Surah 18 -Al Kahf : Lessons from the Cave

Stories in Surah Kahf

This Makki Surah was revealed in order to answer three questions asked by the Mushrik of Makkah. The questions were (Q1) who were the sleepers of the cave? (Q2) what is the real story of Al-Khidr? (Q3) what do you know about Zulqarnain?

  • Story of men in cave- Trial of Faith (10)
  • Story of Man with two gardens-Trial of Wealth (32)
  • Story of Moses and Al-Khidr.-Trial of knowledge (60)
  • Story of Zulqarnain-Trial of authority (83)

Story of Men in Cave – Trial of faith

In around 250 CE there ruled a Roman king called Daqyanoos (Decius) who would annually hold a gathering dedicated to the worshipping of idols. Many people would attend, dressed in their best clothing. However, one youth believed in the oneness of Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), the teachings of Isa (upon him be peace) and shunned pagan worship. He rebelled against the practices that were happening in the society. He attracted another youth and then another to form a small group.

When the king heard of their rebellion he became very angry and issued a command for them to be killed. In order to save their Iman (faith) they fled and went into hiding. On their escape route they met a young farmer who owned a dog; they gave him da’wah, he accepted and decided to also join them. Eventually they came to a cave in which they pray (dua) to Allah SWT for ease. They decided to take rest there for a while, leaving the dog (named Qitmir) near the entrance as a guard. Allah SWT caused them and the dog to sleep for 300 years.

The Quran states that the period of time these sleepers spent in the cave was 300 years during which the calendar of their people was changed from solar to lunar and, as a result, the period of their sleep was 309 years. When they woke up, they had no idea they slept for centuries and thought they had only slept a few hours. When they sent one of them to buy food, the shopkeeper was amazed to see such old coins and the reality of the time they had spent in the cave gradually came to light. The present ruling king, whom some scholars have identified as Tandoosees, was a believer who came on foot to see them and seek their blessings. When these young men died they were buried in the cave along with their dog. The bones of these youth and the dog are visible to see inside.

(Apart from Amman in Jordan, the location of the cave is also claimed to be in Turkey. And Allah SWT knows best).

 Story of Man with two gardens – trial of wealth

Once in a long forgotten town there lived two men friendly with each other. One among the two was poor but a good believer of Allah SWT. He always remains thankful and happy with what Allah SWT has blessed him. He never feels sorry for being poor. Well pleased with his wife. The other however was very rich. Allah SWT has given him two beautiful and bountiful gardens, full of ripe fruit and green topped trees. Moreover Allah SWT has flowed river in between the gardens. He also owned tremendous wealth and castles. This is the reason he was become arrogant and greedy. Discrediting Allah SWT for his blessings and never thanked for all the blessings of Al Mighty.

One day the rich one went into one of his gardens and pointing to what it has of castles and fruit… said in full arrogance “ These castles and gardens and wealth will never be finished and I will be rich all the life…” in spite of abundant wealth he never give charity to poor. Never bother to help the needy people. The believer one day went to him and told the rich men gently “O you rich man Allah SWT granted you great bounties and Allah SWT will question you about it on the day of judgement. You should than your Lord for these blessings and do not be fooled by all this wealth and do not forget the day of judgement.”  The rich man got very angry with what poor man and said “I am far wealthier than you and I have many children and I owe a lot of slaves and servants. I don’t believe there is a day in which I will be judged in … and who will judge me and I am the owner of this abundant wealth and power?  Even if I were to go back to Lord that will judge me after I die as you claim. I will have great rewards and place and much more that I have in this life.

The poor man said in fear of Allah SWT “do u disbelieve in Allah O rich man? It is Allah that created you from dirt and provided you with all this great wealth, children, slaves and servants. Even if I am less in wealth and children than you, Allah SWT will give me great rewards after death. Do not dis believe in Allah SWT.

The rich man become even more arrogant and insisted on his disbelieve and the believer left him after saying “Remember that it was Allah SWT who gave you all these blessings is fully able to take them from you. The believer continued praying to Allah SWT to guide the rich man.

Next morning the rich man went out from his castle to his gardens in full arrogance and when he reached his gardens have become full horrible sight. The gardens have become desolate and empty. The trees were dry. The leaves and fruits have fallen off. The river ran dry. Allah SWT had send upon it a great flood and strong wind, which destroyed all that, was in the gardens during the night without the rich main ever noticing.

He fell to the ground and sat down in great sadness and agony while saying “I wish I did not associate partners with Allah SWT and disbelieve in him. I wish I had obeyed the poor man requests and thanked my Lord. But it was too late for that now all the regret didn’t benefit him after he lost everything in this world and the next.

Story of Mosses and Al-Khidr – trial of knowledge

One day, Moses delivered such an impressive sermon that all who heard it were deeply moved. Someone in the congregation asked: “0 Messenger of Allah SWT, is there another man on earth more learned than you?” Moses replied: “No!”, believing so, as Allah SWT had given him the power of miracles and honored him with the Torah.

However, Allah SWT revealed to Moses that no man could know all there is to know, nor would one messenger alone be the custodian of all knowledge. There would always be another who knew what others did not. Moses asked Allah SWT: “0 Allah, where is this man? I would like to meet him and learn from him.” He also asked for a sign to this person’s identity.

Allah SWT instructed him to take a live fish in a water-filled vessel. Where the fish disappeared, he would find the man he sought. Moses set out on his journey, accompanied by a young man who carried the vessel with the fish. They reached a place where two rivers met and decided to rest there. Instantly, Moses fell asleep.

