This is another surah that belongs to the period after the revelation returns when the revelations do little more than repeat what’s come before.
Despite the awkward versification here, it doesn’t seem plausible that it was revealed in smaller parts.
- By the afternoon,
- Indeed, man is surely in loss,
- Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and counsel each other unto the truth, and counsel each other unto patience.
‘Asr can mean either a set period of time or the afternoon (like “I’ll do it in the morning” means “I’ll do it tomorrow” and “The hour has come!” means “The time has come!” in English), so this translation can be taken multiple ways. I think it’s probably the afternoon because the previous surah was The Forenoon!
Loss here is the opposite of the Arabic for profit.
This patience is pretty interesting–patient for the Day, it almost certainly means, which may signify that Muhammad’s first doomday date came and went with nothing happening.
Much ink is spilled over this verse to make it seem as elevated as possible, but it has no actual mystical content. The “‘Asr=time” reading seems to be a part of that attempt at mysticism, but there’s no other word that would have been used to signify “afternoon,” and “afternoon” is the main meaning of the word.