from one thing to another, transfer from a state to another.
The Qur’ān itself has taught us that we progress, develop and nourish by the righteous deeds. It also guided us to the fact that the universe as a whole too is traveling to a wise purpose set for it by its Lord who establishes the truth and abolishes the evil. God says:
To Him mount up words of purity and deed of righteousness exalts it. (This is upward progress of man because he does good that is corrective and corresponding for the purpose and because it is the only true purpose of the creation of the universe)Those that lay plots of evil,- for them is a penalty terrible; and the plotting of such will be void. (Q 35:10)
This is because evil deeds are opposite to al-ḥaq (the truth). Whatever plans they have to outdo the truth are sure to lose. Instead those schemes will be destroyed by God as He has created all the creations for a purpose and under a wisdom which He calls al-ḥaq (the truth). This has been explained by the Qur’ān in a number of verses some of which follow:
Not for (idle) sport did We create the heavens and the earth and all that is between! If it had been Our wish to take (just) a pastime, We should surely have taken it from the things nearest to Us, if We would do (such a thing)! Nay, We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood does perish! Ah! woe be to you for the false things you ascribe (to Us). (Q 21:16-8)
From this we learn why God has decided that the righteous would rightfully inherent power on the earth. This is because the mufsid (literally the destroyer, the follower of evil) works for something which is against the purpose of the creation and the wisdom behind its creation. The righteous (al-ṣāliḥūn) are the people who do ṣāliḥ (literally corrective, positive) righteous deeds as has been stated elsewhere:
And those who believe and work righteous deeds (al-ṣāliḥāt),- them shall We admit to the company of the righteous (al-ṣāliḥūn). (Q 29:9)
The implication is that they would be entered among the party of the ṣāliḥīn, the Prophets, the truthful and the witnesses to the truth.
We know that the Qur’ān as well as the previous scriptures frequently mentions the destruction of the evil doers and blessing for the righteous. One such statement from the Qur’ān follows:
We have written in the Psalms, following the reminder, that my righteous servants ('ibādiya) shall inherit the land. It carries a clear message (of glad tiding) for the worshippers. (Q 21:105)
'Ibādiya (My servants) in the last verse implies that they obey His commands, the mother of all ṣalāh (correction/righteousness) as has been explained earlier. The wrongdoer is an enemy not only of himself but of the entire creation. He does not find any interest in things other than what is of temporal and immediate benefit. He therefore abhors the divine laws. He transgresses the divine commandments. He does not understand that his betterment is attached to the betterment of all. As for the righteous they are the salt of the earth. All correction and rightness in the world depends on them. They do not only think and feel good for the people of their time but also for the coming generations. Their goodness is vast enough to fit the vastness of the creation. This makes them rightful inheritors of the world and vicegerency of their Lord. They do not seek but general well being. This is exactly what truth, justice, wisdom and mercy is.
11- Al-Ḥaq is the only Purpose and Objective of our Ascendance
Al-ḥaq by definition is something stable and persistent. However certain nuances are found in its usage in expression. It has different connotations or stages which include:
● that exists in actuality
● that is established rationally
● a moral imperative
Qur’ān uses the term in all these senses. God Almighty says:
Truly that is just and fitting,- the mutual recriminations of the People of the Fire! (Q 38:64)
The implication is that it is actually inevitably happening.
They will be brought back to Allah their rightful Lord. (Q 10:30)
The implication being that He alone is the true and eternal Lord and sustainer.
And in their wealth and possessions there is the right of the needy, seeker and the prevented. (Q 51:19)
The implication is that there is a right obligatory upon them for the needy.
As for the particular sense which we discussed in the seventh section above that covers love and solace for the weak. This usage is a derivation from its general meaning. This reflects that according to the Arabs the most manifest right of the fellow creature is this love and solace. It is necessary for the able to fulfill. It is the right of the needy owed to them. It also reflects that it is a rationally established right of the oppressed and customary for the people. It is only this basis that they would term doing good as ma'rūf (customary). This practice of taking care of the needy was practiced among them just as any other established law is followed. Al-ḥaq in the sense of love and care for the needy, it seems, to Arabs, was a virtue which had in it a taste of all the virtues mentioned above.
