بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والحمدلله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
Abu Sa’id Al Khadari (ra) narrated that the Prophet pbuh said “One who recites Al Kahf (the Cave) on Friday, a light will be illuminated for him until the following Friday” (Muslim). The juxtaposing imagery of a dark cave and the celestial beam described in the hadith hold a divine beauty stemming from the universal truth they symbolize: that sometimes we have to be in a dark place to find the light of our Lord.
The Quran – The Ultimate Guide
It’s fitting then that Al Kahf starts and ends with reference to the Holy Quran itself: ‘Praise be to God, who sent down the Scripture to His servant and made it unerringly straight Warning of severe punishment from Him and [giving] glad news to the believers who do good deeds’ (1-3). This also corresponds directly with the subject matter discussed previously in surah 17 ‘Al Israa’ of the Quran being a guide and a warning to mankind, serving as a reminder of the status and importance of the Quran in its entirety. It is a shifa’ a healer from the ills of this world both physically and spiritually and well as a shafi’a intercessor for us on the Day of Judgment testifying for us as well as protecting us from punishment in the grave. The surah ends with a beautiful analogy used to help us understand the vastness and gravity of the words of Allah:
‘Say [Prophet], ‘If the whole ocean were ink for writing the words of my Lord, it would run dry before those words were exhausted’ (109).
Trials of religion: The companions of the cave
The name of this surah, Al Kahf or the cave derives from the first story presented in verses 9-26, the miracle of the companions of the cave. The Quran describes these companions as al fityatu, a word typically used to describe young people. Allah wants us to draw attention to their age, these young people were firm in their belief in the oneness of Allah but their people disbelieved so to protect their faith they took refuge in the cave. There they slept for perhaps three hundred years although as the surah states: ‘Allah knows best how long they stayed’ (26) and when they woke they found the world changed and safe for them to practice. The companions of the cave serve as a testimony to the mercy of Allah:
‘…They were young men who believed in their Lord and We gave them more guidance. We gave strength to their hearts when they stood up and said “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and earth”’ (13-14)
Allah wants us to dispel the myths and misconceptions regarding young people, being feckless and without resolve. In this example we see that it was precisely their conviction and sincerity, true sincerity or iklas in the oneness of Allah and attributing no partners to Him that resulted in them receiving this miracle. This is a reminder for us as well that we should never be afraid because whatever little bravery or strength we have in our hearts, if we are on the path of truth, Allah will open up ways for us.
The story of the companions of the cave also describes another kind of trial in religion through the petty squabbles that ensued over the discovery of the miracle:
‘In this way We brought them to people’s attention so that they might know God’s promise [of resurrection] is true and that there is no doubt about the Last Hour, [though] people argue amongst themselves’(20).
The Quran goes on to describe the bickering between the townspeople as to what to do with the cave-site, whether to seal it or construct a place of worship over it, then there was much debate over how many people were actually in the cave, afterwards how many years the companions of the cave slept for. In Allah keeping these details from us, He is showing the difference between the relevant and the irrelevant.
However the greatest lesson we can learn from the parable of the people of the cave is the importance of surrounding yourself in good company:
‘Content yourself with those who pray to their Lord morning and evening, seeking His approval’ (28).
An important moral can be taken from how the surah was revealed too. It was in response to a challenge posed to the Prophet pbuh by three Jewish men in Makkah regarding the parable of the companions of the cave. The Prophet pbuh responded promising to have reply by the next day but the revelation did not appear until some time later. Allah the Exalted explains the delay:
‘Do not say “I will do that tomorrow”/Without adding “God willing”, and, whenever you forget, remember your Lord and say “May my Lord guide me closer to what is right”’(23-25)
Trial of wealth: The parable of the two gardens
Verses 32 – 49 tell of the story of two men with gardens. One man’s garden was more fertile than the other, he was also blessed with more children than the other man which made him arrogant, saying to his neighbour: ‘”I have more wealth and a larger following that you…I don’t think this will perish or that the Last Hour will ever come-even if I were to be taken back to my Lord, I would certainly find something even better there”’ (34-36)
His material wealth caused the man to doubt the existence of the next life, to think himself better than his neighbour who had less than him and to think his wealth was a sign that Allah loved him more. However from the outset of this surah Allah reminds us: ‘We have adorned the earth with attractive things so that We may test people to find out which of them do best’ (7)
The response of his neighbor is one we should all pay heed to. Instead of being jealous and doubting his own provisions from Allah, he replied: ‘Although you see I have less wealth and offspring than you, my Lord may well give me something better than your garden’ (40) Allah then tested the first man again by sending thunderbolts onto his garden and reducing it to barren dust which caused him to reflect: ‘”I wish I had not set up partners with my Lord”’ (42). From this we can see that sometimes calamities are not necessarily a negative thing and to be given all that you wish for is not necessarily a positive sign either.
