¡ By the declining day,
1 For the possible meanings of the declining day (al-ʿaṣr), see the introduction to this sūrah. Linguistically, ʿaṣr derives from the verb ʿaṣara, meaning “to squeeze,” and thus relates to time that is declining or fading quickly. Among those possible meanings, many judge the most likely to be the ʿaṣr prayer (Bḍ, Q, Z), which is considered to be the prayer referred to as the middlemost prayer in 2:238, though that verse is also interpreted in many different ways. Some also say the term in this verse refers to the “era (ʿaṣr) of the Prophet because of its bounty (faḍl) through the renewal of prophethood in it” (Q). In this vein, this sūrah can be seen as pertaining to both the life of the individual and that of the human species; according to traditional Islamic belief, the fall of humanity continues as the historical cycle unfolds, and each generation is a degree below the generation before it.