When we take this sense (love and solace for the deserving) of the word al-ḥaq, which is a general and extended vast sense, we find it attractive to reason and heart. In this sense it includes knowledge and action both. It is in this sense opposite of the evil, untruth, oppression and destruction.
Now we turn to the study of reality of the virtues of al-ḥaq and ṣabr. It will help us understand more clearly the relation between the two. It will also shed light on the coherence in the sūrah and grasp the beauty and sweetness of its expression. It would seem like a garden spanning over the heavens and the earth.
12- Explanation of al-Ḥaq and al-Ṣabr and their Mutual Interrelation
It needs to be appreciated that salvation lies in the correction of the mental and moral abilities. We also need to know that both heart and mind have two opposing aspects, mercy and hardness, kindness and stiffness.
Kindness of mental faculties means reason should surrender before the truth whenever it faces it. The meekness of heart implies that it should be merciful and melting for the Creator and the created things. Human intellect believes in the Truth, the Almighty Allah, His attributes and His signs. Heart feels for worship and humbling itself before Him. It melts towards the Lord, the True. The heart also feels for the entire creations and finds it imperative to be kind.
Intensity and enthusiasm of the intellect is that it should hold fast to the truth while it is unseen. It should leave the untruth which is apparent. The hardness and intensity of the heart means it should bear all difficulties on the course of justice. It should be courageous enough to forgive a wrong done to it by others while in power to avenge it. Steadfastness is related to al-ḥaq just like mind and heart are related to it.
To conclude we can say that al-ḥaq opens up the doors to all the possible virtues. Al-ṣabr (steadfastness) on the other hand keeps the doors to all vices closed for us. Al-ḥaq is the virtue we must love and the al-ṣabr is the name of power to keep ourselves on al-ḥaq. In this regards the Qur’ān says:
Those who say (with true heart), "God is our Lord" (this statement covers true firm faith and obedience for the one who affirms that God is his provider and actually becomes a true follower of His commands) and stand firm on it (i.e. they accept al-ḥaq and then remain steadfast on it). (Q 46:13)
It is clear that there is no greater blessing then the one that can be had forever. Thus all possible limits of goodness are covered in two words: al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr. This explains the interrelation between the two.
It is not that with al-ṣabr culminate the achievement of all the goodness. Actually it adds to them. After one obtains all the goodness he should hold it fast so that he is granted even more. This means that al-ṣabr is a means to get more good. This entails that it is the first and foremost condition to successful journey to the higher stages. Do not you see how God commanded the Prophets to observe al-ṣabr first of all? We can refer to the story of Moses and his companion. The latter did not ask Moses but to observe al-ṣabr. He tried Moses through al-ṣabr. We will discuss more about al-ṣabr in the fifteenths section. Here I only intended to point out that al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr are two steps in our journey.
You have now begun to learn that in the text under discussion explanation and detail is offered. It seems that īmān is the origin and foundation. Then God explained one aspect of īmān by the righteous deed. Al-ḥaq is the beloved of the heart and mind and that by it these two are reformed and perfected. And al-ṣabr is the issue of this love. One sticks to something, protects it, angers for the sake of it and thinks it his honor by the measure of the force of love one feels for it. This explains the wrath of the merciful God for the people. We never experience a situation that we love someone and at the same time let him disgraced and tortured. We always feel for him and react for him. Do you notice how vigilantly a woman guards her baby? How courageously mothers guard them! Even mother pigeon tries to hit the one who approaches her nest and touches her chicken. All this shows that al-ṣabr branches out of love for al-ḥaq.