There’s a powerful ayah revealed in this surah mashaAllah la hawla wa la qawatul ila bilah -This is God’s will. There’s no power not [given] by God (38), we are encouraged to say this whenever we see something that we like or may feel envious over -it’s also good to remind others to say this especially if they say something out you!At the end of this story Allah uses the simlitude describing life like rain on vegetation ‘We send water down from the skies and the earth’s vegetation absorbs it, but soon the plants turn to dry stubble scattered about the wind: God has power over everything’ (45). Life in this world is temporal, and what we can work hard in, investing in and cultivating will wither and decay at the end. From earth we come and to earth we return, however:
‘…lasting good works have a better reward with your Lord and give better grounds for hope’ (46).
The Trial of Knowledge – Story of Musa (as)
Verses 60 -82 tell of the story of Musa and his encounter with a wise man. Allah sent Musa to him so that he could learn from someone who had more knowledge than him. From the outset the wise man made Musa asagree: ‘do not query anything I do until I have mentioned it to you myself’ (70) However throughout their encounter many strange things happened: a young boy was killed, a boat was vandalized, and they stopped to repair an old wall. Musa as was not able to keep his patience with what was going on in front of him however in verses 78-82 its explained why all these things occurred.
From this parable we learn about the two main things we need for us to gain knowledge: patience and humility. When you are a student of knowledge you must be patient with your teachers and humble enough to take lessons from them.
How do we act when we are with our teachers and professors? Do we give them the time they need to teach to us? Are we humble when taking knowledge or do we use the things we know to build our egos, learning for the sake of knowing rather than to learn?
In this parable again we learn the meaning of believing in the Unseen. Many times in our lives we don’t know the wisdom behind things but afterwards when we’ve had some distance, we can see everything does actually happen for a reason!
Trial of Power – Dhu ‘l-‘Qarnayn
The last parable tells of a just a power king Dhu ‘l-’Qarnayn who used his position to travel the land and call people to Allah the Exalted. Dhu ‘I-‘Qarnayn was someone who was given all the trapping of wealth in this world ‘We established his power and gave him the means to achieve everything’ (85) however he didn’t forget his obligations to Allah and to the weaker. So when he came across a community that ‘ could barely understand him’ (93) in need of help against the tyranny of Gog and Magog who, it was said of them that when they left a place it would be dust. These people offered to give him tribute but instead ‘the power of my Lord has given me is better than any tribute but if you lend me your strength I will put a fortification between you and them’ (96). So a barrier was erected against them.
Dhu ‘l-Qarnayn didn’t abuse his position as a powerful leader, demanding tribute from the people or even demanding that they make tribute to Allah themselves, instead he worked with them in partnership to achieve their goals. When they completed their task he reminded the people that it was not him who created the barrier but ‘This is a mercy from my Lord’ (98).Here we see an example of how to give da’wa, calling people to Allah. Dhu ‘l-‘Qarnayn didn’t force people to became believers but through his actions displays the essence of Islam. Allah the Exalted tells the Prophet pbuh in this surah: ‘Say Now the truth has come from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so’ (29) Rather than seeking to convince people of the truth of Islam we must first ignite it in our life’s so that people can see the light for themselves.
There are many lessons we can take from Surah Al Kahf about how to deal with trials and tribulations. Some of the important ones include:
1) Being optimistic and active! All those who were afflicted by trials were not passive spectators in their lives; they got up and did something about their situation by remembering Allah. This is exemplified by the parable of the companions of the cave. Surah Al Kahf is recited on a Friday, a holiday because it keeps us prepared for the coming week and all the tests that we may have before us.
2) Quran. Being attached to the Quran will protect you in all areas of your life.
3) Daw’a. Calling people to Islam is the essence of the Quran and an obligation on every Muslim. Each of the examples talk about how to call people to Islam. From the companions of the cave we learn that indeed anyone, no matter what their age can and should help those around them to Islam. For the story of the two men, we learn the importance of open dialogue with those you have opposing opinions with and advising them to the truth. From the parables of Khidr and Dhu – ‘l-Qarnayn we see people working for the greater good, actively living the message of the Quran.
4) Remember the Hereafter
The surah ends with the best advice
‘Anyone who fears to meet his Lord should do good deeds and give no one a share in the worship to his Lord’ (110)