Man is easily confused by time. We’re constantly battling against linear time because we’re at heart, non-linear creatures. And thus God swears by time we’re lost.
This Surah shows the way to salvation. The image of a declining day suggests the stage in the day, or in life, when only a short while is left for those wishing to make up for lost time.
إِنَّ الإِنسانَ لَفي خُسرٍ
إِلَّا الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَعَمِلُوا الصّالِحاتِ وَتَواصَوا بِالحَقِّ وَتَواصَوا بِالصَّبرِ
“By time (late afternoon), truly man is at a loss except for those who have strong faith and do right actions, urging each other to the truth, and urging each other to steadfastness.” — Qur’an, 103: 1-3
The open book test is not a rigorous method of study and produces few lasting results. Lasting knowledge is gained through extensive reading, studying, and then testing.
كَذٰلِكَ ما أَتَى الَّذينَ مِن قَبلِهِم مِن رَسولٍ إِلّا قالوا ساحِرٌ أَو مَجنونٌ
أَتَواصَوا بِهِ ۚ بَل هُم قَومٌ طاغونَ
“Equally, no Messenger came to those before them without their saying, ‘A magician or a madman!’. Did they hand this down to one another? Indeed they are an unbridled people.” — Qur’an, 51: 52-53
What are we handing down to the next generation of Muslims, be them our children or converts?
ابتُلينا معَ رسولِ اللَّهِ صلَّى اللَّهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ بالضَّرَّاءِ فصَبَرنا ، ثمَّ ابتُلينا بالسَّرَّاءِ بعدَهُ فلم نصبِرْ
“We were tested while we were with the Messenger of God, peace and blessing upon him, with adversity (poverty, starvation, social hostility, etc.), and were persevered. Then we were tested with prosperity, and we weren’t able to bear (the test).” — Isnad Sahih according to al-Albani, transmitted by ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Awf in al-Tirmidhi’s Sahih, #2464
الرجلُ على دينِ خليلِه فلْينظر أحدُكم من يخالِلْ
“A person is on the religion and way of life that that confidant is upon so everyone of you should look carefully at who he takes as his confidant.” — Sunan Abu Dawud, #4833