It also needs to be appreciated that the most of al-ḥaq is in the realm of the unseen. Therefore, one needs to observe al-ṣabr (patience) for it to reveal itself for us. God says:
So patiently persevere (faṣbir): for verily the promise of Allah is true (ḥaq). (Q 30:60)
These aspects of the interrelation of al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr should remain before your eyes.
13- Interrelation of ‘Amal al-Ṣāliḥ Tawāṣī
The part of the verse "wa tawasaw bi al-ḥaq wa tawasaw bi al-ṣabr" implies that these believers themselves practice these virtues in their life. They exhort each other on these things only after they themselves put them into practice. This has not been explained in so many words because īmān and al-'amal al-ṣāliḥ include this. For exhorting others on something which the counselor himself does not practice is clearly absurd. Since this context is the context of praise and positive statement it has not been stated in clear words.
It has been become clear now that tawāṣī branches off from al-‘amal al-sāliḥ. Just as the latter is an issue of īmān. For the one who is attracted to al-ḥaq, practices it, patiently bears difficulties for it, his knowledge of it is increased, his love for it is improved, his care and passion for it is enriched. He is more eager to do all that he can for the sake of it. He cannot fail al-ḥaq and abandon it while al-bāṭil (the evil) is ravaging the servants of God. He is like a brave soldier who invites and incites his fellow to guard the truth and persevere in the face of difficulties. This exhortation and encouragement is a part of his will to defend the truth. In this sense tawāṣī in the verse under discussion is part of al-'amal al-sāliḥ. God mentioned both consecutively in such a way that the latter explains and details the former.
As mentioned earlier al-'amal al-sāliḥ is the guardian of the peace and civilization. It entails that one should also encourage others and exhort them on what is truth and to persevere for the sake of it. This is what has been stated in the following verse of the Qur’ān:
And help each other in righteousness (al-birr) and taqwā. (Q 5:2)
Al-Birr is the truth and taqwā is al-ṣabr. It is the name of steadfastness in the right and perseverance on the occasions of default.
14- Responsibility of the Ummah regarding Tawāṣī
From what we have already said on explanation of the expressions “al-'amal al-ṣāliḥ”, “al-ḥaq”, “al-ṣabr” and “al-tawāṣī” shows that the sūrah contains extraordinary teachings regarding political obligations, mutual help, and relationships in life. It also explains away the misconception that believers have no share in the usual worldly problems and issues related to the ummah. Since the sūrah covers the teachings of utmost importance the mention of tawāṣī bears great significance.
God has obliged us to do tawāṣī. He has therefore granted us the freedom of expression. The ummah has no doubt been commanded to obey the rulers. It has also been obliged to express the truth and wish well for them through good counseling. That is why the believers have been called shu‘adā’ (witnesses). We see that the righteous caliphs would openly surrender before the word of truth even coming from the weak. The Prophet (sws) too was commanded by God to consult the believers so that they are encouraged on saying the truth. They would therefore say what they believed to be the truth in their opinion even though their view contradicted the viewpoint of the Prophet (sws). It was so that a paradigmatic sunnah (practice) was established in this regard.
It needs to be appreciated that freedom of expression does not mean creating nuisance in the society. What is obligatory is to help in the works of righteousness (taqwā) and goodness (al-birr). If the others do not pay heed to what you have to say you should not opt for creating disorder and nuisance. You have to follow the rulers until all exhortation is useless and that too when the whole ummah is unanimous on the rebellion. This issue will be discussed in the commentary on the following verse of Sūrah al-A‘rāf:
Do not create disorder in the land after its correction. (Q 7:56)
Here a mere reference to that is sufficient.