While he was asleep, his companion saw the fish wriggle out of the vessel into the river and swim away. However, he forgot to relate this incident to Moses. When he awoke, they continued their journey until they were exhausted and hungry. Moses asked for his morning meal. Only then did his companion recall that the fish they had brought with them had gotten away. Hearing this, Moses exclaimed: ‘This is exactly what we are seeking!” They hurriedly retraced their steps to the place where the rivers met and where the fish had jumped out. There they found a man, his face partly covered with a hood. His bearing showed he was a saintly man. He was Al-Khidr, the guide.

Moses said to him (Khidr) “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah SWT)?”

He (Khidr) said: “Verily! You will not be able to have patience with me! And how can you have patience about a thing which you know not?”

Moses said: “If Allah SWT will, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey you in aught.” He (Khidr) said: “Then, if you follow me, ask me not about anything till I myself mention it to you. So they both proceeded, till, when they were in the ship, he (Khidr) scuttled it. Moses said: “Have you scuttled it in order to drown its people? Verily, you have done Imra – a Munkar (evil, bad, dreadful) thing.” He (Khidr) said: “Did I not tell you, that you would not be able to have patience with me?” (Moses) said: “Call me not to account for what I forgot, and be not hard upon me for my affair (with you).”

Then they both proceeded, till they met a boy, he (Khidr) killed him. Moses said: “Have you killed an innocent person who had killed none? Verily, you have done Nukra a great Munkar (prohibited, evil, and dreadful) thing!” (Khidr) said: “Did I not tell you that you can have no patience with me?” (Moses) said: “If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.”

Then they both proceeded, till, when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them. Then they found therein a wall about to collapse and he (Khidr) set it up straight. (Moses) said: “If you had wished, surely you could have taken wages for it!” (Khidr) said: “This is the parting between me and you. I will tell you the interpretation of (those) things over which you were unable to hold patience

(Moses) said: “If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.”

Then they both proceeded, till, when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them. Then they found therein a wall about to collapse and he (Khidr) set it up straight. (Moses) said: “If you had wished, surely you could have taken wages for it!” (Khidr) said: “This is the parting between me and you. I will tell you the interpretation of (those) things over which you were unable to hold patience.

‘As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working in the sea. So I wished to make a defective damage in it, as there was a king after them who seized every ship by force.

“And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in righteousness and near to mercy.

“And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town; and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full strength and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of those (things) over which you could not hold patience

 Story of Zulqarnain – trial of authority

Zulqarnain was an exalted servant of Allah. His name was Ayaash. The Almighty selected him after the Deluge of Nuh and gave him suzerainty over the surrounding areas of Northwest Africa in the two centuries. The people hit him on the right and he was martyred by it. Then after a hundred years the Almighty raised him to life in the areas of East. This time the people hit him on the left side of his head and he was martyred. The Almighty raised him again after a hundred years and the lieu of the strokes he had suffered granted him a pair of outgrowths with a space between them and gave him Kingship and miracle.

Then summoned him to the first heaven. When the curtains were removed from his sight he beheld all that was in the earth, like the mountains, deserts and passes. Zulqarnain saw everything and the Almighty bestowed him complete knowledge and he could discriminate between right and wrong. Allah strengthened his horns with a part of a heavenly cloud that contained darkness, thunder and lightning. Then he was sent back to the earth and commanded through revelation,

Zulqarnain departed for the West end of the earth. As he traversed the lands he raised a loud scream like the roar of a lion. His horns emitted darkness, thunder and lightning and all those who were inimical to him and tried to oppose were instantly killed. In a single day he reached to the end of the earth before the Sun could reach the West. (Before Sunset). All the people of the East and the West became subservient to his command.

When the sun reached west he saw that it was setting in a hot spring and 70000 angels are tugging at the Sun with fiery chains on the surface of the sea towards the lands of East, in the same manner as a boat is towed. He went to the rising place of the sun and it began to shine on the people of the East as described by the Almighty.

Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali says that he came across a people who were burnt by the Sun. Their bodies and skins were scorched by sunlight. From here he (Zulqarnain) proceeded towards darkness and desolation until he reached a place between two great walls as mentioned by the Holy Qur’an. The inhabitants of that area complained to Zulqarnain that Gog and Magog lived between the two mountains and had wreaked havoc in the land. When the crops and orchards are ready for cultivation they crossed the barriers and devoured everything.

The people offered Zulqarnain annual tithes if he could construct a barrier to prevent the mischief of the two giants. Zulqarnain said that he was in no need of their tithe, but they should provide him labor for constructing the barrier.

“Collect ingots of iron,” commanded Zulqarnain. The people mixed iron ingots from a mountain and with these iron bricks constructed a wall across the chasm. Zulqarnain was the first person to construct a wall. Then he spread firewood on the ingots and ignited fire and left it for some time. Then he began to blow at it and when the iron melted, Zulqarnain called for molten brass. The people brought copper from the mountains and spread it on iron. The copper melted and mixed with iron and the wall was ready. Neither Yajooj (Gog) nor Majooj (Magog) could scale it. They could not even make a hole in this wall.

Zulqarnain was a righteous servant of Allah who commanded a high position and status. He loved the Almighty and worshipped Him with sincerity. The Almighty assisted him and provided for him means in the cities and settled him there. He was able to extend his kingdom to the countries of east and the west.