Al Kahf - A Brief Introduction

This is one of five chapters of the Qur’an which begin with the word Alhamdulillah to teach us how to praise Allah. The other chapters are Fateha, An’aam, Saba’, and Faatir. 

It is reported in a hadith that whoever memorizes the first 10 verses of Surah alKahf will be protected from the Anti-Christ (Dajjal) [Reported by Muslim]. Some narrations say it is the last 10 verses.

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم recommended to recite Surah al-Kahf on Fridays (night or morning) and stated that it will be a light for him until the following Friday.

The purpose of this chapter is to make clear how to deal with different types of tribulations and provides various examples of people going through different types of trials in their lives and how they dealt with it.

1 – All praise is for Allah Who has revealed the Book to His servant, allowing no crookedness in it

Meaning praise your Lord who sent the Qur’an down to His servant Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم .This Qur’an is the greatest blessing given to mankind. 

Allah made the Qur’an such that it guides clearly to the straight path without any deviation from it. It is free of any mistakes or errors. Allah has promised to preserve it. The other books revealed in the past were not given such a guarantee, therefore, they were changed and corrupted over time by the people. Due to the fact that the Qur’an is the final book, it must be protected. 

Whenever Allah praises Himself, it is to teach us because it is He who is the origin of all existence, everything that we have comes from Him, thus, He alone truly deserves all praise. All of existence is dependent on Him yet He is not dependent on anything.

Al-Hamd (praise) in Arabic incorporates love and glorification and is of a higher level than gratitude (shukr), which it also incorporates into its meaning.

The Arabic word ‘Allah’ is a unique name reserved only for Him. 

Allah refers to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم as His servant in order to honor and distinguish him and to show His closeness to him. In origin, every single thing in creation is His servant because He is their Creator and has complete control and power over them.

2 – ˹making it˺ perfectly upright, to warn ˹the disbelievers˺ of a severe torment from Him; to give good news to the believers—who do good—that they will have a fine reward 

The Qur’an warns the disbelievers of a severe punishment and gives glad tidings to the believers of everlasting paradise. 

The warning will be an evidence against the disbelievers on the Day of Judgment and is also a lesson for the believers to remain firm and steadfast on the straight path and not to wander off. 

It is actually a form of mercy from Allah that He warns us in this life by sending prophets and books to us so that we can have opportunities to save ourselves from eternal punishment in the afterlife. 

Allah constantly links good deeds with faith throughout the Qur’an, which means that belief without action is incomplete. A true believer does not only believe with his/her heart but also performs deeds mandated by that belief (prayer, fasting, Hajj, obedience to parents, speaking the truth, avoiding sins, etc.).

3 – in which they will remain forever;

The believers will remain in this paradise, enjoying its pleasures, for all eternity and will never be separated from it.

We believe that both paradise and hell will remain forever and that both have already been created and exist right now.

Allah created people with the power to choose but some chose to remain astray, despite the opportunities in their lives to change their ways for the better, so Allah let them have their way and they ended up in hell. As for those who entered paradise, they took the opportunities to obey Allah and change their lives for the better. This is why people of hell complain on the Day of Judgment, as mentioned in the Qur’an, to send them back and not that Allah was unfair with them, “If you could but see when the criminals are hanging their heads before their Lord, [saying], “Our Lord, we have seen and heard, so return us [to the world]; we will work righteousness. Indeed, we are [now] certain” (Qur’an 32:12).

4 – and to warn those who claim, “Allah has offspring.” 

This could be in reference to the Christians who claim that Jesus is the son of God or to the pagans of Mecca who believed that the angels were Allah’s daughters. It could also be in reference to both.

5 – They have no knowledge of this, nor did their forefathers. What a terrible claim that comes out of their mouths! They say nothing but lies 

There is neither proof nor evidence for their claims that Allah has offspring. It is a pure slander and lie without any basis. Most of them are just blindly following their forefathers in such repulsive claims without giving it much thought.

The idea that Jesus is the son of God was only crystallized in 325 CE at the council of Nicea. Arius, Bishop of Alexandria, vehemently opposed it. However, Constantine, who had just converted from Roman paganism, enforced it through military might across the empire. Over time, the Unitarian movement among Christians, who did not believe Jesus to be the son of God, disappeared with rare pockets here and there.

6 – Now, perhaps you ˹O Prophet˺ will grieve yourself to death over their denial, if they ˹continue to˺ disbelieve in this message

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم constantly worried and distressed over the faith of his people who refused to accept his message and constantly turned away from it. He cared about them and did not want them to be eternally punished in hell. He is being told by Allah in this verse, as a form of consolation, not to do this, as giving them guidance is not his responsibility; he is only responsible for conveying the message, thus, he should not worry too much about it.

There is a lesson in this for us too who invite others to Islam. We must realize that we can only deliver the truth of Islam’s message and whether people accept it or not is up to Allah not us. We cannot force others to believe. We should convey the message and to utilize all means which could lead to their guidance, and to block all paths of misguidance and deviation as much as possible, along with putting full trust in Allah. If someone is guided, then this is good, if not, then there is no need to overly stress over it as long as we’ve done our part of conveying the message of Islam.