15- Further Explanation of al-Ḥaq and al-Ṣabr
Once you have viewed the preceding discussions and have grasped the deeper implications of the issues it must seem to you that al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr are like two towering mountains upon which rise the rocks of the exalted sharia’h and the fortifications of the rule of God. It has already been explained that God has created the heavens and the earth in truth that is justice and wisdom. God says:
If the truth were to follow their base desires the heavens and the earth would have corrupted. (Q 23:71)
It needs to be appreciated that God grants a nation khilāfa and the blessing of the sharī'ah and the nubuwwah (prophethood) only in order to make them follow justice and truth. God says:
Believers! Stand out firmly on justice, as witnesses of Allah (i.e. to justice, al-qisṭ), even as against yourselves. (Q 4:135)
Al-Qisṭ (justice) is but al-ḥaq (the truth). It covers knowledge and action both. God says:
…. and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. (Q 3:18)
And God said:
Decide between them justly (bi al-qisṭ). (Q 5:42)
And God says:
God has enjoined justice (al-qisṭ) upon me. (Q 7:29)
And God says:
And those who enjoin justice (al-qisṭ). (Q 3:21)
They lead in truth (al-ḥaq) (i.e. justice) and in it they do justice. (Q 7:159)
He said: My Lord decide in truth (al-ḥaq). (Q 21:112)
Then he will decide between us justly (bi al-ḥaq). (Q 34:26)
Decide between us justly (bi al-ḥaq). (Q 38:22)
God decides with justice (bi al-ḥaq). (Q 40:20)
These verses lead us to that God has enjoined justice upon us for He himself has established His rule in truth. Consider the following verses:
O David! We did indeed make you a vicegerent on earth: so judge between men in truth (i.e. justice): Nor follow the lusts (i.e. for it is distortion, disorder and deviation from the truth), for they will mislead you from the path of Allah (i.e. the principles of the rule of God to which you are His vicegerent). Those who wander astray from the path of Allah, is a penalty grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account. (For it is the day appointed for the retribution of the transgressors). Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between! (i.e. how can He condoned deviation from the path of truth for His vicegerent?) That (i.e. the desire that the dominion of God on the heavens and the earth is not founded on truth and justice) is the whim of the rejecters (i.e. of the providence of God). (Q 38:26-7)
Now we come to the quality of al-ṣabr (perseverance/steadfastness). All the nations God chose for the reception His Book He put to severe trials. He tested their steadfastness in the manner of an engineer who determines a solid foundation for a huge bridge or skyscraper. A nation recipient of God’s message is first put to trial and test. When they have passed this hard test and born great difficulties then they deserve the trust of their Lord. This way God actually raises a new ummah out of them. He supports and strengthens them. He grants them dominion over their enemies. To this fact the following verses of the Qur’ān allude:
And We shall try you until We test those among you who strive their utmost and persevere in patience; and We shall try your mettle. (Q 47:31)
If you have received a hurt, a similar wound has struck the others. These days We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks witnesses to truth (i.e. the just rulers). And Allah love not those that do wrong. Allah’s object also is to purge those that are true in faith and to deprive of blessing those that resist faith. Did you think that you would enter heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard and remained steadfast? (Q 3:140-2)
Almighty Allah has also explained in the story of the Children of Israel that their emergence and declination revolved around the pivot of their patience. The wisdom behind this was that God showers His blessings on the people corresponding to their actions and deeds. God says:
And God will surely help those who help Him. (Q 22:40)
Thus God is always with the patient and the steadfast. He has enjoined upon his servants to show patience always. This He has covenanted between Himself and the servants. God says:
God is with those who persevere. (Q 2:153)
And God loves the patient. (Q 3:146)
And We appointed, from among them, leaders, giving guidance under Our command, so long as they persevered with patience. (Q 32:24)
We need to refer to the stories of the Messengers of God. They too were not helped and supported by God until they proved to be preserving in the face of stiff opposition for a long time. In this connection God says to the Prophet Muhammad (sws):
Therefore patiently persevere, as did all apostles of inflexible purpose; and be in no haste about them (i.e. their punishment and subjugation). (Q 46:35)
Then we need to appreciate that this is the foundational principle on which is based God’s dispensation of the affairs of His creations. God has measured all the affairs and made for them purposes and set for them a limit. This is so that everything reaches its natural course and exhausts all of its potentials. He does not therefore bring punishment on the transgressors hastily. God says:
If Allah were to punish men according to what they deserve He would not leave on the back of the earth a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term: when their term expires, verily Allah has in His sight all His servants (i.e. He then decides their case justly). (Q 35:45)
This is actually al-ṣabr which is termed al-ḥilm in the discussion of God’s management of the universe. That is why the Holy Prophet (sws) has been commanded in the Qur’an to observe al-ṣabr. God says:
A questioner asked about a penalty to befall. (When it comes) the rejecters shall find none to ward it off. (It is a penalty) from Allah, the Lord of ascents. The angels and al-rūḥ ascend unto him in a day the measure whereof is as fifty thousand years: Therefore hold beautifully patience. They see the (punishment) indeed as a far-off but We see it quite near. (Q 70:1-7)
If we cast a glance at the history of the bygone nations two things emerge before our eyes. First, God’s decree enforced on the people in accordance with His sunnah of justice. The matters in their final form return to the truth. As God says:
But we hurl the truth on the evil and it knocks out its brain. (Q 21:18)
Second, God shows leniency regarding His servants. He gives them respite so that He judges them with regards to the blessings given them. God says:
Generations before you We destroyed when they did wrong: their apostles came to them with clear-signs, but they would not believe! thus do We requite those who sin! Then We made you heirs in the land after them, to see how you would behave! (Q 10:13-4)
Al-ḥilm therefore is al-ṣabr.
From what I have stated above it becomes clear that al-ṣabr is the foundation of the truth and justice. Had God hastened with the punishment it would hurt the wisdom which He intends to reveal. It would also destroy the truth which God brings out of his creation. God says:
Allah, brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth. (Q 27:25)
The implication is He reveals the wisdoms buried in the heavens and the earth. Similar points regarding the interrelation of al-ḥaq and al-ṣabr have been explained in the sixth and twelfth section. Here we only intended to reveal the vastness of meaning of these two words.
Although al-ḥaq is strict and hard and al-ḥilm implies longanimity and forgiveness yet both of them are interrelated. By commanding us to observe both of them God wants to purify our innerself and basic morality as well as our social relationships. He at the same time makes us deserving the political rule in the world and the station in the paradise. He also leads us to follow the sunnah of God and obtain perfection in the servitude of the Lord, who loves justice and forgiveness, and His vicegerency. It is by these two qualities which are at work in God's management of the world and it is by these two that the affairs of the two words are accomplished. I have detailed this discussion in my work Fī Malakūt Allāh.
16- Relationship of the Sūrah with the Preceding and the Following Chapters
We do not need to go into detailed discussion on the placement of the sūrah in the overall structure of the Book. For we see that the previous sūrah, as we learned, deals with the loss of the people of the blessings who are engaged and engrossed amassing the riches of the world. It also highlights their ignorance and their disregard to the unpleasant consequences of the behavior. The next sūrah depicts the punishment this group will face in the next world. It shows how they will be disgraced and humbled in spite of the fact that they have been pursuing high station, honor and pride. The present sūrah has been put between these two discussions to show to them that their approach is a deception and their view is erroneous. In this connection we also learn the true behavior of the believers and their attributes and the path to success. The Qur’ān frequently puts its discussion in this way. It puts two contrasting things together. For example it puts a mention of the virtuous and the evil, paradise and hell, etc together. Similar scheme of order has been applied here. We see that the previous and the following sūrah mention only but the dwellers of hell. The other party, the successors, finds mention in this sūrah as is the general style of the Qur’ān.
The system of order and arrangement in these three sūrahs is also reflected by the following verses.
Believers! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. If any act thus, the loss is their own. And spend something out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before death should come to any of you and he should say, "O my Lord! why didst You not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given largely in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good". (Q 63:9-10)
If you consider the development of the themese and thier interconnection in these verses and the compare that with the interrelation between the three sūrahs you can appreciate the similarilty between these two groups.
This is what I could offer and none but God can fully cover his knowledge and words.