“The believers have indeed attained true success: those who, in their Prayers, humble themselves; who avoid whatever is vain and frivolous….”
(Al-Qur’ān – 23:1)
To say that someone has acquired falāh (success) amounts to saying that he has achieved his objective; that he has attained prosperity and well-being, that his efforts have borne fruit, and that his condition has ameliorated.
That ‘the believers have indeed attained true success’, can only be appreciated with reference to the circumstantial background against which this discourse was revealed. At the time of its revelation, the chief opponents of the Message of Islam consisted, on the one hand, of the wealthy notables of Makkah whose trade was flourishing, who enjoyed all the appurtenances of worldly prosperity. On the other hand, most of the believers were in a poor and wretched condition when they embraced Islam.
Given this background, the opening verse which proclaims the success and prosperity of the believers suggests that man-made standards of success and failure are false; that the assumptions entertained by men in this regard are ill-founded; that they lack vision that enables them to have a long-range view of things. No wonder, for what they conceive of as success and prosperity is nothing but sheer loss and failure. Likewise, contrary to the claim of their contemporaries who thought of the believers as those who had failed and had incurred utter loss, the followers of the Prophet ﷺ were indeed those who had attained true success.