By Al-‘Asr (the time). (1) Verily, man is in loss, (2) Except those who believe (in Islâmic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth , and recommend one another to patience [Surah al-Asr (103):1-3]
Imam Shaafi’ee said about this surah: “If all of mankind were to reflect upon Surah al-Asr, it would suffice them.”
Ibn al-Qayyim said regarding this, “And an explanation of this is that by the completion and perfection of the four levels, and individual attains the limit in his perfection. The first: Knowing the truth; the second: acting upon it; the third: teaching it to the one who is no conversant with it and the fourth: having patience in learning it, acting upon it and teaching it.
So Allah, the Exalted, mentioned the four levels in this surah and He, free from all imperfection, swore an oath on this surah, by time, that every person is certainly in loss and ruin save those who have faith and do righteous actions. They are the ones who act upon whatever they know of the truth, and this is (yet another level). They recommend each other to the truth. They advise one another by teaching and directing – this is the third level. They recommend each other to patience. They remain patient upon the truth and they advise each other to have patience upon it and to be firm upon it – this is the fourth level.
And this is the limit of perfection, for perfection is that a person should be perfect in his self, as well as one who strives to perfect others. His perfection is achieved by correcting his two strengths, knowledge and action. The correctness of the strength in knowledge is due to faith (eeman) and the correctness of the strength in action is by righteous actions. His perfecting others is by teaching them, having patience in this and recommending them to have patience upon knowledge and to act upon it. This surah, despite its brevity, is one of the most comprehensive of the surahs of the Qur’an in gathering goodness in its entirety. All praise is due to Allah who made His Book sufficient (free of need) from everything besides it, a healing for every disease and a guide to every good.”
Miftaah Darus Sa’adah (1/16)