The term asr denotes "time" that is measurable,consisting of a succession of periods (in distinctionfrom dahr, which signifies "unlimited time", withoutbeginning or end: i.e., "time absolute"). Hence, 'asrbears the connotation of the passing or the flight oftime - time which can never be recaptured.
Malik Quran Translation
By the time through the ages!
Yusuf Ali Quran Translation
By (the Token of) time (through the Ages) 6262
Al-Asr may mean: (1) Time through the Ages, or longperiods, in which case it comes near to the abstract ideaof Time, Dahr; (2) or the late afternoon, from which theAsr canonical prayer takes its name (see n. 271 to ii:238). An appeal is made to Time as one of the creationsof Allah, of which everyone knows something but of whichno one can fully explain the exact significance. Timesearches out and destroys everything material. No one insecular literature has expressed the tyranny of"never-resting Time" better than Shakespeare in hisSonnets. For example, see Sonnets 5 ("never-restingTime"), 12 ("Nothing gainst Time's scythe can makedefence"), and 64 ("When I have seen by Time's fell handdefaced The rich proud cost of outworn buried age"). Ifwe merely run a race against Time, we shall lose. It isthe spiritual part of us that conquers Time. See verse 3below. For the "afternoon" idea see next note.