By time, indeed, mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (Quran 103)
Many of us have memorized this short and sweet chapter as part of our ‘’getting serious’’ about prayer. Insha’ Allah if we repeat it often enough, we can see it for the goldmine of knowledge that it is.
One deep teaching this chapter has to give is that learning is important. How important? A matter of life and death. According to its words, learning is what makes the difference between winning and losing— that is, between the way of life and the way of death.
Which Members of the Human Race Aren’t Counted Among the Losers?
1- Those who have believed
2- Those who do good deeds
3- Those who advise each other to truth
4- Those who advise each other to patience
The message is clear: without these four things, we lose out on the huge blessings that await us, both in the dunya and in the hereafter.
The clincher? Not one of these things can be acquired passively. They must all be pursued through active lifelong learning.
1- You can’t believe in something that you haven’t heard, read, studied, or been taught. True belief isn’t simply saying ‘’I believe’’ and leaving it at that. Belief must be entered into thoughtfully, honestly, with a desire to learn more and a willingness to submit to the discipline of study.
2- You can’t really do good deeds unless you know what good deeds are. For this you need to study the rule book, both to learn what Allah demands of you and to read about righteous people after whom you should be modeling yourself.
3- Advising others to truth is the very essence of education. By passing on truth and refusing to accept falsehood we’re fulfilling the mandate prescribed in every rak’ah:
Guide us to the straight path— the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Quran 1: 6-7)
We evoke the anger of Allah when we deceive ourselves (through deliberate disbelief) and when we go astray. The way to win His favor is to guard the truth and encourage each other to do the same.
4. But it’s not easy. Which is why we also need patience. As much as we sometimes want to ‘’throw in the towel’’ when it comes to studying the Quran, we need to remember that without both truth and patience we are at a loss.
It’s pretty heavy to realize that the natural state of humanity is loss, but the good news is that the antidote— lifelong learning— is within our reach, is relatively pleasant, brings huge blessings, and has a very happy ending.