7 – We have indeed made whatever is on earth as an adornment for it, in order to test which of them is best in deeds.

This is describing the reality of this temporal worldly life. All that Allah created on it of ornaments, gold, silver, properties, minerals, etc. are mere adornments in order to test to see who does the best actions in obedience to Allah and who does the worst, then the people will be accordingly rewarded or punished. 

Note that the Allah said, ‘best in deeds,’ and not the ‘most deeds’, because the crucial factor is their quality of goodness and not their ‘quantity’. A good deed is anything that is done sincerely for the sake of Allah and complies with Islamic law.

The tests serve to confirm Allah’s Justice and Mercy on the Day of Judgment; that those going to hell deserve it and those going to paradise only got there by His grace. 

Although not every test may be passed, even in failure the believers grow by learning spiritual lessons to help them in future tests. Tests of this life can also come in the form of misfortune and calamities which contribute to the spiritual growth of the true believers, and purify them of sin, if they are patient with the trials.

8 – And We will certainly reduce whatever is on it to barren ground 

A time will come when Allah will break down the earth and everything on it to dust free from any vegetation and this will be after the lifespan of the creation on earth expires. So all the beauty and dazzle that we witness in this world will one day be completely wiped out. Allah will make all of these things fade away and the earth will return to a bare dry state with all its sweetness gone. Its rivers will stop flowing and all traces of them will disappear, and the world’s pleasures will all vanish.

It is describing the temporal nature of this life, hence, we were advised by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم to live like a traveler who rests under a tree for a few hours to take shade and then moves on with his journey. Muslim only takes from the world what will aid him/her to fulfill the purpose of his/her creation, and he/she takes full advantage of the opportunities given to do righteousness in this short life.

9 – Have you ˹O Prophet˺ thought that the people of the cave and the Ar-Raqeem were ˹the only˺ wonders of Our signs

The subject now shifts to a story of a people who were not attached to this world as an example for us to follow. 

Meaning do not think, O Messenger, that the story of the people of the cave and the tablet on which their names were written are from our amazing signs. In fact, other signs such as creating the heavens and earth are more amazing. Signs of Allah in the creation are far more apparent than the miraculous stories of other humans. The universe as a creation is far more complex than human beings. 

The story of the ‘Seven Sleepers of Ephesus’ is mentioned in the Bible as well. Ephesus is a city on the west coast of Asia minor, which is in modern Turkey. The Qur’an clarifies facts about what happened and the lessons to be learnt from it. Though we may never know the full detail account and it is difficult to decipher fact from fiction with the different versions, here is what one version states: They were Christian soldiers who under pagan Roman emperor Decius were forced to hide themselves in a cave (due to his persecution of Christians), near their native city of Ephesus, in order to avoid having to perform pagan sacrifices. Christians had come under persecution at this time in 250 CE. They fell into a miraculous sleep until the fifth century during the reign of the Easter Roman emperor Theodosius II (408 CE – 450 CE). Cave was reopened during his reign and they awoke. The emperor himself was moved by their story. After their story spread and the people came from all over to see them, they died. The emperor ordered that their remains be put into a shrine. He absolved all of the bishops that he had been previously persecuting for their belief in resurrection. 

Ar-Raqeem has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Ka‘b and as-Suddee said it was the town from which the youths fled; Sa‘eed ibn Jubayr and Mujaahid said it was a stone or lead plaque on which their names were written and placed over the mouth of the cave. This was also the opinion of al-Farraa’ and Ibn ‘Abbaas. Others said it was the name of their dog, the valley they were in, or the name of the mountain in which the cave was located.

10 – ˹Remember˺ when those youths took refuge in the cave, and said, “Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and guide us rightly through our ordeal.” 

These young men were being persecuted for their religious beliefs and being forced to worship idols. In order to safeguard their faith, they fled their city and took refuge in a cave in order to escape being hunted and forced into paganism. This is considered hijrah (migration) for the sake of their faith and continues till today. If anyone feels threatened to lose their faith in a land and he/she is able to migrate to another safe location, then he/she must do so.

Some scholars noted that this verse is very explicit about fleeing for the sake of one’s religion and the abandonment of family, children, relatives, friends, land and wealth out of fear of trials and the persecution a person may experience. Of course, this is assuming that the family, children, relatives, and friends are not supportive of the believer who is abandoning them. 

When these youth arrived in the cave, they supplicated to Allah asking Him of His grace and mercy and to keep firm their hearts on faith before their tyrant king and that He make them among the rightly guided. The youths sought refuge in the cave, but there was no guarantee that the cave would protect them. So, after doing what they could, they turned to Allah trusting Him to look after their affairs. 

Their supplication could also mean, “Our Lord, give us mercy from Yourself, by forgiving our sins and saving us from our enemies, and grant us guidance towards the right path and correctness in the matter of migrating from the disbelievers and in faith.” Ibn Abbas said that their supplication was asking for an exit from the cave and safety. 

Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم preferred seclusion and so did a number of scholars, especially during times of persecution and corruption.

Some said the reason the first 10 verses protect from the Anti-Christ (Dajjal) is because they remind us to flee with our religion when it is threatened with trials and tribulations, just as these youth did, and when the Ant-Christ appears, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم suggested to flee from him as well and not to face him.

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