Observations on the coherence, structure and organization of Sūrat al-ʿAṣr
Sūrat al-ʿAṣr (Time Running Out) is one of the shortest suwar of the Quran, yet one of the densest in terms of meaning and guidance. The famous jurist, Imām Shāfi'ī , was recorded to have said that if the people only considered this sūrah, it alone would suffice them for their guidance.
In addition to its richness of content, it appears that the sūrah may be broken down and organized into a mirror structure:
[A]/[A’] - Allah ﷻ begins with an oath which inspires the believers with a sense of urgency. Time is short to implement good works and internalize faith. This is paired with the believers enjoining one another with the traits most associated with time; patience and perseverance (ṣabr).1
[B]/[B’] - One emphasizes one’s statements when the audience may not believe them, so it is appropriate that the second āyah, which is grammatically emphasized on multiple levels (this is more easily seen in the Arabic), is paired with the enjoinment to advise one another with the Truth. A Truth that many attempt to deny.
[C]/[C’] - At the center lie two key attributes of the believers; belief and righteous actions. These two are paired together throughout the Quran to emphasize their important relationship.
And Allah ﷻ knows best.
This connection is more clearly seen in Sūrat al-Maʿārij (The Ways of Ascent) where Allah ﷻ says about the Day of Judgement,
فَاصْبِرْ صَبْرًا جَمِيلًا * إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيدًا * وَنَرَاهُ قَرِيبًا
So be patient with gracious patience * Indeed, they see it [as] distant, * But We see it [as] nearby.
Believers are being told that they only have to endure the intolerance and arrogance of disbelief for a brief time. This life is shorter than we think.